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US set to sell bunker-busters to Israel

Al-Jazeera | April 27 2005

The Pentagon has notified Congress of a proposed sale to Israel of 100 guided bunker-busting bombs, a move that analysts say could prompt concerns about a unilateral Israel strike against Iran.

Israel requested the sale of the Lockheed Martin Corp GBU-28s, worth as much as $30 million, the Pentagon's Defence Security Cooperation Agency said in a notice required by law for government-to-government military sales.

The GBU-28 was developed for penetrating hardened command centres located deep underground and would be used by the Israeli Air Force on their US-built F-15 aircraft, the agency said.

Iran strike

Israel - believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear armed state - has denied speculation that it might make a military strike on Iran to prevent it from producing an atomic bomb.

In 1981 Israel sent jets to bomb an Iraqi reactor, driving Saddam Hussein's quest for a bomb underground.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in a interview with CNN earlier this month, said his country was not planning any military attack on Iran.

Sharon, in a separate interview with Fox News, said: "Of course we take all precautions and all the steps to defend ourselves. But it's not that Israel should give the answer to the international problem" of Iran potentially developing a bomb.

Provocative step

In January, US Vice-President Dick Cheney warned Israel could in the future try to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

The Defence Security Cooperation Agency said the sale of the GBU-28s would "not affect the basic military balance in the
region".

But John Isaacs, president of the Council for a Liveable World, said the proposed sale was clearly "a provocative step" that would prompt concerns about a unilateral Israeli strike, particularly in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East.

"One could be suspicious that these bombs could be used for an Israeli attack on Iran," Isaacs said.

Conclusion

"This particular munition is designed to destroy deeply buried high-value assets such as command centres or nuclear weapons facilities," said Loren Thompson at the Virginia-based Lexington Institute. "Draw your own conclusions."

But the success of any such strike on possible Iranian nuclear facilities would depend on the quality of intelligence about the location of such facilities, as well as how far underground such sites were buried, Isaacs said.

"It's not a slam-dunk in any way," he added.

Once notified, Congress has 30 days to reject planned foreign military sales, but it rarely does so.