Israel 'ready' to face 30-day war over Iran |
Arab News - 16 August, 2012
Israel is prepared for a 30-day war on multiple fronts should it decide to strike Iran, and is “ready as never before” for such a clash, the outgoing civil defence minister said yesterday.
In an interview with the Maariv newspaper, Matan Vilnai said Israel was ready to face the consequences of a clash with Iran that could be sparked if the Jewish state decides to launch a strike against Tehran’s nuclear programme.
But he warned that any military engagement should be weighed carefully, and cautioned that Israel should “always co-ordinate” with the US.
“The assessments are for a war that will last 30 days on a number of fronts,” he said, repeating the predictions of other senior Israeli officials that the Jewish state would suffer around 500 deaths in such a clash.
“It could be that there will be less fatalities, but it could be there will be more, that is the scenario that we are preparing for according to the best experts.”
Speculation has risen in recent weeks about the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear programme, which the Jewish state and much of the international community believes masks a weapons drive.
Tehran vehemently denies those accusations, saying the programme is for peaceful energy and medical purposes.
As the speculation grows, observers in Israel have raised concern about the country’s preparedness for war.
But Vilnai brushed aside such concerns, saying there was “no reason for hysteria”.
“I can say in the most authoritative manner that the home front is ready as never before in the country’s history,” he said.
Vilnai declined to say whether he thought Israel should take military action against Iran, but warned any such decision required serious consideration.
“The only question is if a clash is necessary. War is something that is better to postpone and weigh carefully,” he said, adding that he thought the Jewish state should co-ordinate its military activity with Washington.
“I don’t want to be dragged into an argument, but I say that the US is our greatest friend and we must always co-ordinate such things with it,” he said.
Some Israeli officials have warned that the Jewish state could launch a unilateral attack on Iranian nuclear facilities if it believes Tehran is close to acquiring a nuclear weapon, even over objections from Washington.
Vilnai made no mention in the interview of the impact a month of conflict would have on Israel’s economy should Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial centre, be hit by long-range missiles.
Tel Aviv was not struck by missiles during Israel’s three-week war in the Gaza Strip in late 2008 and early 2009 and in a 34-day conflict with Hezbollah in 2006. But it came under Scud rocket fire from Iraq during the 1991 Gulf war.
War jitters caused steep declines in Israeli financial markets on Monday although some of those losses were recovered on Tuesday.
“Just as the citizens of Japan have to understand they are likely to be hit by an earthquake, Israelis must realise that anyone who lives here has to be prepared for missiles striking the home front,” Vilnai said.
Vilnai is set to be replaced by Avi Dichter, a former internal security minister and ex-head of the country’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency.
The post, which Vilnai is leaving to become ambassador to China, was reportedly turned down by a slew of other top officials.
Israel is widely suspected to have the region’s sole, if undeclared, nuclear arsenal.
Hundreds of people have signed an online petition calling on Israel Air Force pilots to refuse to obey if ordered to bomb Iran.
The writers of the appeal, which had 428 signatures by late yesterday, warned pilots that “in the near future, possibly within weeks, you may get the fateful order - to man the planes and take off for the task of bombing Iran.”
It said that obeying an order to take off for Iran was tantamount to accepting the argument that bombing Iran was essential to Israel’s defence, which meant “accepting that you will be firing the first shot in a war whose results might be catastrophic for all of us”.
“This, however, is not the only choice open to you. You also have the option of saying ‘no,’” the petition read.
The framers of the petition said that, among the reasons not to attack Iran were: potential retaliation against Israeli cities; the possibility of radioactive materials leaking and harming Iranians; global financial disaster; and the danger of a plane being downed and a pilot captured.
The also noted that any Israeli attack against Iran would only delay Tehran’s nuclear programme, not terminate it.
Former Tel Aviv University Law School dean Menachem Mautner told the Hebrew daily Makor Rishon that he would “sign anything that could avert the greatest disaster Israel faces since it was founded”.
Germany arrests four suspected of busting embargo
German police have arrested four men suspected of delivering valves for a heavy water reactor to Iran, breaking an embargo on such exports to the Islamic Republic imposed over its disputed nuclear programme.
Prosecutors said some 90 customs officers arrested the men, a German and three with dual German-Iranian citizenship, at their homes in the northern cities of Hamburg and Oldenburg and the eastern town of Weimar, and searched flats and offices.
“In 2010 and 2011 the suspects are believed to have helped in the delivery of special valves for the construction of a heavy water reactor in Iran and therefore to have broken the Iran embargo,” prosecutors said in a statement yesterday.
They did not name the plant, but Iran is building a heavy water research reactor near the central town of Arak, a type which Western experts say could produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. Iran, which has said it hopes to bring Arak on line by the end of 2013, says the reactor will produce isotopes for medical and agricultural use.
To avoid export controls, the men are suspected of having described their customer as a firm based in Turkey and Azerbaijan. “The deliveries were part of an order worth several million euros which Iran was trying to use to secure the necessary valve technology to make a heavy water reactor,” said the prosecutors.
The men were therefore suspected of breaking Germany’s law on foreign trade and breaching military weapons controls.