A former top adviser to United States President Barack Obama has called on Washington to provide Israel with B-52 bombers, following the nuclear agreement reached last week between Iran and six world powers, according to the Defense News website.
“To have a credible military option, it’s not enough to say all options are on the table. We have to be much more blunt,” said Dennis Ross, a former senior diplomat and adviser to several presidents, in an interview on Thursday.
The B-52 Stratofortress bomber is outfitted to deliver 30,000-pound (15 ton) GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrators, also known as bunker-busters. Professional opinion holds that such weapons would be needed to destroy Iran’s heavily-fortified, underground nuclear facilities.
Delivery of the bombers to Israel would bolster its deterrence and the credibility of its so-called military option, should Iran opt out of its commitments in the agreement reached last week, Ross said.
“Deterrence becomes a very important question as we move toward implementation,” Ross said.
Israel has never publicly requested B-52s. “Intuitively, I don’t believe this is the right answer or even relevant to the Israel Air Force,” said Giora Romm, a former deputy commander of the Israel Air Force. “It’s like buying a pair of shoes many sizes too large.”
Also interviewed on Thursday, Romm said that receiving B-52s would necessitate building new runways and establishing an entirely new concept of operations and training that would be enormously expensive and of limited operational value.
Eitan Ben-Eliahu, a former commander of the IAF, said that Israel would benefit more from U.S. assistance in expanding existing or planned attack inventories and accelerated funding for new missile systems and Iron Dome batteries.
The B-52s, Ben-Eliahu pointed out, could easily be downed by Russian S300s, which are scheduled for deployment in Iran, and would trigger a conventional arms race in the region. It would also prompt Russia to sell “10 times more S300s to Iran,” he said. “And by the way, they’d be justified in doing so.”
Ross’ remarks were the first public endorsement of an idea that has been bandied about for years. Language proposing delivery of aerial refueling tankers and bunker-buster munitions to Israel was included in the U.S.-Israel enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012.