Iran's Isfahan uranium plant
A report suggesting that US Secretary of Defense Leone Panetta believes Israel is planning to launch an attack on Iranian nuclear sites before the coming June echoed predictions formerly made by both US and Israeli officials privy to military intelligence in their respective countries.
In an extensive interview published by NBC News, the officials claimed that while US authorities are satisfied relying on economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions, Israel is more of a "wild card," and would most likely launch an attack if intelligence confirms that Tehran is inching toward developing nuclear weapons.
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Asked what are the chances that Israel would go ahead with an attack, most officials maintained that there is at least a 50-50 chance, while more than one official estimated the chances at as high as 70%.
Natanz nuclear facility (Photo: AP)
As for the method of attack, many officials believed Israel would employ a "multi-pronged attack, using its fighter bombers as well as its Jericho missile force.
The officials explained that Israel has an intermediate Jericho missile – the Jericho II - which is capable of hitting targets up to 1,500 miles away, and would most likely be equipped with high explosives, which officials described as highly accurate.
Missile exercise in Iran (Photo: MCT)
As for ground operations, some officials claimed Israeli commandos either from the IDF or Mossad would possibly be dropped at the sites to collect forensics or assist with illumination of the targets.
Instead of trying to completely destroy Iran's nuclear program, officials told NBC they believe the strikes will focus on the facilities that are deemed most critical, in an effort to set back the program.
Asked about the Iranian response to such an attack, officials estimated that it would be constrained due to both its limited capabilities and from fear that a harsh retaliation would lead to further attacks by Israel.
And what about other regional countries? Most officials agreed that both Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates would support the move, as they are also threatened by a nuclear Iran. As for Turkey, officials are expecting more of a muted response, though they claim Ankara has been keeping a close watch on the developments in Iran.
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