TEL AVIV, March 24 (JTA) — In addition to the profit, being in the world’s technological vanguard can also yield danger. According to senior Israeli military officers, the threat to Israel ratcheted up a few levels Sunday when Iraq’s foreign minister, Nadji Sabri, declared that “Israel is taking part in this aggression against Iraq. It’s sending missiles. We found a missile, an Israeli missile, in Baghdad.” Sabri offered no proof to back up the allegation, but media have broadcast pictures of missile fragments printed with the words “Made in Jerusalem.” The development raised anxiety levels in the Israel Defense Force that had been lowered since U.S. forces seized airfields in western Iraq in the early days of the war, minimizing the chance that Iraq would be able to fire missiles into Israel. “Israel is now fully in the center of this war picture,” one military source told JTA. For all Saddam Hussein’s posturing, the Israeli intelligence community views him as a man of his word and a rational actor. When Saddam vowed to attack Israel before the 1991 Persian Gulf War, intelligence officials believed him — and he followed through. When he seemed to omit Israel from bellicose speeches this winter, Israel reacted by predicting a “very, very low probability of an Iraqi attack.” With American missiles wrecking buildings in Baghdad with the frequency and regularity of a metronome, it is likely that Iraq will dig out many more Israeli parts from the debris. Israel is, after all, the world’s third largest exporter of arms, earning $3.5 billion a year in arms sales, according to Jane’s Defense Weekly. What’s more, Israeli technology is spread throughout the American army. Israeli high-tech material purchased by America ranges from Popeye air-to-surface missiles to Hunter and Pioneer unmanned drones, to computer systems on Bradley mechanized vehicles. Israeli defense officials cringed this week when Joel Johnson, a spokesman for the Aerospace Industries Association, a Washington-based industry lobby, proclaimed last week that “we’ll be shooting down some” French-built “Mirage 3s, I think, if the Iraqis ever come up. We may shoot them with an Israeli missile, from a U.S. warplane.” Officials at Israel Military Industries and Israel Aircraft Industries are proud that the United States chooses Israeli components, but wary of explicit mention of their use in Iraq. “All we know is that the Hunter and Pioneer” unmanned aerial vehicles “were co-developed with and now utilized by the American Army,” one cautious IAI official said on condition of anonymity. Israel is trying to keep a low profile in the current conflict, according to reserve Col. Shimon Byorski, former chief of the Iraq department at military intelligence. Tying Israel to the U.S. campaign on Iraq “gives Iraq options in case Saddam wishes to change his strategy in the future and attack Israel,” Byorski said. In that case, Saddam might try to describe such aggression as retribution for “Israeli missiles fired at Iraq.” According to Byorski, Saddam’s only strategy is survival. While it might not serve his purposes to attack Israel now — it would show that he still has Scud missiles and could cost him international support — using the myth of “Israeli aggression” might serve Saddam once the coalition’s noose is closing around his neck. Still, Byorski said, “Right now, Saddam has no intention of spoiling the anti-war rallies in the U.S. and Europe by showing the world that he possesses the very weapons he claims he doesn’t” have. No missiles have been fired from Israel at Iraq. But one would be hard-pressed to separate the Israeli weapons development industry from America’s tools of war. Even one of the venerable symbols of American hegemony, the B-52 bomber, uses Israeli-engineered Popeye air-to-surface missiles against ground targets. Developed by Rafael, a company affiliated with Israel’s Defense Ministry, the Popeye is among dozens of products designed or developed jointly by U.S. and Israeli labs. It’s even possible that the Israeli-designed Hunter drones are currently being used against tanks firing on American troops in Iraq. According to sources, U.S. Marines are using the Pioneer, which is of a similar design genealogy to the Hunter, to scout Iraqi defenses. Both are closely related to the Predator drone that U.S. troops used to kill six Al-Qaida operatives last November in Yemen. Rafael also is the designer of the Litening Targeting Pods used to fire precision weapons from the Marines’ AV-8B Harrier jet, as well as F-15s and F-16s flown by the Air Force Reserves and Army National Guard, Lova Drori, Rafael’s director of international marketing, told The Associated Press. Israeli technology continues to focus on its strengths: automation and miniaturization. IAI is cooperating in the development of a credit-card sized drone designed to transmit real-time battlefield images. The lightweight drone is to be fitted with sensitive, lightweight cameras that will transmit the images to highly mobile palm-sized computers. The drone was one of several space-age inventions and designs unveiled in late February at IAI’s 50-year celebration. The development of the miniature drone comes as the demand for unmanned airborne vehicles is skyrocketing. It’s unfortunate that Israel’s technology is being used as “propaganda against the West,” Byorski said. “But as we have seen, it can prove useful to use the Israel card against the West.”
JTA Staff This article was posted by JTA staff.