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      Op-Ed: Who Set a Precedent for Bombing a Nuclear Reactor?

      Published: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 2:40 PM
      Nuclear reactors have been bombed by other countries in the past - you'd never believe by whom.


       

      Recently in these columns, Jay Sekolow, Chief Counsel of the Washington-based American Center for Law and Justice, and Robert Ash, Senior Counsel with the ACLJ, wrote an important article under the title “Israel’s Legal Case for Stopping Iran”. They analysed why Israel has a legal right under international law to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

      Continuing from there, it is no less important to understand Israel’s historical and moral right not just to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but to bomb the Iranian nuclear program.

      Here is a simple question: Which country and which regime set the global precedent for bombing another country’s nuclear reactor?

      Almost everyone will respond that Israel set the global precedent by bombing the Iraqi nuclear reactor. Though this certainly remains the best-known of all bombing raids against nuclear facilities, it was certainly not the first.

      It is a delicious irony of history that it was Iran which set the global precedent for bombing another country’s nuclear reactor.

      The Iraq-Iran war began on 22nd September 1980, when Iraq launched a simultaneous land and air invasion of Iranian territory following decades of border disputes and religious conflict (Sunni against Shiite) between the two countries.

      On the ninth day of the war, 30th September 1980, a group of Iranian Phantom jets attacked a conventional electric power plant near Baghdad; two of the aircraft were diverted and bombed the Osirak reactor.

      Being Iranian, they managed to do no more than surface damage; the then-dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, had the damage repaired fairly quickly, and building work continued with no more than a minor delay.

      Though this was the first time in history that any country had ever bombed another’s nuclear reactor, the precedent for bombing an enemy country’s nuclear facility is considerably older.

      The Japanese atomic project of World War II, headed by Dr Yoshio Nishina, is a little-known subject. The Kyoto Project began in 1942, and in 1943 Nishina constructed a cyclotron at Kyoto University. Though it is doubtful Nishina’s project could ever have succeeded, and though the Allies were probably aware of how non- efficacious it really was, the US Air Force bombed the Japanese atomic facility on Friday 13th April 1945, thereby setting the global precedent for bombing another country’s nuclear facility.

      After the Iranian air force bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor, it would take another eight months before the Israeli Minister Menachem Begin would dispatch the Air Force to bomb the Iraqi Osirak reactor in Operation Opera on 7th June 1981.

      Being Israeli, they were far more successful than the Iranians, and destroyed the reactor such that the Iraqi nuclear program would never recover.

      But the historical fact remains that it was the current Iranian regime which provided the global precedent for bombing other countries’ nuclear reactors.