Skip to comments.US desperate to reassure Israel as Scud fears grow [Israel has Iraq in crosshairs]
Posted on 08/16/2002 11:26:54 AM PDT by 1bigdictator
US desperate to reassure Israel as Scud fears grow
Tim Cornwell Deputy Foreign Editor
THE United States is engaged in a critical effort to identify Scud missile launch sites in Iraq, analysts say, in an effort to avoid a disastrous counter-attack on Israel if it moves against Saddam Hussein.
With Israeli officials making it clear they reserve the right to respond to any Iraqi attack, Washington is desperate to reassure Tel Aviv that the Scud "issue" has been dealt with.
In 1991, Israels restraint in the face of Baghdad launching 39 Scud missiles at Israeli cities - causing heavy damage but few casualties - was a key factor in Washingtons ability to keeping friendly Arab countries in its Gulf war coalition.
The warning that this time, Israel would retaliate - particularly in the face of a biological or chemical attack by a cornered Saddam - has made plain the minefield Washington could face in the event of a second war designed expressly to drive Saddam from office.
The Israeli health ministry said yesterday it had inoculated 700 health workers against smallpox, as a precaution against a biological attack. A decision is expected on whether to vaccinate up to 150,000 more key personnel. It came as Israeli officials underlined that their response in a second Gulf war could be different.
In an interview with Israeli television, the air force commander Major General Dan Halutz warned: "You cant take what happened then and think it will also happen this time, neither in the way the war will be conducted there ... nor in the manner of Israels reaction."
The Israeli defence minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, has warned several times flatly that Israel would hit back.
US intelligence officials, meanwhile, have told the US Congress that Israel could use nuclear weapons if an Iraqi attack with non-conventional weapons causes heavy casualties, the Haaretz daily newspaper yesterday.
In London yesterday, the US national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, described Saddam as "an evil man who , left to his own devices, will wreak havoc again on his own population, his neighbours and - if he gets weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them - all of us".
"It is a very powerful moral case for regime change," Ms Rice told BBC radio. "We certainly do not have the luxury of doing nothing."
The question of whether and how Saddam would launch a strike on Israel is now the "number one issue" facing the US as it plans an Iraq campaign, said Magnus Ranstorp, a specialist on the Middle East with the University of St Andrews Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence.
After 11 September, Israeli military intelligence said Iraq had 11 to 15 Scud missiles pointed at Israel.
The tough line from Tel Aviv ahead of a threatened US military action to topple Saddam may be a predictable one. But analysts are focusing on what happens to the "Arab street" in pro-Western Arab countries in the event that Israel is drawn into the war.
In the Gaza strip yesterday, several hundred Palestinians staged a rally in support of Saddam, chanting: "Dear Saddam, bomb Tel Aviv."
In 1991, Israel reluctantly complied with Washingtons request to hold back. But today, Israel is not hampered in the same way because there is no coalition to hold together, said Dore Gold, an adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. Mr Sharon has hung his reputation on hitting back hard in the face of terrorist attacks.
"The tone has changed," said Mr Ranstorp. "The context is different. If Israel is attacked by Scuds, it changes the entire equation on the US war on Iraq."
Jordans King Abdullah has made plain his opposition to a US attack on Iraq. Iran, meanwhile, views with alarm the prospect of US troops across the border in Iraq.
The question of Israels response is a subject of rising debate. Moshe Arens, Israels defence minister at the time of the 1991 war, wrote this week that Israeli ground forces had been training for an invasion of western Iraq to search for missile launchers, but the war ended before it could take place.
Gen Halutz did not say how Israel would respond to a new Iraqi attack, but Israeli officials have hinted that the response to a conventional attack would consist of air strikes and ground attacks by airborne forces.
In 1991, the US supplied Israel with Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries, but the Patriot, designed as an anti-aircraft missile, proved ineffectual against Scuds. Since then Israel, with US financing, has developed the only anti-missile missile in the world, Gen Halutz said.
In addition to the smallpox vaccine, Israels atomic energy committee said yesterday that anti-radiation iodine tablets would be distributed to people living near Israels two nuclear reactors. It denied the move was connected to the Iraqi threat.
my take is that this article is another one that is trying to warn the west of what could happen if iraq is attacked. i guarantee that the us knows where most of the scuds are and if not can quickly locate them.
anything israeli ministers say about fighting back is for internal public consumption. colin powell and george bush know the real answer, whatever it is.
I really hope that the rest of the Arab world realizes that they would get their butt whipped if they pile on.
Ah yes, the ever to be feared "arab street".
I'm begining to think this is another myth created by their coward leaders and their band of sewer dwellers.
They have no idea what it really means to get into a fight with the big boys.
A gun and a belt of TNT are not much help if the other guys are at 3000 feet in the air flying at 1200 MPH on bombing runs or they are hitting you with missles from 50 miles away.
Stop and think for a moment, how do you fight when you can't see them, can't hear them ( you will never hear the one that will take you out) you can't reach them and you most surely can not out fight them.
It would be like going to a knife fight and all you have is your mouth.
That could be a BIG problem with chem/bio warheads.
By that I mean... Saddam is getting these weapons. Some he has, some he does not. Those he does not have (mostly delivery systems) he is within a year or two of securing.
Do you attack now... or wait. Do you pay now... or pay later?
Does the fear of the unknown stop you from doing what needs to be done.
BTW, it would not be Patriots that would be deployed. New systems have come on line that are quicker, faster, and would destroy the scuds farther away.
The military expert on Fox News went into a huge explanation of the newest military toys we have. With the predator that could circle Iraq for 24 hours at a time, we would be able to pinpoint scuds as they begin the launch sequence...
I didn't understand it all, but it seemed to me that these new weapon systems would detect and fire sooner... exploding the scuds over Iraq instead of Israel.
Europe only hates us because its chic to do so. Let the Germans march through again, and they will love us again.
I think Italy likes us. Their new prime minister seemed to yes everything Bush was saying at the G8 meeeting.
I think we can count on the Irish too.
Other than that... I think everyone else fears us...
Good thing we aren't running for Miss Congeniality.
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