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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Obama sold Israel bunker busters

In an exclusive story to be published in Newsweek on Monday, Eli Lake reports that the Obama administration sold bunker buster bombs to Israel in 2009 (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
While publicly pressuring Israel to make deeper concessions to the Palestinians, President Obama has secretly authorized significant new aid to the Israeli military that includes the sale of 55 deep-penetrating bombs known as bunker busters, Newsweek has learned.

In an exclusive story to be published Monday on growing military cooperation between the two allies, U.S. and Israeli officials tell Newsweek that the GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrators—potentially useful in any future military strike against Iranian nuclear sites—were delivered to Israel in 2009, just several months after Obama took office.

The military sale was arranged behind the scenes as Obama’s demands for Israel to stop building settlements in disputed territories were fraying political relations between the two countries in public.
But Lake himself admits that the bombs were actually promised to Israel by the Bush administration.
The Israelis first requested the bunker busters in 2005, only to be rebuffed by the Bush administration. At the time, the Pentagon had frozen almost all U.S.-Israeli joint defense projects out of concern that Israel was transferring advanced military technology to China.

In 2007, Bush informed Ehud Olmert, then prime minister, that he would order the bunker busters for delivery in 2009 or 2010. The Israelis wanted them in 2007. Obama finally released the weapons in 2009, according to officials familiar with the still-secret decision.

James Cartwright, the Marine Corps general who served until August as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Newsweek the military chiefs had no objections to the sale. Rather, Cartwright said, there was a concern about “how the Iranians would perceive it,” and “how the Israelis might perceive it.” In other words, would the sale be seen as a green light for Israel to attack Iran’s secret nuclear sites one day?
So it sounds like the Bush administration actually ordered that the bombs be supplied and what Obama did was not to stop that supply. And that is exactly what I reported in May 2010 based on reports in Globes (Israel's business daily) and DEBKA.
The Pentagon approved the delivery of 100 GBU-28s in 2005, after years of hesitation. It notified Congress of the delivery of 50 more bombs in 2007. US and Israeli sources told "Defense News" that the IAF has not yet procured all the bombs approved of both types, nor has it used them in reprisal air strikes, in order to keep them ready for possible use against Iranian nuclear sites.
Moreover, in November 2010, I reported that the IAF had taken delivery of GBU-39's, a lighter version of the bunker busters to be used with Israel's F-15I jets. They're also discussed at the previous link.

So is this a big deal? My guess is that the Obama administration wanted this report released now to help in its efforts to mend ties with the Jewish community. But the truth is that it's not a big deal.

Selling these weapons to Israel doesn't do much good if Israel can't use them because of diplomatic constraints, which is why the diplomatic pressure that the Obama administration has put on Israel (which it chooses to ignore every time it talks about American military cooperation with Israel) does much more damage than military assistance helps. These arms are meant to keep the Israelis from getting nervous about Iran, but, ironically, the only way Israel can restore its deterrence against Iran is to use them.

So no, this is not a big deal. But Eli Lake is a nice guy and I hope he gets a lot of hits for this story.

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At 2:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember back in 2005 when Congress eliminated funding for the nuclear bunker buster, Bush made a deal to send 10 BB's to Israel. I hope Israel not only got those weapons, but has gone on to create the nuclear version that the U.S. Congress didn't have the guts to do.

At 2:31 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

Do you remember... was it at the beginning of Obama's administration, when they diverted a delivery of something (can't remember what) to Diego Garcia or something? Never saw more about that. I wonder what that was. And, if the good stuff did ultimately get delivered, then maybe Obama lost that round in his quest to "transform" the world.


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