The sudden rush of military news Wednesday, Nov. 2, was part of an orchestrated Western performance to persuade Tehran that the US, Britain and Israel are on the verge of a military operation against its nuclear installations. The show, directed from Washington, was meant to warn Iran that military punishment was in store unless it gives up its drive for a nuclear weapon. If Tehran continues to hold out, President Barack Obama may decide to strike Revolutionary Guards Corps, the bulwark of the Islamic regime, as well as its strategic infrastructure, thereby removing key props holding up the regime of the ayatollahs.
Contributing to the menacing climate hanging over Iran were four headline events involving Israel – all on the same Wednesday: Israel conducted a successful test launch of a new intercontinental ballistic missile, Jericho 3, which foreign sources report is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead 7,000 kilometers.
After that, the IDF released photographs of Israeli Air Force squadron leaders reporting from Italian air base runways to the media on joint exercises they had conducted in long-range maneuvers with the Italian air force „and other NATO nations,” to familiarize the IAF with NATO military tactics.
The inference was clear: The Israeli Air Force was strengthening its cooperation with Western allies in preparation for a NATO assault on Iran. The IAF also got a chance to study the lessons Western alliance air force tacticians had drawn from the eight-month Libyan operation which ended on Oct. 31.
Next, the IDF’s Home Command announced a large-scale anti-missile exercise in central Israel starting Thursday morning, Nov. 3.
Finally, Defense Minister Ehud Barak left for an unscheduled trip to London shortly after a secret visit to Israel by the British chief of staff General Sir David Richards earlier this week as guest of Israel’s top soldier Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.
If the British general was in Israel only this week, why was Barak is such a hurry to visit London?
The answer came from the British media, which reported as soon as he arrived that the Ministry of Defense in London had accelerated and upgraded its contingency planning for participation in a US-led assault on Iran. They carried an account of plans for deploying large naval units including submarines to the Persian Gulf.
The UK was reported to have asked Washington for permission to station its fighter-bombers on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia for launching bombing sorties against Iran.
This whirlwind of military activity was said to have been prompted by the approaching publication of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Iran report next Tuesday, Nov. 8 and the conclusion the nuclear watchdog had reached: Inside 12 months, Iran will have tucked all its nuclear and ballistic missile facilities away in deep underground tunnels where they will be invulnerable to attack.
A potential US-British strike to pre-empt this move would also be timed for the run-up to America’s next presidential election in November 2012.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that if the US, Britain and other NATO nations, such as France, Italy and Germany, participate in the attack, Israel will not. Its army, air force and navy will defend the home front, be available to engage Iran’s allies to prevent them from striking the assault forces from the rear, and act as a strategic reserve. The danger would come from Syria, the Lebanese Hizballah, and the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami in the Gaza Strip.
These contingency plans are subject to changes, especially if President Obama and other NATO allies decide after all against attacking Iran in the coming year. The hyperactivity will then subside and Israel will be thrown back on the dilemma of having to decide whether or not to conduct a lone military operation against Iran.
There is not much time for contemplation. Syria and Hizballah are reported by DEBKAfile’s military sources to be in the throes of separate preparations for attacking Israel if their respective grips on power are shaken. For now, those sources rate the chances of Israel facing a military clash with Syria and/or Hizballah much higher than a NATO-Israeli showdown being mounted against Iran.