Israeli Military Official on Iran 'All Options Are on the Table'

In order to stop Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb, the Israeli army is preparing itself for a possible military strike on Iran. "We are ready to do whatever is demanded of us," Israeli Air Force Major General Ido Nehushtan tells SPIEGEL in an exclusive interview.

SPIEGEL: What does the Iranian nuclear program mean for the Israeli Air Force?

Nehushtan: The Iranian regime ist not only a problem for the Air Force or the State of Israel. It is a problem for the entire free world. It is shameful that 70 years after the Reichskristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) there are still heads of state who call for the destruction of our people. History teaches us that we have to take those announcements seriously. And we take them very seriously.

A satellite image of the Natanz Uranium Enrichment plant in Iran: The regime in Tehran is a "problem for the entire free world."

A satellite image of the Natanz Uranium Enrichment plant in Iran: The regime in Tehran is a "problem for the entire free world."


SPIEGEL: Will a military strike take place if the international sanctions do not prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb?

Nehushtan: This is a political decision. But if I understand it correctly, all options are on the table.

SPIEGEL: The Israeli Air Force is ready for it?

Nehushtan: The Air Force is a very robust and flexible force. We are ready to do whatever is demanded of us.

SPIEGEL: Iran's nuclear facilities are spread around the country and are partly located underground. Is it even technically possible to destroy them?

Nehushtan: Please understand that I do not want to get into details. I can only say this: It is not a technical or logistical question.

SPIEGEL: Is technology the main advantage that the Israelis have over their enemies?

Nehushtan: Modern technology is one thing, but the biggest advantage we have is our soldiers and officers. Israel is a small country. We neither have a big population nor natural resources. Our biggest asset is our human resources. And it is the Air Force that makes best use of it.

SPIEGEL: What is your biggest challenge in cooperation between the Air Force and those on the ground?

Nehushtan: We have to interlock the various forces more with each other. The Air Force, for example, must better support the ground forces. That is a lesson we learned from the Lebanon War in 2006.

SPIEGEL: In 2006 the Israeli army attacked mainly Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon or south Beirut. Will that change the next time?

Nehushtan: In any case, Hezbollah has been part of the Lebanese government since this spring. It is not a fringe terror organization -- it is supported by the state. Militarily, Hezbollah is stronger than the regular Lebanese army. If they attack us, we might react differently.

SPIEGEL: Dozens of rockets could reach Israeli soil without problem; the same is true for the Qassam rockets being made in the Gaza Strip . Why hasn't Israel developed more effective protection against these weapons?

Nehushtan: Each type of rocket requires a different defense system. Up until today, only the "Arrow" System, is functioning. It can intercept ballistic missiles. In order to defend ourselves against the short-range rockets of Hamas and Hezbollah, we are building the "Iron Dome" system. In response to the threat of medium-range rockets, we are developing a system called "David's Sling". This is all very expensive. It is like an insurance policy: You pay a lot, even if nothing happens. But if something then does happen, then you are satisfied with the investment.

Interview conducted by SPIEGEL Middle East correspondent Christoph Schult.

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