Netanyahu asked Panetta to approve sale of bunker-busting bombs, U.S. official says

Haaretz reports: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested the United States approve the sale of advanced refueling aircraft as well as GBU-28 bunker-piercing bombs to Israel during a recent meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a top U.S. official said on Tuesday.

The American official said that U.S. President Barack Obama instructed Panetta to work directly with Defense Minister Ehud Barak on the matter, indicating that the U.S. administration was inclined to look favorably upon the request as soon as possible.

During the administration of former U.S. President George Bush, the U.S. refused to sell bunker-penetrating bombs and refueling aircrafts to Israel, as a result of American estimates that Israel would then use them to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Following Obama’s entrance into the White House, however, the United States approves a string of Israeli requests to purchase advance armament.

Diplomatic cables exposed by the WikiLeaks website exposed discussion concerning advanced weapons shipments. In one cable which surveyed defense discussions between Israel and the United states that took place on November 2009 it was written that “both sides then discussed the upcoming delivery of GBU-28 bunker busting bombs to Israel, noting that the transfer should be handled quietly to avoid any allegations that the USG is helping Israel prepare for a strike against Iran.”

It’s widely assumed that the more bunker buster bombs there are available to the Israelis, the more inclined they will be to use them in a strike on Iran. That might not be the case however if this is a unilateral attack. The weight of the GBU-28 means that only one can be carried by each aircraft and since a significant number would inevitably miss their targets, the Israeli air force may simply be too small to mount an effective attack. Nothing will make Israel look more impotent than if after engaging in a long-threatened attack, the “day after” turns out to be one in which Iran can proudly show off an array of undamaged nuclear facilities.

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