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One strike on Isfahan in 2004 might have ended Iran’s nukes

Source: Haaretz - Israel News | December 18th, 2009 | By Aluf Benn and Amos Harel
Industry type: Nuclear Industry

It is possible that the Iranian nuclear threat could have been resolved a few years ago, when Tehran’s nuclear program depended on a single uranium enrichment facility in Isfahan. If that facility had been bombed Iran would have lost large quantities of the raw material for uranium enrichment, setting back its nuclear program for years.

But nothing was done and the Iranians went ahead and dispersed their facilities among fortified locations that are far more difficult to hit.

Iran has also in the meantime reinforced its response capabilities to an attack. It now has long-range missiles and has supplied Hezbollah and Hamas with rockets that can reach most of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to do everything in order to prevent the Iranians from acquiring military nuclear capabilities, but if he fails, he can pin the blame on his predecessors, who flinched from attacking at the propitious moment. Perhaps that is what National Security Adviser Uzi Arad was getting at when he blamed previous governments for leaving Netanyahu “scorched earth” in advance of further confrontation with the Iranian threat.

When Netanyahu was finance minister in Ariel Sharon’s cabinet, he urged Sharon to focus on the struggle against Iran. When Netanyahu resigned over the disengagement plan, and Sharon left Likud and established Kadima, Netanyahu told Sharon that if he acted against Iran before the election, Netanyahu would support him. Sharon did not act.

The uranium conversion plant in Isfahan has an important function in the chain of Iran’s nuclear program. It first went into operation in 2004, taking uranium from mines and producing uranium FLUORIDE gas, which then feeds the centrifuges that enrich the uranium. Since 2004, hundreds of kilograms of uranium flouride gas were stockpiled at Isfahan and subsequently sent to the enrichment plant in Natanz.

The American nuclear expert David Albright said in 2006 that the Iranians had built a complex of underground tunnels next to the Natanz facility and estimated that it had placed critical assets there against an attack.

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