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There's nothing new in the lengthy Sunday Times report on Israel's plans to attack Iran.
Foreign sources wrote years ago that Israel had developed tactical nuclear devices alongside the strategic variety. The assessment by intelligence experts that conventional bombs can't destroy the fortified installations deep under the ground has also been heard before; putting two and two together shouldn't be that hard.
Neither should the fact that IAF combat planes have flown training sorties to Gibraltar and back, simulating the distance of a potential attack on Iran come as a surprise. Over the last decade and a half, the great majority of the US military aid has been spent on F-15I and F-16I fighter-bombers, specially equipped for long-range strategic bombing, and the air-to-air refueling tankers have been improved accordingly. Since a plane taking off in the Negev can reach the northern border in less than a quarter of an hour, these planes were obviously bought for something more ambitious than bombing Hizbullah positions.
What is interesting, though, is the timing of the report - following a similar one, less noticed perhaps, two days earlier in The Spectator. What both reports have in common, aside from their timing, is that they both highlight the possibility that Israel might use neutron bombs and that both were written by veteran journalists with Israeli connections.
That brings to mind another less well-known Israeli capability: planting false stories in prestigious foreign publications to serve hidden interests.
For Israel to be the first country to use nuclear weapons, even limited ones, since Hiroshima and Nagasaki is almost unthinkable. Diplomatic repercussions aside, there is no guarantee that an untried and unproven technology will work as planned. And even if the operation is carried off, Iran may have dispersed enough of its nuclear materials and installations to alternative sites that it would be able to resume the program quickly. That they would definitely do, with Israel's nuclear cat already out of the bag.
There are still valid arguments for Israel going ahead with a military operation against Iran, perhaps even a non-conventional one. But the current leadership, which is still reeling from the Lebanon war and which prefers Sderot to suffer a couple of Kassams a day to getting entangled in another bloody operation in Gaza, is hardly the leadership to take Israel into a daring operation so far away.
Instead the government would prefer to rely on the vague promises of US President George W. Bush that he won't leave office in two years with the Iranian threat still intact. But since the US cooperated with the ineffectual watered-down Security Council sanctions resolution that was finally passed last month, Israeli fears have grown that the administration has lost the stomach for another front in the Middle East. Perhaps a few stories of the crazy Israelis' plans to go it themselves, and even use some of their own nukes in the process, might convince the Americans that it would be better if they did the job themselves.