Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bush gave bunker-buster bombs before Obama did - - Israpundit

It’s hard to figure out what Eli Lake is talking about in his “scoop” today for the Daily Beast (and Newsweek).  (H/t:  Ed Morrissey.)  Lake writes the following:
The Israelis first requested the bunker busters in 2005, only to be rebuffed by the Bush administration. At the time, the Pentagon had frozen almost all U.S.-Israeli joint defense projects out of concern that Israel was transferring advanced military technology to China.
In 2007, Bush informed Ehud Olmert, then prime minister, that he would order the bunker busters for delivery in 2009 or 2010. The Israelis wanted them in 2007. Obama finally released the weapons in 2009, according to officials familiar with the still-secret decision.

This passage is virtually verbatim from a Jerusalem Post report from September 2010, which cited (but did not directly quote) Newsweek:
Israel first put in a request for the bunker busters in 2005, but it was rebuffed by the Bush administration.
In 2007, Bush informed former prime minister Ehud Olmert that he would order the bunker busters for delivery in 2009 or 2010, according to the magazine.
**UPDATE** The link above is to a Jerusalem Post report from 23 September 2011, which is apparently quoting Eli Lake’s report rather than vice-versa.  A fellow blogger notified me of the discrepancy, and I have determined that I presented the link in the above context in error.  My apologies for that.  For reporting integrity, I will leave the original as-is with this correction included.  The NYT, UK Telegraph, and World Tribune reporting linked below remain unchanged and indicate that the first delivery of GBU-28s to Israel occurred in 2006.

But according to the New York Times (among other sources), the first GBU-28s were delivered to Israel in 2006:
The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday. ….
An announcement in 2005 that Israel was eligible to buy the “bunker buster” weapons described the GBU-28 as “a special weapon that was developed for penetrating hardened command centers located deep underground.” The document added, “The Israeli Air Force will use these GBU-28’s on their F-15 aircraft.”
American officials said that once a weapons purchase is approved, it is up to the buyer nation to set up a timetable. But one American official said normal procedures usually do not include rushing deliveries within days of a request. That was done because Israel is a close ally in the midst of hostilities, the official said.
Numerous other media sources discussed the GBU-28 sale at the time it was being negotiated and approved. (See herehere, and here to get you started.)  The Pentagon proposed the sale to Congress in 2005, with – quite obviously – the full approval of the White House.  Media reported on some of the original deliveries in 2006, which went through Scotland’s Prestwick Airport in July of that year.

There was a January 2009 report of the Bush administration rebuffing a bunker-buster sale to Israel, but the GBU-28 sale was already concluded and underway.  The Bush administration was reluctant, in 2008, to sell Israel another weapon, the GBU-39 small-diameter penetrator.  But as Haaretz reported in September 2008, the Bush administration did eventually decide to sell Israel the GBU-39 (readable summary on the GBU-39 here; DOD notice of proposal for foreign military sale here).  Haaretz’s reference to initial reluctance and delay on the sale appears to accord with the January 2009 report that the Bush administration had denied a bunker-buster sale to Israel in the previous year.

There are two heavyweight US bunker-busters often discussed by the public as bombs that Israel ought to have: the GBU-43, the 21,000-pounder (18,000 pounds of explosive) known as the “Mother of All Bombs,” or MOAB, and the MOP – Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or GBU-57 – which weighs in at 30,000 pounds.  Israel doesn’t have delivery platforms for these enormous warheads, however.  In the US Air Force, only the B-2 and B-52 can deliver them.  They would not figure in arms-sale dramas with Israel.

(For comparison, the GBU-28 has a 5000-lb warhead, and the GBU-39 a 250-pound one.  Both bombs can be delivered by tactical strike-fighters; e.g., F-15, F-16, F/A-18.  A key advantage of the GBU-39 is that four of them can be carried in place of one 2000-lb bomb, allowing the servicing of multiple aimpoints with a penetrating weapon, or the sequenced servicing of one, on a single bombing mission.)

