Israeli fighter jets have carried out yet another airstrike on the impoverished Gaza Strip following numerous air raids throughout the day that left at least eight Palestinians dead and 10 others wounded.
The Israeli military has carried out air strikes over the Gaza Strip, targeting those it blamed for a series of deadly attacks in southern Israel.
At least six people, including a senior militant, were killed in the air strikes, Palestinian sources said.
Earlier, Israeli officials promised a strong response after attacks on vehicles near Eilat left seven dead.
Israeli officials said Gazan militants were responsible, although Gaza's Hamas government denied involvement.
The Israeli air strike hit a house in the town of Rafah.
Palestinian sources told the BBC that four members of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a faction in Gaza that is loyal to Hamas but sometimes operates separately, had been killed in the air strikes, including the group's head, Kamal al-Nairab.
PRC military chief Immad Hammad and the son of the owner of the house were also among those killed, Palestinian sources and residents said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said those killed were responsible for the attacks earlier in the day near Eilat.
"The people who gave the order to murder our people and hid in Gaza are no longer among the living," he said in a televised address.
"If anyone thinks the state of Israel will resign itself to this, they are wrong."
The PRC denied involvement in the attacks in Israel, Reuters reported.
Further air strikes took place in the early hours of Friday morning.
'Risk of escalation'
A spokesman for Israel's domestic security agency, Shin Bet, said several of those who died in the air strikes had been involved in the 2006 kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Hamas-run Al-Aqsa television reported that security forces in Gaza had evacuated their headquarters in anticipation of Israeli military action.
The attacks near Eilat, a southern resort city, began when gunmen opened fire on a bus.
Israeli officials said at least two other vehicles were then hit nearby - one by a rocket and one by an explosive device.
They said that the attacks left seven Israelis dead and that a number of gunmen were killed in an ensuing firefight.
In response, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said: "The real source of the terror is in Gaza and we will act against them with full force and determination."
Hamas, which governs Gaza, denied responsibility, and said it would retaliate if Israel attacked.
"We will not stand handcuffed and we will spearhead resistance to the occupation," Hamas official Salah Al-Bardaweel was quoted as saying.
The US, the EU and the UN condemned the attacks in Israel.
"We condemn the brutal terrorist attacks in southern Israel today in the strongest terms," the White House said in a statement.
A UN spokesman said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was "concerned at the risk of escalation and calls for all to act with restraint".
Israeli officials said the men who attacked the vehicles near Eilat came from the Gaza Strip and had entered Israel through Egypt's Sinai desert.
There has been growing concern about a decline in security in Sinai since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February.
"This violence only underscores our strong concerns about the security situation in the Sinai Peninsula," said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"Recent commitments by the Egyptian government to address the security situation in the Sinai are important and we urge the Egyptian government to find a lasting resolution."
An Israeli official said gunfire on either side of the border was continuing into the evening.
Late on Thursday, Egyptian officials said at least two Egyptians were killed near the border in northern Sinai.
Details of the deaths were unclear, though there were reports that gunmen had attacked a police post.
International concern is growing over a fresh wave of violence between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.
Israel has carried out air strikes in the Gaza Strip, while militants have been firing rockets into Israel.
The trigger was a series of attacks in Israel on Thursday when eight civilians died. Five Egyptian policemen were killed as Israel pursued the gunmen.
The Quartet of Middle East peace mediators - the UN, US, EU and Russia - has called for restraint.
Since the Thursday attacks, Palestinian militants have fired more than 100 rockets and mortars into Israel, killing one man in Beersheba and injuring dozens of other people. Israeli sources said two children were slightly injured when rockets hit the town of Ofakim.
Egypt also reported rocket fire hitting its territory on Sunday.
Israeli air strikes over the past few days have killed at least 15 people in the Gaza Strip, and injured dozens more.
A strike just north of Gaza City on Sunday reportedly left a 12-year-old boy seriously wounded.
According to the AFP news agency, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a faction in Gaza that is loyal to Hamas but sometimes operates separately, said it had carried out the Beersheba attacks, while the armed wing of Hamas said it had fired four Grad rockets at Ofakim.
Hamas has broken a four-month-old truce by joining other militant groups in Gaza in launching the rocket attacks.
