TEL AVIV (Dec. 21)
A strategic survey of the military balance in the Middle East lists Iraq, Syria and Jordan as potential threats to Israel in the next few years.
The biggest potential threat is Iraq, which by conservative estimates will be able to produce nuclear weapons within five to 10 years, according to “Middle East Military Balance 1988-89,” just published by Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.
Israel sent bombers over Baghdad in 1981 to destroy a French-made nuclear reactor purchased by Iraq, which the Israelis claimed could produce weapons-grade plutonium.
But there is a more immediate threat from the battle-hardened Iraqi army, which is a far more effective fighting force after the eight-year war with Iran than it was in the past, the study said.
Syria has reported further reductions in its defense budget, but has actually increased both its operational activities and military expenditures in most fields.
The Syrians seem to be preparing for the option of an independent military offensive in 1990 to recapture the Golan Heights from Israel, according to the report.
The researchers also noted that Jordan has taken its U.S.-supplied Hawk anti-aircraft missiles out of their permanent bases and deployed them on mobile platforms, in violation of its commitment to the United States.
The missiles pose a direct threat to aircraft flying from airfields almost anywhere in Israel.
Jordan’s armed forces were increased by 27,000 men for a total of 150,000.
Egypt’s armed personnel now number 920,000, a reduction of 60,000, including reservists.
Israel increased its armed personnel by 60,000 reservists, and can now mobilize a total of 600,000.