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Iran Strike Easier Than Iraq Mission In 1981

Eight F-16's (pictured) were sent destroy the Osirak reactor.
by Joshua Brilliant
UPI Israel Correspondent
Tel Aviv, Israel (UPI) Jun 12, 2006
A retired Israeli general who planned the demolition of Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981 said this week that it would now be technically "easier" to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities in a pre-emptive air strike.

"A modern air force, first and foremost the U.S. Air Force but also Israel's... (would find it) easier to do something similar in Iran... today. Technology has changed, the intelligence technology has changed. Today we know much more than what we used to know and especially the technology for attack has changed," Maj. Gen. in the reserves Isaac Ben Israel said. Ben Israel now heads Tel Aviv University's security studies program.

One U.S. stealth plane, an F-117 or a B-2, can "drop its bombs (and) accurately destroy the targets the planners decided it should destroy... (It could) enter Iran, leave Iran, and the Iranians won't know it is there," he told a conference marking the 25 anniversary of Israel's attack in Iraq.

Satellites, photography equipment and intelligence gathering means are so advanced today that "what existed in 1981 seems... like the Middle Ages," said retired intelligence Brig. Gen. Amos Gilboa, who was involved in the preparations for that attack.

In 1981 Israeli intelligence had detailed plans of the Osirak reactor rising southeast of Baghdad. They knew the inner walls' locations and thickness.

Ben Israel's team reckoned that in order to destroy the reactor beyond repair they would have to hit its 8 cubic meter core located between two meter thick walls of reinforced concrete more than 20 meters underground.

The team calculated the path and speed that a one-ton bomb would take once it hits the spot they chose. Then they calculated how many bombs must be dropped to be 100 percent sure that the core will be hit.

They concluded that four planes with one-ton bombs each would be enough. The air force's commander decided to be on the safe side. He sent eight F-16s, recalled Ben-Israel.

He ridiculed claims that the Iranians have learned a lesson from the Osirak strike and placed everything underground.

"These things are always built underground. It's not an Iranian invention," he said, adding that one of the bombs hit the ground in front of the designated spot and plowed through into the structure.

The question is whether it is worthwhile launching a strike, he said.

Ben Israel, in his presentation, and a recent study by Prof. Efraim Inbar, who heads Bar Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, concluded that the risks of letting Iran develop a bomb are too great.

Tehran's nuclear program began during the days of the shah, before the Islamic revolution. Some of its elements, "Have little or no suitability for any other purpose" but military applications, wrote Inbar.

The Shehab 3 missile it developed "can probably be nuclear tipped." It can reach Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and several important U.S. bases, he noted.

"Further improvements in Iranian missiles would initially put most European capitals, and eventually the North American continent, within range," he added.

For Israel an Iranian nuclear bomb would be "an existential threat," Maj. Gen. in the reserves Giora Eiland said in a briefing shortly before stepping down as head of the National Security Council.

Many political disputes can be resolved but it is difficult to strike compromises when religion is involved, Eiland maintained.

Inbar and Ben Israel concurred. "The tripartite combination of a radical Islamic regime, long-range missile capability and nuclear weapons is extremely perilous. Due to its small and dense population Israel is exceedingly vulnerable to a nuclear attack," wrote Inbar.

Middle Eastern states can hardly establish a nuclear "balance of terror" with Iran and there is no full proof defense against nuclear tipped missiles, he added.

The analysts seemed to support the government's policy of letting the U.S.-lead a diplomatic effort to stop Tehran's nuclear program.

If that fails, the world might try economic sanctions. Iran depends on imported refined oil products; its revenues from exporting crude oil are a source of enormous revenues and U.S. naval forces could block much of those in the Straits of Hormuz, noted Inbar.

He nevertheless cautioned that, "Societies and regimes have demonstrated great resilience in the face of economic sanctions and a capacity to withstand pain."

"External pressure has been used more than once as a focal point for rallying domestic support for the embattled regime," he noted.

"If the world won't stop this, it is a matter of time" until Iran has a bomb, warned Ben Israel.

If everything else fails, "We've got to do it ourselves because this risk cannot be taken," he said.

Source: United Press International

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