Story here; an excerpt:
ISRAEL’S armed forces have been ordered by Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, to be ready by the end of March for possible strikes on secret uranium enrichment sites in Iran, military sources have revealed.
The order came after Israeli intelligence warned the government that Iran was operating enrichment facilities, believed to be small and concealed in civilian locations.
Iran’s stand-off with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over nuclear inspections and aggressive rhetoric from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, who said last week that Israel should be moved to Europe, are causing mounting concern.
The crisis is set to come to a head in early March, when Mohamed El-Baradei, the head of the IAEA, will present his next report on Iran. El-Baradei, who received the Nobel peace prize yesterday, warned that the world was “losing patience” with Iran....
Defence sources in Israel believe the end of March to be the “point of no return” after which Iran will have the technical expertise to enrich uranium in sufficient quantities to build a nuclear warhead in two to four years.
“Israel — and not only Israel — cannot accept a nuclear Iran,” Sharon warned recently. “We have the ability to deal with this and we’re making all the necessary preparations to be ready for such a situation.”
The order to prepare for a possible attack went through the Israeli defence ministry to the chief of staff. Sources inside special forces command confirmed that “G” readiness — the highest stage — for an operation was announced last week....
Cross-border operations and signal intelligence from a base established by the Israelis in northern Iraq are said to have identified a number of Iranian uranium enrichment sites unknown to the the IAEA....
If a military operation is approved, Israel will use air and ground forces against several nuclear targets in the hope of stalling Tehran’s nuclear programme for years, according to Israeli military sources.
It is believed Israel would call on its top special forces brigade, Unit 262 — the equivalent of the SAS — and the F-15I strategic 69 Squadron, which can strike Iran and return to Israel without refuelling.
“If we opt for the military strike,” said a source, “it must be not less than 100% successful. It will resemble the destruction of the Egyptian air force in three hours in June 1967.”
Aharon Zeevi Farkash, the Israeli military intelligence chief, stepped up the pressure on Iran this month when he warned Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, that “if by the end of March the international community is unable to refer the Iranian issue to the United Nations security council, then we can say the international effort has run its course”....
Russia last week signed an estimated $1 billion contract — its largest since 2000 — to sell Iran advanced Tor-M1 systems capable of destroying guided missiles and laser-guided bombs from aircraft.
“Once the Iranians get the Tor-M1, it will make our life much more difficult,” said an Israeli air force source. “The installation of this system can be relatively quick and we can’t waste time on this one.”
The date set for possible Israeli strikes on Iran also coincides with Israel’s general election on March 28, prompting speculation that Sharon may be sabre-rattling for votes.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the frontrunner to lead Likud into the elections, said that if Sharon did not act against Iran, “then when I form the new Israeli government, we’ll do what we did in the past against Saddam’s reactor, which gave us 20 years of tranquillity”.