Sunday, December 11, 2005
The Sunday Times
December 11, 2005
Israel readies forces for strike on nuclear Iran
Uzi Mahnaimi, Tel Aviv, and Sarah Baxter, Washington
ISRAEL’S armed forces have been ordered by Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, to be ready by the end of March for possible strikes on secret uranium enrichment sites in Iran, military sources have revealed.
The order came after Israeli intelligence warned the government that Iran was operating enrichment facilities, believed to be small and concealed in civilian locations.
Iran’s stand-off with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over nuclear inspections and aggressive rhetoric from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, who said last week that Israel should be moved to Europe, are causing mounting concern.
The crisis is set to come to a head in early March, when Mohamed El-Baradei, the head of the IAEA, will present his next report on Iran. El-Baradei, who received the Nobel peace prize yesterday, warned that the world was “losing patience” with Iran.
A senior White House source said the threat of a nuclear Iran was moving to the top of the international agenda and the issue now was: “What next?” That question would have to be answered in the next few months, he said.
Defence sources in Israel believe the end of March to be the “point of no return” after which Iran will have the technical expertise to enrich uranium in sufficient quantities to build a nuclear warhead in two to four years.
“Israel — and not only Israel — cannot accept a nuclear Iran,” Sharon warned recently. “We have the ability to deal with this and we’re making all the necessary preparations to be ready for such a situation.”