Text size

The Bush administration is planning for a major air attack on Iran, according to an article published on the New Yorker magazine website Saturday.

According to the article by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Seymour M. Hersh, U.S. undercover troops are in Iran collecting data and working to establish contacts with anti-government groups, and the Air Force is drawing up lists of targets, despite publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.

According to the report, the U.S. military and the international community believe that President George W. Bush's ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change. The article quotes a former senior intelligence official as saying that Bush and others in the White House view Iran's president as a potential Adolf Hitler, after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad challenged the reality of the Holocaust and said that Israel must be "wiped off the map."

The article goes on to say that one of the option plans presented to the White House by the Pentagon calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon against underground nuclear sites such as the Natanz centrifuge plant.

Fire breaks out adjacent to nuclear facilities outside TehranA fire broke out in a forest north of Tehran on Saturday, not far from an area intelligence agencies suspected illegal nuclear activity. It took firefighters some seven hours to contain the blaze.

A previous fire in the same forest occurred after Tehran municipality workers chopped town trees in the area, after which arsons set a fire. Analysts believe that the two fires may be linked and that they were set by intelligence officers or members of the Iranian Atomic Energy Committee, so that remnants of various materials, mainly enriched uranium, would not be detected.

There had been a military base in the vicinity of Lavizan, near where the fire raged, where, according to the Central Intelligence Agency, uranium had been enriched. The information was transferred to the International Atomic Energy Agency six months ago, and the United Nations nuclear watchdog called for inspections at the site. The Iranian government rejected the request, only allowing IAEA inspectors to visit after significant changes had been implemented.

The changes are visible in satellite images, which indicate that the Iranians destroyed the military base and built a soccer stadium and other sports facilities in the area. Constructing the stadium provided an excuse for overturning and replacing the soil in the area, so that if samples were to be taken, remnants of illegal materials would not be detected.

IAEA inspectors arrive in Iran to visit nuclear facilitiesFive inspectors from the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency have arrived in Tehran to visit Iran's uranium enrichment and reprocessing facilities, state-run television reported Saturday.

Iran's deputy nuclear chief Mohammad Saeedi said the inspectors would visit the Natanz uranium enrichment plant and the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility, both in central Iran, later Saturday.

The scheduled inspection comes just head of a key visit to Iran by Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. ElBaradei is expected to visit Iran next week to try to wrest concessions from Tehran on its atomic program, diplomats and officials said Friday.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency said the IAEA chief might arrive in Iran as early as Sunday or Monday.

The five inspectors, who arrived in Tehran on Friday, will stay in Iran for five days, state-run television reported.

Iran had permitted IAEA inspections of its facilities until January when it forbade snap inspections after its nuclear dossier was reported to the UN Security Council.

Natanz is the facility where Iran resumed research-scale uranium enrichment in February and the Isfahan site reprocesses raw uranium into hexaflouride gas, the feedstock for enrichment.

The U.S. accuses Iran of using its civilian nuclear facilities as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran has denied the charges saying its nuclear program is merely for generating electricity.

The Security Council demanded on March 29 that Iran suspend enrichment and asked the IAEA to report back in 30 days on whether it had complied. Iran has rejected the demand, saying the small-scale enrichment project was strictly for research and was within its rights under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

While ElBaradei's trip is meant to defuse tensions caused by fears Iran could be seeking nuclear weapons, a partial success could actually exacerbate differences among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

If Iran commits to some Security Council requests but does not meet demands to freeze uranium enrichment that might placate Russia and China, which oppose tough measures against Iran. It would, however, fall short of the full compliance sought by the U.S., France and Britain on enrichment and other issues.