Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- A bipartisan policy group called for providing Israel with 200 additional bunker-buster bombs to increase the credibility of a military strike aimed at thwarting Iran’s nuclear program.
The proposal is part of a report issued today by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Security Project, a nonprofit research group in Washington.
The group, led by former Democratic Senator Charles Robb of Virginia and retired General Charles Wald, a former deputy commander of U.S. European Command, called for providing Israel 200 GBU-31 bunker-buster bombs and two or three KC-135 aerial refueling tankers. Israel already has about a dozen of the tankers needed to enable Israeli warplanes to strike targets in Iran, according to the report.
“The pressure on Iran to negotiate in good faith will be maximized to the extent Iran believes that not just the United States, but also Israel, is capable of and prepared to deliver a crippling blow to its nuclear program,” the group said.
A more credible military threat from Israel is required, because Iran “could have the capacity to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear device in as little as two months” and “develop nuclear weapons capability” this year, according to the report.
“This program is the most immediate national-security threat to the United States,” Robb said in presenting the report at a news conference.
“While we do not advocate an Israeli military strike, we believe a more credible Israeli threat can only increase the pressure on Iran to negotiate,” Wald said in a written statement.
The report was issued as policy makers in Congress express heightened concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.
Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said yesterday that this will be “a critical year” for preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address last month, said he will “take no options off the table” to ensure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.
To thwart Iran, the Bipartisan Policy Center endorsed a “triple-track” strategy of diplomacy, economic sanctions, and “credible, visible preparations for a military option of last resort.”
While Israel already has about 100 GBU-28 bunker-buster munitions, the addition of 200 precision-guided GBU-31 bombs -- which have a Boeing Co. GPS tail-kit -- would increase the likelihood that any strike “would score a direct hit on its target,” the report said.
Alireza Nader, an analyst at the Rand Corp. who was co- author of a study on Israel and Iran, said sending Israel more bombs would be a mistake.
“It’s actually counterproductive,” Nader said. “It might compel the Iranian government to accelerate the nuclear program. They see a potential weapons capability as a deterrence against the United State and Israel.”
Nader said diplomacy and sanctions are a wiser course, with recent sanctions having “raised the cost of weaponization for the Islamic Republic” as its economy weakens.
The National Security Project group, while endorsing more sanctions, expressed skepticism about their effectiveness in curbing Iran’s nuclear program.
“Even new ‘crippling’ sanctions are unlikely to threaten the viability of the Iranian regime -- the one motivation for Tehran to negotiate in good faith,” its report found.
Other members of the National Security Project task force include Dan Glickman, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee; Ambassador Eric Edelman, a former undersecretary of defense for policy; retired General Ron Keys, a former commander of Air Combat Command; Stephen Rademaker, a former assistant secretary of state for arms control and nonproliferation; and Mortimer Zuckerman, chief executive officer and board chairman of Boston Properties Inc.
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