Israel flexes muscles with 'Iran attack' drill - Printable Version

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Israel flexes muscles with 'Iran attack' drill - drummer - 06-20-2008

From Times Online
June 20, 2008
Israel flexes muscles with 'Iran attack' drill

Sheera Frenkel, Jerusalem

An Israeli air force drill which appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential attack on Iran's nuclear facilities was intended as a deliberate flexing of muscles, military officials said today.

An Israeli political official who is familiar with the drill said that the Iranians should “read the writing on the wall.”

“This was a dress rehearsal, and the Iranians should read the script before they continue with their programme for nuclear weapons. If diplomacy does not yield results, Israel will take military steps to halt Tehran's production of bomb-grade uranium,” the official said.

The report of the drill was first published in the New York Times, which quoted a US Pentagon official who was briefed on it.

More than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighter jets took part in manoeuvres over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece in the first week of June to gear the military for long-range strikes and demonstrate Israel's serious concern over Iran's nuclear ambitions, the US official was quoted as saying.

The report said that the aircrafts flew more than 900 miles, roughly the distance from Israel to Iran's Natanz nuclear enrichment facility.

"They wanted us to know, they wanted the Europeans to know, and they wanted the Iranians to know…There's a lot of signalling going on at different levels," it said.

The Israeli military issued a statement saying only that the air force “regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel.”

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, has said he prefers that Iran's nuclear ambitions be halted through diplomacy, but he does not rule out military action.

“Iran must be stopped by all possible means,” Mr Olmert told an American pro-Israel group earlier this month.

Israel has regularly consulted with President Bush on the Iranian nuclear threat. The issue ranked high on the roster Mr Bush’s visit to the region in May.

Following a meeting between Mr Olmert and Mr Bush, the Israeli prime minister said: "We reached agreement on the need to take care of the Iranian threat. I left with a lot less question marks [than I had entered with] regarding the means, the timetable restrictions and America's resoluteness to deal with the problem. George Bush understands the severity of the Iranian threat and the need to vanquish it, and intends to act on the matter before the end of his term in the White House.”

Last month, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressed "serious concern" that Iran is still hiding information about alleged studies into making nuclear warheads and defying UN demands to suspend uranium enrichment.

The UN Security Council has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Iran for defying council demands that it suspend its uranium enrichment program, which could be used to make fuel for power plants or atomic weapons.

The Islamic Republic has refused to buckle to the sanctions and has spurned previous offers of economic benefits to suspend its uranium enrichment, which it says is to produce fuel.

Iran said yesterday that it was ready to negotiate over a new package of economic incentives put forward by major powers seeking to persuade Tehran to curb its nuclear work.

Over the past three decades Israel has twice taken out suspected nuclear weapons facilities in Middle East states. In 1981 Israeli jets raided Iraq's nuclear plant at Osirak which Israelis believed was part of Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons development program.

Last September, Israeli jets bombed a site in the Syrian desert which the Israeli military believed housed a partly constructed nuclear reactor. The Syrians have denied the allegations, and recent rebuilding in that area suggests that no nuclear fallout occurred.

Another theory of the bombing, which has been advanced in recent days, suggests that Israeli was testing flight routes between Israel and Iran, which would include flying over Syrian air space.;attr=2015164

Israel flexes muscles with 'Iran attack' drill - TriWooOx - 06-20-2008