But there’s more than innuendo. On October 24, Israel and the United States held a large joint military exercise, known as Austere Challenge 2012, in which 3,500 U.S. troops took part. Austere Challenge involved the deployment of sophisticated US missile defense systems in Israel, but no aircraft, according to the US Department of Defense. Yet, just hours before the exercise began, four jets — widely believed to be Israeli — reportedly bombed a weapons depot tied to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.
It is also important to note that Yarmouk has been a target of interest for both the United States and Israel for some time. A leaked 2006 State Department cable notes that the plant had the “potential to make a material contribution to missile, WMD, or certain other weapons programs.” Later that year, State also flagged it on its federal registry as an entity of proliferation concern. As early as 1998, Human Rights Watch also noted its concern that Yarmouk “stored chemical weapons for Iraq.”
One American defense official familiar with U.S. operations in North Africa believes there is a distinct possibility “the Israelis did this with the American military right there, without telling them.” My colleague Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA operative, agrees. He adds, “it’s a possible foretaste of what would happen by June against [nuclear installations in] Iran. The Israelis will not ask for U.S. permission to carry out a raid against Iran.” However, Major Robert Firman, a public affairs officer at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, told me that the U.S. military had “no foreknowledge” and provided “no assistance” in the reported attack on Sudan.