Iran Concerned About Possible Israeli Attack on Nuclear Reactor

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Iran is taking seriously the possibility that Israel might attack its nearly completed nuclear reactor in Bushehr, just as it destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, an Iranian expert said here on Tuesday.

Tehran is nearing completion of a nuclear reactor with Russian help, and it announced last week that it plans to build a second reactor.

Iran and Russia both claim that the reactor is to be used for civilian purposes, but Western analysts say Iran's atomic program is a front for the development of nuclear weapons, which they believe Iran could possess within a few years.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had discussed the Iranian nuclear developments with President Bush at a recent meeting in Washington.

Sharon reportedly told Bush that U.S. intelligence estimates that Iran was about four years away from having nuclear weapons was off by two or three years. Iran could produce a nuclear warhead in one to two years, he said, prompting fears in Washington that Israel was considering the possibility of a pre-emptive strike. \b

Washington has tried unsuccessfully for the last few years to convince Russia not to help Iran complete the reactor. The construction project began before Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979.

On Monday, Iran warned Israel that it would pay a price if it attacked the nuclear reactor.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said he hoped Israel would not "commit any adventurous act."

Israel "proved to be adventurous in the past and doesn't abide by any principles," Asefi said in reference to Israel's 1981 bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor, shortly before it became operational. "In case it will commit such a mistake, it will pay dearly."

The remarks indicate that Tehran is taking into "serious consideration" the possibility that Israel could attack its nuclear reactor, said Iranian expert Menashe Amir.

Even if the U.S. drops the subject and Israel doesn't succeed in convincing the world that Iran's nuclear program must be stopped, Iran seems convinced that Israel will take steps on its own, Amir said.

Israeli experts have said they believe that Israel is considering all its options, including an attack similar to the one that took out the French-built Osiraq nuclear reactor near Baghdad.

Last month, Israel said it was very concerned about the delivery of the Shihab-3 ballistic missile to Iran's elite Republican Guard after test firings proved more successful than in the past.

The domestically produced missile has a range of some 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) making it capable of hitting Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey from deep within its borders. The missile reportedly would be able to carry a nuclear warhead.