US has sold Israel munitions that can destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities.

September 21, 2008

From Haaretz, 14th September:

                  “Despite reservations in Washington regarding a possible
                  Israeli strike on Iran, the American administration will
                  supply Israel with sophisticated weapons for heavily fortified
                  targets, the U.S. administration announced.

                  The U.S. Department of Defense announced it would sell the
                  Israel Air Force 1,000 new smart bombs, rumored to
                  significantly enhance the IAF’s military capabilities. The
                  deal was approved amid public and secret messages from
                  Washington, with the Americans expressing their reservations
                  about a possible Israeli strike against the Islamic Republic’s
                  suspected nuclear sites.

                  The Pentagon’s announcement, which came on Friday, said the
                  U.S. will provide Israel with 1,000 units of Guided Bomb
                  Unit-39 (GBU-39) – a special weapon developed for penetrating
                  fortified facilities located deep underground.

                  The $77 million shipment, which includes launchers and
                  appurtenances, will allow the IAF to hit many more bunkers
                  than currently possible. Although each bomb weighs 113
                  kilograms, its penetration capabilities equal those of a one
                  ton bomb, according to professional literature.

                  Most U.S. Air Force aircraft are able to carry a pack of four
                  of these bombs in place of a single one-ton bomb. The bomb’s
                  small size allows a single-strike aircraft to carry more of
                  the munitions than is possible utilizing currently available
                  bomb units, thus increasing firepower, or, alternatively,
                  allowing the aircraft to fly longer distances to deliver a
                  single bomb.

                  During demonstrations, the GBU-39 – labeled by the
                  manufacturer, Boeing, as a Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) – has
                  successfully penetrated more than 1.8 meters of thick
                  reinforced concrete with a 23-kilogram warhead. The GPS-guided
                  weapon is said to have a 50-percent probability of hitting its
                  intended target within 5-8 meters, which should minimize
                  collateral damage.

                  The estimated value for the bomb’s GPS version, which military
                  experts have called the latest development in the
                  bunker-buster line, is around $70,000 to $90,000 for each
                  individual bomb.

                  The U.S. has already supplied Israel with earlier versions of
                  bunker busters. In 2005, the Pentagon authorized the sale of
                  GBU-28 to Israel, in a move that commentators construed as a
                  hinted threat aimed at Iran. Haaretz reported earlier this
                  month that the U.S. was hesitant about selling Israel heavier
                  busters.”

With the leadership vacuum in Israel now eliminated by the election of Tzipi Livni, one wonders what the meaning of this development is. There was lots of speculation that the administration’s refusal to sell these munitions was a sign of their unwillingness to support military action against Iran. Why have they changed their decision? Did Israel give the US any assurance that they will not use these munitions for a surprise attack? Or is the administration finally conceding that it’s not possible to restrain Iran when Russia is threatening to veto any meaningful sanctions? We can only speculate, but the developments deserve attention.

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