[Mb-civic]      Eyeing Iran Reactors, Israel Seeks U.S. Bunker Bombs

Michael Butler michael at michaelbutler.com
Wed Sep 22 16:07:15 PDT 2004

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    Eyeing Iran Reactors, Israel Seeks U.S. Bunker Bombs
    By Dan Williams

     Tuesday 21 September 2004

     Jerusalem - The United States plans to sell Israel $139 million worth
of air-launched bombs, including 500 "bunker busters" able to penetrate
Iran's underground nuclear facilities, Israeli security sources said on

     The Haaretz newspaper quoted a Pentagon report as saying the planned
procurement sought "to maintain Israel's qualitative advantage and advance
U.S. strategic and tactical interests."

     The U.S. embassy in Israel had no comment, referring queries to
Washington. Israel's Defense Ministry also declined comment.

     But a senior Israeli security source who confirmed the Haaretz story
told Reuters: "This is not the sort of ordnance needed for the Palestinian
front. Bunker busters could serve Israel against Iran, or possibly Syria."

     Haaretz quoted Israeli government sources as saying the sale, including
4,500 other guided munitions, was not expected to go through until after the
U.S. elections in November. Earlier this month, Haaretz said Israel sought
to obtain the U.S.-made, one-ton "bunker buster" bombs for a possible future
strike against arch-foe Iran's atomic development program, which the Jewish
state considers a strategic threat.

     "This relationship has a long history. The United States has given
Israel more advanced weapons than this," a spokesman for Iran's Defense
Ministry said.

     "This could be psychological warfare to test us," he added.

     Tehran denies hostile designs, saying its nuclear program has peaceful
purposes only. This week, it rejected international calls to comply with a
U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency demand that it halt all
uranium-enrichment activities.

     Among the nuclear facilities that Iran has declared are uranium mines
near the city of Yazd, and a uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz
incorporating large underground buildings that could accommodate thousands
of gas centrifuges.

     Western diplomats accuse Iran of having several undeclared facilities
close to Tehran thought to be related to uranium enrichment, a process the
United States and some other countries believe Tehran will use to produce
fissile material for weapons.

     The exiled Iranian opposition group known as the National Council of
Resistance of Iran (NCRI) says Iran is constructing numerous secret
facilities under its Defense Ministry.

     Diplomacy Still Seen as Preferable

    Known by the military designations GBU-27 or GBU-28, "bunker busters"
are guided by lasers or satellites and can penetrate up to 30 feet of earth
and concrete. Israel may already have some of the bombs for its
U.S.-supplied F-15 fighter jets.

     "As they are part of the weapon set for the F-15, I would assume them
to be in place," said Robert Hewson, editor of Jane's Air-Launched Weapons.
He said the bombs proved effective in the 1991 Gulf war and 1990s NATO
strikes on Serbian forces.

     Israel, which is widely assumed to be the Middle East's only
nuclear-armed nation, wants to stop Iran going atomic, but officials say
diplomatic pressure on Tehran is the best method.

     Many believe a military strike, especially by Israel, could kill off
any chance of a diplomatic resolution or efforts by Iranian opposition
groups to achieve internal reform.

     "I think (military action) should be a last, last, last resort. Unlike
Iraq and North Korea, there is at least some chance of bringing about an
undermining of the Velayat-e Faqih's authority," former CIA director R.
James Woolsey told Reuters this month, referring to Iran's ruling Islamic

     Convinced Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons, Israel bombed
Iraq's Osiraq reactor in 1981. While the move drew international censure,
eventually many U.S. experts saw it as an important blow to Saddam's
strategic weapons capabilities.

     "The response of the United States was, unfortunately, negative with
respect to Osiraq," Woolsey said. "The Israelis were right and everybody
else was wrong, including us, in 1981."

     The Osiraq strike did not stop Saddam's quest for the bomb. Instead,
Iraq went underground and worked in secret until the program was uncovered
by the U.N. nuclear watchdog in 1991.



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