Iranian nuclear site
Iranian nuclear siteIsrael News Photo: (file)

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi gave United States officials fresh intelligence information on an Iranian nuclear facility during his “working visit” this week, according to the Saudi Arabia daily Al Watan.

The newspaper quoted sources that claimed Lieutenant-General Ashkenazi told American officials that Israel is preparing for a military attack. He added that the government still prefers to see if the Western world’s diplomatic pressures can succeed in stopping the growing threat that Iran soon will manufacture a nuclear weapon.

The new information concerned the facility in Arak, where a heavy water nuclear reactor is estimated to be operating. Iran also is building the Bushehr nuclear reactor at Natanz, where scientists will be able to enrich uranium that can be used for a bomb.

However, Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi met only with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Special Middle East Envoy on Iran Dennis Ross and National Security Advisor, General James Jones.

He did not meet with his counterpart, Admiral Michael Mullen, or with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. He cut short his planned five-day visit ostensibly to attend the Cabinet meeting on the collapse of negotiations for freeing kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

The IDF general’s trip coincided with the publication of a report by a Washington-based think tank that Israel could use “Jericho” ballistic missiles to destroy or at least damage Iranian nuclear facilities at Natanz, Isfahan and Arak.

The missiles can hit a target with an error margin of only several feet. The Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated that Israel has 42 Jericho missiles, and that their use is “much more feasible than using combat aircraft.”

Iran has buried its nuclear sites deep underground, making them a difficult target for aerial bombing.

However, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner told the Reuters news agency that the Natanz facility is so heavily fortified that an effective attack would require the use of bombs dropped into a hole created by a missile strike.