Jerusalem – Following months of verbal threats, which have already become a matter of routine, Israel has begun to show its military prowess, which some say constitutes a new troubling stage in the Iranian nuclear crisis.
Many witnessed and allowed an exercise the Israel Air Force (IAF) conducted in the Mediterranean Sea a few weeks ago, as the New York Times reported. First there was Greece, which permitted Israel to carry out the maneuvers over its territory; then there were the air traffic monitoring systems that direct civilian air traffic in the countries in the area; then there were the Russian and American aircraft carriers in the area as well as NATO, which has expressed special interest in the exercise; lastly there were hostile elements that also took a great interest in monitoring the activity of dozens of Israel’s front-line Air Force planes carrying out maneuvers between 1,200 and 1,500 miles from home.
These nations’ authorities saw it and said nothing.
Finally, it was the U.S. which decided after a few weeks to reveal not only the exercise’s existence but also its purpose, and told the world: Israel carried out an exercise simulating an attack on nuclear installations on Iranian soil.
When the diplomacy of economic and political pressure fails to produce results, a shift is made to gunboat diplomacy.
The timing chosen to go public was hardly a coincidence either. As the Iranian regime is deliberating over the EU representative’s most recent offer to stop its nuclear program in exchange for extensive benefits, the U.S. decided to add a little more pressure in the form of the Israeli Air Force.
Conversely, the U.S. has kept its military option closely under wraps. The U.S., according to sources, would prefer that Israel be the “crazy” one in this story. It is also said to be a hint to the Europeans that they should not let up their pressure on Iran, because who knows what those Israelis might do.
And in the event that anyone in the world failed to understand the inherent threat in the American leak, an anonymous source in Jerusalem took the time to explain in the British press that the maneuvers were a “dress rehearsal” for the IAF in advance of an attack on Iran.
The aerial maneuvers over the Mediterranean Sea reported by the New York Times were conducted with the assumption of duties by the new IAF commander, Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan. It appears that Iran will continue to be the principal preoccupation of the new IAF commander, the man who bears responsibility for finding a solution to the Iranian threat.
If the description in the American and British press was accurate, the IAF carried out truly irregular maneuvers in this case. This sort of training provides an ability to examine a long list of issues that stem from the long distance, such as aerial refueling, communications, coordination with other forces, with countries that have to be flown over back and forth and with friendly air forces, since mishaps can occur that require emergency landings.
Indeed, according to the Cypriot media, two Israeli Blackhawk helicopters with 10 soldiers performed emergency landings in Cyprus due to a malfunction. According to the report, the helicopters continued on their way to Crete after fixing the malfunction. The bottom line is that the State of Israel cannot launch an operation of this sort on its own, without coordinating matters with other countries.
Since Israel can’t train in Sinai any more, and it certainly cannot do so over Jordan, it has turned westward, according to reports. Beginning in the late 1990s when Eitan Ben-Eliyahu was the Air Force commander, the IAF began to fly long distances and would coordinate matters with a broad variety of countries. It flew in North America, Malta, Sicily, Turkey, Romania, Germany and now Greece as well.
The most recent exercise was very unusual in terms of its size. If the reports are accurate, a significant portion of the IAF’s fighting force took wing and flew great distances. Before the attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor in the early 1980s the IAF practiced long-range sorties as well. The principal restriction that was examined back then was the amount of fuel it would take the planes to get to Iraq and back safely. Today there are other problems.
David Bedein can be reached at email@example.com. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008