Israel's military debates second strike capability

Thursday, February 13, 2003

TEL AVIV Israel's military has been conducting a quiet debate over the use of a second-strike nuclear capability against emerging nuclear powers in the Middle East.

Some of the proposals call for nuclear weapons reserved for an Israeli second strike to be deployed in Jerusalem, a city holy to Jews and Muslims and which escaped Iraqi missile attacks in the 1991 Gulf war. Another suggestion advocated a buildup of long-range cruise missiles that could destroy strategic facilities in such countries as Iran and Libya.

The debate has focused on the assets required for a second-strike as well as where Israel's nuclear arsenal should be located. The discussions have been reflected in articles published by the military, Middle East Newsline reported.

The military magazine "Maarachot" has published an article from a senior officer identified as Col. Shin that called for Israeli second-strike assets to be stored in Jerusalem. The officer, described as serving in the military command college, cites foreign reports that Israel has hundreds of nuclear warheads that would be targeted in any Iraqi or Iranian attack.

Col. Shin proposes that Israel aim two or three nuclear warheads against emerging nuclear powers in the Middle East, such as Iran or Iraq. The warheads would be programmed to fire toward the capitals as well as two of the most important cities in those countries.

In Iraq, the targets could be the southern city of Basra and the birthplace of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Tikrit. The colonel said such a strategy could maintain deterrence against Arab or Islamic nuclear powers.

The Israeli military officer said the Jewish state should consider warning its Middle East adversaries that Israel would respond to any nuclear attack by destroying such Islamic cities as Mecca and Qom.

"This would exploit the fact that enemy states of Israel are Muslims and the threat of a strike against Islamic holy places, in response to a nuclear attack on Israel, would add a special element to deterrence," the colonel writes.

The same magazine also contains an article by Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, head of the military college and candidate for air force chief, which called for a deep-strike air capability that could target Arab and Iranian strategic facilities. Yadlin warned against the use of inaccurate cruise missiles against enemy cities, saying this would be ineffective and immoral.

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