US: Israeli military carried out Iran practice drill
Diane Sweet
Published: Friday June 20, 2008

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Friday's New York Times is reporting that multiple U.S. officials have stated that the Israeli military carried out what seemed to be a 'rehearsal' for a strike directed at Iran's nuclear facilities. The exercise seemed 'to be an effort to develop the military’s capacity to carry out long-range strikes and to demonstrate the seriousness with which Israel views Iran’s nuclear program.'

The exercise is said to have taken place the first week of June over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece included over 100 Israeli fighter planes, as well as helicopters, and refueling tankers flying over 900 miles; the approximate distance between Israel and Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz.

Israel has carried out two unilateral attacks on suspected nuclear sites, one in 1981 against Iraq’s nuclear plant at Osirak, and on a Syrian structure last September that U.S. officials said housed a nuclear reactor, but as it was reported by Raw Story's Larisa Alexandrovna was in fact a cache of North Korean missiles.

Pentagon officials said that Israel usually conducts a 'major' early summer air force training exercise, but that the early June exercise was larger, and included 'a lengthy combat rescue mission.'

“They rehearse it, rehearse it and rehearse it, so if they actually have to do it, they’re ready,” the Pentagon official said. “They’re not taking any options off the table.”

The Pentagon official's words echoing President Bush's remarks on Iran made in Germany during his recent European tour:

"My first choice of course is to solve this diplomatically. All options are all the table, but the first choice is to solve this problem by working closely together," said Bush after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The full NYT article can be viewed online here.