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NUCLEAR MESSAGE OR SNAFU

Iranian Expert Menashe Amir: 'Iran Remains Mum To News That Israel Building Underground Command Bunker To Survive Iranian Nuclear Attack'

'Ahmadinejad Continues Nuclear Weapons Drive In Belief That Bush Is Bluffing'

Knesset Member Yuval Steinitz: 'Press Disclosure Of Israel's Nuclear Bunker Was Grave Violation Of National Security'

Israel is now building an underground nuclear bunker that could survive a nuclear attack, presumably from Iran. The story, complete with verifying photos, was carried by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot and sparked sharp criticism from Likud Knesset Member Yuval Steinitz who called it a grave violation of national security. IsraCast examines various aspects of the disclosure of Israel's nuclear bunker and Iranian expert Menashe Amir analyzes the latest statement by U.S. President George Bush that Iran will not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons.

Iranian expert Menashe Amir says on the surface Iranian President Ahmadinejad and other officials show no signs they are worried about the latest warning from U.S. President George Bush. The Iranian leadership is signaling that Bush will not carry out his threats to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. However, some Iranian government circles are very concerned about a military confrontation with the U.S. and want to avoid it. At present, it appears as if the Iranian leadership is ready ' to go to the brink '. In fact, Ahmadinejad's Revolutionary Guards would relish a confrontation with the U.S. believing it would strengthen their position inside Iran. Nor have American threats affected Iran's support for the insurgents in Iraq who are killing and wounding U.S. troops. The Iranians have actually been increasing their backing of the terrorist activities - they view Iraq as an American weak point and that Washington is so bogged down it will not dare attack Iran.

But are the international sanctions not having an impact on Iranian public opinion? The Iranians were not happy about the rationing of gasoline and other economic sanctions but for the moment there is no possibility of an uprising against the regime. The government has deepened its suppression against Iranian citizens. Although there is no sign of a rebellion it was possible that one day that citizens would take to the streets. But President Ahmadinejad will continue his efforts to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. On this score, the Iranians were facing some serious technical problems. The latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency disclosed that Iran has succeeded in operating only 2,000 of 50,000 centrifuges that are required for enriching uranium.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei

Although Tehran has agreed to some cooperation with the IAEA was this a matter of taking one step forward but two back? Menashe Amir says that's exactly what the Iranians are doing. Their goal is to buy time by making superficial but not substantial concessions to the IAEA. Iran was determined to continue enriching uranium although it was still far from reaching its goals.

Amir's conclusion is that the Bush warning reaffirms that the U.S. and Iran are now on a collision course.With less than a year and a half remaining in his term, the American President could attack Iran's uranium enrichment facilities to compensate for the failure in Iraq. For their part, the Iranians do not view the U.S. as a paper tiger but as a super - power beset by deep internal and external problems and their hope is that Bush is only talking and will not act.

Amir said so far there has been no Iranian reaction to the news that Israel is building an underground bunker designed to survive an Iranian nuclear strike.The fact that it was being built under the Judean Hills not far from Jerusalem could deter the Iranians from attacking the area because of the proximity of the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of Omar, two Muslim holy sites.

But might Israel be sending a nuclear warning to Ahmadinejad that the Israeli government and command structure would survive an Iranian nuclear strike to wipe Israel off the map ? In such a scenario, Israel could then launch a counter nuclear strike to devastate Iran. ( Foreign sources have reported that Israeli submarines at sea are armed with nuclear warheads.)

Menashe Amir says his knowledge of Iranian psychology leads him to think the Iranians are not worried about any number of Israelis or Iranians who might be killed by a nuclear attack. Their hope would be to carry out a mass killing of Israelis which would force the others to leave their country. But he adds the Iranians are faced with a big, big problem. In addition to the 6 million Jews in Israel there are 1. 2 million Israel Arabs as well as 3.5 million Palestinians leaving in the area. Moreover, the neighboring Muslim states of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan , Egypt and Saudi Arabia could also be seriously harmed by a nuclear attack on Israel. Therefore Menashe Amir tends to think the Iranians want to acquire the bomb more as a deterrent against Israel rather than actually using it in the future.

Commenting on the disclosure of Israel's nuclear bunker, Likud Knesset Member Yuval Steinitz said he was ' overwhelmed ' that some senior Israeli official had apparently approved publication of a national secret. Steinitz, the former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee, said a prior decision had been taken to keep the bunker top secret and there was no reason to publish it now. He was of the view that only Defense Minister Ehud Barak or Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could have approved making the bunker public knowledge. For reasons he could not reveal, Steinitz rejected the notion that the bunker could have been disclosed with the aim of deterring Iran.

David Essing

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