wp | 14.08.2003 12:20
reported that after the latest meeting between
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and U.S. President
George W. Bush in Washington, there is mounting
concern in the administration that Israel might be
planning to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.
The columnist, Jim Hoagland,
opened his column yesterday by
saying: "A grim warning from
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon to President Bush that
Iran is much closer to
producing nuclear weapons than
U.S. intelligence believes, has
triggered concern here that
Israel is seriously considering
a preemptive strike against Iran's Busher
nuclear reactor." According to Hoagland, who
quoted U.S. and Israeli sources, Sharon brought
Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, his army liaison
officer, "to shower a worried-looking Bush with
photographs and charts from a thick dossier on
Iran's covert program."
Hoagland said Sharon told Bush that Israel
believes Iran is much closer to a bomb than
American intelligence suspects, and that as far
as Israel is concerned, the delivery date of
Russian fuel for the Iranian project will be a
point of no return. Hoagland noted that Israel
deliberately struck the Iraqi reactor in 1982
before it was supplied with nuclear fuel.
The column indicated that Sharon still "enjoys"
a reputation in Washington as a "wild card" or
"rogue," a reputation that the prime minister
put to good use leading up to the war in Iraq
when his semi-veiled threats to take action if
Baghdad struck Israel made Washington provide
both a defensive umbrella for Israel and a
hefty aid package.
But Sharon has been careful not to make explicit
threats, lest they be tested one day and
meanwhile cause unnecessary escalation.
Instead, he has preferred to make vague
statements that have left the Arabs, Iranians
and Americans in a worrying fog.
Israel has made no secret that the Iranian
nuclear program is the leading risk to its
national security. Israeli intelligence
believes the point of no return in the Iranian
nuclear program is within two to three years,
and some elements in Israeli intelligence
apparently think it could come sooner.
But attacking Iran's nuclear facilities would be
far more complicated than the 1982 strike
outside Baghdad. First, Iran's nuclear program
is dispersed at several sites, some of which
are protected from conventional weapons; the
distance to fly is much greater; and perhaps
most importantly, the Iranians could respond in
a painful manner.
Therefore, Israel would prefer that the United
States handle the problem through either
diplomatic means or force. There have been
recent reports that the CIA has shown some
countries, although not Israel, plans for an
air and missile attack on the Iranian
Israel would like to maintain a low profile and
let the Americans lead the campaign against the
Iranian program, so Israeli officials are not
commenting on it right now