Begin Warns That Iraqi Arms Purchases Endanger Israel

Premier Menachem Begin warned today of recent arms acquisitions by Iraq which, he said, were of major strategic significance. He referred particularly to Iraq’s purchase of 1200 tank transporters, mainly from West Germany. This would enable Baghdad to deliver a powerful armored force, intact, to Israel’s northeastern front in the event of a new war, the Premier noted:

There was every reason to expect Iraq to participate in such a war, he said. it had participated in all past encounters–and indeed had suffered because its tanks had had to make their way to the front on their treads. Regarding Iraq’s nuclear program, Begin said Israel was doing “all we can” to thwart it, and would continue to do so. Israel was receiving “help from important friends” in this respect, Begin stated. He gave no further details.

SYRIA’S MILITARY STRENGTH INCREASING

Begin spoke of accretions to Syria’s armed strength, too. He revealed that the number of Soviet advisors in Syria had recently doubled–to more than 5000. Syria could now field more than 3000 tanks, he said, and its pilots had begun to fly the Russian-supplied MIG 25 jets hither to flown only by the Soviets themselves. Periodically Israel received “information” that the Syrians were planning to take hostile action–but denials always followed. Israel for its part remained on its guard.

Begin spoke with satisfaction of Israel’s success “with the help of the Senate” in persuading the U.S. not to supply Saudi Arabia with auxiliary fuel tanks for its soon-to-be supplied F-15 jets. These tanks, Begin said, would have given the Saudis the capacity to bomb Israel’s cities and return to bases deep inside the country.

But even without the auxiliary tanks, the Saudi planes could be moved up to the Tabuk base, close to Israel’s southern tip, for sorties against Israel from there, Begin warned. He said he always pointed this out in conversations with U.S. officials who stress that the American-supplied F-15s are not to be stationed at Tabuk but at bases much farther off.

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