MIDDLE EAST: by Joseph PoprzecznyNews Weekly
Israeli nuclear-missile submarines stationed off Iran
, June 26, 2010
The global media have been so fixated on reporting - or misreporting - the Turkish-inspired Gaza flotilla that many reporters have overlooked a far more significant flotilla which has been dispatched by Israel to the Persian Gulf.
At the same time as Israeli naval commandos were boarding the Mavi Marmara
(a vessel belonging to the Turkish self-styled "humanitarian agency", the IHH, which has links to Islamist terrorists), news surfaced that Israel had redeployed three of its five Dolphin-class submarines in the Gulf.
All three of these German-built submarines - the Dolphin
- have previously patrolled in the Gulf, but now are expected to be assigned to waters off Iran as a permanent station. Each carries nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.
According to London's Sunday Times
(May 30), the submarine flotilla's commander, identified only as "Colonel O", said: "We are an underwater assault force. We're operating deep and far, very far, from our borders."
Israeli intelligence often uses the British press to warn enemies of the consequences of any belligerent act.
The report said Israel's new deployment was in response to possible rocket attacks on Israel by Iran, Syria or Hezbollah (a radical Islamist political and military movement in southern Lebanon which effectively controls the Lebanese government).
Israel fears above all a co-ordinated and/or simultaneous rocket onslaught by these three hardline allies. The Sunday Times
reported that "ballistic missiles developed by Iran, and in the possession of Syria and Hezbollah ... could hit sites in Israel, including air bases and missile launchers".
A nuclear response from Israel could destabilise Iran's unpopular Islamist regime and similarly impact upon its two allies, Syria and Lebanon, both of which share borders with Israel.
Modifications to the vessels mean that they can now ply waters well away from Israel's southern port of Eilat, including especially off Iran, for up to 50 days. This means just seven turnarounds annually, which will ensure the presence at any time of at least one submarine.
An unnamed Israeli naval officer quoted by the Sunday Times
said: "The 1,500 km range of the submarines' cruise missiles can reach any target in Iran." A flotilla officer added: "We're a solid base for collecting sensitive information, as we can stay for a long time in one place."
One of the reasons Israel decided to deploy this flotilla on Iran's doorstep was because of Iran's decision to continue arming Hezbollah with a massive missile arsenal.
Furthermore, the primary aim of the Turkish IHH-backed Gaza flotilla was to inflame world public opinion and break Israel's resolve not to lift its naval blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Turkey's provocation was seen as complicit with Iran's arming Hamas with Iranian missiles, thereby encircling Israel and ensuring that all its cities and military instillations are vulnerable to a blitz far greater than anything that Hitler's V1 and V2 bombardments inflicted upon London.
The Sunday Times
reported: "Israel's urgent need to deter the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah alliance was demonstrated last month. Ehud Barak, the defence minister, was said to have shown President Barack Obama classified satellite images of a convoy of ballistic missiles leaving Syria on the way to Hezbollah in Lebanon. ...
"Tel Aviv, Israel's business and defence centre, remains the most threatened city in the world, said one expert. ‘There are more missiles per square foot targeting Tel Aviv than any other city,' he said."
Until last year, Israeli had only three Dolphin-class vessels. The 1,625-tonne Dolphins, built by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft AG, a German shipbuilding firm based in Kiel, are considered the most modern and sophisticated non-nuclear-powered submarines in the world. They can carry 16 torpedoes or missiles.
The first two Dolphins were added to Israel's navy in 1997 and a third in 1999. All three have since been upgraded by boosting fuel capacity and enlarging torpedo tubes so they can launch longer range missiles.
Significantly, Egypt, which sees Shi'ite Iran as a growing threat in the eastern Mediterranean, recently reversed its longstanding policy of denying Israeli submarines use of the Suez Canal.
Israel had traditionally stationed its submarines in the Mediterranean. However, last June, it dispatched one via the Suez Canal to the Red Sea, indicating its increased strategic reach and as a first warning to Iran. Because Israel believes Iran did not heed the warning, it has now moved to boost its submarine presence to three vessels that will patrol waters off Iran.
According to the Montreal-based Centre for Research on Globalization, Israel's submarine nuclear strike capacity is only part of its nuclear arsenal, which is estimated to be between 200 and 400 warheads, equivalent to almost 4,000 Hiroshima-type bombs.
This is an ominous indication of the high stakes for which Iran's leaders are willing to play as they continue to boost the already sizable missile arsenals in Syria and south Lebanon.
Israel also has about 50 Jericho II ballistic missiles on mobile launching ramps and these, plus its submarine-based missiles, are ready for launching around-the-clock.Joseph Poprzeczny is a Perth-based freelance journalist and historical researcher.