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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Sirens go off in Israel for war on Iran

An Israeli defense strategy report for 2009 has tasked the military with making preliminary preparations for launching a war against Iran.

An annual defense work plan presented to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi for the year 2009 describes Iran as "the No.1 threat the IDF is now preparing for."

Citing Iran as "a threat to Israel's existence," the report tasks the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) with reinforcing its strategic aerial capabilities, while zooming in on the development of "remote-piloted vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles", as well as "infrastructural investments in intelligence and communications devices."

The IDF has also been required to enhance the ground forces' readiness by increasing the level of training for the army and reserve troops.

The work plan also reveals an approximate $370 million budget deficit for the Israeli army and adds that the funds required to address the change in military priorities will be provided via various government bureaus.

The report comes in support of long-standing talks running hot and cold about an Israeli military strike on Iran.

Israel, the sole possessor of a nuclear warhead in the Middle East, has long claimed that Iran, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory, will have enough fissile material to become a nuclear power by the end of 2009.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inspecting the Natanz nuclear plant. Iran is believed to have been negotiating a deal with Russia to obtain the S-300 defense systems to protect its nuclear facilities.
Under the allegation, Israeli officials argue that a military attack is a legitimate option for taking out Iran's nuclear infrastructure.

Iran's nuclear program has been a cause for concern in the West, despite confirmations by the UN nuclear watchdog that there is no link between the use of nuclear material and the "alleged studies" of weaponization attributed to Iran by certain Western countries.

Following the "fresh approach" of US President Barack Obama in dealing with Iran's nuclear case, the Israeli government has been watching with great attention as the new US administration works to "diplomatically" engage Tehran.

The new US policy regarding Iran has surprised Israeli circles as they have long sought a green light from the United States to launch an attack on Iran.

Earlier in January The Times reported that the Israeli government had asked for bunker-busting bombs from former president George W. Bush, and demanded refueling and overflight rights over Iraq to take out Iran's main nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz.

The former president, however, deflected the secret Israeli request and revealed that -- as an alternative -- new covert actions aimed at sabotaging Iran's nuclear program had been authorized.

Amid wild speculation about an imminent military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, the country's Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar set off for Russia on Monday to discuss bilateral military ties.

The Iranian minister's visit to Russia is considered bad news for Israeli officials who have frequently expressed grave concern about the sale of a controversial air-defense system -- the sophisticated anti-aircraft S-300 missile -- by Russia to Iran.

Along with Israel, Western countries have criticized Russia's military cooperation with Iran, saying that such associations have sabotaged efforts to retard the Iranian nuclear progress.

According to intelligence officials familiar with the defense capabilities of the S-300, the missile system would effectively rule out the possibility of an Israeli war against Iran.

"If Tehran obtained the S-300, it would be a game-changer in military thinking for tackling Iran," says long-time Pentagon advisor Dan Goure.

Gaza war: A project to test Israeli radars

Tel Aviv's recent war on the Gaza Strip was part of an ongoing project to develop an anti-missile radar system, Israeli officials claim.

The defense officials, who were speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed that Israel launched Operation Cast Lead to gather data for the development of the 'Iron Dome' system which is currently under construction, The Jerusalem Post reported Monday.

They said that Tel Aviv sent its weapon-development teams to gather information about rockets fired into Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip.

During the offensive against the populated coastal strip, which lasted 23 days, the teams collected data on how the homemade rockets and the military-grade Katyushas fired from Gaza behaved in different weather conditions and how they were traced by Iron Dome's radar, which is already online, the officials said.

The Iron Dome, designed to intercept the rockets that might be fired from southern Lebanon, is set to go operational in 2010. The system will work by tracing incoming rockets and firing an interceptor missile in response.

Israel had also used several new combat systems for the first time during its all-out war, which claimed almost 1,400 Palestinian lives in the strip.

According to the officials, two Namer vehicles, armored personnel carriers based on the Israeli-made Merkava IV tank, were used by Golani Brigade members in the populated sliver.

The Namer is scheduled to eventually replace the 1960s-era US M-113, which is still used by most Israeli infantry units.

The military fitted its tanks with the Wind Coat system, designed to detect anti-tank rockets and intercepts them in midair. The system was mounted on tanks during the Gaza onslaught, however, it was not actually fired, the officials added.

They said the Wind Coat tested in the Gaza War was developed after Israel's 33-day war against Hezbollah in summer 2006.

Israel faced a defeat in its war against Lebanon and its military campaign in the Gaza Strip failed to weaken Hamas' rocket-firing capability.

Palestinian factions continued their rocket attacks on Israeli towns until the last day of the war.