Reports say the Israeli army has arrested dozens of Palestinians with links to Hamas in the West Bank.
The 22-member Arab League held an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the growing tensions and issued a strong criticism of Israel.
It called on the international community to "pressure the Israeli occupation authorities to put an immediate end to this assault" and urged the UN to "assume its responsibilities and take quick steps to halt this brutal assault".
Thursday's attacks in southern Israel started when gunmen opened fire on a bus near the Red Sea resort town of Eilat. Eight Israelis and seven gunmen were killed.
The incident has also led to a diplomatic dispute between Israel and Egypt. Egypt says it is considering recalling its ambassador.
Israel has said it "regrets" over the deaths of the five security personnel, while thousands of Egyptians have been rallying outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo.
Arab League Chairman Amr Moussa - who is also running for the Egyptian presidency - told the BBC that the deaths of the Egyptians were "unacceptable".
"The killing of soldiers is something that they cannot explain. This is a situation that has triggered the anger, the frustration and the rejection of everybody in Egypt."
Mr Moussa said Israel had to make amends and "ensure that such a situation will not occur again".
Military action against Iran would be a "very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences", Russia's foreign minister has warned.
Sergei Lavrov said diplomacy, not missile strikes, was the only way to solve the Iranian nuclear problem.
His comments come after Israeli President Shimon Peres said an attack on Iran was becoming more likely.
The UN's atomic watchdog is expected to say this week that Iran is secretly developing a nuclear arms capability.
Diplomats say the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, due for release on Tuesday or Wednesday, will produce compelling evidence that Iran will find hard to dispute.
Iran has always insisted that its nuclear programme is exclusively to generate power for civilian purposes.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has said the alleged evidence is a fabrication and part of a multi-pronged US smear campaign against his country.
Time 'running out'
Mr Lavrov said it was "far from the first time" Israel had threatened strikes against Iran, when asked for his view on Mr Peres' recent comments.
"Our position on this issue is well-known: this would be a very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences," he told reporters.
I estimate that intelligence services of all these countries are looking at the ticking clock, warning leaders that there was not much time left”
Shimon Peres Israeli President
Mr Lavrov said "the only path for removing concerns is to create every possible condition" to resume the talks between Iran and six world powers - including Russia - which broke down in December last year.
Shimon Peres said on Sunday: "The possibility of a military attack against Iran is now closer to being applied than the application of a diplomatic option."
"I don't think that any decision has already been made, but there is an impression that Iran is getting closer to nuclear weapons," he told the Israel Hayom daily.
He made similar comments to Israeli television on Saturday, saying: "I estimate that intelligence services of all these countries are looking at the ticking clock, warning leaders that there was not much time left.
Diplomats, speaking anonymously, have been briefing journalists on the IAEA's next quarterly report on Iran.
The evidence is said to include intelligence that Iran made computer models of a nuclear warhead, as well as satellite images of what the IAEA believes is a large steel container used for high-explosives tests related to nuclear arms.
The IAEA has reported for some years that there are unresolved questions about its programme and has sought clarification of Iran's secretive nuclear activities.
Of this week's report, one Western diplomat told Reuters news agency: "There are bits of it which clearly can only be for clandestine nuclear purposes. It is a compelling case."
Hardline Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami warned the IAEA on Monday not to become "an instrument without will in the hands of the United States".
Het is nu of nooit. Dat zei de Duitse keizer in augustus 1914. Nog langer wachten, en de kans om de Engelsen en Fransen te verslaan was voorgoed verkeken. Met een frische fröhliche Krieg wilde Wilhelm die twee landen een lesje leren. Datzelfde geluid klinkt nu in kringen van de Israëlische regering. Nú Iran aanvallen, want straks is het te laat! Over zes maanden beschikt Iran over een atoombom, zo wordt daar gefluisterd. En dan verkeert Israël in levensgevaar. Met name premier Netanyahu schijnt een voorstander te zijn van een dergelijke 'preventieve aanval'. Collega-ministers aarzelen of zijn tegen – maar de ultra-orthodoxe coalitiepartijen Israël ons huis en Shas staan bijna te springen van enthousiasme. Eindelijk oorlog!
