A pre-emptive, surgical strike to destroy the weaponisation capability looks like an attractive option.
The disclosure that earlier in 2008 the Bush administration was approached by the Israelis for help in attacking the large Iranian atomic research complex at Natanz is presumably timed to apply some none-too-subtle pressure on Barack Obama’s incoming national security advisers.
According to the leak, the Bush White House simply failed to respond to the request for the ‘bunker-busting’ laser-guided bombs that would be needed to penetrate the heavily-protected underground sites where it is suspected that weaponisation is now underway.
The intended target is Tehran’s publicly-acknowledged uranium-enrichment programme, obviously intended for the same treatment that proved so effective in Osiraq and Syria.
A pre-emptive, surgical strike to destroy the weaponisation capability looks like an attractive option, but only if the entire facility can be guaranteed to be neutralized in a single attack. The chances of a second bite of the cherry would be very low.
According to the leak, the Israelis were encouraged to find an alternative method of penetrating Natanz, interfering with the supply-chain of nuclear components and materiel, and developing accurate intelligence on what progress the Iranians have made.
As it has been known for a long time that Iranian scientists and technicians with families in the west have been made the targets for recruitment, one must suppose that any Iranian with access to atomic research, and especially those traveling abroad, perhaps to attended academic conferences, will be pitched to collaborate with an intelligence-gathering operation that ultimately will result in a military intervention, or more likely an act of sabotage.
The Israelis have plenty of experience of finding alternative methods of persuading participants in foreign countries to abandon projects that have the potential to threaten Israel’s security.
When President Gamal Abdel Nasser was intent on creating an offensive ballistic missile prgramme he employed dozens of German scientists who had acquired heur skill during the Nazi era.
On that occasion Mossad responded with a campaign of intimidation, sometimes by mailing explosive packages to individual in Egypt and Germany, and occasionally by a direct approach to members of their families in Europe.
While the tactics deployed were controversial, the results proved very effective and Cairo’s missile programme was abandoned.