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|Arming an Israeli Attack
Why the US should cancel "Bunker Buster" Bombs for Israel
Faulty Intelligence, WMD Hype and a New Trigger for War
On April 28, 2005 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the sale of
100 GBU-28 "bunker buster" guided bombs to Israel. Designed to penetrate
hardened command centers located deep underground, the GBU-28 is a 5,000-pound
laser-guided bomb that uses a 4,400-pound penetrating warhead and contains 630 pounds of
The Israeli target for the GBU is no secret. For months Israeli intelligence, political
and policy operatives in the US have been presenting a case that Iran is secretly
developing nuclear weapons that threaten Tel Aviv and other Israeli population centers.
American skeptics will recall similar statements by Ariel Sharon who made claims along
with a network of American pundits that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction had been shipped
into Syria at the start of the US invasion of Iraq. Although the 1,700-member Iraq Survey
Team responsible for hunting WMD in Iraq officially announced on April 23, 2005 it found
no evidence of any weapons of mass destruction or transfer to Syria, proponents of
conflict with Syria and Iran continue to push their case forward. Like misleading
intelligence claims about Iraq, a GBU-28 sale could trigger an immediate, needless and
bloody conflict, only this time between the US and Iran (see Exhibit 1).
Exhibit 1: GBU-28 "Bunker Buster"
(Source: Federation of American Scientists April, 2005)
Busting Progress on the Iranian Nuclear Program
Delivery of the GBU-28 to Israel would boil over the simmering question over Iran's
nuclear program. European negotiators have announced progress with Iran. Vladimir Putin
pledged increased vigilance of expended uranium and the fuel cycle as part of Russian
assistance in the construction and operation of Iranian reactors. President Bush mentioned
this progress in Iran and even empathy for their development goals during his April 28,
2005 press conference:
"As to Iran, what Russia has agreed to do is to send highly enriched uranium to a
nuclear civilian power plant and then collect that uranium after it's used for
electricity, power purposes. That's what they've decided to do. And I appreciate
that gesture. See, what they recognize is that what America recognizes and what
Great Britain, France and Germany recognize, is that we can't trust the Iranians when it
comes to enriching uranium; that they should not be allowed to enrich uranium. And what
the Iranians have said is, 'Don't we deserve to have a nuclear power industry just like
I'm, kind of, wondering why they need one, since they've got all the oil. But
nevertheless, others in the world say, well, maybe that's their right to have their own
civilian nuclear power industry.
And what Russia said: Fine, we'll provide you the uranium. We'll enrich it for you and
provide it to you and then we'll collect it. And I appreciate that gesture. So I think
Vladimir was trying to help there. I know Vladimir Putin understands the dangers of an
Iran with a nuclear weapon. And most of the world understands that as well."
Israel may be upset that the US is willing to work internationally on the Iranian nuclear
issue. They also have reason to fear immanent regulation of their own arsenal of nuclear
weapons as American officials break the taboo of silence surrounding Israeli nukes. In the
run-up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference in May, 2005, Jackie
Wolcott Sanders, who is the ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament and the special
representative of the president for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), wrote
that the goal of universal NPT ought to be in the spotlight. Sanders stated it should be
"reaffirmed that India, Israel and Pakistan may join the NPT only as
Just as South Africa and Ukraine did in the early 1990s,
these states should foreswear nuclear weapons and accept IAEA safeguards on all nuclear
activities to join the treaty." Another State Department official, Mark Fitzpatrick
made similar comments. Israel's nuclear weapons are under the spotlight and may pressure
it to act. They are one of the reasons that if GBU-28's are sold to Israel, they could be
immediately used to attack Iran.
Motivation for an Immediate Israeli Attack on Iran
There are many factors motivating Israel to strike Iran immediately upon receipt of
GBU-28's. Its current status as a nation under pressure to conform with the quartet's
road-map for to peace is causing an internal situation close to civil war and leave
Israel's Likud leadership looking for a way to solidify its hold on occupied territories.
The US presence in Iraq will at some point wind down, leading to troop withdrawal and a
diminished possibility of drawing the US into a costly "regime change" exercise
in Iran. The Israeli option of disrupting the road map for peace while drawing the US into
a conflict with Iran by conventional means is more likely with bunker busters.
Exhibit 2: Provoking a US-Iran Regime Change War: The Israeli Perspective
(Source: IRmep 2005)
disruption of the 'Roadmap for Peace' plan
By triggering a
US-Israeli conflict against Iran, Israel can permanently
disrupt the road map and seize territory in the name of fighting an expanded "war on
for Israel in the US AIPAC
US-Israeli conflict against "terrorists" in Iran could reinvigorate
American-Israeli unity, now under strain as Americans consider the true costs of
supporting Israel and the damaging
AIPAC espionage allegations.
lack of intelligence
The lack of any
hard evidence that Iran possesses nuclear
weapons is problematic. By immediately
attacking Iran and provoking
"transcends" the need to "prove" Iran is engaged in
nuclear weapons development. The current
climate of skepticism surrounding pre-war intelligence about WMD in Iraq makes attack a more
reliable catalyst than intelligence.
pressure on Israeli nuclear weapons
As US officials
publicly recognize Israel's covert status as
a nuclear power, the pressure to protect that status and prevent challengers from
achieving nuclear weapons intensifies.
Israel has many motivations to immediately use the GBU-28.
Tactically, it is not in the US interest to enable any catalyst of a three way
conventional war with Iran. Strategically, the US will have to deal with Israeli nuclear
weapons if it hopes to encourage regional players to enter the NPT and disavow nuclear
The US must take a number of steps to defuse the budding crisis in the region. The US
1. Not sell Israel the GBU-28. To sell them is to all but
guarantee their use, creating an unnecessary human and environmental disaster in Iran and
2. Caution Israel not to engage in a nuclear first strike
against Iran. Although Israel is capable of strategic submarine and air attacks
against Iran, it should be sternly warned not to do so;
3. Bring Israel into the Non-Proliferation Treaty. If
Iran sets out to build a nuclear capability, it will largely be to counter Israeli nuclear
weapons. By moving Israel into the NPT and eliminating its stockpile of nuclear weapons,
one of the major drivers of instability in the region would be eliminated.
The US Congress has 30 days to object to this sale. IRmep strongly encourages members of
Congress to consider the factors outlined in this policy research note and reject the
destabilizing sale of GBU-28s to Israel.
v House of Representatives
v State Department
Department of Defense
Department of Justice
v Foreign Diplomatic Representatives
v Congress Watch level supporters