Israël in gevaar? Geklets natuurlijk. Israël beschikt zélf over meerdere atoombommen en kan, in geval van een Iraanse aanval, met véél meer atoomgeweld terugslaan. Begin deze maand lanceerden de Israëli's nog een langeafstandsraket die met gemak Iran kan bereiken. Als het bewind in Iran het volstrekt dwaze besluit neemt haar eerste bommetje gelijk ergens te droppen, tekent het zijn eigen doodvonnis. Atoombommen zijn om mee te dreigen. Ze verstoren het politiek evenwicht niet, ze versterken het. Atoommachten vallen elkaar niet aan – als de Koude Oorlog ons één ding heeft geleerd, dan is het dát.
Volgens sommigen is het blufpoker. De IAEA komt deze week met een rapport over Iran, en daarin zal ongetwijfeld te lezen zijn dat Teheran nucleair onderzoek doet dat gericht is op de ontwikkeling van een atoombom. Met haar agressieve optreden, zo wordt gezegd, probeert Israël de VN over te halen zo streng mogelijke sancties af te spreken – de Fransen hebben daar nu al toe opgeroepen. Als dat zo is, dan is dat een vorm van diplomatie die we meer gewend zijn van frisse types als Gadaffi en Mugabe. Maar voor Netanyahu en zijn makkers zijn hiermee méér voordeeltjes te behalen.
Het land verkeert in een ernstig isolement, dat alleen maar groter wordt. Het kan wel een buitenlandse boeman gebruiken, want die worden nogal zeldzaam. Ooit kon Israël zichzelf presenteren als dat kleine sprankje democratie in het Midden-Oosten. Een eiland van welvaart en beschaving in een zee van barbarij. Goed, het land valt niet te regeren zonder de steun van radicale orthodoxe partijen die de Palestijnen het liefst op oudtestamentische wijze over de kling zouden jagen. En goed, het houdt wat gebieden bezet, en de bewoners daarvan worden gediscrimineerd, dagelijks vernederd, uit hun huizen gezet, van hun grond en goed beroofd, en ga zo maar door – maar ja, buiten Israël was alles nog véél erger – niet?
Nee, niet meer. Ten eerste: Israël is een economische dwerg geworden in de regio. De Turkse economie is inmiddels vijf keer zo groot als die van Israël en groeit nog steeds fenomenaal – en Turkije wás ooit een bevriende natie maar heeft de laatste jaren héél duidelijk de kant van de Arabische wereld gekozen. Israël drijft op Amerikaans geld – maar zakt in feite af naar derde-wereldstatus. Ten tweede, Tunesië, Libië en Egypte zouden wel eens democratieën kunnen worden. Met een beetje geluk wordt Syrië dat ook. Wellicht democratieën met wat fundamentalistische partijtjes die de sharia willen invoeren, maar dat is perfect vergelijkbaar met die religieus-hysterische schreeuwpartijtjes in Israël. En waarschijnlijk kun je daar nooit bij de Burgerlijke Stand opgeven dat je 'ongelovig' bent, maar dat kun je in die democratie Israël óók niet – daar is iedereen voor de staat verplicht 'joods'. Over derdewereldland gesproken.
Maar er is één groot verschil: die nieuwe Arabische democratieën hebben geen bezette gebieden. En hun komst zal een enorme stimulans zijn voor het Palestijnse verzet. Israël gaat zéér zware jaren tegemoet. Inschikken, onderhandelen – dat zou wijs zijn. Maar daar is het land niet toe in staat. Een gemeenschappelijke boeman (Iran! Kernwapens! O wat zijn we kwetsbaar!) is dus zeer welkom.
Ondertussen wordt de hele wereld behoorlijk zenuwachtig van de Israëlische gedreig. De Amerikaanse minister van Defensie Panetta heeft de Israëli's in het geheim gevraagd van tevoren op de hoogte te worden gebracht van een eventuele aanval, maar hij kreeg (naar het schijnt) nul op rekest. Washington zal wel zien wat er gebeurt. Het is de ouderwetse Israëlische arrogantie, ontstaan doordat het land ruim dertig jaar onverkort kan rekenen op Amerikaanse steun – wat het ook flikt. En het stupide verhaal van enige weken geleden over een door Iran beraamde aanslag op de Saoedische ambassadeur in Washington (paniek! Alarm! En daarna werd het héél stil...) geeft wel aan dat er ook binnen de VS krachten zijn die richting een confrontatie bewegen.
