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Air strikes against Iran nuclear program? Israel reconsiders.

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The precedents of such attacks are well known: This year and in 2009, Israel was believed to be behind attacks on weapons convoys in Sudan ferrying supplies to the Gaza Strip; in 2007 Israeli planes destroyed a nuclear facility in Syria believed to be part of a weapons program; and in 1981 Israeli pilots hit the Osirak nuclear facility, wiping out Iraq’s nuclear program.

The cumulative effect of such a track record "contributes to the stress level in Tehran" even if it hasn’t completely deterred the Iranian leadership from pursuing a nuclear weapons, says Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar Ilan University.

There was an uptick in anxiety in Israel in November around the time of a report by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency alleging that Tehran showed signs as recently as 2009 of continued work on a nuclear bomb.

The report’s publication came on the heels of several remarks by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak suggesting the possibility of a preemptive strike on Iran and an Israeli Air Force exercise in Italy simulating long-range attack missions, which no doubt enhanced the credibility of Israel's threats.

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