The United States is beefing up missile defenses in Israel amid fears of a conflict with Iran. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.
The U.S. has provided Israel with an advanced radar system to give early warning in the event of an Iranian missile attack. The system has been set up at an air base in the Negev desert in southern Israel. Israeli officials say 120 American military personnel have been deployed at the base to operate the radar.
Their has been growing regional tension over Iran's nuclear program. The West fears that Tehran is developing nuclear weapons, but Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes.
"If I was sitting in Iran I would see this just as a signal that they could very well be involved in a conflict that they do not want," Israeli analyst Gerald Steinberg said.
Steinberg says deployment of the radar shows that the military option remains on the table, despite threats from Iran that it would retaliate by bombarding Israel with long-range missiles.
"The Iranians should see this as a ratcheting up, that Israel and the United States are preparing to do something because they are worried about an Iranian counter attack and preparing to block that as well," Steinberg said.
But Steinberg says Iran will probably not be deterred because the West is not being tough enough. He points to Saturday's U.N. Security Council resolution that reaffirmed previous sanctions on Iran without introducing new ones.
"We are seeing that Israel and the United States are talking about defensive measures, but that is not really sending a strong message to Iran," Steinberg said. "So what do the Iranians say? 'Well, we are getting slapped on the wrist very lightly.'"
Israel says it wants to give diplomacy a chance. But it has warned that if sanctions fail, it would consider a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. In the meantime, Israel is building up its missile defenses just in case.