In Bombing of Gaza-Bound Weapons, Israel Sends Message to Iran

News Analysis

By Amos Harel (Haaretz)

Published March 26, 2009.

As the final curtain comes down on the Olmert government, CBS reported a sensational air force bombing of an Iranian weapons convoy in Sudan. If Olmert’s critics claim that his main legacy is two wars — one failed (Lebanon) and the other problematic (Gaza) — and the failure to return Gilad Shalit, here is a rebuttal.

Despite his deficiencies, the prime minister has throughout his term demonstrated a steely determination in leading military operations into enemy territory. A series of decisions, some of which we only learn of through reports in foreign media, reflect a willingness to take risks in approving distant, secret operations aimed at ensuring Israel’s strategic position.

First and foremost is the decision to destroy the nuclear facility in Syria. Also of paramount importance was the attack on the cache of Fajr missiles on the first night of the Second Lebanon War and (according to foreign media), the bombing in Sudan, and the liquidation of senior Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyeh and Syrian general Mohammed Suleiman. The timing of the operation — not long after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza — is indicative of the importance which Israel places in its execution. If the powers that be decide that it is worth taking the risk and striking targets some 1,400 kilometers outside of Israel’s borders, than it would appear that Israel believed Iran is seeking to supply Gaza with significant armaments.

A reasonable assumption would be that Iran sought to provide Hamas with Fajr missiles, whose deployment in Gaza would constitute what the IDF terms as “a weapon that shifts the balance.” During the Gaza lull, Hamas smuggled Katyusha rockets with an increased range from 20 kilometers to 40 kilometers. If it successfully managed to obtain Fajrs, Hamas could have placed Tel Aviv within missile range, which is exactly the coup it has sought in an effort to create the impression of a victory over Israel.

What does Iran learn from all this? That Israel possesses exceptional intelligence, a willingness to take great risk, and an ability to act successfully against targets far from Israel’s borders. Yet Iran knew all this after the previous strikes. If the reports are true, the bombing in Sudan was an important message of deterrence from Israel to Iran, yet the road from Sudan to the destruction of Iran’s nuclear program is a long one.

As such, a quartet of F-15 fighter jets is insufficient. A large number of planes taking part in wave after wave of bombing sorties against numerous targets — most of them ensconced deep underground — is required.



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