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Israel Going Alone

If Israel is going to attack Iran, it is going to have to go at it alone. While direct U.S. involvement in any Israeli-led mission was not likely, some analysts believed that the Bush administration would allow the U.S. to play, at minimum, an indirect role - either by supplying some of the technical necessities, or providing an air route over Iraq. I have long been skeptical of the idea that the U.S. would involve itself in such an attack for a number of strategic and political reasons. An article today in the Israeli daily Haartez seems to confirm my suspicions:

The security aid package the United States has refused to give Israel for the past few months out of concern that Israel would use it to attack nuclear facilities in Iran included a large number of "bunker-buster" bombs, permission to use an air corridor to Iran, an advanced technological system and refueling planes.

Officials from both countries have been discussing the Israeli requests over the past few months. Their rejection would make it very difficult for Israel to attack Iran, if such a decision is made...

Diplomatic and security sources indicated to Haaretz that the list of components Israel included:

Bunker-buster GBU-28 bombs: In 2005, the U.S. said it was supplying these bombs to Israel. In August 2006, The New York Times reported that the U.S. had expedited the dispatch of additional bombs at the height of the Second Lebanon War. The bombs, which weigh 2.2 tons each, can penetrate six meters of reinforced concrete. Israel appears to have asked for a relatively large number of additional bunker-busters, and was turned down.

Air-space authorization: An attack on Iran would apparently require passage through Iraqi air space. For this to occur, an air corridor would be needed that Israeli fighter jets could cross without being targeted by American planes or anti-aircraft missiles. The Americans also turned down this request. According to one account, to avoid the issue, the Americans told the Israelis to ask Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for permission, along the lines of "If you want, coordinate with him."

A few weeks ago, Haaretz and Israel's Channel 10 reported that the U.S. had turned down an Israeli request to purchase new refueling planes:

It emerged on Wednesday that the United States has refused to sell Jerusalem new refueling planes, fearing such a transaction could be interpreted as support for an Israeli attack on Iran.

Haaretz reported last week that the U.S. had rejected a request for military equipment that would improve Israel's ability to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. Jerusalem denied that report.

But new information released Wednesday revealed that the nature of the equipment refused would strengthen the Israel Air Force in one of its weakest areas. The IAF has in its possession only seven refueling planes, many of which are more than 40 years old. Israel had requested new Boeing 767 planes, necessary for refueling during long-distance operations.

The Americans rejected the request roughly three weeks ago during a visit to Washington by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The administration's refusal to provide Israel with technical and logistical support is a crushing blow to any Israeli plans to attack Iran. The route over Jordan and Iraq is the shortest, most direct line of attack, and even that approach would require refueling (according to most reports, Israel lacks a fighter jet that can reach the nuclear facilities in Iran on one tank of fuel). Without proper refueling technology, an Israeli air attack doesn't stand a chance.

It seems, then, that Israel will have to wait until the next administration if it truly intends to bomb Iran's nuclear sites with any hope of success.