Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel would not refrain from striking Iranian nuclear installations during the course of the ongoing negotiations between the Western allies and Iranian government officials if Israel’s intelligence apparatus determined that the Iranian military was on the verge of constructing a nuclear warhead at its secret underground facility in Qom.
Barak’s comments came on the heels of Western news reports that several high-ranking Iranian military experts attended the failed launch of a new North Korean ballistic missile last week, as well as a Channel 10 News expose earlier this week that revealed how the Israel Air Force (IAF) was being primed for a massive aerial assault on Iranian military and nuclear facilities.
Both American and Israeli military experts say that North Korea’s missile tests are a cover for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ burgeoning intercontinental ballistic missile program, which could threaten not only Israel and the Middle East but also all of Europe and parts of the U.S. mainland. Despite several failed launches in North Korea and Iran, North Korea intends to conduct either another missile test or a controlled underground nuclear explosion within the next few months. The North Korean missiles are designed to carry either a conventional or nuclear payload.
Despite both the failed missile launch and the start of new negotiations between the West and Iran, the IAF continues to conduct intensive drills in preparation for an attack on Iran. Over the past few weeks, the IAF granted unprecedented access to its dry run aerial battle formations and mission pilots to renowned Channel 10 News senior defense correspondent Alon Ben-David.
Ben-David reported that dozens of long-range bombers, fighters, refueling tankers, rescue helicopters, and state-of-the-art Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) would be deployed during the course of a “short and professional assault.” Ben-David said that while the IAF was capable of doing serious damage to the Iranian nuclear program, it would be almost impossible to destroy it completely.
According to Channel 10 and other sources, the vanguard of any IAF attack on Iran would be led by F-15I long-range bombers (escorted by F-16 fighters) and Israel Aircraft Industries’ sophisticated Eitan multipurpose UAVs. The Eitan, reportedly based at an airfield in the Coastal Plain, can fly long distances and has the ability to provide real-time reconnaissance and surveillance photos. It can also be adapted for missile defense and offensive air strikes. The Israeli media has said that the Eitan was used in 2009 to destroy an Iranian arms convoy in the Sudanese desert. The convoy was allegedly destined for Islamic Jihad terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
In an interview with Army Radio, Barak said that while he would like to be proven wrong, he does not expect the negotiations between the West and Iran to result in a successful agreement. The talks are centered on Iran giving up its right to enrich uranium at a minimum 20 percent grade in return for a low-level nuclear program and an end to international sanctions.