U.S. Selling ‘Bunker-Buster’ Bombs to Israel

Daily News Article   —   Posted on September 16, 2008

(by Julie Stahl, CNSNews.com) Jerusalem – The U.S. Defense Department has signaled its intention to sell 1,000 small bunker-buster bombs to Israel, reports said on Monday. Some believe the bombs could be used in a strike against Iran’s fortified, underground nuclear facilities.

The U.S. Defense Department notified Congress last week that it would sell the GBU-39 bombs, which are highly accurate GPS-guided devices, to Israel in a $77-million deal. Congress has 30 days to reject the deal.
 
“It is vital to the U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.
 
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the GBU-39 is a small, 250-pound class smart bomb that has the same penetration capabilities as a 2,000-pound BLU-109, which was developed to penetrate the most secured targets. The GBU-39 can penetrate more than six feet of reinforced concrete.
 
The advantage of the smaller bombs is that aircraft can carry more of them, to strike more targets.
 
The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday that the bombs “would likely be used in the event of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.”
 
Weapons expert Yiftach Shapir from the Institute for National Security Studies said that while the GBU-39 has some bunker-busting capabilities, it is probably not big enough to penetrate the fortifications covering Iran’s nuclear facilities. That would require a much larger bomb.
 
Shapir told CNSNews.com that the GBU-39 would probably become the “bread and butter” of the Israeli Air Force arsenal within the next decade. It could be used against targets such as rocket launchers in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, he said.
 
The announcement of the sale comes at time of increasing tensions over Iran’s development of a nuclear program, which the U.S., Israel and the West believe is a cover-up for a clandestine atomic weapons program.
 
There is some speculation that if Israel were going to attack Iran it would do so after the U.S. elections in November and before the inauguration in January.
 
The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported earlier that the U.S. held up a security package that Israel requested because of concern that the bunker-buster bombs included in the deal would be used to attack Iranian nuclear sites.
 
But Shapir said that linking the sale of the GBU-39s to an attack on Iran was merely “propaganda.”

All original CNSNews.com material, copyright 1998-2008 Cybercast News Service. Reprinted here with permission from CNSNews. Visit the website at CNSNews.com.

Questions

1. a) What has the U.S. Defense Department agreed to sell to Israel?
b) Who must approve the deal for it to be finalized?

2. a) What do some believe the bombs could be used for by Israel?
b) What is the Defense Department’s reason for selling the bombs to Israel?

3. What advantage does the 250-pound GBU-39 have over the 2,000-pound BLU-109?

4. a) What did the Jerusalem Post report that the bombs would be used for?
b) Why does Yiftach Shapir dispute this assertion?

5. How does Mr. Shapir think the GBUs will be used?

6. When is it speculated that Israel will attack Iran, if it does so at all?

7. The Iranian government has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel (a fellow U.N. member).
Iran has repeatedly defied the international community and refused to end its nuclear program, insisting it is for the peaceful purpose of generating nuclear energy only, yet it refuses to allow nuclear inspectors full access to its nuclear sites.
The U.S., Israel and Western countries (France, England, etc.) believe the Iranian government is working to build nuclear weapons.
Do you think Israel should make a preemptive strike in an attempt to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities? Explain your answer.


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Background

ON IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM:

  • Iran’s 20 year secret nuclear program was discovered in 2002.  Iran says its program is for fuel purposes only, but it has been working on uranium enrichment which is used to make nuclear bombs.  Under the  NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) countries are not allowed to make nuclear weapons (except for the 5 that had nuclear weapons prior to the treaty – the U.S., Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom).
  • The U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, issued a report Monday (9/15/08) that said Iran has repeatedly blocked an investigation into its nuclear program and the probe is now deadlocked.
  • The U.N. Security Council has already imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear defiance.  Despite the sanctions, Iran has refused to end its nuclear program.
  • France called the Sept. 15th findings “very worrisome” and is calling for new U.N. sanctions against Iran, and the U.S. spoke of “the possibility of new sanctions” if Iran continues to defy the U.N.
  • However, Russia and China, who like the U.S. and France have veto power over U.N. Security Council resolutions, would likely resist a fourth round of sanctions against Iran. Britain, the fifth veto-wielding member of the Security Council, is aligned with the U.S. and France.
  • The Iranian government has called for the destruction of Israel on numerous occasions.  It is believed that once obtained, Iranian President Ahmadinejad would use nuclear weapons against Israel.

Resources

Look at a map of the Middle East at worldatlas.com.  Consider the size of Israel (the only Jewish state) compared to the other Middle Eastern (Muslim) states.