The Pentagon is speeding up delivery of a colossal bomb designed to destroy hidden weapon bunkers buried underground and shielded by 4,535 kgs of reinforced concrete. Call it Plan B for dealing with Iran,which recently revealed a long-suspected nuclear site deep inside a mountain near the holy city of Qom.
The 15-tonne behemoth,called massive ordinance penetrator, or MOP,will be the largest non-nuclear bomb in the US arsenal and carry 2,400 kgs of explosives. The bomb is about 10 times more powerful than the weapon it is designed to replace.
The Pentagon has awarded a nearly $ 52 million contract to speed up placement of the bomb aboard the B-2 Stealth bomber,and officials say the bomb could be fielded as soon as next summer.
Pentagon officials acknowledge that the new bomb is intended to blow up fortified sites like those used by Iran and North Korea for their nuclear programs,but they deny there is a specific target in mind.
I dont think anybody can divine potential targets, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said. This is just a capability that we think is necessary given the world we live in.
The Obama administration has struggled to counter suspicions lingering from George W Bushs presidency that the US is either planning to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities itself or would look the other way if Israel did the same. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently said a strike against Irans nuclear facilities would probably only buy time. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen has called a strike an option he doesnt want to use.
Without going into any intelligence,there are countries that have used technology to go further underground and to take those facilities and make them hardened, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. This is not a new phenomenon,but it is a growing one. After testing began in 2007,development of the bomb was slowed by about two years because of budgetary issues,Whitman said,and the administration moved last summer to return to the previous schedule.
Details about Irans once-secret programme have come out slowly,as with last months surprise confirmation of the hidden underground development site near Qom.
Russia resists sanctions against Iran
MOSCOW: Threatening Iran with new sanctions to advance negotiations over its nuclear program would be counterproductive, Russias foreign minister said on Tuesday,throwing cold water on the Obama administrations hopes that Russia had been persuaded to intensify the global pressure on Tehran.
The minister,Sergey V Lavrov,said after meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that diplomacy should be given a chance,particularly after the Iranian government said it would allow UN inspectors to visit a nuclear facility near the city of Qom.
At the current stage,all forces should be thrown at supporting the negotiating process, he said.
Lavrovs comments came weeks after President Obama cancelled an antimissile defense system in Eastern Europe that Russia had objected to,raising hopes of cooperation on Iran. Earlier,President Dmitri Medvedev said in some cases,sanctions are inevitable. The next milestone is on Sunday,when Iran and officials of International Atomic Energy Agency discuss plans to ship Irans lightly-enriched uranium out of the country to be enriched in Russia.
Though Clinton stressed the importance of diplomacy,she said it must be backed up by a credible threat of sanctions. NYT