Obama’s Dilemma: Take Lead on Iran Attack from Israel – or Delay until Tactical Nuclear Strike Is Only Recourse
If it were only up to US President Barack Obama, the US would not attack Iran and its nuclear program in the second half of 2012 and maybe, if he were re-elected in November, not even during 2013 either.
But this hot Middle East summer finds him running out of leeway and trapped in a decision by three factors that are pushing the US into war on Iran as soon as September or October at the latest.
The key is Iran’s rapidly advancing mega-fortification project for its nuclear sites, first revealed by debkafile Wednesday, Aug. 1. It has sent Israel clamoring for an attack to go forward before those nuclear facilities are whisked out of its reach into the burgeoning “immunity zones.” It also raises fears that further delay will put Iran’s nuclear program outside the reach even of US super bunker busters, leaving Washington the single recourse of tactical nuclear weapons for thwarting a nuclear-armed Iran.
Moving out of US super- bunker-buster range
An army of thousands of Iranian military engineers and strong-backed workmen using heavy earth-moving equipment is working around the clock to "bury" the nuclear facilities under mountains of large boulders fortified with steel rods and plates and filled with tons of reinforced concrete.
As our military and intelligence sources first revealed on August 1, these fortifications are designed to hold up not just against Israeli air and missile bombardment but the far more high-powered American weaponry including the 30,000 destructive pounds packed by the latest version of the US Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP).
(See special debkafile video published on Wednesday).
This ongoing project, one of the biggest military engineering operations of the century, appears to exclude only three sites: the plutonium reactor under construction at Arak, the Russian-built reactor in Bushehr, and the Fordo enrichment plant built underground near the holy city of Qom.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and intelligence sources report that US and Israeli spy satellite cameras are tracking the growth of edifices over and around the nuclear centers at Natanz, Isfahan and Parchin. Those structures will be fully in place in just three months. By November, unless the work there is stopped, Iran’s most important nuclear installations will be hidden from sight – and immune from attack – under mountains of rock, steel and concrete.
Some will also be hermetically sealed against monitoring of the facility’s activities; others provided with steel gates tunneled under the ground surface to permit the nuclear program to go on working in wartime too.
The depreciating scale of damage to Iran’s nuclear sites
When Israeli and American war planners first forecast Iran’s ‘immunity zones,” for safeguarding Iran’s nuclear program against attack, they thought in terms of the transfer of its facilities to underground locations like Fordo (click on the photo to enlarge it). They did not envisage the Iranians coming up with the faster and less costly device of leaving the installations where they are and capping them with massive artificial mounds of impenetrable materials. The speed of this project is further indication that Tehran appreciates that its delaying tactics have run their course and an attack is just around the corner.
Weighing the momentum of the Iranian fortification project against Israel’s weapons capabilities, the Netanyahu government’s intelligence advisers estimate that a unilateral Israeli attack must take place within the next three months to seriously dislocate Tehran’s military nuclear program. After that, the scale of damage will depreciate and cease to be disruptive – that is unless, say DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources, tactical nuclear weapons are employed.
Their use would radically alter the nature and ramifications of the attack. Israeli government and military leaders say they have not formed a view on – or even considered – this option.
This rush of events is bad news for President Obama, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in Washington report.
Until now, he concentrated on efforts to hold Israel back from attacking Iran – at least until after the Nov. 6 presidential election.
His evaporating margin of flexibility confronts Obama with tough and urgent decisions.
Saudis push hard for the US to take the lead – not Israel
Assuming that Israel won't wait any longer and insists on going though with a military operation against Iran in October, should the US race ahead and beat it to the gun?
The American voting public, which is unprepared for the outbreak of war in the near term, is under the impression conveyed by abundant targeted leaks that Israel lacks the capability to achieve the objective of aborting Iran’s nuclear bomb program.
But the quiet pressure on the US president coming from Saudi Arabia, of which the American public is mostly unaware, is even heavier. Saudi Arabia is pushing hard for the US – not Israel – to lead the military expedition for wiping out Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Indeed, as DEBKA-Net-Weekly has repeatedly reported, Saudi leaders – from King Abdullah to Defense Minister, Prince Salman – have for months been pushing the Obama administration hard to preempt an Israeli attack by mounting an American offensive first. Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar, the Saudi leader who is the most knowledgeable about American politics and intelligence after 22 years as ambassador to Washington, has lent his weight to this Saudi lobbying effort.
Up until now, Gulf sources report, Saudi arguments bounced off White House walls. But the latest developments have given them fresh impetus: Israel is clearly determined on a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program, says Riyadh, and the Americans are anyway bound to join in. So why not put the horse before the cart and take the lead?
Tactical nuclear weapon attack – the cost of delay
President Obama is undoubtedly aware that Iran’s crash program for placing its facilities in bomb-proof immunity zones substantially speeds up the ticking clock – not just for an Israeli strike, but for an American one too.
If Israel avoids, or is prevented from, using military force to demolish Iran’s nuclear facilities by early November, they will be safe from American attack until the start of 2013 when the incumbent or a new US president moves into the White House. By that time, Iranian fortifications will be finished and its nuclear facilities sheathed in steel and concrete. It will be too late to halt Iran’s nuclear momentum with conventional weapons. Washington will then be confronted with the same sharp dilemma as the one facing Israel if an attack is delayed beyond November 2012: Resort to tactical nuclear weapons or surrender to a nuclear-armed Iran.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Washington sources report that the US President’s military and intelligence advisers have brought him fully abreast of the new situation.