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We are fighting a world-wide terrorist threat as never before. Iran is so close to acquiring a nuclear weapon for its own use, or maybe to share with it’s  satellites Hamas and Hezbollah.

Even the free world is circling its wagons around the terrorist Iran. Publicly, opposing the Iranian nuclear efforts, but at the same time, refusing to impose sanctions on them that are anything more than the equivalent of smacking them on the wrists.

But there may be a country that gets a lot more than its wrists slapped. Back in September Obama Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski recommended that if Israel were to try to defend herself with a preemptive strike against the Iranian Nukes, America should shoot our ally’s planes down. The other day the Admiral Mullen was asked if we would, indeed shoot Israeli planes out of the sky, he avoided the question….twice.

In a town hall on the campus of the University of West Virginia, a young airman asked Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen to respond to a “rumor.” If Israel decided to attack Iran, the speculation went, those jet would need to fly through Iraqi airspace to reach their targets. That airspace is considered a “no-fly” zone by the American military. So might U.S. troops shoot down the Israeli jets, the airmen asked the chairman, if they breached that airspace?

Mullen tried to sidestep the question. “We have an exceptionally strong relationship with Israel. I’ve spent a lot of time with my counterpart in Israel. So we also have a very clear understanding of where we are. And beyond that, I just wouldn’t get into the speculation of what might happen and who might do what. I don’t think it serves a purpose, frankly,” he said. “I am hopeful that this will be resolved in a way where we never have to answer a question like that.”
The airmen followed-up: “Would an airmen like me ever be ordered to fire on an Israeli – aircraft or personnel?”

Mullen’s second answer was much the same as his first. “Again, I wouldn’t move out into the future very far from here. They’re an extraordinarily close ally, have been for a long time, and will be in the future,” the admiral said.

People forget that it was just short of 30 years ago when the world faced a similar crisis, Israel took out an Iraqi nuclear plant.  Israel was roundly condemned for the act, but years later, many of the same countries which condemned the action began to realize the service performed by Israel, the IAF and Menachem Begin, in a way they saved the world.

The following is from the official IDF report on the Israeli destruction of the Iraqi nuclear threat.

In the late 1970s, Iraq purchased an “Osiris class” nuclear reactor from France (Chiraq and Sadaam are seen at the reactor on the picture to the left) Israeli military intelligence assumed this was for the purpose of plutonium production to further an Iraqi nuclear weapons program. Israeli intelligence also believed that the summer of 1981 would be the last chance to destroy the reactor without exposing the Iraqi civilian population to nuclear fallout. After that point, the reactor would be loaded with nuclear fuel. Iraq protested that its interest in nuclear energy was peaceful, and at the time Iraq was a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), placing its reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Some experts remained unconvinced that the IAEA monitoring program was sufficient to guarantee that weapon research was not being conducted. They also claimed that an Osiris class reactor was not particularly useful to countries which have no established reactor programs, but that it was capable of producing plutonium.

Israel first pursued a diplomatic solution to the situation. Israel’s foreign minister Moshe Dayan went to the United States. However, Israel failed to obtain assurances that the reactor program would be halted, and was not able to convince the French governments of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and François Mitterrand to cease aiding the Iraqi nuclear program ( no surprise).

It was Four O’ Clock,  the evening before the Shavuot holiday (when Jews celebrate the giving of the Torah), June 7,1981, when orders were given to begin operations. 

At 5:35 a squadron of IAF F-16 fighter aircraft flew over Iraqi skies and dropped a number of bombs. The nuclear reactor was completely destroyed. Mission accomplished. One after another, the pilots shouted the code word “Alpha” into their radios, signaling their success. Zev Raz, Amus Yadlin, Chagi katz, Amir Nahumi, Yiftach Spector, Yisraeli Shapir, and Ilan Ramon- changed history, erasing the nuclear threat of the enemy. The surgical strike was nicknamed- “Operation Opera”.

Israel was forced onto  a path toward Operation Opera for a very long time. Iraq established a nuclear program in the 60’s and with the cooperation of the USSR built a nuclear reactor ten km’s southeast of Baghdad. 16 years later, Iraq began to broaden their nuclear programs and were supported by France who provided them with a nuclear reactor. The reactor consisted of two buildings, the “Tamuz” 1- the first reactor that produced uranium, and the “Tamuz” 2. 

The Israeli government convened to discuss the growing nuclear threat in that region. Israel was doubtful abou Iraq’s claims that the nuclear program was for the benefit of its citizens. Their doubt increased when the IDF Intelligence Branch published intelligence reports that Iraq’s operations posed a real threat to Israel’s very existence- and Israel was forced to draw up plans to destroy the reactor.