Jeruzalem weet dat dreigen met een aanval voorlopig voldoende oplevert. Maar er kan een moment komen dat men daar, net als keizer Wilhelm, tot de conclusie komt dat de aanval de enige optie is. Dat een roekeloze aanval op Iran de enige manier om de wereldkaart eens flink overhoop te gooien – om te vermijden dat het land anders langzaam maar zeker steeds meer macht zal verliezen. De gevolgen van een dergelijke aanval zien uiteraard niet te overzien. Als Israël toeslaat, zullen de VS ongetwijfeld haar kant kiezen. En de Britten hebben al laten weten dat ook zij dan de kant van Israël en de VS zullen kiezen. Het is het recept voor een herhaling van het Amerikaanse Irak-drama. Maar dan op nog grotere schaal, veel bloediger en met catastrofale internationale gevolgen. De rest van wereld (Frankrijk, Duitsland, Rusland, India, China) zal bereid zijn om, als het zo ver dreigt te komen, een dergelijke catastrofe te voorkomen. Een preventieve aanval op Israël is dan waarschijnlijk de snelste oplossing.
Dit is het persoonlijke blog van Marcel Hulspas, wetenschapsredacteur en columnist van De Pers en DePers.nl.
Israel has refused to reassure President Barack Obama that it would warn him in advance of any pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear capabilities, raising fears that it may be planning a go-it-alone attack as early as next summer.
The US leader was rebuffed last month when he demanded private guarantees that no strike would go ahead without White House notification, suggesting Israel no longer plans to “seek Washington’s permission”, sources said. The disclosure, made by insiders briefed on a top-secret meeting between America’s most senior defence chief and Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s hawkish prime minister, comes amid concerns that Iran’s continuing progress towards nuclear weapons capability means the Jewish state has all but lost hope for a diplomatic solution.
On Tuesday, UN weapons inspectors released their most damning report to date into Iran’s nuclear activities, saying for the first time that the Islamic republic appeared to be building a nuclear weapon. It was with that grave possiblity in mind that Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, flew into Israel last month on what was ostensibly a routine trip.
Officially, his brief was restricted to the Middle East peace process, but the most important part of his mission was a private meeting with Mr Netanyahu and the defence minister, Ehud Barak. Once all but a handful of trusted staff had left the room, Mr Panetta conveyed an urgent message from Barack Obama. The president, Mr Panetta said, wanted an unshakable guarantee that Israel would not carry out a unilateral military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations without first seeking Washington’s clearance.
The two Israelis were notably evasive in their response, according to sources both in Israel and the United States.
“They did not suggest that military action was being planned or was imminent, but neither did they give any assurances that Israel would first seek Washington’s permission, or even inform the White House in advance that a mission was underway,” one said.
Alarmed by Mr Netanyahu’s noncommittal response, Mr Obama reportedly ordered the US intelligence services to step up monitoring of Israel to glean clues of its intentions.
What those intentions might be remains distinctly murky. Over the past fortnight, Israel’s press has given every impression that the country is on a war footing, with numerous claims that Mr Netanyahu and Mr Barak are lobbying the cabinet to support the military option.
Two weeks ago Israel tested a long-range ballistic missile capable of reaching Iran, its first since 2008. Shortly before, the Israeli airforce took part in Nato exercises in Sardinia that involved air-to-air refuelling, a key component of an aerial strike on Iran. A separate exercise in and around Tel Aviv tested civilian readiness in the event of a missile strike against the city. In a sign of the febrility of the public mood, many beach-goers apparently mistook the air raid sirens for a genuine Iranian attack and fled in panic for their cars. There were similar jitters in Iran yesterday, when a huge but apparently accidental explosion at arms dump outside Tehran killed at least 27 soldiers and shook the city.
Speculation about an imminent Israeli military action has been a regular occurrence over the years, but rarely as fevered as now. Last week, a British official even suggested that an attack could come before Christmas.
