Bush Prepares Nation for War: A. Israel Officials Play down Dangers

In his radio address Saturday, October 5, President George W. Bush further sharpened the options in advance of his major address to the nation Monday, October 7. He said: “If the Iraqi regime persists in its defiance, the use of force may become unavoidable.”
His sense of urgency was marked in this assertion: “Delay, indecision, and inaction are not an option for America because that could lead to massive and sudden horror.”
The contrast between the stressful tones emanating from Washington and the soothing statements from one Israeli official after another is striking.
Friday, October 4, IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, reiterated that he is not worried about Iraq; Israel, he said, had drawn ahead of Iraq to create a substantial gap in the last ten years. He was more disturbed by the Palestinian menace.
On Saturday, October 5, chief of military intelligence Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi declared in a TV talk show that there is no missile presence in western Iraq, although the continuation of this situation depended on the deployment of American troops. But, he said, Baghdad had other options, such as aircraft from dropping chemicals over Israel. He believed that Israel’s ability to intercept any such threat had advanced far beyond what it was in 1991.
Other Israeli military sources admit Iraq may have one or two mobile missile launchers in the area but do not consider this cause for concern. Knesset Member Yuval Steinitz, who is considered a strategic expert, claims that Iraq’s weaponry does not warrant being classified as weapons of mass destruction. This term should apply only to nuclear devices, not chemical or biological weapons.
Former military intelligence commander, Amos Malka, remarked that he gave his children a list of dangers they should beware of. Traffic accidents came first, followed by terrorism and Iraqi missile attack in third place.
Drawing on its latest information, debkafile‘s sources would reverse that order.
General Yaalon’s anxiety to play down the Iraqi threat led him to a fallacy: the technological gap between Israel and the Palestinians is many times greater than it is with Iraq. Yet he himself calls the Palestinian-Israeli war that has dragged on for two years and cost 650 Israeli lives and thousands of wounded, the toughest in Israeli history. And the contest is not over, certainly not won.
The gap between combatant forces is only one factor in a geo-strategic equation – and not necessarily the decisive one. This the Americans discovered when they brought their techno-military might to bear against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Regime change was accomplished in Kabul, but both enemies are very much alive and rampant.
Russia reached the same impasse in Chechnya.
In Bethlehem, the presence of Israeli defense forces and an imported, well-trained Jordanian-Palestinian military unit, cannot prevent this small town on Jerusalem’s southern boundary from sliding back as a hotbed of West Bank violence.
Last Tuesday, October 1, defense minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer, said: “The Iraqis are trying to advance a battery or two of mobile missile launchers into H-3. Let’s see if they make it.”
The question is: Where are the Iraqis advancing those batteries from? And who is there to stop them? If that is what they are up to, why does the head of military intelligence say there are no missiles in West Iraq?
If nonetheless Iraqi missiles are deployed somewhere between central and western Iraq in such locations as the H-2 air base or the Tikrit region – and are trying to advance them closer to the Jordanian frontier to the west (400 kilometers from Israel) in order to fire them off – might it not be better to say so?
Israelis were informed Saturday, October 5, that America was sending more improved Patriot anti-missile batteries next week. American Patriots are already deployed in Israel, and so are two Israeli Arrow-2 anti-missile missile emplacements, covering the northern, central and southern regions. So, if no Iraqi missiles are parked within striking distance of Israel, why are extra Patriots being rushed over?
When we put this question to a well-placed Israeli military source, the answer was: The Americans are playing it safe – an answer as imprecise as most other official Israeli assertions.
According to debkafile‘s military and American sources, there is a reason for all this evasive, cagey Israeli rhetoric; US and Israeli intelligence assessors don’t see eye to eye on the sum of Iraqi missile capabilities, or in the way the two countries need to prepare for war.
US armed forces, before going to war in the Middle East, have exhaustively researched pertinent areas and gathered certain specific data. The file the Americans have built up on the dangers facing Israel is not encouraging.
Some of the data comes from a report published on September 25 by the Heritage Foundation, which is close to the White House and the Pentagon, on the impact of an unconventional Iraqi attack on Tel Aviv. Here are some high points:
1. A warhead with 400 kilograms of the nerve gas sarin and an unprotected population would leave 59,000 casualties.
2. An Iraqi missile filled with botulinum would kill 50,000.
3. One missile carrying 450 kilos of VX nerve gas would kill 43,000 unprotected people.
The masks allocated to every Israeli can protect against biological and chemical agents.
4. The author of the report, Dexter Ingram, believes Iraq needs another six months to two years to become a nuclear power. An Iraqi warhead of one kiloton (similar to the A-bomb on Hiroshima) carried by Baghdad’s al Hussein missiles (which has a range of 650 km) could kill 75,000.
US analysts believe Iraq may have up to 80 such missiles which could be tipped with biological and chemical warheads.
The Iraq dossier that British prime minister Tony Blair laid before parliament last week estimated the number of Al Hussein missiles as 20.
In recent weeks, debkafile‘s military sources estimated Saddam commanded between 35 and 50 missiles of all types, as well as air craft, drones and kamikaze pilots capable of dropping chemical and biological agents over Israel.

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