Israel seeks strike on Iran after missile test

Israel is hoping that the ballistic missile test by Iran on Wednesday will help to persuade the United States to give it the “green light” to attack the country’s nuclear installations, according to an Israeli diplomatic source.

The Shihab-3 rocket was launched as part of a nine-missile salvo during an exercise. The move was condemned by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, as well as presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.

The Shihab-3 is reported to have a 2,000-km range and to be capable of reaching every point in Israel. Jerusalem believes Iran is between a year and three years away from developing a nuclear weapon.

During Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s visit to Washington in May, he tried to convince US President George Bush of the urgency of launching a strike against Iran, but the US Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, who visited Israel last week, made it clear that Israel — for now — does not have the US backing for such action.

An Israeli attack on Iran would have to go through airspace controlled by the US-led coalition in Iraq and is almost unfeasible without US cooperation.

Admiral Mullen’s message was made public on Monday in a lecture given by senior US analyst Professor Anthony Cordesman at Tel Aviv University.

“The latest test has not changed anything we know about Iran,” an Israeli diplomatic source told the JC. “We know what they are capable of and what they want to do with those capabilities. We hope that the brazen way they have chosen to demonstrate those capabilities will persuade the US administration that the time for sanctions and diplomatic pressure will soon be over.”

The current US position is that an attack on Iran will destabilise the region and that the proper course of action is concerted diplomatic pressure and sanctions. But reports indicate that trade with Iran, including by the US, is burgeoning. Last week, Iran rejected an offer to cease enriching uranium in return for financial incentives.

On Tuesday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, threatened that Iran would “set fire” to Israel as a response to any attack. The next day, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad toned down the rhetoric, saying: “Iran has no plans to attack Israel. The Zionist regime is illegitimate and will disintegrate on its own.”

    Last updated: 3:57pm, July 17 2008