U.S. to warn Israel before attacking Iraq
JERUSALEM — The United States will give Israel three days notice before attacking Iraq, a senior Israeli official said Thursday, giving the country time to prepare for a possible Iraqi strike.
With Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon scheduled to travel to Washington on Wednesday to meet President Bush for discussions about the possibility of a U.S. attack on Iraq, the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that Israel was satisfied with preparations and coordination with the United States.
The senior official would not give specifics, declining to comment on the possibility that in the case of an Iraqi missile attack, Israel would receive real-time information from U.S. military satellites, as reported in Israeli media.
Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported Sunday that the United States had agreed to give Israel the satellite intelligence, but didn’t cite any sources. According to reports in Israeli publications, intelligence sharing was limited during the 1991 conflict.
In Israel, many fear Saddam would seek support from the Arab world by firing Scud missiles at Israel, as in the Gulf War, when Israel was targeted with 39 Scuds that caused damage and injuries, but no deaths.
All Iraqi missiles in the Gulf War had conventional warheads — but the main fear now, as then, is the possibility of a nonconventional attack, including biological and chemical warheads.
The Patriot missile defense batteries, built by the United States as an anti-aircraft system and modified to guard against incoming missiles, had only partial success against the Scuds in the Gulf War.
With assistance from the United States, Israel spent the past decade developing the Arrow system, designed to intercept a Scud missile at high altitude early in its flight, before reaching Israeli airspace.
A Patriot can knock out an incoming missile only as it nears the end of its flight.
Israel has already deployed one Arrow battery at the Palmachim Air Force Base, south of Tel Aviv, the military said.
Sharon has said if an Iraqi attack caused many casualties, Israel would have to strike back.