[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA: The beauty of the set-up from an American
standpoint is that while the operation has the ability/option to forward
critical data to Israel about incoming threats, the transfer of the
information isn't "hard wired" and is subject to American discretion, in
sharp contrast, "Israel's freedom of action against Iran or Syria will be
significantly curtailed. Israel will be required to obtain U.S. permission
for any such operation, since it would endanger the lives of the U.S.
personnel operating the system. The ground station itself would likely
become the target of any reprisal attack by Iran or Syria. "
This creates a situation where the requirement of an American OK could even
block operations Washington would otherwise silently support due to an
desire to distance itself from the move for diplomatic and other reasons.]
Israel's missile shield against Iran: Three Americans in a trailer
By Aluf Benn and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents Last update - 07:46
A commander and two operators monitor missile radars in an armored trailer
somewhere in Europe. Inside, they use satellite technology to track the
origin and trajectory of long-range missiles. In true American fashion, each
shift begins with calisthenics, followed by an intelligence briefing.
That is the envisioned routine of the U.S. team that will be responsible for
protecting Israel from surface-to-surface missiles launched from Iran or
Earlier this month the U.S. and Israel agreed on the deployment of a
high-powered early-warning missile radar system in the Negev, to be staffed
by U.S. military personnel. The station will receive information from the
U.S. team in Europe that will aid it in its work.
The deployment of the Joint Tactical Ground Station (JTAGS) system, is
widely seen as a kind of parting gift from Washington to Jerusalem as
President George W. Bush prepares to leave office.
The system will protect Israel's skies from missile attacks, but the flip
side of the deal is that Israel's freedom of action against Iran or Syria
will be significantly curtailed.
Israel will be required to obtain U.S. permission for any such operation,
since it would endanger the lives of the U.S. personnel operating the
system. The ground station itself would likely become the target of any
reprisal attack by Iran or Syria.
Senior defense officials view the radar system deployment as a signal of
Washington's opposition to an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear program.
Sources in Jerusalem said on Saturday that the Negev station would be
operated by civilian firms contracted by the Pentagon, along with a small
staff of liaison officers. The early warning station is expected to be
transferred to Israeli operation at some point in the future.
The officials said the agreement does not stipulate the establishment of a
permanent U.S. base in Israeli territory.
They said the warning station would significantly extend the response time
to a missile attack and intercept those attacks from a far greater distance
than had been previously possible.
Israel's current missile defense system depends on the identification of a
single U.S. satellite, which can spot the missile itself but not its origin
The new system is significantly more accurate than Israel's "Green Pine"
radar system, which supports the Arrow anti-missile system.
JTAGS will cost between $20 and $30 million, the U.S. periodical Defense
News reported last week.
The system is expected to be set up next year, but it could go on-line
earlier, ahead of a large-scale U.S.-Israeli missile defense drill slated
for this fall.
Israel asked for a similar system ten years ago, but encountered firm
opposition from the Pentagon, which was opposed to divulging U.S. defense
Two years ago, U.S. Senator John McCain voiced support for the deal while
Congressman Mark Kirk of Illinois also joined lobbying efforts for the
agreement. Kirk is a former naval officer and is expected to be given a
senior position in the Department of Defense if McCain is elected president.
On onee of his own visits to Israel, Kirk heard a briefing on the Iran
threat, after which he contacted Yoram Ben Ze'ev, then head of the Foreign
Ministry's North America division, about setting up an early warning station
Kirk suggested building a U.S. base in Israel which would enjoy
extraterritorial status, like U.S. bases in South Korea.
Proponents of the plan in Jerusalem said that sealing the deal would "raise
the price" of an Iranian strike on Israel, as such an attack would now be
viewed as targeting the United States itself.
On the other hand, critics said the U.S. presence in Israel would tie
Israel's hands in dealing with its adversaries, and subject any attack to
prior U.S. approval.
Kirk also recruited Congresswoman Jane Harman of California to the cause.
On the eve of President Bush's May visit to Israel, some 70 members of
Congress from both parties signed a petition calling for the missile defense
In July, after Iran tested its long-range Shihab-3 missile, Kirk and Harman
wrote to Bush again, urging him to take action.
In the subsequent meetings between Israeli and American officials, the
latter reiterated their opposition to a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran.
The deal was finally sealed in a meeting between Barak and his U.S.
counterpart, Robert Gates, in July, and details were worked out by Lt. Gen.
Henry Obering, the head of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, earlier