Fact and fic­tion in Is­rael’s fight be­hind en­emy lines

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News -

WHEN TRY­ING to make sense of some of the re­cent re­ports to come out on se­cret Is­raeli mis­sions and plans for at­tacks on Iran, it is use­ful to sim­ply open an at­las.

Take, for in­stance, the “news” on Is­raeli op­er­a­tions from the Kurd regions in north­ern Iraq, which ap­peared in the Sun­day Times last month. This is the same re­port that has been re­cy­cled for the past nine years — but how true is it?

A quick look at the map con­firms that since Is­rael does not bor­der Iran it­self, the clos­est point from which to launch any type of ground mis­sion would be the Iraqi bor­der. This also hap­pens to Iran’s long­est land-bor­der and, due to the weak­ness of the Iraqi army, also one of the least po­liced.

So if Is­rael is go­ing to be op­er­at­ing in Iran — and the se­ries of bomb­ings last year would in­di­cate that some­one who is wor­ried about Iran’s nu­clear pro­gramme is do­ing so — north­ern Iraq would be the place to go in. That would also be ge­o­graph­i­cally a likely start­ing point for pa­trols go­ing in to col­lect ge­o­log­i­cal and at­mo­spheric ev­i­dence of nu­clear ac­tiv­ity. Such ev­i­dence is nec­es­sary to con­vince Western pow­ers that Iran is in­deed de­vel­op­ing the nec­es­sary com­po­nents and en­rich­ing uranium to weapons-grade.

On the other hand, an­other look at the map re­minds us that this part of Iraq is the land bridge that Iran is re­port­edly us­ing to ship arms to Bashar al-as­sad’s regime. In other words, an area in which Iran’s elite Qods Force is very ac­tive. This puts into doubt at least one de­tail of the Sun­day Times re­port, that Is­rael has bases in north­ern Iraq. While the re­gion cer­tainly could be the start­ing­point for mis­sions, it is hard to be­lieve that Is­rael would risk bas­ing per­son­nel there for any length of time. On the sub­ject of bases, an­other spate of re­ports have been fo­cus­ing on Is­rael’s al­liance with Azer­bai­jan. Last week, the US mag­a­zine For­eign Pol­icy went as far as to claim that the Az­eris have agreed to Is­rael us­ing for­mer Soviet air­bases on its ter­ri­tory for an at­tack on Iran.

Open­ing the at­las again, half of this story makes sense — Azer­bai­jan is an­other back-door into Iran. And it is no co­in­ci­dence that the Iran-wary Baku gov­ern­ment has just signed an arms deal worth a £1bn with Is­rael. But a cur­sory glance at the map shows that the idea of Is­rael us­ing Az­eri bases does not make much sense as they would have no air route by which they could fly back to Is­rael. Mos­sad and the IAF have ex­tra­or­di­nary ca­pa­bil­i­ties but chang­ing the ge­og­ra­phy of the Mid­dle East is not one of them.

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