Iran: IAF drill jeopardizes global peace

NY Times reports that more than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighter jets took part in training exercise.

IAF jet great 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
IAF jet great 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran criticized on Saturday a recent Israeli military exercise that US officials said was designed to show Jerusalem's ability to attack Teheran's nuclear sites. Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted a government spokesman as saying that the exercises prove Israel "jeopardizes global peace and security." The spokesman, Gholam Hossein Elham, also said that Iran believed Israel has no ability to strike its nuclear program. According to a New York Times report published on Friday, Israel carried out a major military drill during the first week of June that US sources say was apparently a rehearsal for a potential attack on Iran's nuclear sites. Several US officials were quoted by the newspaper as saying that it seemed the drill was an effort to develop Israel's capacity to carry out long-range strikes and to show the gravity with which Israel views the Iranian nuclear issue. In addition, one Israeli political official familiar with the drill told The Times in London that it would do well for Iran to understand the meaning behind the drill. "[The Iranians should] read the writing on the wall . . . This was a dress rehearsal, and the Iranians should read the script before they continue with their program for nuclear weapons. If diplomacy does not yield results, Israel will take military steps to halt Teheran's production of bomb-grade uranium," the official told the London Times. More than 100 IAF F-16 and F-15 fighter jets took part in the exercise, which was carried out over the eastern Mediterranean and over Greece, the officials quoted by the New York Times said. The drill also included IAF rescues helicopters, continued the officials, adding that the helicopters and refueling tankers flew more than 900 miles, which is approximately the distance between Israel and Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. The IDF would neither confirm nor deny the report. The army issued a statement saying only that the IAF "regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel." Nevertheless, a senior Pentagon official, who the New York Times claimed was briefed on the drill, and who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it appeared to serve multiple purposes. One aim, according to the official, was to practice flight tactics, aerial refueling and all other details of a possible attack on Iran's nuclear sites and its long-range missiles. A second goal, the official was quoted by the New York Times as saying, was to give a clear message to the US and the rest of the world that Israel was prepared to attack Iran if diplomatic efforts to stop the country's march toward the production of bomb-grade uranium fail. "They wanted us to know, they wanted the Europeans to know, and they wanted the Iranians to know," the Pentagon official reportedly said. "There's a lot of signaling going on at different levels." Several US officials were quoted by the newspaper as saying that they did not believe that Israel had made a final decision to attack Iran and that such a raid was not imminent. The New York Times went on to claim that Iran had recently beefed up its air defenses. "They are clearly nervous about this and have their air defense on guard," a US official was quoted as saying. A Pentagon official reiterated that although the IAF usually holds a major drill early in the summer, the exercise early this month involved more aircraft than had been previously seen and an extensive combat rescue mission. "They rehearse it, rehearse it and rehearse it, so if they actually have to do it, they're ready," the Pentagon official said. "They're not taking any options off the table." Israeli military analyst Martin Van Creveld from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said military preparations for a possible attack were indeed under way. "Israel has been talking about this possibility for a long time, that it would not take an Iranian nuclear weapon lying down. And it has been practicing the operation or operations for a long time," he said. But though an Israeli strike would likely be able to "paralyze the most important Iranian nuclear installations," it probably won't be able to destroy the program entirely, Van Creveld said. "I would be very surprised if Israel can really knock out every part of this program, which by all accounts appears to be large and well concealed and well dispersed," he said.