The Obama administration gave Russia permission to deliver the fuel rods for Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor in return for their support for U.N. sanctions. The Russians have announced they will begin the process on August 21 and Iran will begin operating the reactor in mid-September. In making this concession to Russia, the U.S. is forcing Israel to decide within one week if they will bomb the site before it is impossible to do so because of the radioactive fallout it would cause.
Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton is warning that Israel must immediately decide between accepting a nuclear weapons-capable Iran or a military strike. He noted that in Israel’s previous strikes on Iraqi and Syrian nuclear reactors, action was taken before the insertion of the fuel rods. Bolton’s statement comes as Jeffrey Goldberg writes in The Atlantic that most officials he spoke to felt there was a better than 50 percent chance that Israel would bomb Iran’s nuclear sites by next July. This follows claims by an anonymous senior Egyptian security official that his country had taken measures with the expectation that Israel could attack Iran as early as July.
The Israelis began deploying three nuclear-armed submarines to the Gulf as summer began. They have also unveiled a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles that can fly for an entire day, permitting them to reach Iran. It was not said whether the aircraft can carry the ordinance necessary to destroy Iran’s nuclear sites but they were clearly shown with Iran in mind.
Sunni Arab regimes traditionally hostile to Israel have embraced the Jewish state as the only one able and willing to save them from a nuclear Iran and are silently supporting a potential campaign. The blunt statement by the ambassador from the United Arab Emirates that his country would support military action against Iran if necessary is an indication that the anti-Iran Arab bloc feels the window is closing. The Saudis, who have reportedly offered Israel its airspace to carry out a strike, have simulated the turning down of its defenses in such an event.
The Iranians are claiming that they have acquired four S-300 air defense systems that would complicate an Israeli strike, a move obviously meant to coincide with the announcement about Bushehr. At the same time, Russia has installed the S-300 in the Abkhazia region it has controlled since going to war with Georgia in 2008. The Israeli intelligence website Debkafile says the system was set up to block a potential northern route for a U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran. Russia, China and Turkey have also decided to sell gasoline to Iran just as the regime began seriously suffering from a shortage and the effects of international sanctions.
Israel has numerous considerations as it decides whether it must take out the Bushehr reactor. The attack could ignite a two-front war. The Israelis may decide that they can wait as long as the reactor’s activity is monitored by the IAEA. The fuel for the reactor is being provided by Russia, who will also be responsible for taking it out of the reactor and taking it outside the country. The Obama Administration is apparently confident that these measures will prevent the site from being used to make weapons-grade plutonium.
Fox News analyst General Thomas McInerney, the former Assistant Vice Chief of Staff for the U.S. Air Force and former Director of the Defense Performance Review, told FrontPage that Israel must not allow the fuel rods to be delivered to the reactor. Once that happens, any bombing raid would spread radiation throughout the region including Gulf countries that oppose Iran. Russian personnel at the plant would also be killed.
“The danger is that 40 to 60 plutonium bombs could be manufactured once the Bushehr plant is online so the IDF must strike Iran now,” he said. “Iran may have crossed the nuclear threshold, which is unacceptable.”
General McInerney said that Israel should use submarine-launched cruise missiles and special forces to target the underground sites and should try to spark an uprising by the Iranian people.
“I believe an air campaign without attacking Bushehr does not make it complete which is why I believe they must do it now,” he said.
About a dozen other nuclear sites must be targeted, according to General McInerney. Surface-to-air missile sites, air bases, and Shahab ballistic missile sites would also have to be struck to minimize Iran’s retaliatory capabilities. Despite the mammoth undertaking such a campaign would be, he felt there was a “high probability” of Israel attacking Iran.
The Israelis may believe that covert measures can be taken to delay the time when a strike becomes necessary. The Mossad is suspected of being involved in the deaths of important Iranian nuclear scientists and has used cyber warfare against the nuclear program. The Israelis are likely the ones responsible for greatly damaging the uranium enrichment efforts at Natanz by providing Iran with faulty equipment. The Iranians are running short on raw uranium and it is unknown if they have the ability to reprocess plutonium for a bomb. The Israelis may believe they can tolerate the operating of such facilities if their performance is hindered enough to prevent a bomb from being made and delivery capability from being achieved.
The Israelis must also consider whether the regime actually wants them to strike their facilities. The regime may believe it would bring them stability as their people continue to challenge them. They may even believe that such a strike would commence the final days when the Hidden Imam will arise during a final great war to bring victory for Islam. According to one cleric, Ayatollah Khamenei is telling his inner circle that he has met with the Hidden Imam and was promised that he’d appear before his time as Supreme Leader ends.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty permits Iran to build the infrastructure it needs to quickly build a nuclear arsenal before actually constructing a bomb. According to the treaty, Iran can cite a security threat and announce its withdrawal from the treaty to build nuclear weapons as long as it is done with 90 days notice. Iran may actually be hoping to use an Israeli strike to justify the creation of nuclear weapons and attribute the subsequent crisis to Israeli aggression. The sites are dispersed and underground, potentially allowing the regime to believe they can rejuvenate their program relatively quickly.
A remark by Ahmadinejad last September indicates that Iran is planning to point to some threat to declare that its “peaceful” program must become a weapons program. When pressed by reporter Ann Curry as to whether Iran was seeking nukes, he said “We don’t need nuclear weapons. Without such weapons we are able to defend ourselves.” She then said to him that he didn’t rule out building them in the future if he saw the need and he replied, “You can take from this whatever you want, madam.”
The Israelis have much to consider as they decide whether it’s worth attacking the Bushehr reactor. They currently have less than one week before the fuel rods are sent in, removing the option of a bombing raid on the site in the future. Israel must now decide whether to destroy the reactor or allow Iran to have a critical piece for a plutonium-based nuclear weapons program.