"If there's a need to destroy Iran's nuclear capability, we'll make every effort to prevent harm to civilians." Is that another declaration by Defense Minister Ehud Barak? A comment by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit with U.S. President Barack Obama?
Actually, the words were spoken in 2003 by then-Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz in an interview on Israel Radio in Persian. His Iranian counterpart had warned that if Israel attacked Iran, Iran would respond with the Shihab, a missile developed to retaliate after an Israeli strike with Jericho missiles.
Three years later, senior Defense Ministry officials traveled to the United States to examine the F-35 stealth fighter. About a year and a half ago, Barak approved a deal to purchase, at an astronomical price, the sophisticated plane that would give Israel "continued air superiority," as he put it, "perhaps even against Iran."
The first F-35s will apparently arrive in 2016, or in 2018. If the excuse for acquiring them is the Iranian nuclear program, why did Mofaz speak years ago about a possible attack on Iran without those planes? What does that say about Israel's ability to attack today, and what does it say about the seriousness of declarations by senior government officials regarding that ability?
Mofaz's words indicate that already about 10 years ago Israel was nearly prepared to attack. Why did it hesitate? Was the Iranian threat insignificant? After all, even in 2003 the Mossad chief at the time, Meir Dagan, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that "the Iranian nuclear program is the greatest danger to the State of Israel since its establishment."
At the time, the Iranian president was Mohammad Khatami, not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. According to the U.S. intelligence report published in 2007, Khatami had decided to halt the nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003. So Mofaz threatened an attack and Dagan talked about the terrible danger, but they should have known about the Iranian government's decision to stop the program.
Did they know and not think it necessary to reassure the public, or did they not know about it? In any case, we can wonder whether today's defense minister and Mossad chief know more, or at least know everything necessary to justify an attack, including the targets.
For more than a decade, with the help of our television channels' graphics abilities, we have been taught the ranges of Iran's Shihab missiles. Colored circles mark out where those missiles could land, and red flames show the damage they could cause.
According to the WikiLeaks documents, former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi explained to a delegation from the U.S. Congress that in 2008 Iran had about 300 Shihab 3 missiles, whose 500-to-750-kilogram warheads could strike anywhere in Israel. If we recall what a one-ton bomb did in Gaza, and if we assume that over the past five years Iran has increased its missile inventory, we can figure out how many dead would result from an Iranian response to an Israeli strike.
But wonder of wonders, suddenly the colored circles have disappeared. When did anyone last show us the Shihab's ranges? What do we know about the damage these missiles can cause? If they are not really dangerous, so that even an estimate of 500 dead is an exaggeration, as Barak says, why did they scare us then? Was that a bluff too?
Somehow they gave us the feeling that an attack on Iran would be a piece of cake - "we finish and leave." They're convincing us that we can attack alone, even without F-35s, that fewer than 500 civilians will be killed, that the Shihabs are nothing but toys, and if they once scared us, that wasn't serious.
Maybe instead of being asked again to believe that we're omniscient and omnipotent, we could hold a referendum on the intention to attack Iran. We may be surprised to see how being fed lies can make us wiser.
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