Has Mr. Lake misstated the defense nomenclature for what Obama “approved” for sale to Israel in 2009?  Did Obama approve the sale of a new weapon, beyond the GBU-28 and the GBU-39?  Or did he merely allow more GBU-28s to be delivered to Israel?  If it was the latter, the implication that Bush had blocked the sale or delivery of those weapons between 2005 and 2009, and that no GBU-28s were delivered until 2009, is contradicted by the evidence of earlier reporting.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,” PatheosThe Weekly Standard online, and her own blog, The Optimistic Conservative.
Posted by Ted Belman @ 7:56 pm | - Israpundit
The following two comments on Israpundit add to the information (above) ... Please go to Israpundit to leave a comment, or discuss this issue further.  Thank you.

    • yamit82 says:
      Since taking office, Obama has refused to approve any major Israeli requests for U.S. weapons platforms or advanced systems. Officials said this included proposed Israeli procurement of AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, refueling systems, advanced munitions and data on a stealth variant of the F-15E. “This is really an embargo, but nobody talks about it publicly.”
      The issue is so sensitive that Israeli military officials asked the United States not to release documentation of the arms transfers, even if requested under the Freedom of Information Act, according to American officials.
      The arms transfers could help President Obama’s political standing among Jewish voters. Israeli-American relations have been bruised by a variety of political and geopolitical matters, and efforts by the administration to strengthen the Israeli military may convince some voters that the president is sufficiently supportive of Israel.
      The U.S. military was to have stored 195 BLU-110 and 192 BLU-117 munitions in unspecified air force bases in Israel. The U.S. military uses four Israeli bases for the storage of about $400 million worth of pre-positioned equipment meant for use by either Washington or Jerusalem in any regional war.
      In January 2010, the administration agreed to an Israeli request to double the amount of U.S. military stockpiles to $800 million. Officials said the bunker-busters as well as Patriot missile interceptors were included in the agreement.
      In 2007, after its war in Lebanon, Israel requested 2,000 BLU-109 live bombs from the United States. The 2,000-pound bomb, produced by Boeing and coupled with a laser guidance kit, was designed to penetrate concrete bunkers and other underground hardened sites. Israel had sought this class of weapons for many years. In 2005, the Bush administration notified Congress of a pending transfer to Israel of bombs designed to destroy buried targets. “This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country,”.
      Subsequent notifications of plans to sell Israel different models of bunker-busting weapons were sent to Congress by the agency again in 2007 and 2008.
      But the weapons were not given to Israel at the time. Pentagon officials were frustrated that Israel had transferred military technology to China. And there were deep concerns that if the United States supplied bunker-busting bombs to Israel, it might be viewed as having tacitly endorsed an attack on Iran.
      Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, was quoted as saying that his country faced its biggest crisis with the United States since 1975. A pro-Israel lobbyist said Oren was referring to the current U.S. embargo, which echoed a decision taken 35 years ago by then-President Gerald Ford after Israel’s refusal to withdraw from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Oren has since denied the remark.
      The decision to divert the BLU munitions was taken amid the crisis between Israel and the United States over planned construction of Jewish homes in Jerusalem. The administration, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has warned that Washington could reduce military aid to Israel because of its construction policy.
      In the interim, Israel developed its own bunker-busting bomb, officials said, but the American variants were viewed as more cost-effective.
  1. yamit82 says:
    U.S. to sell IAF smart bombs for heavily fortified targets
    Deal for 1,000 smart bombs approved despite U.S. reservations about possible Israeli strike on Iran.
    By Amos Harel and Aluf Benn 14.09.08
    U.S. will provide Israel with 1,000 units of Guided Bomb Unit-39 (GBU-39) – a special weapon developed for penetrating fortified facilities located deep underground.
    The $77 million shipment, which includes launchers and appurtenances, will allow the IAF to hit many more bunkers than currently possible. Although each bomb weighs 113 kilograms, its penetration capabilities equal those of a one ton bomb, according to professional literature.
    The estimated value for the bomb’s GPS version, which military experts have called the latest development in the bunker-buster line, is around $70,000 to $90,000 for each individual bomb.
    The U.S. has already supplied Israel with earlier versions of bunker busters. In 2005,
    the U.S. would help upgrade the Israel Defense Forces’ patriot anti-aircraft missiles – which Israel uses as part of its missile-interception array. Israel will also receive 28,000 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon) tube launchers for land forces.