Πέμπτη, 26 Μαρτίου 2009

In bombing Sudan, Israel sends message to Iran ...


In bombing Sudan, Israel sends message to Iran
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent
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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A Sudanese minister has told Al Jazeera that the US launched two air raids in the country earlier this year.Mabrouk Mubarak Salim, the state minister for highways, said on Thursday that Sudanese, Somalis, Ethiopians, and Eritreans were killed in the attacks in January and February.The attacks targeted a number of vehicles in the desert near the eastern city of Port Sudan, Salim said.Photos released by a Sudanese intelligence source to Al Jazeera show what is said was the aftermath of the attacks.More than 50 people received treatment at a hospital in the town of Kassala after the raids, which were launched from the US fleet in the Red Sea, Salim said.However, Deng Alor, the Sudanese foreign minister, said in Egypt on Wednesday that he had no knowledge of any such air raid."We have no information about such an attack," he said.'Israel involved' The US-based CBS network reported similar attacks on Wednesday, but said its sources had told David Martin, its Pentagon reporter, that Israeli aircraft were involved. CBS said that the jets were targeting weapons convoys heading through Sudan on their way to Egypt, where they would have been taken across the Sinai into the Gaza Strip. "Sudan used to provide Hamas with weapons, but that is not the case any more," Alor said.Salim said that the air raids hit human-traffickers travelling through the desert area and the only weapons in the convoys were small arms being carried by guards.Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, spoke about such attacks on Thursday at a conference near Tel Aviv."Anywhere we can harm the infrastructure of terrorism, in near-by locations as well as far-away locations, we will act," he said.Vince Crawley, the chief public affairs spokesman for United States Africa Command (Africom), said: "The United States military did not engage in any air, missile or combat operations during the time frame in question in Sudan."Nor has the US military engaged in any military operation in the region since the US Africa Command was established in October 2008." Ronen Bergman, an Israeli investigative journalist, told Al Jazeera that his Israeli and US sources backed up the CBS take on events."The last operation executed by the Israeli military forces in the Gaza Strip has caused Hamas to lose quite a lot of its arsenal and, therefore, to request for more and more supplies from Iran," Bergman said."Some of those supplies were intercepted in that alleged raid by the Israeli air force."-

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