The Sunday London Times is reporting that Israel has drawn up secret plans to use tactical nuclear weapons to destroy uranium-enrichment sites in Iran.
Two Israeli air force squadrons have been training for a mission against an enrichment plant in Natanz using low-yield nuclear “bunker busters,” Israeli military sources told the Times.
The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
WND reported Israel’s training against a mock-up of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant in March 2005. Tactics included raids by Israel’s elite Shaldag commando unit and airstrikes by F-15 jets from the 69 Squadron, using bunker-busting bombs purchased from the U.S. to penetrate underground facilities.
Today’s Times story reveals two other sites that would be targeted with conventional weapons: a heavy water plant at Arak capable of producing bomb-grade plutonium and a uranium conversion plant at Isfahan, where 250 tons of gas for the enrichment process have been stored in tunnels.
The plan calls for conventional laser-guided bombs opening “tunnels” at Natanz, with “mini-nukes” following close behind, exploding underground and limiting the area affected by radioactive fallout. Thousands of centrifuges are being installed for uranium enrichment at the Natanz site.
Scientists agree that contamination from the bunker-busters would be limited, but tons of radioactive uranium compounds would be still be released, they say.
Three potential routes – one over Turkey – have been selected for the mission. Israeli pilots have been training in recent weeks by flying mock runs between Israel and Gibralter in anticipation of the 2,000-mile round-trip flight to Iran.
“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 Times sources.
A growing consensus in Israel’s military says conventional strikes may no longer be adequate to destroy enrichment facilities built beneath 70 feet of concrete and rock.
While tactical atomic weapons are prominently featured in the current planning, the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would reportedly be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the U.S. declined to intervene.
Pentagon sources were skeptical that the U.S. would give approval to the use of tactical nuclear weapons.
Israel sought U.S. approval “after the event” for the 1981 airstrike that crippled Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak and one source said it would probably do so again.
Israel believes Iran would be constrained from retaliation with its Shehab-3 ballistic missiles by fear of a second strike.
This is not the first time Israel’s planning for a strike on Iran has been reported. As WND reported in December 2005, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered defense forces to plan for a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities by the end of March 2006 – the time intelligence sources were saying Tehran would be able to begin producing nuclear weapons.
“Israel – and not only Israel – cannot accept a nuclear Iran,” Sharon warned. “We have the ability to deal with this and we’re making all the necessary preparations to be ready for such a situation.”
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