Uzi Mahnaimi, and Sarah Baxter / The Sunday Times – 2007-01-06 23:12:01
Revealed: Israel Plans Nuclear Strike on Iran
Uzi Mahnaimi, and Sarah Baxter / The Sunday Times
WASHINGTON (January 7, 2007) — ISRAEL has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities 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.
ry 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.
Israeli and American officials have met several times to consider military action. Military analysts said the disclosure of the plans could be intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, cajole America into action or soften up world opinion in advance of an Israeli attack.
Some analysts warned that Iranian retaliation for such a strike could range from disruption of oil supplies to the West to terrorist attacks against Jewish targets around the world.
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 Israeli government has warned repeatedly that it will never allow nuclear weapons to be made in Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has declared that “Israel must be wiped off the map”.
Robert Gates, the new US defence secretary, has described military action against Iran as a “last resort”, leading Israeli officials to conclude that it will be left to them to strike.
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.”
Iran Reformists Slam Government’s Nuclear Policy
Alireza Ronaghi / Reuters
TEHRAN (January 7, 2007) — Iranian reformist parliamentarians on Saturday blamed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government for failing to prevent United Nations sanctions.
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on December 23 to impose sanctions on Iran’s trade in sensitive nuclear materials and technology in an attempt to stop uranium enrichment work that could produce material that could be used in bombs.
Iran says it wants nuclear power to generate electricity.
Reformist former President Mohammad Khatami suspended Iran’s nuclear work for more than two years in an effort to build confidence and avoid confrontation with the West, but resumed uranium enrichment in February last year.
“The only way to pass the crisis is to build confidence … but a holding Holocaust conference and financing the Hamas government creates mistrust and tension,” Noureddin Pirmoazzen, the spokesman of parliament’s reformist faction, told Reuters.
Ahmadinejad’s government hosted a conference in Tehran in December, where participants questioned the Holocaust. It also granted $250 million in aid to the Palestinian Hamas government after Western donors withheld funds.
After two election landslides that brought Khatami to office in 1997 and 2001, Iran’s reformers suffered a series on poll setbacks with voters disillusioned at their inability to carry out their policies due to conservative opposition.
The culmination of the reformers’ defeats came in 2005 when voters elected the hardline Ahmadinejad who promised to use Iran’s large oil revenues to help the poor.
But the reformers made a strong showing at local council elections in December, with many voters worried about Iran’s increasing diplomatic isolation and economic problems.
Pirmoazzen said that two U.N. resolutions against Iran in the first 18 months of the government’s term in office showed the foreign ministry was incapable of looking after Iran’s national interests.
“We hope to witness a return to the manner of Khatami’s government and see the crisis is solved in the next 60 days, or else we will have no alternative but to impeach Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki,” Pirmoazzen said.
Any request to impeach a minister needs to be signed by at least 10 lawmakers. Pirmoazzen said that even without the support of majority conservative deputies, the 42-member reformist faction had enough votes to call an impeachment debate. But the impeachment motion would be unlikely to succeed.
In a separate bid, reformist lawmakers also want Ahmadinejad to come to parliament to answer questions on his government’s domestic and foreign policies. But there was little chance of the motion succeeding as it would need 72 lawmakers to sign it.
“Although some 150 lawmakers may have questions from Ahmadinejad, it does not mean that the same number of signatures can be collected to support the plan,” Akbar Alami, the lawmaker who has launched the plan, told Reuters.
Alami declined to elaborate on what the questions he would like to ask the president, but said they included matters of foreign policy.
“We have tried to bring up those questions in several ways but have received no convincing answers yet,” Alami said, “We are waiting for appropriate timely conditions to bring up the questions,” he said.
Ahmadinejad has called the Security Council’s resolution a “piece of scrap paper” and has vowed to press ahead with Iran’s peaceful nuclear program, which the West fears may be a covert plan to make atomic weapons.
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