Another Long-Distance Israeli Airstrike

American intelligence officials recently disclosed that Israeli warplanes attacked a truck convey traveling across Sudan earlier this year.  The trucks were reportedly carrying illegal arms destined for the Gaza Strip where Palestinian militants were fighting Israeli soldiers.  Seventeen trucks and 39 people perished in the attack.   Israel refused to confirm or deny the reports, adhering to its general policy on such matters.


Iran is believed to be the source of the weapons.  In the past the Islamic Republic has supplied anti-Israeli militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah with a variety of arms.  Hamas smuggles weapons into Gaza from Egypt using a series of underground tunnels.  The targeted convoy was near the Egyptian border when it was destroyed.


This is not the first time Israel has carried out a long-distance airstrike.  In 1981, Israeli warplanes flew 700 miles to take out a nuclear reactor in Iraq.  In 2007, a similar attack was carried out against a suspected nuclear site in Syria.  Last year, during a training exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, Israeli jets flew 900 miles and simulated a raid on an enemy target. 


The destruction of the truck convoy in Sudan further demonstrates Israeli’s capability to successfully execute long-range air attacks.  The distance flown by the Israeli fighter-bombers during the Sudan assault and the Mediterranean war game was roughly equal to the distance between Israel and the Natanz uranium enrichment plant in Iran.  Israel’s history of attacking nuclear sites in hostile countries could indicate that Israel is willing to strike similar targets in Iran if it believes its security is imperiled by Iran’s nuclear program.


Israeli concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities are understandable given the history between the two nations since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.  Iran has been a primary sponsor of Hamas and Hezbollah, the two militant groups that most seriously threaten the Jewish state.  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent statement that Israel should be “wiped off the map” certainly did not assuage Israeli fears.  However, if Israel were to attack Iran it would have disastrous consequences for the US and its ally.  Such an assault would enrage the Muslim world and be a major boon for the recruiting efforts of Islamic militant groups that want to attack Americans and Israelis.  Iran could further destabilize Iraq just as the US is trying to withdrawal its troops and hand over security responsibilities to the untested Iraqi army and police.  American and Israeli embassies and expatriates around the world would likely be targeted by Hezbollah and other militants sympathetic to Iran.  The inevitable increase in attacks by Hamas against Israel would make it virtually impossible to move the Middle East peace process forward anytime in the foreseeable future.  Moreover, it is unclear if Israel would actually gain anything by carrying out such an air raid.  Intelligence officials believe that many of Iran’s nuclear sites are hidden, and therefore it is uncertain how much Iran’s nuclear program would be set back if the Natanz plant were destroyed.  Perhaps most importantly, Israel has a strong nuclear deterrent which would dissuade any foreign leader that is not completely insane and suicidal from using nuclear weapons against the Jewish state.


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