Israeli Warplanes Bomb Sudan; Was Attack a Dry Run for Iran?

 Perceived ally of Iran in Africa targeted by Israeli military forces; alleged weapons factory attacked

By Richard Walker

Israel’s bombing of weapons factories in Sudan in eastern Africa may have been a dry run for its planes to attack Iran, possibly after the forthcoming United States presidential election.

Within hours of four bombers entering Sudan airspace on October 23, 2012, few experts, including the Sudanese government and military, were in any doubt the aggressor was Israel. Prior to the attack, sophisticated jamming techniques were used to blind Sudan’s radar capabilities both in the capital, Khartoum, and at the well-known Yarmouk facility of about 60 factories, not far from the capital. The facility was badly damaged after a series of large explosions and fires.

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For years, it has been no secret Yarmouk has been a site for assembling Chinese weapons parts though Israel has alleged it was also building Iranian missiles and was being run by Iran’s Republican Guard. The Israelis also accused Sudan of supplying Hamas with weapons made at Yarmouk. Sudan’s response was that—like most nations including Israel—it was entitled to manufacture and sell weapons. In fact, Israel is one of the world’s leading arms manufacturers.

It is not the first time Israel has attacked Sudan. Israeli jets hit Sudanese weapons convoys in 2009 and 2011. After the latest strike, however, Israel refused to comment, but nations in the region were certain it was the culprit. That view was reinforced by statements from Israeli intelligence sources to media outlets and from an examination of remnants of the bombs dropped on Yarmouk.

The bombing can be evaluated in the context of the debate about whether Israeli aircraft could make the long journey to attack Iran and return home. That debate seems to have been answered. The Yarmouk complex is approximately 1,200 miles from Tel Aviv whereas Iran’s nuclear facilities, especially the best known one at Nantanz, are closer to 1,000 miles.

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Of course, attacking Iran and coming away unscathed would present greater challenges. Not only would more aircraft be required, they would face a hardened air defense system, thousands of surface to air missiles and Iran’s ability to scramble fighter jets and strike back. The other problem Israel would face militarily is that Iran’s more important nuclear facilities may be too deep underground to be wiped out. It is believed Israel would, however, use an attack on Iran to launch cruise missiles to hit other targets, including political elites and Revolutionary Guard headquarters. All of that presupposes Iran would be sitting back doing nothing. Iran has its own missiles capable of reaching Israel.

Sudan intends to refer the Yarmouk bombing to the United Nations Security Council, charging it was an act of aggression that violated its sovereignty. That will not trouble Israel. After all, since 1948, there have been 339 UN resolutions condemning Israeli aggression.

Sudan has every right to be angry about outsider attacks. One of the most controversial was in 1998. President Bill Clinton, on the basis of bogus intelligence from Israel and Sudanese opposition groups, ordered a cruise missile strike against a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, claiming it was a front for manufacturing chemical weapons.

Clinton did not consult four members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before issuing the order for what he later told the nation was an attack on a “terror” facility. Destroying the factory only hampered the production of medicines for Africa. 

Richard Walker is the pen name of a former N.Y. news producer.