iran missile test, the b.
(photo credit: AP)
Israel is capable of stopping Iran's nuclear program with an independent military strike, a former head of the Israel Air Force who was involved in the 1981 bombing of Iraq's Osirak reactor has told The Jerusalem Post.
According to the former commander, the IAF could use its US-made F-16I and F-15I fighter jets to reach Iran and, if not completely destroy the program, at least cause enough damage to set back the development of a nuclear weapon by several years.
"Israel can do it," said the officer. "All you have to do is pick a number of essential targets and destroy them. This way you delay the process and wait to see what happens," he said.
In 1981, a formation of eight F-16 fighter jets flew just over 2,000 kilometers and destroyed the Osirak reactor near Baghdad. According to the former air force chief, Israel could use its F-15Is - with a combat range of close to 4,400 kilometers - and the F-16Is it purchased in the late '90s, all capable of striking Iran without refueling, much like the operation against Osirak.
Senior security officials told the Post Israel would have to obtain "precise intelligence" on the nuclear facilities it planned to target.
Military Intelligence, however, admits it works under the assumption that it is not aware of all of Iran's nuclear facilities. Senior officers say the assumption is that Teheran has built covert installations for its military nuclear program.
There are additional complications. While Osirak was a distant target that required expert pilots who could maneuver at low altitude, it was only one facility and it was above ground. A number of Iran's nuclear facilities are underground and are heavily fortified, some with steel reinforcements and others with layers of concrete.
According to a senior government official involved in security and strategic affairs, the military would need precise intelligence on every facility to be able to choose the most effective weapons.
"We would need to know all of the specifications," he said, "whether the bunker is fortified by steel or concrete and even how thick it is."
On Tuesday, the Institute for National Security Studies (formerly known as the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies) at Tel Aviv University released its annual Middle East Strategic Balance with one major conclusion: "Without military action, an Iranian nuclear bomb is only a matter of time." The think tank also says Israel is capable of carrying out a military strike against Iran on its own.
[See the Upfront magazine this Friday for a comprehensive analysis of Israel's options concerning the Iranian threat.]