by Ellis Shuman / Israel Insider –
ISRAEL (October 12, 2003) — The German weekly Der Spiegel reported Saturday that the Mossad has marked six Iranian nuclear facilities as targets for an Israeli Air Force pre-emptive strike. An unnamed IAF pilot told the weekly that such a mission would be “complex, but feasible.” The Los Angeles Times reported that Israel has modified US-made Harpoon cruise missiles so it can launch nuclear warheads from submarines.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered Mossad chief Meir Dagani to devote “utmost efforts” to gather information about Iran’s growing nuclear capabilities, Maariv reported today. According to Maariv, Sharon told associates that “Iran is the greatest danger to Israel” and that he was coordinating intelligence gathering efforts with the United States “down to the last detail.”
Last week, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told senior IDF commanders that Iran’s nuclear efforts constitute “the gravest danger to Israel’s existence in the future. This is because Iran calls for Israel’s annihilation. We must do out our utmost, under U.S. guidance, to delay or eliminate the prospect of the extremist regime [in Tehran] securing weapons of this sort.”
Mossad Plan Calls for Attack in Summer 2004
According to Der Spiegel, a special unit of the Mossad received an order two months ago to prepare a detailed plan to destroy Iran’s nuclear sites. The Mossad believes Iran has reached an advanced stage in its nuclear program and is capable of producing enriched uranium, a vital ingredient of nuclear bombs. The report said that three of Iran’s nuclear sites were totally unknown to the outside world.
The Mossad’s plan is now ready and has been delivered to the Israeli Air Force, which will carry out the strike, Der Spiegel said. The simultaneous air strike on six Iranian nuclear facilities would be carried out by IAF F-16 fighter jets. The paper quoted an unnamed IAF pilot who said the operation, which would be far more complicated than Israel’s strike at Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981, would be “complex, but feasible.”
“We think that next summer, if Iran is not stopped, it will reach self-sufficiency and this is the point of no return. After this self-capability, it will take them some two years to make a nuclear bomb,” IDF OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze’evi (Farkash) announced on Channel One television in August.
The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued an ultimatum to Iran that by October 31 it would have to open all of its nuclear facilities for IAEA inspection. Media analysts suggested that the leak of the Der Spiegel report was intended to pressure Iran into complying with the international agency.
Unnamed American officials were quoted by Army Radio as saying that the United States had no plans to launch an attack against Iran at this stage, but it was impossible to know what the “crazy” Israelis would do.
Nuclear Missiles on Israeli Submarines
Meanwhile, US and Israeli officials say Israel has modified US-made Harpoon cruise missiles so it can launch nuclear warheads from submarines, the Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday.
“The previously undisclosed submarine capability bolsters Israel’s deterrence in the event that Iran develops nuclear weapons,” the report said. But, the newspaper added, “It also complicates efforts by the United States and the United Nations to persuade Iran to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program.”
The deployment of the modified Harpoon cruise missiles completes Israel’s nuclear program, the Los Angeles Times said. Israel has the capability of launching nuclear missiles from the land, air and sea, the report claimed.
Israeli military spokesmen refused to comment on the report, in line with the country’s policy of refusing to say if it has nuclear weapons.
MK Ephraim Sneh (Labor) told Army Radio that publication of the reports harm Israel, divert international attention from Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear capabilities, and are “incorrect.” Sneh said, “Anyone who knows the Harpoon missile realizes it could never carry a nuclear warhead.”