Greece assists Israel as war with Iran looms

world | Jul 14, 2008 | By Edwin Black

Greece has quietly assisted the Israeli Air Force in a previously unreported fashion as the dreaded decision of a possible Israeli preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities draws closer, this reporter has learned.

A pivotal factor in Israel’s military strategy against Iran’s nuclear installations is the recent delivery to Iran of Russia’s potent S-300 Russian ground-to-air radar systems. Considered one of world’s most versatile radar-missile systems, Russia’s S-300 batteries can simultaneous track hundreds of semi-stealth cruise missiles, long range missiles and aircraft, including airborne monitoring jets.

As many as ten intruders can be simultaneously engaged by the S-300’s mobile interceptor missile batteries, military sources say. As such, the S-300 is a major threat to the long-range weapons in the Israeli arsenal.

These include Israel’s long-range 1,500 km. nuclear-capable Jericho IIB missiles; unmanned missile-equipped long-range drones; Israel’s F-16s, F-15Es; long range heavy-payload F151s and F161s; and even its three new Gulfstream G550 business jets boasting a range of 6,750 nautical miles, newly outfitted with nuclear-tracking electronics and designed to loiter over or near Iranian skies for hours. The S-300 can compromise everything Israel has.

But Greece has the same Russian S-300 system.

Originally purchased by Cyprus in 1998, the Cypriot installation provoked a storm of protracted protests by Turkey because the system would make vulnerable all Turkish air movements. To resolve tensions and prevent a Turkish preemptive attack on the installations, the S-300 by international agreement was moved to Crete for safekeeping, and eventually joint-Cypriot-Greek control based on the 1993 mutual defense pact between Cyprus and Greece. On December 20, 2007, the move and installation of the S-300 was quietly completed.

In the last days of May and first week of June, 2008, Israel staged an impressive and well-reported exercise over Crete with the participation of the Greek air force. More than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighter jets, as well as Israeli rescue helicopters and mid-air refueling planes flew a massive number of mock strikes. Israeli planes reportedly never landed but were continuously refueled from airborne platforms. Israel demonstrated that a 1400 km distance could be negotiated with Israeli aircraft remaining aloft and effective. Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility is 1400 km from Israel.

While the Israeli-Greek air tactics were amply reported in the world’s media after initial reports in the New York Times, the pivotal information from Greece’s S-300 batteries has remained below the radar. By swarming its jets into the S-300’s massive electronics, Israel was able to record invaluable information about defeating, jamming and circumventing the Russian system.

Israel dubbed its exercise “Glorious Spartan.” It is recalled that 300 glorious Spartans went down in history by forestalling the massive Persian army at a tiny land passage at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. The tiny Jewish State is now contemplating whether it must act unilaterally to forestall Iran’s nuclear threat.

Iranian officials complained bitterly to Athens after the exercise, but were told by Greek officials that their Russian-made radar-missile batteries were “turned off” during the exercise, according to Greek, Russian and Iranian sources. Those sources expressed incredulity that Greece would “turn off” its critical radar installations and air defense during such an exercise. Shortly after that exercise, Iran began signaling to European diplomats that Tehran might be willing to negotiate in earnest.

Iran’s S-300s are more updated than the Greek installation. Russian sources speculated that as many as five batteries were recently delivered to Iran, these having been pulled from active Russia defense units. The transaction is thought to be

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