Few in Israel believe that is likely and the difficulty of mounting an operation over winter, when cloud cover hampers aircraft targeting systems, means that if military action is being considered it will not come before the spring or summer of next year.
Many observers also believe that the bellicose rhetoric voiced by a number of senior Israeli figures in recent days is largely bluff, designed to goad the international community into imposing sanctions of such severity that Iran would be forced into economic ruin if it persisted with its nuclear ambitions. Israel says that if Iran’s central bank were sanctioned and a ban on Iranian oil exports enforced by an international naval blockade, military action would not be necessary.
Mr Barak has already publicly stated that he does not believe the West can overcome Russian and Chinese opposition to the sanctions Israel wants, leaving military action increasingly as the only alternative.
Mr Netanyahu may have another reason to bluff. In recent months, Meir Dagan, who retired as director of Mossad at the beginning of the year, has made a series of unprecedented speeches countenancing against Israeli military action – describing it as “the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard”.
His comments have infuriated the Israeli establishment – senior officials have said they would like to see him behind bars – because they fear it could convince Iran’s Mullahs that Israel’s sporadic talk of war is a fiction.
Hints by Mr Netanyahu that he is considering the military option may be designed to resurrect Iran’s paranoia of Israel, something seen in the Jewish state as a powerful deterrent, says Yossi Melman, a leading intelligence analyst and journalist.
“Meir Dagan made a laughing stock of military action,” Mr Melman said. “Netanyahu believes he damaged the deterrent and he wants to repair it.”
Yet the fact that Mr Dagan chose to speak out – extraordinary in itself for a just-retired Mossad chief – suggests that he believes Mr Netanyahu is intent on attacking Iran.
Tellingly, until last year, Israel’s four most powerful military and security chiefs, including Mr Dagan, were all strongly opposed to military action. All four have now been replaced by younger men who may be less able to stand up to Mr Netanyahu, not that Israeli prime ministers are necessarily bound to heed objections from their top military advisers anyway. In 1981, Menachem Begin did just that when he bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak.
If Israel is to attack Iran, many in the country believe time is running out. Last week’s report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) highlighted Iran’s apparent determination to build a nuclear warhead, but did not indicate how long it might take.
Some in Israel, however, believe it is very close.
“It is my personal opinion that, if the Iranian regime decides to do so, it can produce a nuclear explosive device within a year, plus or minus a few months,” said Ephraim Asculai, a former IAEA official and leading Israeli expert on Iran’s nuclear programme.
Not everyone agrees. Some argue that a covert espionage operation has caused such delays that Iran still needs another three years to build a bomb. Sabotage efforts by Israeli, American and British intelligence have successfully slowed Iranian progress, most notably via the Stuxnet computer virus that caused the centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant to explode. Mossad agents on motorbikes are also believed to have planted magnetic explosives on the cars of at least two key Iranian nuclear scientists as they weaved through Tehran’s traffic jams. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the scientist and Revolutionary Guards officer who is thought to be the ultimate mastermind of the nuclear programme, is now believed to be under round-the-clock protection as a result. But, whatever the time frame, some in Israel believe there is additional cause for urgency that could prompt military action sooner rather than later.
According to western intelligence assessments, Tehran is preparing to move the bulk of its nuclear production to a plant beneath a mountain near the holy city of Qom that would be far harder to hit from the air.
According to Ronen Bergman, senior military analyst for Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper and the author of a forthcoming book on Mossad, that makes a strike necessary well before Iran actually perfects its programme.
“Today Israeli intelligence talks of what is known as the ‘framework of immunity’,” he said. “In other words, it is not the point at which Iran acquires a nuclear device, but the point at which the project has reached such an advanced stage that a strike any time after would be ineffective.”
An Israeli attack could probably manage at most a dozen targets, using more than 100 F-15 and F-16 aircraft.
Three German-designed Dolphin submarines equipped with conventional cruise missiles could also be ordered into the Persian Gulf to take part, although it is thought that Israel’s Jericho-3 ballistic missiles are to inaccurate to play a role.
But how effective the mission would be is another matter. At best, Israel can hope to delay Iran from building a bomb by two to four years, experts assess. Optimists hope that within such a period, Iran’s Islamist regime could collapse and give may to a more moderate government. But it could equally redouble its nuclear efforts, this time arguing that it now had every right to produce a weapon.
