Bloomberg: The U.S. State Department dismissed an ABC News report that Israel is increasingly likely to attack Iranian nuclear facilities this year.
By Viola Gienger and Tony Capaccio
July 1 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. State Department dismissed an ABC News report that Israel is increasingly likely to attack Iranian nuclear facilities this year.
"I have no information that would substantiate that," spokesman Tom Casey said. The report was based on statements from an unnamed U.S. Defense Department official and Casey criticized the official for not speaking publicly.
"I think it's rather foolish of people who often have no clue what they're talking about to assert things and not even have the courtesy to do so on the basis of their name," he told reporters in Washington today.
Spokesmen for the Pentagon, Central Intelligence Agency and the White House declined comment on the report as did Israeli government officials. Iran's government dismissed it as propaganda.
ABC cited the official as saying an Israeli strike might be triggered by the production of enough enriched uranium at Iran's Natanz nuclear plant to make a bomb. A second possible trigger would be the delivery of a Russian SA-20 air-defense system, the installation of which would make an Israeli attack more difficult, the U.S. official told ABC.
Crude oil rose above $142 a barrel on concern any conflict would cut supplies from OPEC's second-largest producer.
Former Israeli Air Force General Isaac Ben-Israel, now a lawmaker in Israel's ruling Kadima party, told Germany's Spiegel that his nation is "prepared" for an attack if diplomacy and United Nations sanctions fail to stop Iran from making a nuclear weapon. Ben-Israel helped plan Israel's 1981 strike on an Iraqi nuclear reactor, the magazine said.
Before Bush Leaves
A strike on Natanz would only temporarily damage Iran's nuclear program and could spark a wave of attacks on U.S. interests, ABC said in yesterday's report, citing unidentified Pentagon officials. The U.S. and many of its allies have accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists its production of enriched uranium is intended to produce electricity and is legal under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Israeli government may want an attack to take place before President George W. Bush leaves office, Ephraim Kam, deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said today in a telephone interview.
"There is no doubt that such an operation is being considered, but it's not going to happen tomorrow," Kam said. "We still have some time. The Bush administration may be more sympathetic to an Israeli operation against Iran than whoever the next president may be, so it could happen before the end of the year."
More than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighter planes took part in maneuvers over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece during the first week of June, the New York Times reported on June 20. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in Israel last weekend for meetings with Israeli military leaders, ABC said.
Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror, in a telephone interview from Tel Aviv, declined to comment today on the ABC report.
International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors made more than 14 visits to Natanz over the last year, the Vienna-based UN organization said last month. The IAEA said Iran hadn't taken any steps toward making the highly enriched uranium necessary for a bomb and had stockpiled about 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of lower-grade enriched uranium suitable for power plants.
"Iran certainly wouldn't be able to produce enough uranium at Natanz for a bomb," British American Security Information Council Co-Director Paul Ingram said today in a telephone interview from London. "It would be impossible under the current safeguards arrangements to reconfigure the facility to produce highly enriched uranium."
It takes around 25 kilograms of 90 percent enriched uranium- 235 isotopes to build a bomb. Iran currently has enough uranium to produce less than 4 kilograms of the material, Ingram said.