Iran's nuclear reactor at Bushehr
As the United States is pressing for a UN
Security Council action on Iran, the Pentagon
is considering the possibility of an Israeli strike on Tehran’s nuclear
installations, according to an article on the Jerusalem Post.
consultations, described as intelligence-oriented and not policy-oriented, examined
the possibility of an Israeli pre-emptive strike against Iran and the way under
which such an attack could be carried out. One of the main questions raised
in the discussions was whether Israel would inform the U.S. ahead of the attack,
and when would an advance notice be given. According to diplomatic sources,
Israel must coordinate with the U.S. occupation forces in Iraq
if it chooses to attack Iran through the shortest route.
Diplomatic sources told the Jerusalem Post that the Pentagon
talks didn’t lead to any conclusion regarding the plausibility of an Israeli
strike against Iran, nor did they recommend any action by the United States.
Israeli and American officials have said in the past weeks that Washington didn’t
convey any message to Israel asking it to refrain from such an attack and didn’t
even raise the issue in bilateral discussions with the Israelis. Both countries
share intelligence on Iran and its nuclear
plans, but do not discuss - according to sources who take part in bilateral
talks - the possibility of using military force to curb Tehran's nuclear
The Americans believe, according to administration sources, that an Israeli
decision on attacking Iran is not imminent and that it won’t take place
before the Israeli elections, scheduled for March 28.
One of the issues Pentagon
analysts are concerned with is the impact of an Israeli attack on U.S. forces
in the region, and whether military action could force the U.S. to follow up
with further strikes to finish the mission. The U.S. is also discussing what
could be the possible avenues of retaliation Iran would take against U.S. forces
and interests in the region.
Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear
power in the Middle East, but has campaigned tirelessly for Iran to be hauled
before the UN Security
Council and face sanctions over its nuclear
program. Although Tehran insists that its atomic
program is strictly aimed at the peaceful generation of electricity, the
Energy Agency referred its nuclear dossier to the Security
Council, which is expected to start debating the issue as early as next
Last week, Israel’s former Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon said that
program is a headache for the West and not just Israel, adding that a joint
U.S.-NATO-Israeli strike is capable of curbing Tehran‘s
nuclear plans. “Israel has the military capability to deal a severe
blow to Iran's nuclear installations and set back its nuclear weapons program
for several years”, he said, referring to the 1981 Israeli attack on Iraq’s
Osirak nuclear reactor.
Although Ya’alon said that more than one strike would be required to
destroy Iran’s nuclear
sites, he noted that such an operation could be easier than targeting Palestinian
resistance fighters in the occupied territories. “Israel has the ability
to disrupt the Iranian air defense system; Israel can strike Iran through a
number of ways, not only through aerial attack,” he told his U.S. audience.
“The Israeli strike can be precise, like targeted assassination,”
The retired General also said that Israel had several other military options
against Iran. He didn’t elaborate but the Israel Navy operates a small
number of highly sophisticated submarines.
Several Israeli officials reprimanded Ya’alon for detailing how Israel
could attack Iran. However, Acting PM Ehud Olmert later said that “Israel
will not tolerate Iran's acquiring nuclear weapons”. And Ami Dror, a former
head of research with Israeli intelligence, also said that the threat posed
by Iran is so serious that it has to be stopped now. “The Iranians understand
that if Israel is hit by any missile, the Iranians will not have enough people
to count their dead,” he warned. “It will lead to their destruction
and the end of Iran as a civilisation.”
According to diplomatic sources, the Israeli warnings weren’t the trigger
for the Pentagon
consultations about a possible Israeli attack but acknowledged that the Bush
Administration has made Iran’s nuclear issue one of its top priorities.
Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that the Administration
is considering plans to launch a sustained campaign aimed at initiating regime
change in Iran. The newspaper also said that President Bush and his team have
been discussing the Iranian issue in closed-door meetings, seeking scholars’
advice on Iran and opening posts abroad dedicated to their efforts against Tehran.
Analysts believe that the debate that raged over Iran’s
nuclear program in Bush’s first term between those who favored more
diplomacy with Iran and those who pushed for confrontation appears to have settled
in favor of the latter. The leading hawks in the Bush
Administration have already made it clear that military options should be considered
now . John Bolton,
the U.S. ambassador to the UN,
has insisted “the Iranian regime must be made aware that if it continues
down the path of international isolation, there will be tangible and painful
Last week, the U.S.
Vice President Dick Cheney said that all options are "on the table"
regarding Iran and leading senators pointed out that the U.S. is capable of
And today, President
Bush, in his national security report, reaffirmed the strike-first, or pre-emptive
policy he first outlined in 2002. The
U.S. President also reiterated comments recently made by Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice that Iran poses the greatest challenge facing
the U.S., but added that diplomacy to curb its nuclear
program must first prevail to avoid confrontation. "If necessary, however,
under long-standing principles of self-defense, we do not rule out the use of
force before attacks occur — even if uncertainty remains as to the time
and place of the enemy's attack," Bush
It is obvious that the “diplomacy” Bush
was referring to is UN
action over Iran. If sanctions fail, or if Tehran makes it impossible for them
to be imposed, the U.S. and Israel will inevitably choose the use of force.
This is precisely the kind of rhetoric used by the U.S.
neo-conservatives in the run-up to the 2003
invasion of Iraq.