As Mr Panetta warned during a Pentagon briefing last Thursday, such a strike would also have a “serious impact” on the region. Iran could blockade the Straits of Hormuz, through which 25 per cent of the world’s oil exports are shipped, sending energy prices soaring. US military assets in the Gulf could come also come under attack from Iranian Scud missiles.
Iran would almost certainly fire its Shahab ballistic missiles at Israeli cities and press Hizbollah and Hamas, the militant Islamist groups it funds and equips, to unleash their huge rocket arsenals from their bases in Lebanon and Gaza.
Despite this, last week Mr Barak – making a rare venture in such sensitive territory – predicted that fewer than 500 fatalities would arise “if people stayed at home”.
Such are both the political and military risks involved that many Israelis say it is inconceivable that Mr Netanyahu would go to war without the United States alongside him.
“I think personally that if such action is taken, there will be come kind of consultation with the United States,” said Ilan Mizrahi, Mossad’s former deputy director and Israel’s national security adviser until 2007.
“If Iran breaks all the rules, then military action will be needed, but definitely not alone by a tiny country like Israel,” added Uzi Eilam, a retired general who held senior positions at the Israeli defence ministry.
But not everyone is so sure. Mr Obama’s willingness to take on Iran militarily is openly questioned in Israel. And while many Israelis do not believe Iran has any intention of actually firing a nuclear missile at them, the the key question is whether their prime minister is one of them.
In Mr Netanyahu’s eyes, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is another “Hitler” whose aim is to complete what the Holocaust failed to do by wiping out the Jewish race.
“People outside Israel don’t understand how profound memories of the Holocaust are, and how they affect future policy making,” said Mr Bergman, the military analyst. “At the end of the day, this policy of ‘never again’ would dictate Israel’s behaviour when intelligence comes through that Iran has come close to a bomb.”
“How many missiles have they prepared themselves for?” Iranian defense minister asks.
Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said that Iran has up to 150,000 missiles pointed at Israel, according to the semi-official Iranian FARS news agency.
According to the report, Vahidi questioned threats against the Islamic Republic from the Jewish State, asking “How many missiles have they prepared themselves for? 10,000? 20,000? 50,000? 100,000, 150,000 or more?”
The Iranian defense minister also warned against an offensive by the United States, saying it would meet a hard defensive line were it to attack Iran.
“The US and its allies should know that Iran is so powerful that its battling will teach the US how to fight and what war and warrior mean,” Vahidi told a crowd of 50,000 volunteer soldiers in Bushehr, a city where one of the country’s nuclear power plants is located.
Iran claims the country’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but an incriminating International Atomic Energy Agency report said that Tehran has continued to covertly develop nuclear-weapons technology.
Since the release of that report, Western nations have called for international pressure on the regime in Tehran to halt their nuclear program.
The United States, the United Kingdom and Canada cast stringent sanctions on Iran’s energy and financial sectors, a move which pushed Iran to expel the British ambassador.
France and the Netherlands have called for similar action against the Islamic Republic.
On Saturday, Tehran made a rare threat against Turkey, saying it could target the recently installed NATO anti-missile shield in any future conflict.
“We are ready to attack NATO’s missile shield in Turkey if we face a threat and then we will follow other aims,” the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace division, as saying.
The top U.S. military officer told Reuters on Wednesday he did not know whether Israel would alert the United States ahead of time if it decided to take military action against Iran.
General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also acknowledged differences in perspective between the United States and Israel over the best way to handle Iran and its nuclear program.
He said the United States was convinced that sanctions and diplomatic pressure was the right path to take on Iran, along with “the stated intent not to take any options off the table” – language that leaves open the possibility of future military action.
“I’m not sure the Israelis share our assessment of that.
And because they don’t and because to them this is an existential threat, I think probably that it’s fair to say that our expectations are different right now,” Dempsey said in an interview as he flew to Washington from London.
Asked whether he was talking about the differences between Israeli and U.S. expectations over sanctions, or differences in perspective about the future course of events, Dempsey said:
“All of the above.” He did not elaborate.
He also did not disclose whether he believed Israel was prepared to strike Iran.
