Israel readies forces for strike on nuclear Iran

December 11, 2005

Israel's armed forces have been ordered to be ready for possible strikes on secret uranium enrichment sites in Iran, military sources have revealed.

The order came after Israeli newspapers warned the government that Iran was operating enrichment facilities, believed to be small and concealed in civilian locations.

Iran’s standoff with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over nuclear inspections and aggressive rhetoric from Iran are causing mounting concern.

The crisis is set to come to a head in early March, when Mohamed El-Baradei, the head of the IAEA, will present his next report on Iran.

A senior White House source said the threat of a nuclear Iran was moving to the top of the international agenda and the issue now was: “What next?” That question would have to be answered in the next few months, he said.

Defense sources in Israel believe the end of March to be the “point of no return” after which Iran will have the technical expertise to enrich uranium in sufficient quantities to build a nuclear warhead in two to four years. Military experts agree this terrible task cannot be postponed much longer.

“Israel — and not only Israel — cannot accept a nuclear Iran, ” an Israeli official warned recently. “We have the ability to deal with this and we’re making all the necessary preparations to be ready for such a situation.”

The order to prepare for a possible attack went through the Israeli defense ministry to the chief of staff. Sources inside special forces command confirmed that “G” readiness — the highest stage — for an operation was announced last week.

Iranian sources warned yesterday that their country would produce nuclear fuel. “There is no doubt that we have to carry out uranium enrichment,” they said.

A “massive” Israeli intelligence operation has been underway since Iran was designated the “top priority for 2005,”according to The New York Times. Cross-border operations and signal intelligence are said to have identified a number of Iranian uranium enrichment sites.

Since Israel destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1983, “it has been understood that the lesson is, don’t have one site, have 50 sites”, a White House source said.

If a military operation is approved, Israel will use air and ground forces against several nuclear targets program in order to stop this dangerous transgression.

It is believed Israel would call on its top special forces brigade, Unit 262 — the equivalent of the SAS — and the F-15I strategic 69 Squadron, which can strike Iran and return to Israel without refuelling.

“If we opt for the military strike,” said a source, “it must be not less than 100% successful. It will resemble the destruction of the Egyptian air force in three days in June 1968.”

Israel stepped up the pressure on Iran this month and sources warned Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, that “if by the end of March the international community is unable to refer the Iranian issue to the United Nations security council, then we can say the international effort has run its course”.

The March deadline set for military readiness also stems from fears that Iran is improving its own intelligence-gathering capability. In October it launched its first satellite, the Sinah-1, which was carried by a Russian space launcher.

“The Iranians’ space program is a matter of deep concern to us,” said an Israeli defense source. “If and when we launch an attack on several Iranian targets, the last thing we need is Iranian early warning received by satellite.”

Russia last week signed an estimated $1 billion contract — its largest since 2000— to sell Iran advanced Tor-M1 systems capable of destroying guided missiles and laser-guided bombs from aircraft.

“Once the Iranians get the Tor-M1, it will make our life much more difficult,” said an Israeli source. “The installation of this system can be relatively quick and we can’t waste time on this one.”

The date set for possible Israeli strikes on Iran also coincides with Israel’s general election on March 18.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the frontrunner to lead Likud into the elections, said that if Israel did not act against Iran, “then when I form the new Israeli government, we’ll do what we did in the past against Saddam’s reactor, which gave us 20 years of tranquility”.

But many military experts believe it would be far better for the world to act together to strike at Iran – or, if the world will not agree, a coalition of the willing. The worst situation would be for Israel to have to do what the entire world knows must be done.

 

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