By Dr Saeb Shaath
Thought to be the biggest UAV in the world, the Heron TP is the largest in the 'Israeli' UAV arsenal. It boasts a 26-meter-long wingspan, can fly for up to 45 hours with a cruise speed of 300 kilometres per hour, and is able to cover a distance of 10,000 kilometres. On the morning of Sunday Jan 29, an 'Israeli' Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UVA), the Heron TP (also known as the IAI Eitan) crashed during a joint operation by the 'Israeli' military and the company responsible for the drone's development, near the Tel Nof airbase, south of Tel Aviv.
These are the vital statistics that led to claims in the New York Times magazine (January 25) that Israel possessed "unmanned aircraft capable of carrying bombs to...targets [in Iran] and remaining airborne for up to 48 hours."
However, Robert Hewson, editor of Jane's Air-Launched Weapons dismissed 'Israel's' supposed drone capabilities as "science fiction", saying "Nobody has the ability to conduct any kind of strategic offensive warfare with drones - not the U.S., not Israel, not anybody." He stated that "Such a task requires a level of technology and a force of UAVs (unarmed aerial vehicles) that does not exist and will not exist for decades."
In response to the assertion, by some U.S. corporate media networks, that 'Israel's' Heron TP drones could be used for the aerial refuelling of fighter-bombers for the 1,500 km - 2,000 km flight to Iran, Hewson insisted , "Not a chance. Not even in theory, a total impossibility."
'Israel's' belligerent posturing with regards to its military capabilities is nothing new, and the most glancing historical overview of its previous military actions demonstrates that it is only 'Israel's' own role as a drone that equips it for anything beyond a very local military impact.
While Israel has used drones for the targeted assassinations of freedom fighters in Gaza and Lebanon, these do not count as complicated operations. Both areas are exposed, and lack the kind of anti-aircraft guns, or missiles, needed to defend themselves against these slow, and very noisy, craft. Such targets, therefore, demand neither range nor stealth on the part of 'Israeli' hardware.
Current focus rests on Iran's military capabilities, which 'Israel' views as an existential threat. Previously, of course, this role fell to Iraq; and 'Israel' sent F-16 jets to destroy Iraq's atomic reactor in 1981. That operation, however, was necessarily coordinated with regional player states.
A glance at the attacks against the PLO in Lebanon in 1982 further emphasises the free licence 'Israel' was granted, under Camp David's delivery of Egypt to US-Zionist control, to the immediate region; including that just beyond their borders.
The martial spin-doctoring that 'Israel' applies to its offensive against the PLO HQ in Tunisia, in the late eighties, would have us believe that its over-flying F16s plunged an elite band of unbeatable Rambo-types into the action; whence the mission was accomplished. This puts a fanciful, propagandist gloss on the fact that this mission would have been very much impossible without coordination with Bin Ali's secret police and the robust resources of the US 6th fleet glowering at Tunisia from the Mediterranean Sea.
More recently, in 2007 'Israel' attacked a Syrian factory, claiming that it was an atomic reactor research facility. There are two key points which stand out in the context of this assault; firstly, that Turkey is strategically allied to Israel, and both countries are members of NATO; and secondly, that 'Israel's' Mossad has bases in the Kurdish territories in northern Iraq. Reaching Der al-Zoar in Syria was not, therefore, a long range achievement; nor was it an operation which needed high-end military capabilities to succeed. In short, it was not a valid model, for an attack against Iran.
While Israel has the option of using its untested Jerichos intermediate-range ballistic missiles as surprise attack, such an attack would take 10-12 minutes to reach to Iran, leaving plenty of time for Iran to launch a counter-attack.
Scrutiny of the latest Iranian war games reveals that the country has a huge stock of already-tested long- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. An Iranian source declared last week that they have 200,000 such missiles - enough, in other words, to counter any such onslaught and put 'Israel' out of business for a very long time.
The only sane conclusion is that any military attack on Iran - aerial or otherwise - would have to materialize from its neighbouring countries. Iran's strategic planners are aware of that fact; they know that Israel cannot carry out such an offensive without the involvement of some of its neighbours, and the full support of the western alliance.
On Sunday a senior Iranian commander said that the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) will target any location used as a launchpad for attacking Iran: "The point of origin of an enemy offensive against the Islamic Republic will be attacked by IRGC military units," IRGC Deputy Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami added.
I'll conclude with a quote from a recent article by Fidel Castro, 'World Peace Is Hanging by a Thread', Jan 2012.
"....Yesterday I had the satisfaction of having a pleasant conversation with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I had not seen him since 2006... During our meeting yesterday, I noted that the Iranian president was absolutely calm and tranquil, completely unconcerned about the Yankee threats and, fully confident in the capacity of his people to confront any aggression and in the effectiveness of their arms -which, in large part, they produce themselves- to inflict an unpayable price on its aggressors. In reality, we hardly spoke about the topic of war.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was focused on the ideas he had presented at the Main Hall of the University of Havana during his conference on the struggle of humankind: "Moving towards reaching and achieving peace, security, respect and human dignity as a fundamental desire of all human beings throughout history."..."
Dr Saeb Shaath is an Author, a Middle East Political Expert, public speaker on Middle Eastern affairs, a frequent guest on Press TV, other TV and Radio shows.
His book The Arabian States of the Gulf and International Oil Monopolies, Published in Arabic language 1987 and banned by most of the Arab Regimes; considered as a gospel to most revolutionaries and resisting movements in the Arab world. He is the founder of the alternative news network http://saebpress.com.