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Posts Tagged ‘Bush-Cheney’

Who, Us? We Didn’t See a Thing.

Posted by Bob Kohm on January 2, 2009

middle-east-mapA curious little tidbit was nestled within the stories earlier this week about the United States returning “control” of the Green Zone to the Iraqis. As it turns out, this was a two-for-one deal with Iraq not only getting back the Green Zone tar baby but also taking responsibility for controlling their own airspace.

That might not seem like too big a deal– after all, who is possibly going to be attacking Iraq from the air with so large a percentage of the US military sitting on the ground there? What makes this interesting, however, is the fact that Iraq literally can not control its airspace; their Air Force currently consists of a gaggle of Cessna 172s (the ever popular “Cessna” of US private aviation), some Beech & Cessna 8 seat transport planes, a few helicopters and a couple of C-130s. What’s missing from that mix that might help in controlling one’s airspace? If you said, “Fighters and radar warning aircraft” promote yourself to Junior Wing Commander.

It is true that in the 21st Century controlling your airspace is a cornerstone of sovereignty, so even a symbolic turning over of the airspace has some meaning. An alternate and somewhat more interesting meaning, however, comes into better focus when you look at a map of the Middle East.

As we’ve all been told a few hundred times, Iran is embarked on a program to build nuclear weapons and the Israelis… well, let’s just say they aren’t terribly pleased with this development. One of Israel’s larger problems in doing something about the Iranian nuclear program is proximity– as in Iran is a “You Can’t Get There From Here” locale if you’re flying an IDF strike fighter.

To reach Iran, the enterprising Israeli air commander is left with a very few options. The first but most remote possibility is a flight north up the Med to Turkey, then across Turkey and Southwest through Iran. I consider this to be a highly unlikely option; the Turks are unlikely to want to antagonize the Iranians with whom they share a border, and an Israeli strike that crosses Turkey would either mean landing and refueling at Turkish bases (diplomatically untenable) or the Turks allowing Israeli refueling aircraft not only to refuel the strike package on the way in but then to loiter over Turkish territory and refuel on the way out– it’s not something I can see the Turks condoning, especially when you recall how they got cold feet about allowing the US to use Turkish bases as jumping off points for the 2003 Iraqi invasion. Turkey and Iran aren’t openly belligerent towards one another right now; why would Turkey wish to change that when they have enough problems with the Kurds to keep them occupied?

Taking out the Turkish option, Israel’s planes are almost certainly going to overfly Jordanian airspace, which isn’t going to make anyone particularly happy… on the surface, a point we’ll get back to. The only viable non-Jordanian flight path is through very hostile and very well defended Syrian airspace, and hey, who needs a two front-war, right? So, assuming a transit of Jordan, Israeli planes can either go southeast over northern Saudi Arabia (not going to happen as if it did the King’s head would be a on a pike by nightfall) or, and here’s the interesting bit, head due east across Iraq and refuel over the Western Persian Gulf before going on attack runs at Iranian nuclear hot spots like Esfahan/Natanz, Bushehr, Arak, and even perhaps as far as Karaj & Tabriz.

From my perspective, a major stumbling block to Israel taking that route has been that they would need to seek permission from the Americans to overfly Iraqi airspace, which we were responsible for up until this week. America, of course, would be put in an interesting diplomatic spot if we did that for allowing the “hated” Zionisits to overfly Islamic (if Sunni) lands to strike at Iran. At that point we may as well conduct the raid ourselves as we’d be getting all of the love notes at the UN anyway.

It sure is a good thing that in the waning days of the Bush-Cheney Admin, however, that we handed the responsibility for protecting that airspace to the one group that couldn’t do it– the Iraqis themselves. By the time they realized the Israelis were over their country the planes would be heading out over the Gulf and the Iraqis won’t be able to do a thing to stop them on the way back even if they do know they’re coming. The Americans can put a diplomatic “Huh?” face on as we aren’t the ones controlling the airspace so we can’t be legally blamed for the incursion. The Israelis aren’t going to give much of a damn what the EU countries think about the move, the Russians will be thrilled because this means they can sell the Iranians more reactor components and a freshly updated integrated air defense system and the Jordanians– remember them, the guys who first had their airspace violated?– are just as happy that the Iranians are dealt a huge blow in their quest to become the regional hegemon. Iran holding nuclear control in the Gulf would put enormous pressure on Saudi Arabia, who hold in trust the Holy Cities of Mecca & Medina. Jordan’s King Abdullah, being the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, is much happier with his brother Sunnis holding those cities unmolested by Shi’a power, which would undoubtedly be brought to bear should Iran gain nuclear weapons.

Will this all come to pass? Good question. If it does it will likely happen within the next 10 days so as not to overlap the American Inaugural.

Keep your eyes on those Iraqi skies.

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Middle East, Warfare | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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