Israel rehearses possible air strike against Iran over Greece
US Pentagon sources report that more than 100 Air Force F-16 and F-15 fighters participated in the maneuver over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece in the first week of June. The maneuver included helicopters used for rescuing downed pilots and refueling tankers. They flew 1,440 km, roughly the distance between Israel and the Iranian uranium enrichment plant at Natanz.
Israel officials declined to comment on the exercise, the IDF saying only that the air force trains regularly for various missions in order to meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel. But the US sources said the scope of the Israeli exercise guaranteed it would be noticed by American and other foreign intelligence agencies, primarily to send a signal to the US, Europe and Iran that Israel was prepared and able to act militarily if diplomatic efforts failed to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons advances.
One Pentagon official said: “They rehearse it, rehearse it and rehearse it, so that if they actually have to do it, they’re ready. They’re not taking any options off the table.”
debkafile‘s military sources add that only on Tuesday, June 17, the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazy commented to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee: “Beside the actions and sanctions against Iran, it is important we remain ready for any options.”
Those sources interpreted the Ashkenazy’s typically understated remark as a hint that Israel must be ready for a possible war with Iran in the near future. This conflict could erupt on three additional fronts, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas. Those sources suggest that the scenario he hinted at would silence the many domestic critics of the ceasefire with Hamas and the Israeli military’s passivity in the face of Hizballah’s massive rocket buildup and Hamas’ escalating aggression.
Of interest too is the probable motive behind the US defense department’s leak to the world media of the Israel Air Force maneuver and its presentation as an exercise to simulate an attack on Iran. According to debkafile‘s informants, US defense secretary Robert Gates is adamantly opposed to American military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities and even more so to Israel going it alone, which this publicity was intended to pre-empt.