Israeli-made weapons used by U.S. risky for Jewish state

TEL AVIV — In addition to the profit, being in the world's technological vanguard can also yield danger.

According to senior Israeli military officers, the threat to Israel ratcheted up a few levels Sunday when Iraq's foreign minister, Nadji Sabri, declared that "Israel is taking part in this aggression against Iraq. It's sending missiles. We found a missile, an Israeli missile, in Baghdad."

Sabri offered no proof to back up the allegation, but media have broadcast pictures of missile fragments printed with the words "Made in Jerusalem."

The development raised anxiety levels in the Israel Defense Force that had been lowered since U.S. forces seized airfields in western Iraq in the early days of the war, minimizing the chance that Iraq would be able to fire missiles into Israel.

"Israel is now fully in the center of this war picture," said one military source.

For all Saddam Hussein's posturing, the Israeli intelligence community views him as a man of his word and a rational actor.

When Saddam vowed to attack Israel before the 1991 Persian Gulf War, intelligence officials believed him — and he followed through.

When he seemed to omit Israel from bellicose speeches this winter, Israel reacted by predicting a "very, very low probability of an Iraqi attack."

With American missiles wrecking buildings in Baghdad with the frequency and regularity of a metronome, it is likely that Iraq will dig out many more Israeli parts from the debris. Israel is, after all, the world's third largest exporter of arms, earning $3.5 billion a year in arms sales, according to Jane's Defense Weekly.

What's more, Israeli technology is spread throughout the American army. Israeli high-tech material purchased by America ranges from Popeye air-to-surface missiles to Hunter and Pioneer unmanned drones, to computer systems on Bradley mechanized vehicles.

Israeli defense officials cringed this week when Joel Johnson, a spokesman for the Aerospace Industries Association, a Washington-based industry lobby, proclaimed last week that "we'll be shooting down some" French-built "Mirage 3s, I think, if the Iraqis ever come up. We may shoot them with an Israeli missile, from a U.S. warplane."

Officials at Israel Military Industries and Israel Aircraft Industries are proud that the United States chooses Israeli components, but they are wary of explicit mention of their use in Iraq.

"All we know is that the Hunter and Pioneer" unmanned aerial vehicles "were co-developed with and now utilized by the American Army," one cautious IAI official said on condition of anonymity.

Israel is trying to keep a low profile in the current conflict, according to reserve Col. Shimon Byorski, former chief of the Iraq department at military intelligence.

Tying Israel to the U.S. campaign on Iraq "gives Iraq options in case Saddam wishes to change his strategy in the future and attack Israel," Byorski said. In that case, Saddam might try to describe such aggression as retribution for "Israeli missiles fired at Iraq."

It's unfortunate that Israel's technology is being used as "propaganda against the West," Byorski said. "But as we have seen, it can prove useful to use the Israel card against the West.''