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.”
Last month, Wald and two former U.S. senators authored an article calling for U.S. President Barack Obama to begin preparations for implementing a military option against Iran.
The goal of such preparations, they wrote, would be not only to achieve military readiness for such a strike, but to persuade Tehran of the seriousness of the administration’s intentions and convince Israel that it need not act alone.
Also present at the conference was the former head of Israel’s Military Intelligence, General (Ret.) Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash, who agreed that the U.S. Air Force could be far more effective than Israel in striking Iran’s nuclear program: “The U.S. can destroy the nuclear capacity, and the war would not be long,” he said.
He added, however, that Western intelligence may still not know about all of Iran’s nuclear sites.
“The Tehran regime doesn’t seek suicide,” Farkash said. “When they realize we mean business this time, they won’t want to lose their regime.”