As Iran moves further away from the 2015 nuclear deal, most recently with its announcement last week that it will start developing "all kinds" of centrifuge machines that can more quickly enrich uranium, the U.S. Army has a solution if the situation deteriorates into a military confrontation—the MOP (Military Ordinance Penetrator).
The New York Times Magazine revealed last week in a special feature "The Secret History of the Push to Strike Iran," that America had developed a plan 10 years ago under the Obama administration to cripple Iran's nuclear capability through military means—including building a mock-up of a major Iranian nuclear site and then successfully blowing it up.
Earlier reports based on The New York Times Magazine piece focused on the fact that Israel was far closer to attacking Iran than anyone realized. "In the summer of 2012, American spy satellites detected clusters of Israeli aircraft making what seemed to be early preparations for an attack" on Iran, The New York Times reported.
With Iran's announcement that it's going to ramp up centrifuge development, another aspect of the New York Times piece is receiving more attention—"the extent to which the Obama administration felt required to develop its own military contingency plans in the event of such an attack, including destroying a full-size mock-up of an Iranian nuclear facility in the western desert of the United States with a 30,000-pound bomb."
That bomb, the GBU-57 MOP, is a 13.6 ton "bunker buster" which the U.S. military believes capable of destroying the Fordow nuclear research facility. Reports estimate that facility can hold 3,000 nuclear centrifuges.
Fordow is the most fortified of Iran's known nuclear sites. First revealed by a British intelligence source in 2008, it's located 20 miles northeast of the Iranian city of Qom and built deep into a mountain.
Iran claims the facility is buried because of Israeli threats to destroy its nuclear program. Western intelligence sources agree that Fordow was built to advance Iran's ambitions for a nuclear bomb. In the words of The New York Times article, "Fordow was too small to produce usable amounts of civilian nuclear fuel, making it likely that it was created solely for the drive toward a nuclear weapon."
According to The New York Times piece, the Israelis wanted the MOP to deal with Fordow, but the Obama administration (and the Bush administration before it) refused to give it to them, as the U.S. wanted to discourage Israel from carrying out an attack on Iran, which it feared would drag it, too, into a military confrontation with the Islamic Republic.
But this didn't stop the U.S. from developing its own plans to attack Iran's nuclear program. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. built up its forces in the Gulf region in preparation for a possible Israel pre-emptive strike.
It also built a replica Fordow in the southwestern U.S. and tested its MOP. In order to show that America was serious about confronting Iran, (and to convince Israel it didn't have to) then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta invited Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to see a video test of the 30,000-pound weapon.
Last May, the U.S. released a video of the MOP in action (it's now known if this was the same video shown to Barak).
But the video was released the very same month that the Trump administration announced its decision to leave the 2015 nuclear agreement, opening the possibility that the video was meant as a message to Iran.
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