Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Would the U.S. Shoot Down an Israeli Jet? Adm. Mullen Won't Say

An interesting question was asked of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen by a young airman..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.

I know one airman that's going to get reamed for asking a question of the JCS chief like that in a public forum! Nevertheless, Mullen gave the best answer possible without exceeding his brief. Unless Obama has formulated an official policy one way or another, Mullen can't commit or limit the military one way or the other.

It's also worth remembering that according to the Status of Forces agreement we have with Iraq, we are required to help defend them.

But that aside, a few points.

First of all, it's much more likely according to my sources that the IAF would fly to targets in Iran via Saudi Arabia, mimicking the signals put out bu commercial airliners with the Saudis turning a blind eye as Iran gets hammered.

And if they did fly via Iraq? Given the IAF's stealth capabilities we'd likely just ‘miss’ them on their flight through and I can't see even Obama risking the political fallout from giving the order to fire on Israeli planes....certainly if would have to come from him.

It's also worth remembering that an order to fire on Israeli planes would be a tough one for our military in Iraq to swallow. A lot of US troops owe their lives to the training they've received from the IDF on how to fight and function in Arab cities, and they've likewise seen the casualties from Iranian rockets and IED's smuggled into Iraq for years. My guess is that even if Obama gave such an order, the attempt to carry it out might be less than thorough.

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Anonymous said...

American troops would do what they are orderd to do. They fight for the US not for ISrael and if their commander-in-chief told them to commit national suicide that would be their mission to carry out.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi IP,
First of all, my sources tell me that Saudi Arabia would be a much more probable route for the IAF, as I mentioned.

Second, no matter how much he might want to I doubt Obama would issue and order - and it would have to come from him - in the event the IAF got caught over Iraq, which is by no means a certainty.

While th eAmerican military would not directly disabey such an order, I merely suggest that for various reasons, they might be less than thorough in carrying it out..


B.Poster said...

Due to Israeli stealth capabilities it is unlikely the Americans would be able to detect the Israelis as they cross Iraqi air space. Even if they could, it is even less likely the American pilots are trained well enough to successfully confront the Israelis.

Why would Saudi Arabia be a likely route? It is a pipe dream that any Arab national government would assist Israel against Iran or any thing else. They'd rather team up to fight the Israelis now. there's plenty of time to fight each other later.

Perhaps going through Saudi Arabia might work IF Israel has operatives there who could turn a "blind eye." In any event, if an Arab government is caught turning a "blind eye" to an Israeli attack on Iran, it would be the end of that government. How would Israel know they could trust the "source" who plans to turn a "blind eye?"

It's going to be far easier and less risky to over fly Iraqi air space when conducting the attack. Getting past the American defenses and the American air force will be the easiest part of the mission. Once they get to Iranian air space, they will have to face the Russian built Iranian air defense system. This system is far superior to any thing the Americans have. Also, the Russians upgraded the Iranian air force about a year or so ago. I'm sure the Iranians have been trained on these new systems by now. As such, the Iranian air force will also pose a formidable challenge for the IAF as well.

Since Iran has more influece in Iraq than the United States does now, the Iranians with technical help from the Russians may extend the system that defends Iran to Iraq. If this happens, passing through Iraqi air space undetected may be impossible. In this case, the Saudi option may be the only option less and this is a dubious option at best.

Anonymous said...

That's funny. I'm no fan of how the US government is currently being run, nor do millions of Americans. But, first off, if something is going to get past US forces, it's certainly not going to be stopped by Iran. The US military could wipe out the Iranian defenses in short order. Second, ff US forces shot down an Israeli fighter, I would suspect the American people (I'm an American) would run Obama from office immediately. US forces do NOT have to follow an illegal order, and I am thinking the two countries have treaties that would make this illegal?

Anonymous said...

Not trained well enough to confront the Israelis? No US and Israeli forces are going to fight, but thinking like that will be what brings about the end of Iran if their commanders are convinced of this. No offense to the Iranian people. Like North Korea, the people just don't get the facts.