JERUSALEM (JTA) – An Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be a "huge and highly complex operation" that would be far different than its 1981 attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor, according to a New York Times report.
Citing U.S. defense officials and military analysts close to the Pentagon, the Times wrote Monday that the operation would take at least 100 planes and require in-air refueling en route.
“All the pundits who talk about ‘Oh, yeah, bomb Iran,’ it ain’t going to be that easy,” Lt. Gen. David Deptula, who retired last year as the Air Force’s top intelligence official, was quoted as saying.
Israel in 1981 bombed and destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor under construction 10 miles from Baghdad. In September 2007, at least four Israeli aircraft crossed into Syria and bombed an undeclared nuclear reactor.
The Times article appeared after a weekend in which Tom Donilon, the national security adviser, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, warned on CNN that an Israeli strike on Iran now would be “destabilizing.”
Speculation that Israel might attack Iran has intensified in recent months. An Israeli spokesman in Washington told the newspaper that Israel “is keeping all options on the table.”
According to the article, Israel would want to strike Iran’s four major nuclear sites — the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordo, the heavy-water reactor at Arak and the yellowcake-conversion plant at Isfahan.
The article speculates that Israel does not have enough airborne refueling tanker planes to reach Iran and that it would need other planes to protect the tankers during the flight. It also points out that Israel may not have the appropriate bombs to penetrate the Natanz facility, which is located under 30 feet of reinforced concrete, or Fordo, which is built into a mountain.