News and opinions on situation in the Middle East
10/10/03 Haaretz: IDF planning to attack nuclear sites in Iran 

By Nathan Guttman, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Reuters 

10/12/03: ( Haaretz) Israel is prepared to launch an attack on Iran's nuclear sites in order to prevent them from being operational, the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel reported Saturday. 

The Los Angeles Times meanwhile reported on Saturday that Israel has the capability to fire nuclear warheads from submarines. 

Basing its disclosure on U.S. government officials and Israeli sources, the report claimed that Israeli submarines are armed with U.S.-made Harpoon cruise missiles. Israel has modified nuclear warheads to fit these Harpoon missiles, and the missiles have been modified so that they can hit land targets, the report added. 

Labor MK Ephraim Sneh told Army Radio in response that the reports on Israeli allegedly growing nuclear capability are harmful to Israel and distract attention from Iran's efforts to become a nuclear power. Most importantly, he added, they are untrue. 

The Der Spiegel report said that Israel is prepared to launch an attack in Iran against facilities used in that country's nuclear weapons development program. According to this report, Israeli officials fear Iran's nuclear program has reached an advanced stage, and a special Mossad unit has been ordered to formulate an attack plan against the nuclear weapons program sites in Iran. 

According to the report, the Mossad believes that Iran is already able to manufacture weapons-grade uranium, and ordered a special unit two months ago to prepare a comprehensive and detailed plan for the attack. 

The magazine quoted an Israeli fighter pilot as saying that the mission was complicated but technically feasible. 

According to the report, Israel has information on six nuclear sites in Iran, three of them previously unknown to the rest of the world, and plans to have F16 fighter planes attack the sites simultaneously. 

Completing the nuclear program
The deployment of the modified Harpoon cruise missiles, the LA Times said, completes Israel's nuclear program. Israel has the capability of launching nuclear missiles from the land, air and sea, the report claimed. 

Sea-based nuclear missile capability is widely considered an essential strategic asset that greatly enhances a country's deterrent strength. A country with nuclear missiles at sea can threaten an enemy with a "second strike" - that is, even if a surprise attack manages to wipe out its surface and air missile systems, the country can rely on its submarine missiles to retaliate. 

Israeli sources said Saturday that U.S. officials have never raised questions about a possibility of Israel converting American-made missiles for nuclear use. User instructions that have accompanied the supply of missiles such as the Harpoon have not included restrictions banning any such conversion, say the Israeli sources. 

Maintaining a policy of nuclear ambiguity, Israel has never formally acknowledged possession of nuclear weapons. Experts in the West believe Israel's arsenal contains between 100 and 200 advanced nuclear bombs. Israel's delivery systems, these authorities contend, feature F-15 and F-16 planes, "Jericho" surface missiles, and the submarine-based Harpoon missiles. 

Western researchers have estimated that Israel has 120 Harpoon cruise missiles capable of submarine launch. 

The Los Angeles Times report alluded to two U.S. officials as primary sources of information about Israel's Harpoon cruise missiles. These sources asked to remain anonymous; they explained that they leaked information as a caution to Israel's enemies, particularly Iran.

The U.S. State Department and Pentagon declined Saturday to comment on the report. 

Some U.S. public figures claimed Saturday that Israeli nuclear capability complicates international efforts to stop Iran's nuclear weapons procurement efforts. A senior U.S. official who has been active in attempts to stop nuclear weapons proliferation said Israel's nuclear capabilities are a "magnet" spurring Arab countries that aspire to develop nuclear weapons of their own. 

© Copyright 2003 Haaretz
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