TEL AVIV (Feb. 4)
Israel has devised plans to eliminate the Iraqi Scud missile threat and is “itching” to carry them out, the second-highest-ranking Israel Defense Force general disclosed in a television interview Sunday.
But barring exceptional circumstances, the plans will be executed only after consultation with U.S. forces, Maj. Gen. Ehud Barak, the IDF’s deputy chief of staff, stressed.
He gave no particulars, nor did he elaborate on the circumstances which would have to prevail for Israel to act on them.
Barak, designated to be the IDF’s next chief of staff, did not reply directly when asked if he thought the Israeli air force could do a better job than the Americans in destroying Iraq’s missilelaunching capability.
“I suggest that we do not criticize the American operation,” he said. “Nonetheless, I can state that the IDF has very good operational plans to deal with removing the threat of ground-to-ground missiles from western Iraq. These plans will be carried out when and if the Israeli government instructs on their implementation.”
In that case, Barak said, the Israeli plans would be implemented as much as possible in consultation with U.S. forces. Only in certain undefined circumstances would they be implemented unilaterally, and then only after a suitable notification had been made.
10 TO 12 MOBILE LAUNCHERS LEFT
Barak said that according to IDF estimates, there are still 10 or 12 mobile Scud launchers in western Iraq, though “it is possible that some of them have been damaged.”
While the missile threat has been significantly diminished, “all in all, the capability still exists,” he said.
“It is worth noting that during the first nine days of missile launching, 25 missiles fell in Israel. In the past eight days, only five missiles have fallen and they have hardly caused any damage,” he said.
“This means that in practice, either as a result of increased efficiency in American operations or as a result of other reasons which we don’t fully understand, there is a decrease in Iraq’s launching capability,” Barak said.
He repeated however that missile strikes “are still possible, and the threat has not been eliminated.”
Barak admitted that Israel is hurt and angry over the physical damage the missiles have caused, the fact that they have been aimed at Israel’s civilian population and the threat of chemical warfare.
“On the political level, fingers are itching to carry out operations which in our opinion can remove the threat,” he said.
“But in the complex situation created by this war, neither anger, hurt nor itchy fingers can replace rational thinking, which takes into consideration only the security of the state and asks by what timing and by using which methods it is possible to best serve this interest.”