Israel targets Iranian nuclear plants for raids

Patrick Cockburn
Sunday 21 May 1995 23:02


in Jerusalem

Israel is considering attacking Iranian nuclear facilities to prevent Iran acquiring a bomb, according to Israeli press reports. The aim would be to repeat Israel's success in 1981 in bombing Iraq's Osirak reactor.

Israel's concern about the Iranian programme has been growing since last year but it has hitherto looked to the United States to put pressure on Iran to prevent it developing a nuclear device. Officials said earlier in the year that they might consider a repeat performance of the attack on Iraq if diplomacy failed.

The Israeli press cite a report by Jane's Intelligence Review as saying Israel has increased the resources it devotes to checking the Iranian nuclear programme and was sharing intelligence about Iran with Oman, strategically situated at the mouth of the Gulf. Israel has also learnt India is co- operating with Iran in producing nuclear power.

There has been no official denial of the press reports. The citing of foreign publications has long been used by Israeli media to avoid censorship and print information which it has from its own sources. A further motive for raiding Iran would be to revive the chances of the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and the Labour Party winning next year's election.

Six months ago there was a semi-public debate in the Israeli security establishment about the correct tactics on Iran. Some officers favoured military action, while others said the Osirak raid could not be duplicated because Iran had dispersed its nuclear programme and placed it underground.

On the other, hand Israel would presumably have little difficulty destroying the half-built nuclear plant at Bushehr, in the northern Gulf, for which Russia is to supply a reactor. German companies started construction under the Shah but abandoned it after the revolution. It was also bombed and damaged by Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.

President Bill Clinton's recent failure to persuade President Boris Yeltsin to stop Russia's proposed nuclear sale to Iran could be used by Israel as a justification for a raid on the grounds that diplomacy had failed.

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