Israel plans air and ground attack on Iran
London's Sunday Times reported on Sunday that Ariel Sharon gave "initial authorization" in February for an attack on Iran to deal a devastating blow to Iran's nuclear program.
Israeli forces have used a mock-up of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant in the desert to practice destroying it. Their tactics include raids by Israel’s elite Shaldag (Kingfisher) commando unit and airstrikes by F-15 jets from 69 Squadron, using bunker-busting bombs to penetrate underground facilities.
The plans have been discussed with American officials who are said to have indicated provisionally that they would not stand in Israel’s way if all international efforts to halt Iranian nuclear projects failed.
Dick Cheney, the American vice-president, emphasized on Friday that Iran would face “stronger action” if it failed to respond. But yesterday Iran rejected the initiative, which provides for entry to the World Trade Organisation and a supply of spare parts for airliners if it co-operates.
And from another Times Online article:
The news that Israel is planning unilateral action to end what it considers an imminent Iranian nuclear threat comes as American and European diplomats are announcing new initiatives for negotiation with Tehran.
Although publicly committed to the diplomatic effort, Ariel Sharon’s inner cabinet has decided to act alone if the impasse is not broken.
“If all efforts to persuade Iran to drop its plans to produce nuclear weapons should fail, the U.S. administration will authorize Israel to attack,” said one Israeli security source.
“The preservation of a nuclear monopoly in the Middle East is the cornerstone of Israel’s security policy,” says John Pike, a weapons specialist with Globalsecurity.org. “Iran is behind most of Israel’s torments.”
The announcement last week of new, U.S.-backed incentives for Iran -- including civilian aircraft parts and support for Iranian membership of the World Trade Organisation -- is designed to break the impasse by peaceful means. If Iran fails to respond, the issue is expected to go to the U.N. security council later this year where it is likely to become deadlocked, freeing Israel to take unilateral action.
It is equally clear that a number of hurdles stand in the way.
“Yes, of course you can do a bit of bombing,” said a senior Washington official. “But are you sure you can hit everything? No. And when you’ve done it, what’s the reaction? The Iranians close ranks, there’s international uproar and they’ve still got their weapons program. What did you achieve by this?”
Not the least of the reasons Bush has become so accommodating to European diplomacy is that the Pentagon has told him it can’t be sure it has located the entire Iranian nuclear structure.