Report: Netanyahu holding off Iran strike in deal for US arms

Israel Air Force F-15Is practice mid-air refueling. (IAF)

JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—The US will supply Israel with enhanced  bunker-busting bombs and tankers for mid-air refueling of its warplanes in exchange for holding off an attack against Iran’s nuclear sites until at least the end of the year, Maariv reported on Thursday.

According to the report, at their Oval Office meeting earlier this week, US President Barack Obama promised Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to supply Israel with the latest deep-penetration bombs as well as airborne tankers to enable Israel Air Force jets to reach Iran and return home.

The deal: In return, Israel agreed to not unilaterally strike against Iran until at least the end of 2012, after the upcoming US presidential elections.

Maariv’s report, based on Western sources, is that the US ordnance will be supplied only on condition that Israel delays an attack.

Of particular interest in such a deal is that it would likely include the latest development in US bunker-busting technology: the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), also known as the GBU-57A/B. This huge, precision-guided, 30,000-pound bunker-buster bomb is six times heavier than its deepest penetrating predecessor, the 5,000-pound GBU-28 and GBU-37—which the US has previously supplied Israel.

The US and Israel remain divided as to what stage of Iran’s uranium enrichment process will a preemptive strike become inevitable. Intelligence reports say Iran has so far enriched some 120 kilograms of uranium to 20 percent purity. While building a bomb requires about 250 kg of 90% pure uranium, enriching from 20% to 90% is a much quicker process, meaning that time is running out for a deterrent strike.

Maariv reports that the US is prepared to wait until Iran has 250 kg of 20% pure uranium, but Israel considers this may be too close to what Netanyahu has called Iran’s “zone of immunity” to an attack.