White House offers Israel unprecedented warning of attack on Iraqgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread
October 09, 2002
Move intended to keep Israel on sidelines
By Barbara Opall-Rome Defense News senior correspondent
TEL AVIV — To keep Israel on the sidelines of a possible war against Iraq, the Bush administration has offered Israel unprecedented notice of at least 24 hours before hostilities begin, and pledged priority attacks against mobile missile launchers, aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles threatening Israel from western Iraq, according to top officials.
Formal approval of the bilateral political-military coordination pact is expected during a planned Oct. 16 White House meeting between President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Implicit in the joint coordination effort is White House expectations that Sharon will refrain from provocative military actions against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza strip that would deflect U.S. focus on the Iraqi war effort, sources from both countries said.
U.S. officials here and in Washington said they are anxious to avoid pre-emptive action by Israel, where political and military leaders still complain about the damage to Israeli deterrence caused by its decision to stay out of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. For decades, Israel’s deterrent strategy has been based on a doctrine of swift and overwhelming response to any attack on the country.
Israel absorbed 39 Scud missile attacks during the 1991 war without responding, despite fierce recommendations from Israel’s minister of defense, Air Force chief and numerous other political and military leaders at the time.
The first President Bush exerted enormous pressure on Tel Aviv not to retaliate to preserve fragile Arab support for the campaign against Iraq that could have been shattered had Israel become directly involved in the conflict. Current U.S. administration officials share the same strategic concern as they work to marshal wider global support for a military campaign against Saddam Hussein.
That is why U.S officials this time are putting a high priority on destroying Iraqi mobile missile launchers and other systems that could threaten Israel, aiming to do so in the first days of a war. In 1991, destroying mobile launchers was not a top priority of allied forces until after missiles landed in major Israeli cities.
Israeli leaders have made it clear to their U.S. counterparts that the best way to keep Israel out of the war is to quickly neutralize threats to its population and territory.
“Our government is doing everything within reason … to accommodate Israeli concerns and requirements,” a senior U.S. official said. “We intend to demonstrate through word and deed that restraint, once again, is [Israel’s] best option.”
In interviews here, senior Israeli government sources said Washington has agreed to give Israel at least 24 hours advance notice of a planned attack on Iraq. Diplomatically, early warning would come directly from Bush to Sharon through a hotline that will remain open throughout the duration of the military campaign.
Moreover, military command authorities from the two countries would maintain operational links through secure, encrypted communications and the high-speed fusing of data from Defense Department satellites and Israel’s network of three Green Pine long-range missile-tracking radar. The computerized melding of data from multiple U.S. satellites and the Israeli Green Pine radar is an improvement over the comparatively primitive, voice-activated satellite link — code-named Hummer Beam — that Washington installed in Israel’s National Command Center during the 1991 war with Iraq.
Additionally, Washington has assured Israel that U.S. Central Command planners have placed mobile Scud missile launchers, aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles at the top of their targeting list to obviate the need for Israeli pre-emptive action. The Pentagon also has offered to deploy a battery of Patriot missiles in Israel and to expand pre-positioning of U.S. spare parts and materiel in Israel for possible use by American or Israeli forces, depending on need.
A detailed U.S.-Israeli coordination plan was developed during Oct. 3-5 meetings in Washington. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage led the talks on the U.S. side. Amos Yaron, director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Defense, led the Israeli delegation, which included Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, head of planning for the Israeli military, as well as legal advisers.
Meanwhile, Vice Adm. David Ben-Bashat, deputy commander of the Israel Navy, met with U.S. Navy counterparts in Washington the week of Oct. 1 to coordinate potential sea-based activities. Ben-Bashat’s visit marked an attempt by both countries to elevate bilateral naval coordination to a level nearing that enjoyed by the air forces of the two countries, whose chiefs and senior officials meet on a much more regular basis, sources here said.
Despite generous and unprecedented U.S. overtures to Israel, defense officials here said Washington could still do more to assuage Israeli concerns regarding Iraq. A senior Israeli defense official said the Pentagon did not agree to Israel’s request to share Identification Friend or Foe codes that could prevent air accidents should the Israeli Air Force need to become involved in military action. Moreover, the official said Israel has not yet decided to accept the U.S. offer to deploy a Patriot battery.
“We still don’t know what kind of Patriots they’re talking about. Do they mean PAC-3? If so, we have something to discuss. But if it’s PAC-2, our response may be, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ “ the official said, in reference to different versions of the U.S. air defense system and their respective abilities to intercept incoming Scud-type ballistic missiles. The PAC-3, or Patriot Advanced Capability-3, is a more capable version of the PAC-2 system used during the 1991 war that Israeli officials have criticized as ineffective, a charge U.S. officials reject.
Additionally, Israeli sources here insist Israel is not the only side to benefit from bilateral, pre-war coordination efforts. The senior Israeli official noted that Israel has shared valuable intelligence information, culled from its newly operational Ofeq-5 reconnaissance satellite, on high-value military targets throughout Iraq. He also noted that Israel has offered Washington full use of its air space, military storage facilities and mobile medical services in the event of a protracted war against Iraq.
“Our strategic cooperation with America is mutually beneficial. It’s definitely a two-way street,” the official said.
All told, Israeli defense officials and analysts said Israel would continue to reserve the right to attack Iraq, especially in the unlikely event that Iraq attacks Israel with unconventional weapons. Although Israel refuses to discuss its reported nuclear capability, officials have made no secret that a biological attack on the country could precipitate an “overwhelming response.”
“I don’t believe Iraq will attack us with the limited capabilities at its disposal,” said Danny Yatom, former head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service. “The likelihood of Iraq attacking with non-conventional weapons is even more remote.”
Nevertheless, the military option is one that Israel wants to retain, U.S. assurances and overtures notwithstanding.
“An Iraqi attack on Israel will oblige us to defend ourselves, and the Israel Defense Forces is preparing itself accordingly,” Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, commander of the Israeli military, told a gathering of the Israel Commercial and Industrial Club Oct. 4.
Gerald Steinberg, a defense analyst who heads the Program on Conflict Management and Diplomacy at Bar Ilan University near here, added that “no one in Washington should assume that the Sharon government will decide or be able to show restraint.”
According to Steinberg, an Iraqi attack that causes significant Israeli casualties or any signs of unconventional weapons will ruin Israeli deterrence.
“In that case, the Bush administration must be prepared for the type of Israeli response that leaves no room for confusion,” Steinberg said. “That’s why these ongoing pre-war coordination talks are beneficial to both sides.”
-- Anonymous, October 09, 2002
So, basically the US says if it attacks Iraq it will first go after weapons sites that can hit Israel.
If Israel gets bombed in any significant way, it will respond heavily against Iraq, and the threat of nukes isn't a bluff.
Oh boy. Talk about drawing a line in the sand...
-- Anonymous, October 10, 2002