Israel Planning Nuclear Strike on Iran?
Israel is planning to strike Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with bunker buster nukes, Uzi Mahnaimi and Sarah Baxter report in the Sunday Times of London. They cite “several Israeli military sources” who say two Israeli air force squadrons are currently training for the mission.
The specifics of the purported plan:
Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open “tunnels” into the targets. “Mini-nukes” would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout. “As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished,” said one of the sources.
The plans, disclosed to The Sunday Times last week, have been prompted in part by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad’s assessment that Iran is on the verge of producing enough enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons within two years.
Israeli military commanders believe conventional strikes may no longer be enough to annihilate increasingly well-defended enrichment facilities. Several have been built beneath at least 70ft of concrete and rock. However, the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene, senior sources said.
Israel has identified three prime targets south of Tehran which are believed to be involved in Iran’s nuclear programme:
- Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges are being installed for uranium enrichment
- A uranium conversion facility near Isfahan where, according to a statement by an Iranian vice-president last week, 250 tons of gas for the enrichment process have been stored in tunnels
- A heavy water reactor at Arak, which may in future produce enough plutonium for a bomb
Israeli officials believe that destroying all three sites would delay Iran’s nuclear programme indefinitely and prevent them from having to live in fear of a “second Holocaust”.
The fallout, both literal and political, could be significant.
Scientists have calculated that although contamination from the bunker-busters could be limited, tons of radioactive uranium compounds would be released.
The Israelis believe that Iran’s retaliation would be constrained by fear of a second strike if it were to launch its Shehab-3 ballistic missiles at Israel. However, American experts warned of repercussions, including widespread protests that could destabilise parts of the Islamic world friendly to the West. Colonel Sam Gardiner, a Pentagon adviser, said Iran could try to close the Strait of Hormuz, the route for 20% of the world’s oil.
Thursday’s announcement that Admiral Bill Fallon was going to take command of CENTCOM while it was fighting two ground wars had many of us scratching our heads. Pat Lang and others suggested that a naval strike against Iran, on the other hand, would be one plausible explanation. Ralph Peters agrees.
While Congress obsesses on Iraq and Iraq alone, the administration’s thinking about the future. And it looks as if the White House is preparing options to mitigate a failure in Iraq and contain Iran. Bush continues to have a much-underrated strategic vision – the administration’s consistent problems have been in the abysmal execution of its policies, not in the over-arching purpose.
While eliminating Iran’s nuclear program would be a boon to humanity, I fear a military strike–let alone one with the added taboo of a nuclear first strike–would have catastrophic consequences. Given that any action by Israel would be viewed regionally as a proxy strike by the United States, whether or not it was done with tacit approval from the Bush administration, it would almost certainly create a ripple effect throughout the Arab world and lead to more terrorist strikes. Indeed, the repercussions would likely exceed those of successful Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons.
It should be noted that we have seen similar reports, including from the Times, over the last couple of years. The level of detail in this one, though, makes me take it seriously.
Interestingly, the early blogospheric reaction on both sides of the aisle is almost uniformly negative or skeptical of the report. I’m not seeing much cheerleading for nuking Iran’s nukes, even among people who usually have a militarist view of foreign policy. See: Jonah Goldberg, Kim Priestap, Michael Stickings, Larisa Alexandrovna, Cenk Uygur, Joe Gandelman, AllahPundit, John Hinderaker, Jay Stevenson, Gaius, John Donovan, Jill, John Little
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