Israel Gearing Up For Iran?

Over the past few years, many of us have been worried about a possible US or Israeli attack on Iran. Several times tensions have flared and certainly under the Bush presidency, it was reasonable to worry about a possible – if futile – strike under the guise of taking out an Iranian nuclear program – even though the IAEA and our own security NIE show that no such program exists.

The Obama administration has been sending mixed signals – offering engagement but also still talking about force remaining “on the table.” Contrary to the NIE, administration spokesmen and the President continue to claim that the Iranians are pursuing a nuclear weapons capability (rather than the admitted and permitted nuclear power effort.)

While we try to parse the positions of the new administration, we also need to keep an eye on the new Israeli administration. For quite a while, the editorials in the Israeli press have often included pieces saying that if the US won’t take out Iran, Israel will (often with a shovelful of machismo tossed in).

Now we have Netanyahu saying the same:

"Israel is not like other countries," Netanyahu told his Likud faction in a meeting which came one week after his meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House. "We are faced with security challenges that no other country faces, and our need to provide a response to these is critical, and we are answering the call."

"These are not regular times. The danger is hurtling toward us?The real danger in underestimating the threat," Netanyahu said, addressing the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. "My job is first and foremost to ensure the future of the state of Israel … the leadership’s job is to eliminate the danger. Who will eliminate it? It is us or no one."

Haaretz goes on to report that “Netanyahu added that he reached understandings Obama, among them that the most important goal for both countries is preventing Iran from attaining a nuclear military capability. Netanyahu told Likud members that Israel received a number of key pieces of defense aid from the Americans.”

We don’t know what that “defense aid” includes though we do know that last Fall the US sold Israel the bunker buster bombs expected to be the weapon of choice for any attack on Iran.

Aluf Benn writes in Haaretz that Netanyahu’s speech last Monday is “preparing the general public” that a war with Iran “may break out.”

And this preparation comes just a week before everyone in Israel participates in Turning Point 3 – a country wide 5 day drill to prepare for conditions expected “in the next outbreak of war.”

One of the objections raised whenever we talk about a potential Israeli attack on Iran is that Israel does not have the military capacity for such an attack yet just a year ago, Israel’s Air Force practised flights of the correct distance and the required in air refueling that would be needed. And last week  saw a fascinating article run in Ashark Al-Awsat denying reports that officials in Kurdistan would allow an Israeli overflight – remember that Israel needs to fly over someone’s territory to reach Iran. The Kurdish response to these rumous is interesting – and not very reassuring. (h/t Dubhaltach)

The official Peshmerga spokesman began by denying “there is any kind of relationship between the region and Israel.” An interesting claim given the historic relations of Kurdistan and Israel – and the more recent connections reported by the BBC in 2006. He then went on at length to describe precisely how Kurdistan would be completely incapable of blocking such an overflight – a statement that reads closer to an invitation than a denial:

Major General Jabbar Yawir, the Peshmerga Affairs Ministry’s undersecretary and official spokesman of the region’s protection forces, told Asharq Al-Awsat that "the federal authorities in Iraq are in charge of protecting the safety of all of Iraq’s air space, including that of the region, under the Iraqi constitution. Moreover, Iraq has a strategic security agreement with the United States under which it undertakes to protect Iraqi airspace." He added that the "region’s government does not have the technical resources for protecting the region’s air space, such as antiaircraft weapons or radars that detect the identity of aircraft crossing its air space. Therefore the above report’s contents are invalid and baseless."

Does Major General Jabbar Yawir protest too much?

 Video: 2006 BBC report on Israelis training Kurdish forces.

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