Times of Israel — April 11, 2015
American bunker busting bombs that can penetrate and destroy underground Iranian nuclear facilities are ready for use, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said Friday, reinforcing the threat of US military action should Iran shirk away from a final nuclear agreement with world powers.
“We have the capability to shut down, set back and destroy the Iranian nuclear program and I believe the Iranians know that and understand that,” he told CNN, referencing the Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP), one of the US military’s most powerful conventional weapons.
Asked if the weapon was capable of destroying Iran’s Fordo uranium enrichment plant, a nuclear facility built into a mountain, Carter answered “Yes, that’s what it’s designed to do.”
Carter added that any agreement with Iran would depend on Tehran allowing inspections of its nuclear facilities. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ail Khamenei said Thursday that the inspection of military facilities would not be permitted.
Carter noted that a negotiated agreement was preferable to a military strike since “military action is reversible over time” but said “my job as secretary of defense is to…make sure that the so-called military option…is on the table.”
Carter also spoke of US concerns that North Korea could be aiding Iran in its alleged quest to develop nuclear weapons.
“North Korea worked with Syria, helped it build a reactor… North Korea is a welcome all-comers kind of proliferator,” he said.
Earlier this month the Wall Street Journal reported that the US had recently improved its MOPs even as Washington conducted vigorous negotiations with Tehran for a framework agreement over its nuclear program/
According to the report, Pentagon officials had ordered a redesign of the 30,000-pound (13,608 Kg) Massive Ordnance Penetrator in 2013 due to concerns it was not powerful enough to penetrate some of Iran’s more fortified facilities. Testing of the new weapon, which sports an improved guidance system in addition to the upgraded firepower, was being conducted as recently as January of this year.
An attack would likely call for at least two MOPs to be dropped onto a target site in quick succession in order to penetrate and destroy it. The new guidance systems would prevent the enemy from jamming the bombs’ signals and knocking them off course.
US officials were reportedly now confident that the weapon, if need be, could successfully be used against Iranian and North Korean facilities. The report called the MOP one of the most destructive conventional weapons in the US arsenal. Improvements to the bomb, however, were ongoing.
Israeli sources said Friday Iranian leaders’ demand for the immediate lifting of all sanctions on the day a deal on its nuclear program takes effect represented proof that the US-led powers were adopting an unworkable approach to thwarting Iran’s push to the bomb.
A day after Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani insisted that there would be no deal unless sanctions were lifted on the day it went into effect — contradicting what the US says were understandings reached in a framework agreement last week in Lausanne — Channel 2 News said Israel regards the Iranian leaders’ declarations “as proof of its central argument” against the emerging accord: “You can’t make a deal based on trust with a regime that can’t be trusted.”
Despite its relentless objections to the deal, which is supposed to be finalized by June 30, Israel actually believes that Iran will take it, the Channel 2 report said, because the deal as it stands is good for Iran and will pave its path to bomb. Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz told the TV station that Israel would spend the coming weeks “trying to get some of the loopholes” in the agreement closed. In a Times of Israel interview on Wednesday Steinitz complained that the deal, which he called “a big mistake,” neither full freezes nor fully inspects the Iranian program.
No written text was agreed and signed in Lausanne, but the State Department insisted Thursday that it had been decided between the parties that any sanctions relief for Iran would only come once curbs on its enrichment were verified, and when Iran’s potential breakout time to the bomb had been extended to a year or more.
On Thursday, Rouhani demanded that world powers lift sanctions the day a final accord is signed, indicating the issue could be a deal breaker. “We will not sign any agreement unless all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the first day of the implementation of the deal,” Rouhani said.
And Khamenei said the punitive “sanctions should be lifted completely, on the very day of the deal.”
In remarks Thursday, President Barack Obama said the Iran deal “is not done until it’s done. And the next two to three months in negotiations are going to be absolutely critical for making sure that we are memorializing an agreement that gives us confidence and gives the world confidence that Iran, in fact, is not pursuing a nuclear weapon.”
AP and AFP contributed to this report