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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Israel to strike Iranian nukes?

Greetings from Londonistan (where I've only seen one niqab so far, but have not spent that much time in the City yet), where the Sunday Times is reporting once again that Israel really is planning a strike at Iran's nuclear facilities; this time with 'tactical nuclear weapons':
Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.

The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb.

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”.
Curiously missing from this list is the Bushehr plant being built by the Russians. I wonder if that's because they're trying to keep from ticking off the Russians or because they don't regard that plant as a serious threat.
Israeli pilots have flown to Gibraltar in recent weeks to train for the 2,000-mile round trip to the Iranian targets. Three possible routes have been mapped out, including one over Turkey.

Air force squadrons based at Hatzerim in the Negev desert and Tel Nof, south of Tel Aviv, have trained to use Israel’s tactical nuclear weapons on the mission. The preparations have been overseen by Major General Eliezer Shkedi, commander of the Israeli air force.

Sources close to the Pentagon said the United States was highly unlikely to give approval for tactical nuclear weapons to be used. One source said Israel would have to seek approval “after the event”, as it did when it crippled Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak with airstrikes in 1981.

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.

Some sources in Washington said they doubted if Israel would have the nerve to attack Iran. However, Dr Ephraim Sneh, the deputy Israeli defence minister, said last month: “The time is approaching when Israel and the international community will have to decide whether to take military action against Iran.”
If we had a real Prime Minister in power, I would feel a lot better about this.

The Times is also reporting that the Ishfahan and Arak facilities will be hit by conventional bombs and not by 'tactical nukes.' The Ishfahan facility is next to a city having a population of 4.5 million people human shields.
"There are 24 strong batteries around Natanz, making it one of the most protected sites on earth,” said an Israeli military source. Its centrifuge halls, where the uranium is enriched, are heavily protected at least 70ft underground.


“If the nuclear device explodes deep underground there will be no radioactive fallout,” said Dr Ephraim Asculai of the Tel Aviv Institute for Strategic Studies, who worked for the Israel Atomic Energy Commission for more than 40 years.

Professor Peter Zimmerman, a nuclear physicist at King’s College, London, was less sure. “The definition of low-yield nuclear weapons is not easy,” he said. “I assume that it includes any device which is less than 5 kilotons. If such a bunker-buster missile is exploded at 70ft below ground” — thought to be the minimum depth of the hidden centrifuges in Natanz — “some radioactive fallout is expected.”


In these circumstances, sabre-rattling by the Israelis has its uses. Whether or not Israel intends to go nuclear, it might be in its interest to spread the word that it will. “In the cold war, we made it clear to the Russians that it was a virtual certainty that nukes would fly and fly early,” said an American defence source. “Israel may be adopting the same tactics: ‘You produce a weapon; you die’.”

Michael Rubin, an expert on Iran at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, believes it could be a dangerous ruse. “You never want to threaten something you don’t follow through on,” he said.

Rubin believes the Israeli debate about using tactical nuclear weapons is “much more likely to be about pressing the United States to do the job”.


Retired Colonel Sam Gardiner, a former National War College professor who has wargamed airstrikes on Iran, believes an American attack remains a possibility. The current deployment of a second US aircraft carrier strike force to the Gulf region, as well as British minesweepers, is a “huge deal”, he said. “It is only necessary to do that if you are planning to strike Iran and deal with the consequences” — including an attempt to shut the Strait of Hormuz, the sea route for much of the world’s oil from the Gulf states.


According to a senior British defence official, an Israeli nuclear attack on Iran is simply unthinkable: “The damage to Israel to be the only state to use nuclear weapons in anger since 1945 is dangerous stuff. They cannot be seen to be taking the lead on this.”

Or can they? Ephraim Sneh, Israel’s deputy defence minister, said recently: “At the end of the day it is always down to the Jews to deal with the problem.”

US analysts concur that America would never give its consent for such an operation, but as in the attack on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear plant in 1981, it may not object all that vociferously after the event. Nor is it thought that Sunni powers such as Saudi Arabia or Egypt would mourn the humbling of Shi’ite Iran, their main regional rival.

Are Israel’s plans an elaborate bluff or not? In today’s dangerously volatile world, who will dare to make that call?
Ahmadinadinnerjacket is not pleased:
Iran came out strongly in response to a report on Sunday that Israel planned to attack Teheran's nuclear sites, declaring that any attack would be met with a response and that "anyone who attacks will regret their actions very quickly."

According to Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Muhammad Ali Husseini, the report published in the London-based Sunday Times proved that Israel was in possession of nuclear weapons.


Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On urged Olmert on Sunday to refute the report, which claimed that Israel had drawn up plans to destroy Iran's uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.

"It is impossible that Israel would plan to get caught up in another adventure after [our] experience in Lebanon, and act as the world's sheriff," Israel Radio quoted Gal-On as saying. She added that diplomacy was the only way to solve the problem.
Whiny blithering idiot. (You have to hear her on the radio to understand why I say "whiny." The voice of a woman who can never be happy with herself or anyone around her.

By the way, Israel has refused comment on the Times report.

Time to go looking for niqabs....



At 4:32 PM, Blogger Michael said...

"No comment" is the only appropriate response to an article like that. Everyone on the planet knows that such a strike is Israel's only real option, and even if nothing official is being done, it is almost certain that the IAF is unofficialy looking into it.

But it would still be foolish for Israel to admit what it needs to do. Especially for something like this.

At 10:25 PM, Blogger Neurodoc said...

What is the point of the leak?

To deter Iran? Seems unlikely. To shore up the coalition? To deter talk that there is no Israeli option now?

I admit I am a negative thinker, but the only person that seems really helped by this leak is Ehud Olmert, who now looks slightly less retarded than he did yesterday. Say it ain't so. I sure hope Ehud II did not compromise Israel's security for politics, the way Ariel Sharon did to stay out of jail.

At 11:12 PM, Blogger MKSheppard said...

Why limit your options?

Send your F-15Is with 4.5 tons of fuel and carrying two nuclear devices each dialed up to maximum yield, some 5 megatons, or 750 kilotons, and drop them onto the Iranian sites.

It doesn't matter if you use a 4 kiloton bunker buster or a 750 kiloton device, you'll get reviled equally as much.


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