US arming israel with heavy bombs for war
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Sep. 22, 2004. 01:00 AM
U.S. giving Israel 5,000 bombs
Military aid includes `bunker busters'
News revealed as Iran pushes nuclear agenda
MIDDLE EAST BUREAU
JERUSALEM—Israel's military arsenal is poised to receive a windfall of 5,000 "smart bombs" from the United States in a new package of military aid, according to Pentagon documents.
But Israeli officials and defence analysts last night played down the planned infusion of $319 million (U.S.) worth of air-launched ordnance, including 500 satellite-guided "bunker busters," saying the shipment is significant for its quantity, rather than its capabilities.
Although Israel occasionally has deployed big bombs in its four-year campaign against the ongoing Palestinian uprising, the enormity of the package — one of the largest U.S.-Israeli weapons deals in years — fed speculation the country is arming for a possible pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear ambitions.
"In terms of capabilities, there is nothing here that Israel doesn't already have. It is just a matter of enlarging the inventory," said security affairs analyst Shlomo Brom of Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Centre.
"And in terms of the situation between Israel and Iran, this is simply not an arena where large-scale war can take place, only surgical strikes. And Israel is already prepared for such a scenario," said Brom, a former chief of strategic planning for the Israeli army.
The bomb deal, elements of which were posted on the Pentagon's website as early as late June, is expected to include 500 JDAM-guided BLU-109 "bunker-buster" warheads capable of penetrating four-metre-thick cement walls, plus 2,500 one-tonne bombs, 1,000 half-tonne bombs and 500 quarter-tonne bombs.
The JDAM, or Joint Direct Attack Munition, attaches to a variety of free-fall bombs, converting them to "smart" weapons capable of pinpoint accuracy in all weather conditions. The technology was a centrepiece of the U.S.-led coalition's aerial onslaught of Baghdad in March, 2003.
While at least one Pentagon contract calls for supplying Israel with 850 JDAM kits, some analysts suggested it is the "bunker-busting" element of the deal that is of greater value to Israel.
"Israel very likely manufactures its own bunker busters, but they are not as robust as the 2,000-pound (910 kilogram) BLUs," Robert Hewson, editor of Jane's Air-Launched Weapons, told Reuters.
Iran, which maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, has rejected a demand by the United Nations nuclear watchdog that it suspend all work on uranium enrichment. Iran's atomic energy chief said yesterday "some" of 37 tons of uranium mineral has already been converted into fuel used in nuclear centrifuges.
"We've made our choice: Yes to peaceful nuclear technology, no to atomic weapons," said Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.
"We will continue along our path even if it leads to an end to international supervision," he said, alluding to the dispute with the U.N. nuclear agency, which conducts inspections of potential weapons-producing facilities.
An Iranian defence ministry official told Reuters that disclosure of the U.S.-Israel deal could be "psychological warfare to test us."
Israel, widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed nation in the Middle East, has warned repeatedly against Iranian efforts to go nuclear. As the Iranian developments continue, rising tensions have revived comparisons to a standoff in 1981, when Israel bombed Iraq's Osiraq reactor in a controversial strike that all but ended former dictator Saddam Hussein's nuclear program.
With files from Associated Press
Additional articles by Mitch Potter