Iran General NewsIsraelis denounce reports of plan to strike Iran

Israelis denounce reports of plan to strike Iran

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Daily Telegraph: Israel reacted with anger yesterday to a British newspaper report claiming that it was preparing a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Iran to stop the hard-line regime in Teheran acquiring nuclear weapons. The Daily Telegraph

By Our Foreign Staff

Israel reacted with anger yesterday to a British newspaper report claiming that it was preparing a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Iran to stop the hard-line regime in Teheran acquiring nuclear weapons.

Sources at the Israeli prime minister’s office, foreign ministry and defence ministry, as well as a retired intelligence expert, denied the report flatly.

While Israel is unlikely ever to use its nuclear strike capability pre-emptively on Iran, Israeli military planners have long been considering options for conventional strikes if Teheran continues to defy diplomatic pressure.

advertisementEhud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, prefers to emphasise Israel’s support for the multinational diplomatic effort, although his planners have already spent years considering what to do if the diplomatic track fails.

Israel resorted to force in 1981 to destroy Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak with conventional bombs dropped from eight F16 jets in a covert mission known as Operation Opera.

Israeli military intelligence accepts that an attack on Iran would be more complex as it presents significant logistic problems for refuelling military aircraft.

And while most of Saddam’s nuclear programme was located in the one Osirak facility, the Iranians have spread theirs to at least a dozen sites, some of which are hidden in tunnel systems built under mountains.

But Israeli military planners still believe a successful bombing raid on a carefully chosen target representing an essential and irreplaceable part of the Iranian programme would delay the date for Teheran acquiring nuclear weapons.

Last year Ephraim Sneh, Israel’s deputy defence minister, spelled out Israel’s position that bombing Iran was an option if diplomacy fails: “I do not advocate a military, Israeli pre-emptive strike against Iran. I am aware of all its possible repercussions. I consider it very much the last resort but sometimes the last resort is the only resort.”

Israeli intelligence has altered its estimate for Iran acquiring nuclear weapons after Teheran encountered unanticipated problems in enriching uranium. The latest estimate puts the date at no earlier than 2010.

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