Iran is facing new sanctions after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported earlier in November that Tehran appeared to have worked on designing a bomb and may still be conducting secret research to that end. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.
The sanctions push got added momentum on Wednesday as diplomatic sources said Britain would support an embargo on Iranian oil imports. But Iran sees its nuclear program as a source of power and prestige and it is unclear whether sanctions will alter its cost-benefit analysis.
There has been concern that if world powers cannot nudge Iran into serious nuclear negotiations, then Israel, which feels threatened by Iranian nuclear aspirations, will attack.
Asked directly whether Israel would alert the United States ahead of time if it chose to go forward with military action, Dempsey replied flatly: “I don’t know.”
No New Arguments
Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta raised American concerns about the unintended consequences of any military action against Iran during talks with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, at a security forum in Canada.
Those included U.S. fears about fallout on the world economy and that a strike would only delay – not derail – Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran has warned that it will respond to any attacks by hitting Israeli and U.S. interests in the Gulf. Analysts say Tehran could retaliate by closing the Strait of Hormuz, the waterway where about 40 percent of all traded oil passes.
Dempsey, who took over the Pentagon’s top uniformed position in September, said there were no new arguments the United States was about to pose to Israel on the matter.
Instead, he cited U.S. and Israeli efforts to “consistently try to update each other on the existing arguments.”
Israel and Syria brace for regional war between mid-Dec. 2011 and mid-Jan 2012 DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 5, 2011, 2:41 PM (GMT+02:00) www.debka.com/article/21543/
Multiple Launch Rocket System in action
The actions and words of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Syrian ruler Bashar Assad in the last 72 hours indicate they are poised for a regional war, including an attack on Iran, for some time between December 2011 and January 2012.
In their different ways, both have posted road signs to the fast-approaching conflict as debkafile’s Middle East sources disclose:
1. Saturday, Dec. 3, Syria staged a large-scale military exercise in the eastern town of Palmyra, which was interpreted by Western and Israeli pundits as notice to its neighbors, primarily Turkey and Israel, that the uprising against the Assad regime had not fractured its sophisticated missile capabilities.
debkafile’s military sources advise attaching more credibility to the official Damascus statement of Sunday, Dec. 4: “The Syrian army has staged a live-fire drill in the eastern part of the country under war-like circumstances with the aim of testing its missile weaponry in confronting any attack.”
Videotapes of the exercise, briefly carried on the Internet early Monday before they were removed by an unseen hand, support this statement. They showed a four-stage exercise, in which missile fire was a minor feature. Its focus was on the massive firing of self-propelled 120mm cannon, brigade-strength practice of 600mm and 300mm multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), offensive movements of Syrian armored brigades backed by ground-to-ground missiles with short 150-200 kilometer ranges. They drilled tactics for repelling enemy reinforcements rushed to combat arenas.
All this added up to is an impressive Syrian demonstration of its ability to ward off an attack on Syrian soil by turning a defensive array into an offensive push for taking the battle over into the aggressor’s territory, whether the Turkish or Israeli armies or a combined Arab League force backed by NATO.
2. Israel made its rejoinder to the Syrian war message 24 hours later.
Addressing a ceremony honoring the memory of for Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu recalled how 63 years ago, Ben-Gurion declared the foundation of the State of Israel in defiance of pressures from most of Western leaders and a majority of his own party. They warned him that he would trigger a combined Arab attack to destroy the fledgling state just three years after the end of World War II.
But fortunately for us, said the prime minister, Ben-Gurion stood up to the pressure and went through with his decision, otherwise Israel would not be here today.
“There are times,” said Netanyahu, “when a decision may carry a heavy price, but the price for not deciding would be heavier.”
“I want to believe,” he said, “we will always have the courage and resolve for the right decisions to safeguard our future and security.”
Although he did not mention Iran, it was not hard to infer that the prime minister was referring to a decision to exercise Israel’s military option against Iran’s nuclear program in the face of crushing pressure from Washington and insistent advice of certain Israeli security veterans.
Defense minister Ehud Barak, who was standing behind the prime minister’s shoulder, was as tense as a coiled spring.
