The Israeli Air Force is ready to attack Iran's suspected nuclear weapons project if diplomacy fails to persuade the Islamic Republic to halt uranium enrichment, said Commander Ido Nehushtan in an interview published Tuesday.
The news comes as the U.N. watchdog agency reports Iran is probably at the point of being capable of making a nuclear bomb.
"We are prepared and ready to do whatever Israel needs us to do and if this is the mission we're given then we are ready," Nehushtan told German magazine Der Spiegel.
A strike against Iran's nuclear facilities "is a political decision," the IAF commander said, "but if I understand it correctly, all options are on the table ... The Air Force is a very robust and flexible force. We are ready to do whatever is demanded of us."
Asked if the Israeli military would be able to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, which are spread around the country, with some built underground, Nehushtan said, "Please understand that I do not want to get into details. I can only say this: It is not a technical or logistical question."
While Israel has fought all its immediate Arab neighbors, its pilots have had limited capabilities to carry out missions as far away as Iran. A strike on Iraq's sole nuclear reactor in 1981 was an extraordinary exception at the time but analysts say the F-16I has made long-distance strikes more possible.
"Air power has been a major player in every war we've fought since 1948," Colonel Amon, who in line with Israeli military rules did not give his surname, told Reuters during the unusual opening of the Ramon desert base to the foreign media.
"This is the most capable aircraft in the Middle East," said Captain Grisha, a fighter pilot in his early 20s.
The Jewish state, widely believed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, has said it will not tolerate an Iranian nuclear bomb and has refused to rule out a military option.
Speculation of a U.S.-approved Israeli strike on Iran, fueled by an Israeli attack in Syria last year and by reports of long-range bombing exercises this summer, has faded as the Bush administration prepares to hand over power to President-elect Barack Obama.
Iran, which has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction, said on Tuesday it aimed to commission its first nuclear power plant in 2009. Tehran insists the program has only civilian aims.