TEL AVIV (Aug. 18)
The U.S. military may be planning a military strike against Iraq, but it has not consulted with Israel about the possibility of Iraqi retaliation against the Jewish state, according to a respected military analyst here.
Whether Israel is taken by surprise depends greatly on U.S. willingness to coordinate its plans with Jerusalem, Ze’ev Schiff of the Israeli daily Ha’aretz wrote Tuesday.
Israel is tensely tracking developments in Iraq and its environs, including various concentrations of forces, he wrote. But it cannot achieve a high level of preparedness without cooperation from Washington.
Such cooperation would include the sharing of satellite photos and intelligence on Iraqi movements, as well as the activation of the satellite that was used during the Persian Gulf War to warn Israel of imminent missile attacks from Iraq.
“In the past, the United States claimed — a few times — that certain Israeli operations endangered American interests. This time,” Schiff wrote, “the situation is reversed: An American action against Iraq” is “liable to endanger Israel.”
He observed that there has been coordination with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where the Americans, in recent weeks, have bolstered Patriot missile batteries.
He pointed out that during the Gulf war, the United States informed Israel of its military plans only minutes before the start of the initial bombings in Baghdad. U.S.-Israeli coordination was heightened only after Iraqi Scud missiles fell on Israel.
This coordination came about only because of Washington’s desire to prevent Israel’s entry into the war. It included giving Israel important information from the warning satellite and the opening of a “hot line” between Israel’s Defense Ministry and the Pentagon.
Today, Schiff observed, the Iraqi military threat is not as great as it was on the eve of the Gulf war. But it is believed Iraq still has about 200 missiles and an unknown quantity of launchers.
The possibility of an Iraqi attack, fueled by the desire for revenge, must be taken into account, he wrote.