Mid East Hots Up

Let’s hope the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran – which as readers will remember threatened to destroy Israel earlier this year – decides to start acting like a responsible member of the international community and give up its nuclear programme in 2007.

One of its regional neighbours is already making plans for the eventuality that it doesn’t:

ISRAEL has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.

Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.

Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open “tunnels” into the targets. “Mini-nukes” would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout.

“As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished,” said one of the sources.

As the Sunday Times notes this story may have been leaked to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, or alternatively to cajole America into action or even to soften up world opinion in advance of an Israeli attack.

Whatever the truth of the matter is it’s a safe bet that the political situation in the Middle East will continue to feature in the newspaper headlines over the coming year no matter what Western policy towards Iraq is.

Gene adds: Allow me to add a note of skepticism on the Sunday Times report– which, for what it’s worth, Israel denies.

I’m reminded of another sensational Sunday Times piece from 1998 (scroll down to the second article). That one was about a biological “ethno-bomb” Israel was supposed to be developing for possible use against Iraq– a weapon designed to harm Arabs but not Jews. The 1998 report, based on the alleged claims of an unidentified Israeli scientist, was co-written by Uzi Mahnaimi, who also co-wrote the latest article.

I never saw any further news about the “ethno-bomb” and the whole idea seemed (and still seems) quite incredible on its face. There were at the time only a few dozen Jews left in Iraq. Would Israel really go to so much trouble to develop a weapon to protect that handful? And how many of that handful were genetically distinctive enough from their Arab neighbors to be immune to such a weapon?