3. Six hours later, Netanyahu dropped a bombshell on the domestic political scene: He announced his Likud party would hold elections, including primaries, before January 31, 2012 – two years before schedule and a year before Israel’s next general election. As head of one of the most stable and long-lived coalition governments ever to have ruled Israel, he is under no pressing domestic need of a demonstration of leadership at this time.
4. In the last two weeks, the Netanyahu government has been subjected to acerbic criticism on the part of one Obama administration official after another. They have presented Israel as having fallen into the hands of right-wing extremists who are engaged in a mad race to suppress the judiciary and diminish the civil rights of women and children – not to mention Palestinians.
Secretary of State of Hillary Clinton went to unimaginable lengths when she likened Israel to Iran because fringe ultraorthodox group’s in a couple of suburbs in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak were fighting for gender segregation on public transport against the government and the courts.
She was clearly aiming to undermine the Netanyahu government’s democratic credentials – and therefore his moral legitimacy – for going to war to halt Iran’s attainment of a nuclear weapon.
4. The unusually powerful US and Russian naval buildups in the waters around Syria and Iran.
Washington sought in late November to give the impression that the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group was anchored off Marseilles, when it was spotted in the eastern Mediterranean opposite Syria.
Moscowthen rushed to Syria’s defense by airlifting 72 anti-ship Yakhont missiles (Western-coded SSN-26) to Damascus. These water-skimming weapons can hit naval targets at a distance of 300 kilometers.
After that the Bush, whose freedom to approach Syrian or Lebanese shores, had been curtailed by the new weapon reaching Syria, departed to an unknown destination, while the USS Carl Vinson strike group took up position opposite Iran.
Moscowis also playing hide and seek with its only air carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. It was announced that the vessel would set sail for the Mediterranean on Dec. 6. But on Nov. 25, it was sighted passing Malta and chugging past Cyprus four days later on its way to join the flotilla of three Russian guided missile destroyers already anchored off Syria.
Neither the United States nor Russia would have concentrated two powerful fleets in the proximity of Syria and Iran unless they were certain a military conflagration was imminent. While any of the prime movers, Washington, Moscow, Tehran, Israel or Bashar Assad, may at the last moment step back from the brink of a regional war, at the moment, there is no sign of this happening.
According to reports from the Free Syria Army, the Syrian military has moved forces stationed in the southern part of the Syrian Golan Heights closer to Israel.
The Syrian military did not come close to the border with Israel. However, armored forces that were stationed along the Syria-Jordan border, which were recently reinforced, were moved and are now closer to Israel, according to the report.
The Free Syria Army is the largest opposition group in Syria and is partly made up of defectors from the official Syrian Army.
Israel has been concerned that Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad, whose regime is on the verge of collapse, may try to defuse the uprising against him by starting a conflict with Israel.
A Lebanese newspaper, The People's Army, claimed Thursday in its news website that the IDF has been making an extra effort in the past few days to place landmines all along its border with Syria.
Hundreds of Israeli soldiers are reportedly working at lining the border with mines. Israel had already placed mines along some stretches of the border with Syria after the Nakba Day events last year, in which hundreds of Syrians broke into Israel virtually unimpeded. The action had been orchestrated by the Syrian government, later reports showed.
De moord op verscheidene Iraanse kernwetenschappers zou uitgevoerd zijn door een Iraanse groepering, gefinancierd met Israëlisch geld. Dat zei een Amerikaanse vertegenwoordiger aan de Amerikaanse nieuwszender NBC News. Iran beschuldigt Israël al langer.
De Iraanse Volksmudjahedin zou de aanslagen op vijf Iraanse wetenschappers hebben uitgevoerd.
CAMELOT RADIO - LAST NIGHT : STUXNET, THE ISRAELIS & NUCLEAR BLACKMAIL
My guest on my radio show last night was JIM STONE, former NSA top technical analyst now on the run and seeking asylum from the U.S. in Mexico, reveals the real events behind Fukushima and the possible connection with recent nuclear power plant problems at San Onofre in Southern California and in the Midwest, Chicago area..
What was stunningly revealed is how Israel has the ability, to trigger a nuclear event in any power plant or other industrial facility including oil refineries using the Stuxnet virus now transferable via email, according to Stone. The implications of this for running the world and getting what they want are far reaching. They don't need a suitcase nuke or a bomb...