Has Plans For
Nuclear Attack On Iran
By Peter Symonds
09 January, 2007
A report in yesterday’s
Times revealed that the Israeli military has been training
to use tactical nuclear weapons against Iran’s uranium enrichment
plant at Natanz and other nuclear facilities. Based on several Israeli
military sources, the article said two air force squadrons were involved,
with the preparations being overseen by air force commander Major General
Israeli officials were quick
to disparage the report. Foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev “formally
denied” the claim and restated the official stance that Israeli
was committed to a diplomatic solution and supported last month’s
UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran. Top government
and military figures have repeatedly warned, however, that Israel would
not allow Tehran to develop nuclear weapons.
Last month, Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert pointedly included Israel among his list of responsible
nuclear powers, in contrast to Iran. Previously Israel always refused
to acknowledge its nuclear arsenal, which various analysts estimate
at between 80 to 200 warheads. Olmert’s comment was not so much
“a slip” but a calculated warning to Iran in particular
that Israel had nuclear weapons and was prepared to use them to maintain
its military predominance in the Middle East.
The Sunday Times report indicated
that military preparations are well advanced. “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,” the newspaper stated. Several routes
had been mapped out and in recent weeks pilots had flown to Gibraltar
to train for the 3,200-kilometre round trip to Iranian targets.
“As soon as the green
light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear
project will be demolished,” one source told the Sunday Times.
According to the newspaper, the targets include Iran’s uranium
conversion plant near Isfahan and its heavy water reactor under construction
at Arak, both of which would be hit with conventional bombs. “There
is no 99 percent success in this mission. It must be 100 percent or
better not at all,” one of the pilots explained.
In making what was almost
certainly a deliberate leak, the Israeli regime has a number of motives.
Following the Israeli military’s humiliating withdrawal from Lebanon
last year, the Olmert government is determined to take a tough stance.
The Sunday Times article is in part designed to send a message to the
Middle East and the world that Israel is willing to use all means at
its disposal to crush any potential rival in the region.
According to the Sunday Times,
Israel justifies the choice of tactical nuclear weapons by the fact
that Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz are protected by
an estimated 20 metres of rock and concrete. However, any use of atomic
bombs—for the first time since the US incineration of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki in 1945—would above all be a political, rather than
a military, decision aimed at reasserting Israel’s strategic superiority
as the only nuclear-armed power in the Middle East.
Anyone who thinks that an
Israeli nuclear attack on Iran is impossible needs to consider Israel’s
long record of carrying out the unthinkable. Over the past year, it
has waged a criminal war of attrition against the population of the
Palestinian territories. Last July, on the pretext of rescuing two captured
soldiers, Israel launched a full-scale invasion of Lebanon, killing
hundreds of civilians and reducing much of the country to rubble, as
the first stage of an operation directed primarily at Iran and Syria.
It should also be recalled that Israeli warplanes carried out an unprovoked
attack on Iraq’s small research reactor at Osirak in 1981.
Neither the Olmert government
nor the Bush administration has offered any conclusive proof that Tehran
has a nuclear weapons program. The Iranian regime has consistently maintained
that it is entitled under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT)
to engage in uranium enrichment and that its Natanz plant is to provide
fuel for nuclear power reactors, the first of which is nearing completion
at Bushehr. Israel has openly flouted the international non-proliferation
efforts, refusing to sign the NPT or allow inspection of any of its
In this context, the openly
anti-Semitic statements of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who
sponsored an international conference of Nazi Holocaust deniers in Tehran
last month, have played directly into the hands of the most right-wing,
militarist sections of the Israeli ruling elite. Israeli leaders have
exploited Ahmadinejad’s calls for the destruction of Israel to
whip up fears of “a second holocaust” of Jews.
