Tuesday, October 20, 2009

US Air force officer: 'If Israel strikes Iran, U.S. will likely join'

(Haaretz).The United States would find it difficult not to join an Israeli air strike in the event that Jerusalem decides to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, a former top-ranking U.S. Air Force officer told participants at a conference this weekend organized by a Washington think tank.

Charles F. Wald, former deputy commander of United States European Command, said a military strike on Iran could set back the Islamic Republic's alleged nuclear weapons program by several years, but cautioned, "I don't think Israel can do it alone."

The former commander's remarks were made at an annual gathering of financial backers of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who were joined by diplomats, journalists and analysts.

"They have a fantastic military, but not big enough for weeks or months of attacks - hundreds of sorties per day," he said.

Wald said that should "our great ally Israel" decide to take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, "pressure will mount for us to stand by Israel."

He also criticized the U.S. government and military leadership for not devoting enough attention to Iran's nuclear program in recent years due to their involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wald was also asked to comment on the suggestion by Jimmy Carter's former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski last month that the U.S. shoot down Israeli warplanes if they try to fly over Iraq to attack Iran.

"The chance of that," Wald said, "is zero - no, less than zero."