Israel has denied seeking permission from the United States to fly warplanes over Iraq as part of its preparations to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. In a statement to Israel Radio on Sunday, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh denied such arrangements existed and accused “international authorities who prefer to avoid dealing with Iran” as being the source of the rumor.
Calling the report “baseless information,” Sneh called on the international community to focus instead on the placing of punitive sanctions on Iran for the continuance of their nuclear program in defiance of U.N. resolutions.
Earlier the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph quoted a senior Israeli defense official who said Israel was negotiating a safe “air corridor” with the United States across Iraq through which the planes could fly without fear of being shot at by American fighters. The unnamed official said these negotiations were necessary to avoid a situation “where American and Israeli war planes start shooting at each other.”
The report comes as the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany meet in London to discuss further measures to punish Tehran over their intransigence in acquiring a nuclear energy program, a course which many fear may lead to a nuclear-armed Iran. While Tehran continues to pursue its nuclear agenda in defiance of U.N. resolutions insisting its acquiring of nuclear technology is for peaceful purposes only, Israel, the only known nuclear-armed nation in the Middle East maintains the program is a cover to acquire a nuclear warhead.
Both Israeli and Western governments have pointed to Iran’s support of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah as proof of the danger of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorist organizations and have strongly supported U.N. sanctions against Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also caused alarm throughout the world by his statement in October 2005 that the Jewish state must be “wiped off the map.”
In an attempt to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed U.N. Resolution 1737 on Dec. 23, 2006. The resolution bans the export of nuclear material and technology to the Islamic state. However, with Iran continuing to defy U.N. demands to freeze its nuclear program, the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany are currently meeting in London to work on a new plan to press Tehran to abandon its nuclear quest.
Though representatives of the six countries have said they are committed to finding a peaceful solution to the problem, divisions have arisen between the hardline stance of the U.S. and the more diplomatic positions of Russia and China, both of who have extensive economic links with Tehran.
The Bush administration has continually painted Iran as a threat to world peace with President Bush naming the country as one of the “axis of evil” in his controversial 2002 State of the Union address. In the latest threat to use military means to end Tehran’s nuclear goal, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, delivering a speech on a recent visit to Australia, declared “all options are on the table” in the quest to prevent Iran gaining nuclear weapons.
However former chief weapons inspector in Iraq Hans Blix has criticized the U.N.’s approach. Speaking to reporters at the start of a conference on international security, Blix stated the U.N. has “humiliated” Tehran by demanding they end their nuclear agenda while giving them no guarantees of security should they be forced to comply.
In saying only the U.S. could effectively guarantee Iran’s security, Blix called for an entirely new approach to ensure Tehran’s co-operation and contrasted the negotiations with Tehran with the recent six-party talks with North Korea where security concerns as well as North Korean/U.S relations were at the core of the agreements.
Tehran for its part has refused to back down on its nuclear program with President Ahmadinejad saying his country had “no brake and no reverse gear” in its aim to enrich nuclear energy.