An Israeli defense strategy report for 2009 has tasked the military with making preliminary preparations for launching a war against Iran.
An annual defense work plan presented to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi for the year 2009 describes Iran as "the No.1 threat the IDF is now preparing for."
Citing Iran as "a threat to Israel's existence," the report tasks the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) with reinforcing its strategic aerial capabilities, while zooming in on the development of "remote-piloted vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles", as well as "infrastructural investments in intelligence and communications devices."
The IDF has also been required to enhance the ground forces' readiness by increasing the level of training for the army and reserve troops.
The work plan also reveals an approximate $370 million budget deficit for the Israeli army and adds that the funds required to address the change in military priorities will be provided via various government bureaus.
The report comes in support of long-standing talks running hot and cold about an Israeli military strike on Iran.
Israel, the sole possessor of a nuclear warhead in the Middle East, has long claimed that Iran, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory, will have enough fissile material to become a nuclear power by the end of 2009.
Under the allegation, Israeli officials argue that a military attack is a legitimate option for taking out Iran's nuclear infrastructure.
Iran's nuclear program has been a cause for concern in the West, despite confirmations by the UN nuclear watchdog that there is no link between the use of nuclear material and the "alleged studies" of weaponization attributed to Iran by certain Western countries.
Following the "fresh approach" of US President Barack Obama in dealing with Iran's nuclear case, the Israeli government has been watching with great attention as the new US administration works to "diplomatically" engage Tehran.
The new US policy regarding Iran has surprised Israeli circles as they have long sought a green light from the United States to launch an attack on Iran.
Earlier in January The Times reported that the Israeli government had asked for bunker-busting bombs from former president George W. Bush, and demanded refueling and overflight rights over Iraq to take out Iran's main nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz.
The former president, however, deflected the secret Israeli request and revealed that -- as an alternative -- new covert actions aimed at sabotaging Iran's nuclear program had been authorized.
Amid wild speculation about an imminent military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, the country's Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar set off for Russia on Monday to discuss bilateral military ties.
Russia's S-300 missile system
The Iranian minister's visit to Russia is considered bad
news for Israeli officials who have frequently expressed grave concern about the
sale of a controversial air-defense system -- the sophisticated anti-aircraft
S-300 missile -- by Russia to Iran.
Along with Israel, Western countries have criticized Russia's military cooperation with Iran, saying that such associations have sabotaged efforts to retard the Iranian nuclear progress.
According to intelligence officials familiar with the defense capabilities of the S-300, the missile system would effectively rule out the possibility of an Israeli war against Iran.
"If Tehran obtained the S-300, it would be a game-changer in military thinking for tackling Iran," says long-time Pentagon advisor Dan Goure.
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