The Sunday Times of London reported this weekend that “President George W. Bush has told the Israeli government that he may be prepared to approve a future military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities if negotiations with Tehran break down.” The Times report quoted a senior Pentagon official as its source.
With increased resistance from the Pentagon and the November elections closing in, the White House may be choosing its next best option in dealing with Tehran: to have Israel launch strikes on Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities.
The paper said Bush has told Israel it has an “amber light” to proceed.
“Amber means get on with your preparations, stand by for immediate attack and tell us when you’re ready,” the paper quoted a U.S. official as saying.
Military experts are not sure that Israel’s military forces can do the job. Iran has dispersed its nuclear program sites around the country, and some weapons facilities are said to be deep within the earth. The U.S. has special bunker-busting bombs that could destroy such underground laboratories, but Israel does not.
Iran has made clear it will retaliate against Israel and the U.S. if either nation attacks it. Last week, Iran’s military demonstrated its reach by firing nine long- and medium-range missiles — including the modified Shahab-3 ballistic missile, which can easily strike Israel from western Iran.
Political factors may be playing a role in strike plans for both Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Bush is in lame-duck status, and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, the front-runner to win the presidency in November, says he favors the use of diplomacy over force when dealing with Iran.
Olmert is facing a political crisis as corruption charges threaten his hold on office. Some Israeli political analysts say Olmert may order an attack on Iran to bolster his political standing in Jerusalem.
The Times cited one of Olmert’s closest friends as quoting the prime minister: “In three months’ time it will be a different Middle East.”
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