Israel's 'First Strike' Plan Against Iran Ready
July 18, 2004
The Jerusalem Post
Israel has completed military rehearsals for a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear power facility at Bushehr, Israeli officials told the London-based Sunday Times.
Such a strike is likely if Russia supplies Iran with fuel rods for enriching uranium. The rods, currently stored at a Russian port, are expected to be delivered late next year after a dispute over financial terms is resolved.
An Israeli defense source in Tel Aviv, who confirmed that the military rehearsals had taken place, told the paper: "Israel will on no account permit Iranian reactors - especially the one being built in Bushehr with Russian help - to go critical."
The source was also quoted as saying that any strike on the Gulf coast facility at Bushehr would probably be carried out by long-range F-15I jets, overflying Turkey, with simultaneous operations by commandos on the ground.
"If the worst comes to the worst and international efforts fail," the source was quoted as saying, "we are very confident we'll be able to demolish the ayatollahs' nuclear aspirations in one go."
The source noted that the strike could be accompanied by an attack on other targets, including a facility at Natanz, where the Iranians have attempted to enrich uranium, and a plant at Arak, which produces heavy water.
In addition, the paper quoted a senior United States official warning of a pre-emptive Israeli strike if Russia continues cooperating with the Iranians. The Israeli source said Washington was unlikely to block Israeli military action.
The paper also quoted from a classified document on the Iranian threat which was presented to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon earlier this year and which it claims to have seen.
The document, entitled "The Strategic Future of Israel," was reportedly written by four of Israel's senior defense experts and advocated military action against "countries which develop nuclear weapons."
It described Iran as a "suicide nation" and recommended "targeted killings" of members of the country's elite, including its leading nuclear scientists.
Under an Iranian deal with Moscow, waste produced at Bushehr containing plutonium that could be used in bomb-making would be shipped back to Russia for storage.
The procedure is to be supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear watchdog.
But according to the paper, the material must first cool, providing the Iran with what Washington fears could be up to two years in which to extract the plutonium.
The paper quotes Israeli sources as saying that a quarter of a ton of plutonium could be produced each a year if Bushehr is fully functional, enough for 20 bombs.
Israeli sources acknowledged, added the Sunday Times, that a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities could provoke "a ferocious response," which could involve Lebanese-based rocket attacks on northern Israel or terrorist attacks against Jewish and Israeli targets abroad.
In a related development, London's Sunday Telegraph reported that America's bipartisan 9/11 Commission will this week report that Iran gave free passage to up to 10 of the September 11 hijackers just months before the 2001 attacks and offered to co-operate with al-Qaida against the US.
The commission, established by Congress in 2002, will also state that Iran, not Iraq, fostered relations with the al-Qaida network in the years leading up to the 2001 attacks on America.
The commission has established that between eight and 10 of the September 11 hijackers, who had been based in Afghanistan, traveled through Iran between October 2000 and February 2001. They are believed to have been the "muscle," whose mission was to storm the aircraft cockpits and overpower crew and passengers.
The commission will also report that Iranian officials were instructed not to harass al-Qaida personnel as they crossed the border and, in some cases, not to stamp their passports.
Testimony received by the commission - based on information from prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and about 100 electronic intercepts by the National Security Agency - indicates that an alliance was established between the Shia Muslim Iranian leadership and the Sunni terrorist al-Qaida organization in advance of the September 11 attacks.
9/11 Commission Finds Ties Between al-Qaeda and Iran
Senior U.S. officials have told TIME that the 9/11 Commission's report will cite evidence suggesting that the 9/11 hijackers had previously passed through Iran
By ADAM ZAGORIN AND JOE KLEIN
Friday, Jul. 16, 2004
Next week's much anticipated final report by a bipartisan commission on the origins of the 9/11 attacks will contain new evidence of contacts between al-Qaeda and Iranjust weeks after the Administration has come under fire for overstating its claims of contacts between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
A senior U.S. official told TIME that the Commission has uncovered evidence suggesting that between eight and ten of the 14 "muscle" hijackersthat is, those involved in gaining control of the four 9/11 aircraft and subduing the crew and passengerspassed through Iran in the period from October 2000 to February 2001. Sources also tell TIME that Commission investigators found that Iran had a history of allowing al-Qaeda members to enter and exit Iran across the Afghan border. This practice dated back to October 2000, with Iranian officials issuing specific instructions to their border guardsin some cases not to put stamps in the passports of al-Qaeda personneland otherwise not harass them and to facilitate their travel across the frontier. The report does not, however, offer evidence that Iran was aware of the plans for the 9/11 attacks.
The senior official also told TIME that the report will note that Iranian officials approached the al-Qaeda leadership after the bombing of the USS Cole and proposed a collaborative relationship in future attacks on the U.S., but the offer was turned down by bin Laden because he did not want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia.
The Iran-al Qaeda contacts were discovered and presented to the Commissioners near the end of the bipartisan panel's more than year-long investigation into the sources and origins of the 9/11 attacks. Much of the new information about Iran came from al-Qaeda detainees interrogated by the U.S. government, including captured Yemeni al-Qaeda operative Waleed Mohammed bin Attash, who organized the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, and from as many as 100 separate electronic intelligence intercepts culled by analysts at the NSA. The findings were sent to the White House for review only this week. But Commission members have been hinting for weeks that their report would have some Iran surprises. As the 9/11 Commission's chairman, Thomas Kean, said in June, "We believe....that there were a lot more active contacts, frankly, with Iran and with Pakistan than there were with Iraq."
These findings follow a Commission staff report, released in June, which suggested that al-Qaeda may have collaborated with Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers, a key American military barracks in Saudi Arabia. Previously, the attack had been attributed only to Hezbollah, with Iranian support. A U.S. indictment of bin Laden filed in 1998 for the bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa said al-Qaeda "forged alliances . . . with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezbollah for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States." But the Commission comes to no firm conclusion on al-Qaeda's involvement in the Khobar disaster.
Since 9/11 the U.S. has held direct talks with Iranand through intermediaries including Britain, Switzerland and Saudi Arabiaconcerning the fate of scores of al-Qaeda that Iran has acknowleded are in the country, including an unspecified number of senior leaders, whom one senior U.S. official called al-Qaeda's "management council". The U.S. as well as the Saudis have unsuccessfully sought the repatriation of this group, which is widely thought to include Saad bin Laden, the son of Osama bin Laden, as well of other key al-Qaeda figures.