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Israel Plans Nuclear Strike on Iran" (SUNDAY TIMES)

Israel Plans Nuclear Strike on Iran" (SUNDAY TIMES)

TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck

Transmitted below is a stimulating news story published in yesterday's
SUNDAY TIMES (London).

This story was characterized by Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark
Regev as "incorrect", which might be viewed as something less than an
outraged denial.


   Revealed: Israel Plans Nuclear Strike on Iran
   By Uzi Mahnaimi, New York and Sarah Baxter, Washington
   The Sunday Times (London)

   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.

   Israeli military 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."

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