On Friday, journalist Eli Lake published a story about the Obama administration’s sale of so-called bunker-busting bombs to Israel. According to Lake’s reporting, the Bush administration had put off the sale in order to avoid the perception that delivery of the 55 GBU-28 bombs represented a “green light” for an Israeli strike on Iran:
James Cartwright, the Marine Corps general who served until August as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Newsweek the military chiefs had no objections to the sale. Rather, Cartwright said, there was a concern about “how the Iranians would perceive it,” and “how the Israelis might perceive it.” In other words, would the sale be seen as a green light for Israel to attack Iran’s secret nuclear sites one day?
The Obama administration told Israel the bombs — which could pierce the underground bunkers where Iran increasingly stashes elements of its nuclear program — would be forthcoming in 2009. Lake reports that they were slated for delivery in late 2009 or 2010.
However, neither Lake nor the New York Times, which did a follow-up report, mentioned a late-2009 U.S. State Department diplomatic cable from Tel Aviv. Released at the end of August by the transparency group WikiLeaks, the cable shows the participants in a high-level military-diplomatic meeting between the two countries discussing the “upcoming delivery” of the bombs and vowing to keep a lid on the transaction due to the same concerns held by the Bush administration. The notes of the meeting in the November 18, 2009, cable read:
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 [U.S. government] is helping Israel prepare for a strike against Iran.
At the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu derided Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s conspiracy-laced Thursday speech to the world body. “Can you imagine that man who ranted here yesterday — can you imagine him armed with nuclear weapons?” said Netanyahu. “The international community must stop Iran before it’s too late.”