US officials yesterday admitted that a major military exercise, which saw more than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighter jets taking part in manoeuvres over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece, in the first week of June, was a practice run for a strike against Iran’s under construction nuclear facilities.
Also taking part in the mock assault were helicopters usually used to rescue pilots who might have been shot down in the real thing, and a number of refuelling tankers.
These flew over 900 miles, roughly the same distance between Israel and Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz.
A Pentagon official, when asked, did not mince words about what was happening.
He said that Israel was signalling Tehran that it was prepared to bomb its nuclear facility.
He added that the Israelis ‘wanted us to know, they wanted the Europeans to know and the Iranians to know’ that they were deadly serious.
Indeed, the Israeli deputy Prime Minister, Mofaz, issued a warning, just before the exercise took place, that ‘If Iran continues its nuclear weapons programme, we will attack it.’
An attack on a nuclear facility is nothing new for the Israeli military and government.
In 1981 Israeli jets raided, bombed and destroyed Iraq’s nuclear plant at Osirak.
Then last September Israel, with the support of the US, attacked what it claimed was a Syrian nuclear reactor under construction, in the Syrian desert.
In fact Israel is the only country in the Middle East to have nuclear weapons. It has over 200 nuclear bombs, and also delivery systems ranging from missiles to planes and submarines.
Currently, in the Middle East, Israel is conducting secret talks with Syria and is believed to have promised President Bashar al-Assad that if Syria breaks with Iran, it will return the Golan Heights, annexed by Israel after the 1967 six day war.
The implication is that if Syria will not break with Iran it will be attacked on the basis that it is engaging in nuclear research.
In the next few days a UN IAEA nuclear watchdog delegation will visit Syria to examine the site where the reactor was said to be sited. Already the US and Israel are insisting that Syria was working with North Korea to develop a nuclear programme, and it still has plans to do so.
Israel has also currently agreed to a shaky truce with the Palestinian Hamas movement in Gaza. Even at the start of the truce, Israeli military and political leaders are saying that it will only last as long as it takes Israel to muster an invasion force to re-enter Gaza to attempt to smash Hamas.
The Israeli ‘plan’ is that once Hamas is beaten it will be able to make the kind of peace deal that it wants to, with president Abbas in Ramallah.
Then, it will be time for its attack on the Iranian nuclear plant, designed to cripple Iran. However the end result of such an attack will be to put a torch under the entire Middle East and Gulf regions.
There is plenty of evidence that Bush wants to see Iran’s nuclear potential destroyed before he leaves the presidency, and also that he is determined to turn Iraq into a US launching pad for attacks on US ‘enemies’ in the Middle East and the Gulf.
The deepening capitalist crisis, particularly the oil crisis, is driving the US ruling class into new wars in the Middle East to grab its strategic oil and gas resources.
Israel is its mad dog desperate to be let off the leash.
UK workers must give their full support to the anti- imperialist forces in the region.
They must demand that their unions impose a worldwide trade union boycott of Israel, and spell out to Prime Minister Brown that all British troops must be withdrawn from the region at once.