On the 14th of May, the Prime Minister of Israel, Menachem Begin, authorized the bombing of the nuclear reactor. Ezer Wiezmen, the then Defense Minister, opposed the operation and resigned from the government two weeks later. On the 28th of October of that year, the plan was finalized. During a cabinet meeting the plan was formally authorized by Begin. “A large clock is hanging over us, ticking. Iraq’s intent to produce nuclear weapons poses a great danger to every man woman and child in the state of Israel”, the prime minister remarked.

The plan was kept in complete secrecy. From the get-go it was understood that the most effective way to implement a successful mission would be one conducted by the Israeli Air Force. It was decided that the operations would be done by F-16 fighter aircrafts that the IAF had received the year before. An Israeli Air Force squadron of 8 F-16’s heavily armed, as well as a number of F-15’s providing air cover and fighter support would implement the mission. One of the primary focuses during the planning stage was which direction the planes would fly. (11,000 km each way), over hostile territory and with a limited supply of fuel dictated the flight path. The plan was set for the seventh of July, zero hour-30 minutes before sunset.

“We flew over the Tigris river, looking down we saw the nuclear reactor. Our target lay before us clear as day.”

The pilots that participated in the mission were selected for their impeccable flight records and were trained in secret and requested to implement the operations with no second thoughts. In the afternoon hours of the 6th of June, the plan was set in motion. All the members of F-16 squadron were called up for duty. On the morning of June 7th, 1981 8 F-16 fighter aircrafts left Israeli airspace heading west towards the Tigris River, next to Baghdad. The flight to Iraq took upwards to an hour. Radio transmission was silenced. The Iraqis were caught completely off guard. The Iraqi radar system was incapable of picking up on the impending danger.

Major General Amus Yaldun, one of the eight combat pilots that participated in the mission and now head of the IDF Intelligence Branch, related, during an interview with IAF journalists, about the famous flight. “Each aircraft flew with three full tanks of gas, two air to air missiles and two bombs each weighing one ton. We flew in two groups of four. The first group was led by Colonel (res.) Zev Raz, the “First Jet” squadron leader, and the second group was lead by Brigadier General (res.)Amir Nehomi, commander of the “Northern Knights”. I was number two in the first quadroon. We headed south of the Jordon River, passing over the Saudi desert. We reached the Tigris River in a short amount of time. The blast of the first bombs echoed in the distance. One of them hit the center of the reactors roof. Once the bombs were released, I felt the impact of the explosions shaking my plane. 

This was the end of the Iraqi nuclear reactor “Tamuz” 1.” The Israeli planes made a roundabout turn west, heading home. “The direction home was facing the sun as to prevent the enemy from following us. We received report of the second squadron’s attack on the reactor. We felt great. A- Because of completing the mission and B- Because all of us, the whole squadron, had come home in peace.”At the time, the attack was widely criticized. Israel responded that its actions were self-defensive and thus justifiable under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. Critics rejected the idea of “pre-emptive self-defense”. France, in particular (again no surprise), was outraged over the loss of a French national as a result of the attack, and since the raid diplomatic ties between France and Israel have remained strained. The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 487, calling upon Israel “to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards”, and stated that Iraq was “entitled to appropriate redress for the destruction it suffered”. Israel has not complied with these requests. The United States supported the resolution condemning the Israeli action — not the country as other nations tried to do. Their course of action was to withhold a contingent of aircraft already promised to Israel.

If it wasn’t for Menachem Begin, a Prime Minister with the guts to give the orders to protect Israel, while knowing that the rest of the world would absolutely freak out, along with the heroes of the IDF who flawlessly performed their mission, this scary world would be a lot scarier. Just imagine a world with an Saddam Husein’s Iraq or, God forbid, an Osama bin Laden with their hands on a nuclear weapon.

Today, the world is heading down the same path. Just like 29 years ago the free world is doing very little to prevent a crazy despot from getting his hands on a nuclear weapon. Back then, it was up to Israel to prevent a nuclear war from happening, now it may be time for Israel to do it again–because in the end Israel can never rely on anyone else for protection but herself (nor has she ever asked for any other nation to fight for her). If President Obama, in an attempt to continue his appeasement of the Muslim world, orders an attack on the Israeli Air Force to prevent them from saving the world again, so be it. Israel will do what it thinks necessary to prevent the nuclear massacre of millions of her citizens, no matter who tries to stop them.

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