Amid the latest escalation
between Hamas and Israel this week, a covert strike
that is far more strategically significant may have occurred.
remained officially silent over Sudanese accusations
that Jerusalem carried out
an air strike on a weapons factory near Khartoum, but tellingly, Jerusalem has
not taken the trouble to deny the allegations either.
If Israeli fighter
jets did fly 1,900 km. to the Sudanese capital to bomb a rocket factory, the
move could represent a major blow to Iranian efforts to smuggle arms into Gaza,
and contain a demonstrable threat to Tehran of what may occur if it continues to
develop its nuclear weapons program.
In 2008, defense ministers from
Sudan and Iran signed a military cooperation pact and vowed to advance
“defensive ties” between them. The two countries presented the move as a step to
promote regional peace and stability. It likely had the exact opposite
Sudan has been a central transit point for Iranian arms headed to
the Gaza Strip for several years. According to open source reports, officials
from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard have loaded long-range rockets and an array
of sophisticated missiles onto ships at Iran’s Port Bandar Abbas, from where
ships have sailed to Sudan. From there, the weapons travel in land convoys into
Egypt, and are then smuggled into Gaza via tunnels from Sinai.
route has presented Israel with opportunities to intercept the
In 2011, for example, at least two land convoys believed to be
carrying Iranian weapons for Gaza were reportedly bombed from the air in eastern
Sudan. Similarly, ships carrying Iranian arms to Gaza have been intercepted by
the Israel Navy.
In light of this vulnerability, Iran may well have
decided to construct a rocket factory in the Sudanese capital, shortening the
distance between the arms’ manufacturing center and their target destination.
The Iranians may have also mistakenly believed that Israel is unlikely to direct
action in a foreign capital.
If this was indeed the case, Sudan agreed to
have weapons produced on its territory that are later used to target Israeli
civilians in the South.
The reported bombing appears to be the latest in
an ongoing and gradually escalating Israeli-Iranian covert war, which spans
arenas across the Middle East and beyond. In this context, an air strike that
allegedly involved Israeli fighter jets flying 1,900 km. and back would also
send an unmistakable signal to Tehran.
With Iran’s nuclear sites roughly
the same distance from Israel, an air strike in Khartoum would demonstrate
Israel’s long-range capabilities, and make the military threat on the table that
much more tangible.
At the same time, striking a single target in a
country with minimal air defenses cannot be compared to the operational
challenges inherent in striking multiple targets fortified by vigorous air