B-52s for Israel?

When I read a proposal to give Israel some B-52's and a few super bunker buster (MOP) bombs to threaten Iran with, I was skeptical.  I am a former pilot and aviation editor, and I know the B-52 Stratofortress is a gigantic strategic bomber that can fly half-way around the world to drop its payload and return home.  I'd flown much smaller planes, and had soloed only in aircraft that weighed a mere fraction of a single bomb, to say nothing of the bomber itself, so I got in touch with someone who'd spent a lot of time on B-52s and other big planes. Retired USAF Col. Philip Adelman was a B-52 navigator/bombardier and a C-130 pilot.

Israel has a number of C-130 Hercules transports – famed for the 1976 Entebbe rescue — and just last month took delivery of the newest version, the C-130J, which it calls Samson.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Lt. Gen. David Deptula, a former USAF chief of intelligence, and Michael Makovsky, the CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), wrote an op ed in the Wall Street Journal last month saying we should give Israel "several B-52 bombers" sitting around in the Arizona desert and some "GBU-57 30,000-pound bunker buster bombs" because the Iranians will take a military threat from Israel more seriously than if it came from the United States.

"The Obama administration has…effectively taken the military option off the table.  It's time to increase the pressure on Tehran by boosting Israel's military capacity to cripple Iran's nuclear program," they wrote.

They said the bombers can be "refurbished and retrofitted to carry the MOP" and transferred to Israel before the July deadline to complete the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Not necessary, says Adelman, who called the article "seriously flawed."  Israel doesn't need the B-52s; it can do the job with its own C-130s, he said. The Hercules had flown bombing missions during the Vietnam War.

The JINSA proposal is absurd, said a Washington-based defense policy expert who asked not to be named because of his sensitive position.  "It's about politics, not hardware.  It's deeply unserious."

Israel's new Samson has the range and the capacity to deliver the MOP and more to Iranian nuclear sites at Arak, Qom, Bushehr, Parchin, Fordow or Natanz and return without refueling.  It has a range of 3,200 miles, cruises over 400 miles an hour and carries a payload of 45,000 pounds.  Israel already has a number of 2,000- and 5,000-pound bunker busters delivered by the Obama administration (after having been turned down by the Bush administration).  Adelman says he has no inside information but believes Israel may already have the GBU-57.

Israel doesn't have the money or the infrastructure to maintain B-52s or the trained personnel, which Deptula "knows full well," the defense expert told me. "This is purely an attack on Obama as Mr.-Spineless-'Cause-He-Won't-Bomb-Iran," he said.  It's right-wing, pro-Israel Americans taunting Obama, saying, "If you're not going to use those, let Netanyahu borrow them."

Prof. Dan Schueftan of Haifa University told a Georgetown University audience in Washington this week that he does not believe Israel would or should bomb Iranian nuclear facilities because even if it feels it is necessary to act "it will be perceived by the American people as though Israel is trying to undermine the negotiations and bring the United States into war."

The fact that the Wall Street Journal, which knows better, would give credence to JINSA's off-the-wall proposal shows how any sense of reality is blinded by its partisan biases. 

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.