Israel asks U.S. for arms, air corridor to attack Iran
The security aid package the
United States has refused to
give Israel for the past few
months out of concern that Israel
would use it to attack nuclear facilities in Iran
included a large number of "bunker-buster" bombs, permission to use
an air corridor to Iran,
an advanced technological system and refueling planes.
Officials from both
countries have been discussing the Israeli requests over the past few months.
Their rejection would make it very difficult for Israel
to attack Iran,
if such a decision is made.
About a month ago, Haaretz reported that the Bush administration had turned
down an Israeli request for certain security items that could upgrade Israel's capability to attack Iran. The U.S. administration reportedly saw the request as
a sign preparations were moving ahead for an Israeli attack on Iran.
Diplomatic and security
sources indicated to Haaretz that the list of
Bunker-buster GBU-28 bombs:
In 2005, the U.S. said it
was supplying these bombs to Israel.
In August 2006, The New York Times reported that the U.S. had expedited the dispatch of
additional bombs at the height of the Second Lebanon War. The bombs, which
weigh 2.2 tons each, can penetrate six meters of reinforced concrete. Israel appears
to have asked for a relatively large number of additional bunker-busters, and
was turned down.
Air-space authorization: An
attack on Iran
would apparently require passage through Iraqi air space. For this to occur, an
air corridor would be needed that Israeli fighter jets could cross without
being targeted by American planes or anti-aircraft missiles. The Americans also
turned down this request. According to one account, to avoid the issue, the
Americans told the Israelis to ask Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri
al-Maliki for permission, along the lines of "If
you want, coordinate with him."
An air attack on Iran
would require refueling of fighter jets on the way back. According to a report
on Channel 10 a few weeks ago, the U.S. rejected an Israeli request
for more advanced refueling tankers, of the Boeing 767 model.
The refueling craft the
Israel Air Force now uses are very outmoded, something that make it difficult
to operate at long distances from Israel. Even if the Americans were
to respond favorably to such a request, the process could take a few years.
The IDF recently reported
that it is overhauling a Boeing 707 that previously served as the prime
minister's plane to serve as a refueling aircraft.
technological systems. The Israeli sources declined to give any details on this point.
The Israeli requests were
discussed during President George W. Bush's visit to Israel
in May, as well as during Defense Minister Ehud Barak's visit to Washington
in July. In a series of meetings at a very senior level, following Bush's
visit, the Americans made clear to the Israelis that for now they are sticking
to the diplomatic option to halt the Iranian nuclear project and that Jerusalem does not have a green light from Washington for an attack on Iran.
However, it appears that in
compensation for turning down Israel's
"offensive" requests, the U.S. has agreed to strengthen its
During the Barak visit, it was agreed that an advanced U.S. radar system would be stationed in the Negev, and the order to send it was made at that time.
The system would double to 2,000 kilometers the range of identification of
missiles launched from the direction of Iran, and would be connected to an
American early warning system.
The system is to be operated
by American civilians as well as two American soldiers. This would be the first
force on Israeli soil.
A senior security official
said the Americans were preparing "with the greatest speed" to make
good on their promise, and the systems could be installed within a month.
The Israeli security source
said he believed Washington was moving ahead
quickly on the request because it considered it very important to restrain Israel at this
At the beginning of the
year, the Israeli leadership still considered it a reasonable possibility that
Bush would decide to attack Iran
before the end of his term.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in private
discussions, even raised the possibility that the U.S. was considering an attack in
the transition period between the election in November and the inauguration of
the new president in January 2009.
However, Jerusalem now assumes that likelihood of this
possibility is close to nil, and that Bush will use the rest of his time in
office to strengthen what he defines as the Iraqi achievement, following the
relative success of American efforts there over the past year and a half.