Iran's leadership must be stopped now, before the eruption of a nuclear conflagration that sets the entire Middle East afire.
|The Observer's Foreign Affairs Editor attempts to unravel the truth behind Operation Orchard and allegations of nuclear subterfuge|
[Questions remain about a] mysterious air raid that happened this month, codenamed 'Orchard', carried out deep in Syrian territory... the known facts [include:] Two detachable tanks from an Israeli fighter were found just over the Turkish border... they belonged to a Raam F15I - the newest generation of Israeli long-range bomber, which has a combat range of over 2,000km when equipped with the drop tanks. This would enable them to reach targets in Iran, leading to speculation that it was an 'operation rehearsal' for a raid on Tehran's nuclear facilities...
...from a source involved in the Israeli operation, ...one thing was absolutely clear. Far from being a minor incursion, the Israeli overflight of Syrian airspace through its ally, Turkey, was a far more major affair involving as many as eight aircraft, including Israel's most ultra-modern F-15s and F-16s equipped with Maverick missiles and 500lb bombs. Flying among the Israeli fighters at great height... was an ELINT - an electronic intelligence gathering aircraft.
...In a series of piecemeal leaks from US officials... a narrative was laid out that combined nuclear skulduggery and the surviving members of the 'axis of evil': Iran, North Korea and Syria... [and] that North Korea was not being properly monitored in the deal struck for its nuclear disarmament and was off-loading its material to Iran and Syria, both of which in turn were helping to rearm Hizbollah. [The implication being that] the three countries might be collaborating to supply an unconventional weapon to Hizbollah.
...[The reported] target of the attack, revealed only to the pilots while they were in the air, was a northern Syrian facility that was labelled as an agricultural research centre on the Euphrates river, close to the Turkish border... According to this version of events, a North Korean ship, officially carrying a cargo of cement, docked three days before the raid in the Syrian port of Tartus. That ship was also alleged to be carrying nuclear equipment.
...Whatever the truth of the allegations against Syria - and Israel has a long history of employing complex deceptions in its operations - the message being delivered from Tel Aviv is clear: if Syria's ally, Iran, comes close to acquiring a nuclear weapon, and the world fails to prevent it, either through diplomatic or military means, then Israel will stop it on its own.
So Operation Orchard can be seen as a dry run, a raid using the same heavily modified long-range aircraft, procured specifically from the US with Iran's nuclear sites in mind. It reminds both Iran and Syria of the supremacy of its aircraft and appears to be designed to deter Syria from getting involved in the event of a raid on Iran - a reminder, if it were required, that if Israel's ground forces were humiliated in the second Lebanese war its airforce remains potent, powerful and unchallenged...
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