Israel ups war training despite US discontent

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) is training against warplanes in service with Arab nations and Iran amid worries in the White House that Tel Aviv would start a war without US consent.

The IAF has trained against Soviet-designed MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters — loaned to Israel by an unidentified foreign country — to prepare its pilots for missions where they might have to fight a foreign air force, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.

The MIG 29, one of the fighter jets used by Arab countries and Iran, has been developed to counter American-made jets such the F-16, used by the IAF.

“We have studied them and are using them to practice dog fights. It is a good opportunity to see how effective our Air Force can be in dealing with a possible adversary,” an Israeli test pilot told the channel.

The report comes amid US efforts to gain reassurance from Tel Aviv that it would not launch a surprise attack on Iran without notifying the Obama administration.

America’s spy chief and CIA director, Leon Panetta, was reportedly sent on a secret mission to Israel in early May to warn its leaders against launching a surprise attack on Iran.

In a turnabout from the policies of the Bush administration, the Obama White House says it seeks to diplomatically engage Iran over its disputed nuclear program.

Iran says the program is directed at the civilian applications of the technology. The US and Israel, however, accuse the country of seeking military objectives in its pursuit.

President Obama’s decision to engage Tehran in direct talks has raised concern in Israel where officials regularly threaten to attack Iran.

Moreover, the Israeli army has long been preparing for such an eventuality. With the emergence of the hawkish government of Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, officials in Washington fear that Israel’s new prime minister can blindside the US government and drag President Obama into an undesirable war with Iran.

The most recent IAF training comes ahead of Netanyahu’s maiden meeting with the US president in Washington where the two leaders will discuss their divisions on stalled peace efforts with the Palestinians as well as Iran’s nuclear program.


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