Last November, in an effort
to shore up his government, Olmert brought Avigdor Lieberman, the leader
of the far-right Israel Beitenu (Israel is Our Home) party, into his
cabinet as deputy prime minister. He was given the specially created
post of minister of strategic affairs, dealing with threats against
Israel, with a particular focus on Iran. Lieberman, a right-wing nationalist
and racist, is notorious for his calls for the ethnic cleansing of Israeli
Arabs, the bombing of Palestinian civilians and the targetting of Egypt’s
Aswan High Dam. In 2001, he openly advocated the use of nuclear weapons
Last week, Lieberman called
on the UN to expel Iran and for the major powers to act against Tehran.
“The state of Israel can, and will, stand alone against Iran,
but we should not be asked to,” he said. “If allowed to
achieve nuclear weapons, the entire free world will pay a heavy price—Israel
will be the first and will pay the heaviest price, but Iranian aggressiveness
will not stop there.”
Lieberman is not alone in
complaining that UN sanctions on Iran are inadequate. In its annual
report released last week, the Institute for National Security Studies
(INSS), an Israeli think-tank, ominously warned: “Despite the
growing concern within the international community, the INSS questions
whether effective sanctions will be imposed. Time is working in Iran’s
favour, and barring military action, Iran’s possession of nuclear
weapons is only a matter of time.”
These comments point to another
motive for the leak to the Sunday Times: to put pressure on the Bush
administration to take action soon against Iran, or, at the very least,
to give backing for Israel to do so. The newspaper cited the comments
of Israeli deputy defence minister Ephraim Sneh last month, saying:
“The time is approaching when Israel and the international community
will have to decide whether to take military action against Iran.”
The Times also noted that Israeli and US officials had met several times
to consider military options.
In an article in the New
Yorker last April, veteran US journalist Seymour Hersh provided details
of high-level planning in the White House and the Pentagon for a massive
air assault on Iran, including but not limited to its nuclear facilities.
The most chilling aspect of the revelations included a fierce debate
over the use of tactical nuclear weapons against targets such as the
Natanz enrichment plant.
Hersh’s article quoted
a former defence official who revealed that US warplanes, operating
from aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea, had been “flying simulated
nuclear-weapons delivery missions—rapid ascending manoeuvres known
as ‘over the shoulder’ bombing—since last summer...
within range of Iranian coastal radars”.
The Bush administration has
never ruled out a military attack on Iran and rejected the proposal
made by the top-level Iraq Study Group for negotiations with Iran and
Syria to help stabilise Iraq. The most militarist layer of the US ruling
elite openly advocates war against Iran. In an article late last year
laying out a strategy for neo-conservatives, Joshua Muravchik, from
the American Enterprise Institute, candidly declared: “Make no
mistake, President Bush will need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities
before leaving office.”
Already there are indications
that the Pentagon is preparing for just such an eventuality. Over the
past few months, senior US officials have been travelling to the Saudi
Arabia and other Gulf states to discuss ways of strengthening defence
ties and military capacities in those countries. One obvious reason
for such discussions is the necessity of defending US military bases
in Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain from possible Iranian retaliation in the
event of a US attack.
The US and Britain are also
bolstering their naval strength in the region. A second US aircraft
carrier group—the USS John C. Stennis and escort ships—is
due to enter the Persian Gulf later this month. President Bush has also
taken the unusual step of appointing an admiral—William Fallon—for
the first time to take over as head of US Central Command which is responsible
for Middle East operations including Iran and Iraq.
Retired Colonel Sam Gardiner
told the Sunday Times that he believed that a US attack on Iran remained
a possibility. He described the deployment of a second aircraft carrier
strike force to the Gulf region, as well as British minesweepers, as
a “huge deal”. “It is only necessary to do that if
you are planning to strike Iran and deal with the consequences,”
he said, which could include Iranian attempts to shut the Strait of
Hormuz, the sea route for much of the world’s oil.
Whatever the precise motives
behind all these menacing threats, the US and Israel are recklessly
plunging towards a new conflagration that includes the possible use
of nuclear weapons.
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