Gantz says Israeli forces will be ready to attack Iran if ordered as Iranian military commander says Islamic republic is building copy of US spy drone.
Middle East Online
â€˜We are ready to actâ€™
|Iranian workers stand in front of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, about 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran October 26, 2010. REUTERS/Mehr News Agency/Majid Asgaripour|
JERUSALEM – Israeli forces are carrying out more special operations beyond the countryâ€™s borders and will be ready to attack Iranâ€™s nuclear sites if ordered, the chief-of-staff said in an interview Sunday.
In an extract from an interview with the top-selling Yediot Aharanot daily, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz said that 2012 would be a critical year in efforts to halt what Israel and much of the international community believe is an Iranian nuclear arms programme.
â€œWe think that a nuclear Iran is a very bad thing, which the world needs to stop and which Israel needs to stop — and we are planning accordingly,â€ Gantz said.
â€œIn principle, we are ready to act.
â€œThat does not mean that I will now order (air force chief) Ido (Nehushtan) to strike Iran,â€ he added in the interview which will be published in full on Wednesday, on the eve of Israelâ€™s 64th anniversary as a state.
The United States says it does not believe Iran has so far taken a decision to develop a nuclear weapon, or that the time is right for military action, preferring to give international sanctions time to work.
But Israel, which sees a nuclear Iran as a threat to its very existence, claims Tehran may be on the cusp of â€œbreakoutâ€ capability — when it could quickly build a nuclear weapon — and it does not rule out staging a pre-emptive strike of its own.
Gantz said he had increased the number of Israeli special operations in other countries but did not give details.
â€œI do not think you will find a point in time where there is not something happening, somewhere in the world,â€ he said. â€œThe threat level is also higher.â€
â€œIâ€™m not taking the credit,â€ he added. â€œIâ€™m just accelerating all those special operations.â€
Meanwhile, an Iranian military commander on Sunday said the Islamic republic is building a copy of a US spy drone captured in December 2011 and revealed what he said were â€œcodesâ€ gleaned from the unmanned aircraft.
â€œI am giving you four codes so the Americans understand just how far we have gone in penetrating the droneâ€™s secrets,â€ General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Revolutionary Guardsâ€™ aerospatial division, told state television.
â€œIn October 2010, the aircraft was sent to California for some technical issues, where it was repaired and after flight tests, it was taken to Kandahar (in Afghanistan) in November 2010, when a series of technical problems still prevailed,â€ he said.
â€œIn December 2010, it was sent to an airport near Los Angeles for repair of its equipment and sensors, and flight tests. The drone was then sent back to Kandahar,â€ he said.
Hajizadeh did not give further details, saying: â€œThis aircraft is a national treasure for us, and I cannot divulge information about it.â€
But he added Iran has â€œstarted producing a copy of the RQ-170 drone,â€ stressing it used the same US technology in stealth fighters and bombers.
The unmanned, bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel drone went down in Iran four months ago, and Iranâ€™s gleeful military proudly displayed it on state television apparently intact, though with what appeared to be damage to one of its wings.
Iran claimed one of its cyberwarfare team hacked its controls by confusing its GPS guidance system, and has said ever since it would reverse-engineer the drone to make its own.
US officials admitted they lost the drone on a CIA mission over Iran, but asserted the stealth aircraft came down because of a technical problem, not Iranian intervention.
While US President Barack Obama made a vain request for Iran to return the drone, his defence secretary, Leon Panetta, voiced scepticism over how much technological knowledge Tehran could gain from the aircraft.