Saturday, February 24, 2007

Israel Said To Be Negotiating For Permission To Overfly Iraq To Attack Iran

Israeli defence officials are understandably coy about revealing precisely how far advanced their plans are for launching air strikes against Iran in light of the current diplomatic offensive at the United Nations to halt Teheran's enrichment programme ending in failure.

But that the Israeli Air Force, as The Daily Telegraph exclusively discloses today, is negotiating with US coalition commanders in Iraq for permission to fly through US-controlled air space suggests Israeli military planners have overcome most of the key technical hurdles, such as in-flight refuelling and target selection.

"One of the last issues we have to sort out is how we actually get to targets in Iran," an Israeli officer involved in the military planning told me. "The only way to do this is to fly through US-controlled air space in Iraq. If we don't sort these issues out now we could have a situation where American and Israeli war planes are shooting at each other."

The pace of military planning in Israel, which has markedly accelerated since the start of the year, is being driven by Mossad's stark intelligence assessment that Iran, given the rate of progress on uranium enrichment at Natanz, could have enough fissile material for a nuclear warhead by 2009.

This is, it should be stressed, only an assessment as opposed to hard fact, and the Israeli assessment is starkly at odds with those made by other Western intelligence agencies, and by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN-sponsored body responsible for monitoring nuclear development activities worldwide.


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