WASHINGTON — As the situation in the Middle East worsens, high-ranking Israeli officials who were present at a joint Russian-US announcement of cooperation toward a ceasefire held just moments ago in Washington had “no comment” about published reports in Gulf News that the state is planning an imminent 100 plane sortie over Iraq and that some on the ground in Baghdad have been warned to take cover.
Israeli officials were present when secondary Department of State officials, filling in for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, unseen since the 12:23 p.m. Friday bombing of Iran’s nuclear sites by Israeli fighter jets, joined up with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov to announce a number of joint opinions and measures towards ceasefire.
When pressed, officials from Israel would not categorically deny that a 100-plane sortie was either planned, imminent or underway.
A U.S. Deputy Secretary of State at first would not comment on other reports that some people in the international diplomatic corps in Baghdad had been warned to take cover because the U.S. and Iraq planned to team up to fight the long-time U.S. ally Israel as it entered Iraqi airspace, where a no-fly zone has been established for years.
“I don’t think it’s right to say ‘fight’,” said. He would not categorically rule out the possibility of firing at Israeli planes, saying “We have a no-fly zone. It doesn’t matter who enters the airspace.”
The U.S. and Israel have been the strongest of allies since the formation of the Jewish state following World War II, with much of U.S. budget and technology being fed into Israel’s defense from the sometimes hostile neighbors that surround it.
The United States and Iraq have been at war since 2003, beginning with the invasion of the country then-governed by Saddam Hussein on the premise that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, following a stirring speech by then-President George W. Bush at Union Terminal in Cincinnati.