US officials deny reports of planned nuclear strike on Iran installations
Jeannie Shawl at 6:21 PM ET
[JURIST] US officials Monday denied [AP report] a report by Seymour Hersh published in the New Yorker that the Bush administration is drawing up plans for military strikes against Iran [JURIST news archive] that would use nuclear weapons to destroy the country's nuclear facilities and prevent Iran from gaining the capability to enrich uranium. President Bush said Monday the reports were "wild speculation" and that his goal of keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons could be accomplished through diplomacy. Iran said meanwhile that a US attack would be met with a "suitable response" [AP report]. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [official website] added that he would announce "good nuclear news" [IRNA release] within the next five days.
This is not the first time that a possible US nuclear strike against Iran has been mooted. In a February comment for JURIST, Northwestern University law professor Anthony D'Amato [faculty profile] wrote:
A combined US-Israel strike against Iran would have to employ tactical nuclear weapons, and there were signs a month or two ago that the United States was gearing up its military specialists for just such an option. As you will recall, the advance rhetoric was very hot: Iran was obtaining nuclear weapons technology, it broke the seals on yellowcake containers that had been sealed by the UN Inspection Team, it threatened to open a bourse for buying and selling oil in euros, and it announced that Israel should be wiped off the map. Unlike the case with Saddam in Iraq in 2003, Iran in 2006 has numerous long-range ballistic missiles positioned to fire at Israel, France, Germany, and American ships in the Persian Gulf, even after absorbing a surprise military attack. Its missiles are mobile, usually mounted on trucks. It would be impossible to take them out with conventional weapons. The only way to disable and destroy them would be by using above-ground "tactical" nuclear weapons, which can of course reach a wide area and destroy everything in it, especially the electronics used in launching missiles.... The UN Security Council is currently considering whether to impose sanctions against Iran [JURIST report] after Iran resumed parts of its uranium enrichment program last year. ABC News has more.
A military strike against Iran would involve the use of tactical nuclear weapons in the sparsely populated areas where the mobile missiles are located. As for command-and-control, the military strike undoubtedly involves precision bombing of government and military headquarters. I would predict a strike against the new bourse, perhaps on the theory that it might contain an underground military control center.
Nuclear weapons have not been used in warfare since 1945, and again it may be the United States that first uses them.
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