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Is Israel Ramping Up for a Nuclear Attack on Iran?

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"If things go according to plan, a pilot will first launch a conventional laser-guided bomb to blow a shaft down through the layers of hardened concrete. Other pilots will then be ready to drop low-yield one kiloton nuclear weapons into the hole." So went the page one description in the London Times of how Israel will attack Iran with nuclear weapons.,,2089-2535177,00.html The reporters said they based their reports on Israeli military sources.

The next day an Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a statement in response to questions about the report saying said their "focus" was on diplomacy which some are reading as a denial. Actually Israel is doing all it can to terrify its own people and to get the West ready to accept the first use of nuclear weapons since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The signs are all around us. The Times story for one was obviously done in collaboration with Israeli officials. It's totally differerent from the revelations 20 years ago by Israeli nuclear technician turned whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu. And then there's the "slip" of Prime Minister Olmert who in December said that Iran is "aspiring to have nuclear weapons as America, France, Israel, Russia?" With this sentence he erased a 40 year Israeli policy of denying that it had nuclear bombs. Then there's the op-ed "Maybe Israel Should Bust Iran's Bunkers" by Zev Chafets in the January 10 edition of the Los Angeles Times.,1,5899716.story Chafets is an American, who served in the Israeli military, then became a press officer in the Israeli government in the '80's and who faithfully echos the line of right-wing Israeli Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and now Ehud Olmert. Chafets' article says Israel has only two choices "hoping" Iran won't nuke Tel-Aviv or it can "preemtively attack". Naturally he opts for the latter as "realistically" the better alternative. Or read Israeli historian Benny Morris in the Jerusalem Post click here on January 18 as describes an Iranian holocaust of Israel.

Finally there's the fact that the Israeli government's new rising star and Minister of Strategic Threats is Avigdor Lieberman. In a government of extremists he stands out. He wants virtually all Israeli Palestinians removed from the country. He proposed in 1998 that Israel blow up Egypt's Aswan Dam because its president supported Yasser Arafat. This is the man in charge of the "Iranian threat".

Now let's ignore the messy moral, legal and logical questions like the facts that Iran has not attacked Israel, that making war except when attacked is the war crime of aggression, that there's no real evidence that Iran has nuclear weapons program , or that there's any reason to believe that Iran would be mad enough to attack Israel with a nuclear bomb knowing that Israel has hundreds of atomic weapons.

Let's just decide what might happen if Israel nukes Iran. The attack is presented as a clean "surgical" strike, with just small "tactical" nuclear bombs, without danger that much radioactivity that would be released. Except if they do bomb Iranian nuclear sites the radioactive stores that are blown up will be thrust into the atmosphere. Except that the Iranians might shoot down a bomber and there might be a "tactical" holocaust.

Iran may not be able to stop the bombing but it could take countermeasures like suspending oil sales or blocking the Straits of Hormuz and sending oil to $100 a barrel. Or it could call on the ten million Iraqi Shia to get off the sidelines and join the fighting against US troops. Then there's the effect that a nuclear attack might have on other Muslim countries, particularly Pakistan. Pakistan is armed to the teeth with nucelar weapons and is a hairs breath away from falling under the sway of al-Qaeda type fanatics. A nuclear attack on Iran will seal their argument that the West is determined to wipe out Islam and could topple the shaky Musharraf regime and see it replaced with nuclear armed fundamentalists.

Finally there's the incalcuable effect on the breaching of the wall that has grown up over the last 60's years, the wall that says any nuclear bomb use is "unthinkable". If Israel can break down that wall who else might use "tactical" nuclear weapons India, Pakistan or any of a number of countries would could develop the weapons in the next decade and decide their "vital interests" threatened?

The conventional wisdom says that Israel is just making threats to intimidate Iran. Ho, hum. But let's play with another scenario. Prime Minister Olmert, now despised by a large majority of the population, resigns due to the criminal corruption charges against him. New elections are called. Labour is demoralized due to the failure of Labour Defense Minister Peretz to smash Lebanon and his betrayal of promises to the Israeli poor. Netenyahu's Likud and Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu parties win a majority of the Knesset. The "Surge" in Iraq runs out of steam despite flattening large parts of Sadr City. Bush sees the "evil" hand of Iran everywhere and gives Israel the go ahead. The nuclear bombers fly towards Iran.

Surely one of the purposes of the Times article was to see how the world would react. So far the silence has been deafening. We don't expect much from the politicians, but what about the anti-nuclear organizations and the big peace groups? Why aren't they screaming bloody murder about the very real possibility that a nuclear war will start this year?
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Stanley Heller is host of "The Struggle" a weekly TV news program seen on public access stations in the northeast and at He is chair of the Middle East Crisis Committee.
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