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News Analysis: Israel unlikely to strike Iran without alerting U.S.

11-07-2011 09:07 BJT

by Adam Gonn

JERUSALEM, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli ambiguity over a possible air strike on Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program continues as the United Nations nuclear agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is scheduled to release its report on Iran's nuclear activity later this week.

Western and Middle Eastern countries are all concerned that Iran is using its intentions for civilian use of nuclear energy as a cover for producing nuclear weapons.

Israel considers the issue an existential threat, owing to numerous statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other leaders calling for destruction of the Jewish State.

The U.S. administration has lately been asking Israel to clarify its position on a possible military strike, perhaps even without alerting Washington beforehand.

During a visit to Israel in October, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Panetta, however, reportedly left without a clear answer regarding Israel's true intentions.

"It's very hard for me to see them (strike Iran) without coordination with the U.S.," Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum, of the Interdisciplinary-Center in Herzliya, told Xinhua.

"It's such a big thing and it would involve crossing airspace where the U.S. is active in. They would need some kind of coordination with the Americans to do this," he said.

In addition, an Iranian retaliation could target U.S. ground forces stationed in Iraq and Kuwait, as well as the American naval base in Qatar, the professor said.

SANCTIONS

"There's an increasing sense of urgency on the issue now, and Israel is becoming more outspoken about it as a way to pressure the U.S. and other countries," Teitelbaum said. "The saber rattling serves to increase the urgency."

He argued that, for the U.S., which also pushes for tougher sanctions against Iran, the image of Israel as a nervous, unpredictable country could serve Washington's agenda, warning United Nations Security Council members to take action -- before Israel does.

Israel seems to be trying to project an image of a state with its "back against the wall," he argued, one that might take radical steps if it feels threatened. In the long run, however, Israel's best bet would be to take on a role as part of a collective international effort, and not as a unilateral actor, Teitelbaum said.

He added that when it comes to the military capabilities, "the assessment is that Israel can't do as much as the U.S. could."

While the Israel Air Force (IAF) in 1981 launched a successful raid on an Iraqi nuclear reactor, a mission to Iran is a completely different story. In Iraq there was only one target, as opposed to Iran where the alleged nuclear facilities are spread over the country and in some cases hidden underground.

REFOCUSING THE AGENDA

Prof. Shlomo Aronson, of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said that Netanyahu and Barak want to shift international attention to Iran, and to do this they "agreed upon putting the military option on the table."

"They have to make the military threats more visible without having made any decision to attack Iran, because this goes beyond the capabilities of Israel's air force and army," Aronson said.

The IAF is currently equipped with the American-made F-15 and F- 16 fighters, which lack the long-range capability to strike targets as far away as Iran without refueling midair.

While Israel has ordered a squadron -- 19 planes -- of the new U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets, the first ones are scheduled to arrive no earlier than 2016.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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