|Israel seeks all clear for Iran air strike
By Con Coughlin in Tel Aviv
02/24/07 "The Telegraph" -- --
Israel is negotiating with the United States for permission to
fly over Iraq as part of a plan to attack Iran's nuclear
facilities, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.
To conduct surgical air strikes against Iran's nuclear programme,
Israeli war planes would need to fly across Iraq. But to do so
the Israeli military authorities in Tel Aviv need permission
from the Pentagon.
A senior Israeli defence official said negotiations were now
underway between the two countries for the US-led coalition in
Iraq to provide an "air corridor" in the event of the Israeli
government deciding on unilateral military action to prevent
Teheran developing nuclear weapons.
"We are planning for every eventuality, and sorting out issues
such as these are crucially important," said the official, who
asked not to be named.
"The only way to do this is to fly through US-controlled air
space. If we don't sort these issues out now we could have a
situation where American and Israeli war planes start shooting
at each other."
As Iran continues to defy UN demands to stop producing material
which could be used to build a nuclear bomb, Israel's military
establishment is moving on to a war footing, with preparations
now well under way for the Jewish state to launch air strikes
against Teheran if diplomatic efforts fail to resolve the
The pace of military planning in Israel has accelerated markedly
since the start of this year after Mossad, the Israeli
intelligence service, provided a stark intelligence assessment
that Iran, given the current rate of progress being made on its
uranium enrichment programme, could have enough fissile material
for a nuclear warhead by 2009.
Last week Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, announced
that he had persuaded Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad for the
past six years and one of Israel's leading experts on Iran's
nuclear programme, to defer his retirement until at least the
end of next year.
Mr Olmert has also given overall control of the military aspects
of the Iran issue to Eliezer Shkedi, the head of the Israeli Air
Force and a former F-16 fighter pilot.
The international community will increase the pressure on Iran
when senior officials from the five permanent of the United
Nations Security Council and Germany meet at an emergency summit
to be held in London on Monday.
Iran ignored a UN deadline of last Wednesday to halt uranium
enrichment. Officials will discuss arms controls and whether to
cut back on the $25 billion-worth of export credits which are
used by European companies to trade with Iran.
A high-ranking British source said: "There is a debate within
the six countries on sanctions and economic measures."
British officials insist that this "incremental" approach of
tightening the pressure on Iran is starting to turn opinion
within Iran. One source said: "We are on the right track. There
is time for diplomacy to take effect."
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