Israel's Foreign Ministry is denying a British newspaper report that claims Jerusalem has drafted plans for a low-level nuclear strike on Iran to wipe out its uranium enrichment facilities using nuclear-tipped "bunker busters."
The London Times published in Sunday editions that Israel's intelligence service, Mossad, has determined that Iran will have enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon within two years.
Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has threatened to wipe Israel off the map. If Iran is able to produce nuclear weapons in its underground plants, then "mini-nukes" would be used to destroy facilities at Natanz, Isfahan and Arak, the article claims.
They would be the strength of one-fifteenth of the bombs that went off in 1945 at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and would hit underground to reduce radioactive fallout, the paper said.
"As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished," an unnamed source told the newspaper. The report states that plans would be pursued only if a conventional attack is ruled out and the United States chooses not to intervene.
But the paper, which cites several military sources, says U.S. and American officials have met several times to consider military options and releasing the information could be aimed at putting pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, cajoling America to take action or softening up world opinion ahead of any such attack.
The newspaper said Defense Secretary Robert Gates has described military action against Iran as a “last resort,” leading Israeli officials to conclude that it will be left to them to strike.
Asked about such a plan, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said his understanding is the Israelis "have emphatically denied there is any such plan. I was pleased to hear that."
Hoyer, D-Md., added that he agrees with President Bush's stated preference to "pursue negotiations and resolution of this through diplomatic means."
"But clearly, in a very volatile part of the world, we need to make sure that we pursue every possible avenue to preclude Iran from becoming a nuclear power. That would be dangerous for [the] region, dangerous for the international community," Hoyer said.
One Israeli military official said editors at The Sunday Times are delusional, and the official denied any such plan. Israel has had a position of ambiguity on its nuclear weapons since the 1960s, never officially claiming or denying to own such weapons. Last month, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he misspoke when he suggested in an interview that Israel was a member of the nuclear club.
"This is absurd information coming from a newspaper that has already in the past distinguished itself with sensationalist headlines that in the end amounted to nothing," the anonymous official said to Agence France Press about the London Times report.
"To think that we will launch an atomic attack against Iran, and on top of that that we would reveal it in advance to a foreign newspaper is doubly ridiculous," the official said.
Amb. Dennis Ross, a longtime Middle East envoy and FOX News contributor, said he does not think Israel is developing a plan to attack Iran with tactical nuclear weapons, but it is probably coming up with a contingency plan to deal with Tehran if the international community does nothing to stop the development of nuclear arms.
Ross said the international community must convince Iran that "the price they pay is one they don't want to pay" for developing those weapons. That includes a nuclear-armed Saudi Arabia, Iran's main rival; exclusion from the international financial system, which would be tough for a country that already has high inflation and high unemployment; and leverage from the Chinese, who are trying to create closer ties with the Saudis.