Israel Asked For US Help To Bomb Iran

January 10, 2009

This was just reported by the NY Times, so I’m waiting for wider reaction to this news.

In a nutshell, Israel apparently asked early in 2008 for bunker-buster bombs to use to potentially bomb nuclear sites in Iran. They also requested flyover permission in US-controlled Iraqi airspace and refueling equipment to allow Israeli aircraft to make bombing runs to Iranian territory. The Bush administration (thank you Lord Jesus) denied all requests.

It’s not clear what Israel’s exact intentions were in making these requests – whether they actually intended to attack Iran, hold the option open for the future, or us the requests as a way to put pressure on the US to act. What is clear is that the Israelis were mightily dispeased with the 2007 NIE put out by the US intelligence agencies that downplayed the Iranian threat and claimed with significant confidence that Iran had ended its nuclear weapons program (as opposed to its uranium enrichment program, which is dual use) in 2003. The Bush administration itself, of course, was not very happy themselves about the NIE’s findings, nor was Robert Gates, who will continue as Defense Secretary under Barack Obama.

The Times also reports that in response to the Israeli request and in an attempt to appease the Israelis, the US expanded its covert ops against the Iranian nuclear program. The program (obviously) is not described in detail, but is apparently largely concentrated on sabotaging technology, particularly imported technology used in the program. The article also makes mention of Iranian professor Mohsen Fakrizadeh, whom the US sees as the most significant player in Iranian nuclear weapons design.

Interestingly, despite claims of critics such as Seymour Hersh, the article portrays the administration as quite cognizant of the dangers that could result from an attack on Iran, and most of all feared US troops in Iraq being dragged into a wider Middle Eastern war. Also, many in the administration apparently questioned the efficacy of an air strike and doubted the Israeli claim that it could set the Iranian program back several years.

Sometimes it feels good to be proven wrong about the Bush administration. At any rate, there is going to be a tremendous amount of pressure on the Obama administration to take action, either diplomatic or military, with respect to Iran. I’m not sure we’ve had a president coming into office with such a full plate since perhaps Truman.

By the way, I don’t mean to be critical of Seymour Hersh – I’m a huge fan in fact, and should point out that he broke the story of US covert actions in Iran last year.

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