WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Bush administration reportedly launched covert action aimed at sabotaging Iran’s nuclear weapons program even as it turned down Israel’s request for assistance in a possible attack.
Early in 2008, President Bush rejected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plea for bunker-busting bombs and for permission to fly combat jets through U.S.-controlled airspace in Iraq so Israel could reach the Natanz nuclear reactor in Iran, the New York Times website reported Saturday night.
It is not clear if Olmert actually planned to attack Iran, the Times reported, but the Bush administration was worried an Israeli strike could launch a major Middle East war. Israel believes Iran is one the verge of the capability to manufacture a nuclear weapon.
Bush assuaged the Israelis by sharing intelligence showing that the United States was launching covert efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. The Times suppressed some of the details of the covert operation at the U.S. government’s request, but said it included "efforts to penetrate Iran’s nuclear supply chain abroad, along with new efforts, some of them experimental, to undermine electrical systems, computer systems and other networks on which Iran relies."
The Times also said that the program is active and the Bush administration is handing it over to the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama. Bush’s rejection of Israel’s request for assistance in a possible attack has been previously reported, but the Times report is the first to reveal the details of Israel’s requests and the first to report on the covert sabotage efforts.