TORONTO — You can count Oded Erez among the former Israeli military intelligence officers who don’t think their country should attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
It’s not that Iran has suddenly become a peace-loving neigbour, wishing nothing but goodwill for the Jewish state. It’s just that he believes the job is better left to the United States.
“Israel won’t do that dirty job. If a decision is made to do an attack, the Americans are better [positioned] to get better results on a first attack” with its air power and cruise missiles. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has over the last two years successfully made the case that Iran is not strictly an Israeli problem, it’s a concern for the entire world, Erez said.
Whether the United States will, in fact, takes military action draws a shrug from the former head of Israeli Air Force intelligence. That’s an open question, he suggests, but nevertheless, he believes Israel can live with a nuclear Iran.
Erez, now retired from the IDF, was in Toronto recently to speak to a small gathering assembled by CAASI, the Canadian Association for Aviation and Space in Israel. Like others in the Israeli military, he continued his career in the business world, serving on the board of Imagesat International and Palram Industries. He’s currently a board member of the Israeli Air Force Association and of the Fisher Institute of Air and Space Strategic Studies.
In an interview with The CJN, Erez said predicting Iran’s actions “depends how you see Ahmadinejad as a leader. Is he crazy, or is there certain logic there?
“I think he’s logical in his own way and knows if he’ll start something with Israel, he’ll be repaid. And he doesn’t want to be repaid.”
Erez believes Ahmadinejad wants to make Iran more important, more powerful – a regional hegemon. “And he’s showing off as the big player. ‘You want to tell me what to do? I’ll tell you what to do.’ That’s his thinking,” Erez said.
Erez said the Saudis should be more worried than Israel about Iranian ambitions.
Turning to the area of his technical expertise, unmanned drones and satellites, Erez said both technologies have made surveillance a much safer activity.
In his early years in the Israeli Air Force, Erez flew surveillance aircraft, and in 1964, during a flight over Syrian territory, he discovered, by accident, an unknown air base.
Satellite technology made gathering such intelligence much safer, especially after the Soviet Union developed anti-aircraft missiles – the kind that shot down American U2 pilot Gary Powers.
Satellites also provide information in real time. Israel now has seven or eight satellites in orbit, most of them operated by the military, gathering images as they traverse the planet.
Imagesat, on the other hand, is a private corporation that sells images taken by its satellites to clients around the world. Many clients want the information contained in satellite images, but few can afford to actually launch and maintain one, he said.
Drones likewise can provide photographic imagery of sites, and the technology that goes into them has grown by leaps and bounds from the device’s early years.
Erez, who began his involvement with UAVs (unmanned air vehicles) in 1970 and served as a unit commander and later as base commander of a drone unit, said Israel has been a leader in developing drones. It long ago adopted the philosophy that “even if the mission fails, you don’t lose prisoners of war or leave widows behind,” he said.
Drones are harder for enemies to locate, due to the composite, radar-evading materials that go into them. They’re also quieter than other military aircraft, and their range is impressive. The United States recently tested one that flew non-stop from Los Angeles to Australia, a 36-hour flight in the air, he said.
With the introduction of GPS into drones, “You can make the bird fly precisely, like clockwork,” he said
Israel markets its drones to clients such as India and Azerbaijan.
But, “in the defence business, you never sell your most up-to-date stuff,” he said.