One reason Israel did not retaliate against Iraq after Scud missiles were fired into Tel Aviv is because the Israeli military lacked crucial electronic codes to prevent an accidental attack by allied planes, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
The Times quoted government sources as saying the Bush administration did not provide the codes, indicating the White House used more than diplomacy and promises of military equipment to keep Israel out of the Persian Gulf war.The codes in question - known as Identification Friend or Foe, or IFF, codes - are crucial to Israel in ensuring that its fighters are not mistaken as enemy aircraft by U.S. or allied planes while in enemy airspace.
Before hostilities erupted in the Middle East, Israeli pilots were on alert and ready to launch retaliatory strikes if Israel were attacked. However, once the Scud missiles hit Tel Aviv early Friday, the lack of codes hampered deployment of Israeli aircraft, the Times said.
"It wasn't so much that we refused to give them" the IFF codes, a U.S. military official told the Times. "It was not used as pressure. We made it clear that we have enough problems in the theater coordinating aircraft from the coalition, and that we didn't need others."
The United States has urged Israel not to retaliate for the missile attacks and praised its restraint so far.
Ruth Yaron, a spokeswoman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, would not acknowledge that Israel had requested the codes.
The United States is continuing to withhold the codes, according to the newspaper. But U.S. officials have agreed to clear an air corridor for a possible retaliatory raid by Israel in the event of further, more severe Scud missile attacks.