Oct. 25, 2012 -- Two big questions have emerged in the aftermath of a mysterious explosion at a weapons factory in Sudan: Was the factory the target of an Israeli air strike? And, if so, could the attack be seen as a demonstration of the same capabilities Israel may one day use to strike Iran's nuclear facilities?
As to the first question, Israel has been blamed by top Sudanese and Iranian officials of carrying out Tuesday night's bombing of the Yarmouk factory just south of the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. They say witnesses claim they saw four Israeli planes come in from the east. For their part, Israeli military officials have done little today to squelch the rumors.
The second question emerges when one compares the distances from Israel to the Sudanese facility and the distance from Israel to potential Iranian nuclear targets. Top Israeli officials and America's President Obama have said that no option is off the table, including the use of military force, to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, should it become clear that's the goal of their nuclear program.
From the southern tip of Israel to Khartoum is just under 1,000 miles – almost exactly the distance from Israel to Tehran, Iran.
So if Israel was behind the Sudan strike, did such a long-distance attack prove Israel could unilaterally pull similar move on Iran? Hardly.
First, unlike Iran, Sudan has little air defense capability to speak of and its own fighters do not fly at night. A night time strike on a relatively undefended target is not a difficult operation for any first tier military power.
Second, if the explosion in Sudan was the work of the Israelis, the operation apparently only required four planes to hit a single target. Should Israel launch a strike against Iran's nuclear program, it would likely require hitting several sites around the same time by dozens of Israeli aircraft – each of which would be a potential target for Iran's alert air defenses and indigenous air force.
And if Israel took anything but a route over the Red Sea to Iran, they would have to fly over several countries with far more sophisticated air defense capabilities. The element of surprise would be much harder to maintain.
Iran would be a truly Varsity operation, as opposed to this alleged Sudan strike, which might be considered JV at best.
Col. Steve Ganyard (Ret.) is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Plans, Programs and Operations in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, a former Marine Corps fighter pilot, and is now an ABC News consultant.