17:37The Wall Street Journal recommends 'Israel' to attack Iran
After Iran's acknowledgment that it is developing a second uranium-enrichment facility, "Israel" must consider not just whether to proceed with a strike against Iran-but how, The Wall Street Journal declares.
According to the newspaper, Iran has all of the technology and production and manufacturing capabilities needed for fission weapons. It has put massive resources into a medium-range missile program that has the range payload to carry nuclear warheads.
"These capabilities are dispersed in many facilities in many cities and remote areas, and often into many buildings in each facility-each of which would have to be a target in an Israeli military strike", the edition notes.
According to the newspaper, "Israel" is considering military options, but considering them carefully and with an understanding that they pose serious problems and risks. One of the fundamental problems is distance of targets. Iran's potential targets are between 950 and 1,400 miles from "Israel", the far margin of the ranges "Israeli" fighters can reach, even with aerial refueling.
"What's more, Iran has had years in which to build up covert facilities, disperse elements of its nuclear and missile programs, and develop options for recovering from such an attack", the edition notes.
At best, such action would delay Iran's nuclear buildup. It is more likely to provoke the country into accelerating its plans. Either way, "Israel" would have to contend with the fact that it has consistently had a "red light" from both the Bush and Obama administrations opposing such strikes. Any strike that overflew Arab territory or attacked a fellow Islamic state would stir the ire of neighboring Arab states, as well as Russia, China and several European states, the edition claims.
Most analyses focus on only three of Iran's most visible facilities: its centrifuge facilities at Natanz, its light water nuclear power reactor near Bushehr, and a heavy water reactor at Arak it could use to produce plutonium.
"Each of these three targets differs sharply in terms of the near-term risk it poses to "Israel" and its vulnerability, the edition notes.
Arak will not pose a tangible threat for at least several years. The key problem "Israel" would face is that it would virtually have to strike it as part of any strike on the other targets, because it cannot risk waiting and being unable to carry out another set of strikes for political reasons.
Bushehr is a nuclear power reactor along Iran's southwestern coast in the Gulf. It is not yet operational, although it may be fueled late this year. It would take some time before it could be used to produce plutonium. Bushehr also is being built and fueled by Russia-which so far has been anything but supportive of an "Israeli" strike, says in article.
The centrifuge facility at Natanz is a different story. It is underground and deeply sheltered, and is defended by modern short-range Russian TOR-M surface-to-air missiles. Experts estimate that it will produce enough low enriched uranium for Iran to be able to be used in building two fission nuclear weapons by some point in 2010-although such material would have to be enriched far more to provide weapons-grade U-235.
"Israel" has fighters, "refueling tankers" and precision-guided air-to-ground weapons to strike at all of these targets-even if it flies the long-distance routes needed to avoid the most critical air defenses in neighboring Arab states, the edition notes.
"Israel" has considerable electronic-warfare capability to suppress Iran's aging air defenses. "Israel" would, however, still face two critical problems. The first would be whether it can destroy a hardened underground facility like Natanz. The second is that a truly successful strike might have to hit far more targets over a much larger area than the three best-known sites.
Moreover, "Israel" would have to successfully strike at dozens of
additional targets to do substantial damage to another key Iranian
threat: its long-range missiles.
"Israel" does not have the density and quality of intelligence assets necessary to reliably assess the damage done to a wide range of small and disperse targets and to detect new Iranian efforts, the edition notices.
"These problems are why a number of senior Israeli intelligence experts and military officers feel that Israel should not strike Iran, although few would recommend that Israel avoid using the threat of such strikes to help US and other diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to halt", the edition writes.
Any "Israeli" attack on an Iranian nuclear target would be a very complex operation in which a relatively large number of attack aircraft and support aircraft would participate. The conclusion is that "Israel" could attack only a few Iranian targets-not as part of a sustainable operation over time, but as a one-time surprise operation.
"The alternatives, however, are not good for Israel, the US, Iran's neighbors or Arab neighbors", the newspaper writes. Iranian persistence in developing nuclear weapons could push the US into launching its own strike on Iran-although either an Israeli or US strike might be used by Iran's hardliners to justify an all-out nuclear arms race.
Like several Arab states, "Israel" already is developing better missile and air defenses, and more-advanced forms of its Arrow ballistic missile defenses. There are reports that Israel is increasing the range-payload of its nuclear-armed missiles and is developing sea-based nuclear-armed cruise missiles for its submarines. While Iran is larger than Israel, its population centers are so vulnerable to Israeli thermonuclear weapons that Israel already is a major "existential" threat to Iran.
Moreover, provoking its Arab neighbors and Turkey into developing their nuclear capabilities, or the US into offering them a "nuclear umbrella" on their territory.
"Iran's search for nuclear-armed missiles may well unite its neighbors against it as well as create a major new nuclear threat to its survival", the newspaper sums up.
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