Iran’s military was so fearful of an Israeli air strike on its nuclear installations in 2007 and 2008 that it mistakenly fired on civilian airliners and once on one of its own military aircraft, according to classified US intelligence reports.
The civilian planes were attacked by surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft batteries and intercepted by Iranian fighters.
”Iranian air defence units have taken inappropriate actions dozens of times, including firing anti-aircraft artillery and scrambling aircraft against unidentified or misidentified targets,” noted a classified Pentagon intelligence report.
It added that the Iran’s military’s communications were so inadequate and training so deficient that ”misidentification of aircraft” would continue.
In September 2007, Israeli aircraft bombed a nuclear reactor under construction in north-east Syria. The following year, Israel conducted a major air exercise over the Mediterranean that appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential attack on Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. In June 2007, the report noted, the Revolutionary Guard fired a missile at a civilian airliner.
In June 2008, soon after the Israeli air exercise, Iranian air defence units fired at two more civilian aircraft.
In one case an Iranian fighter scrambled to intercept an Iraqi Airways flight from Baghdad to Tehran to take a closer look at it. It was not harmed.
Less than two weeks after Israeli planes practised over the Mediterranean, in June 2008, a classified Pentagon report noted, the Iranian air force chief ordered fighters to conduct daily attack training at firing ranges resembling the Israeli city of Haifa and the Israeli nuclear facility at Dimona.
Iraqi officials had their own concerns about a possible Israeli strike.
On July 3, 2008, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki opened a video conference with President George Bush by expressing his fear that Israel might fly over Iraq to attack Iran.
Source: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD