Iran General NewsU.S. stepping up plans to attack Iran, New Yorker...

U.S. stepping up plans to attack Iran, New Yorker article says


New York Times: The Bush administration, which publicly advocates negotiations to halt Iran’s nuclear program, is accelerating military planning for possible attacks against Iran, and has not ruled out using tactical nuclear weapons, according to a new article. The New York Times


WASHINGTON, April 8 — The Bush administration, which publicly advocates negotiations to halt Iran’s nuclear program, is accelerating military planning for possible attacks against Iran, and has not ruled out using tactical nuclear weapons, according to a new article.

The article, by Seymour M. Hersh in The New Yorker, asserts that the Pentagon this winter presented the White House with an option to use bunker-buster nuclear bombs against Iran’s underground nuclear sites. When the Joint Chiefs of Staff later sought to drop that option, unidentified officials at the White House resisted, the article stated.

The article cites numerous anonymous sources, including former Pentagon and intelligence officials, as well as sources described as having ties to the Pentagon but no direct involvement in its decision-making.

Asked about the article, Frederick Jones, a National Security Council spokesman, said Saturday: “We’re not going to discuss military planning. As the president has said repeatedly, we along with the international community are pursuing a diplomatic solution to the issues surrounding Iran’s nuclear program.”

But four Pentagon, military and administration officials who participate in high-level deliberations on Iran and who were granted anonymity to speak candidly rejected the article’s contention that the Bush administration was considering nuclear weapons in a possible strike against Iran.

“I’ve never heard the issue of nukes taken off or put on the table,” a senior Pentagon official said.

The article also states that American combat troops have been ordered to infiltrate Iran to collect target data and to cultivate relationships with indigenous groups who oppose the government in Tehran.

“The article contains information that is inaccurate,” said Michele Ness, a spokeswoman for the Central Intelligence Agency. She declined to elaborate.

The article asserts that American carrier-based attack planes have been flying simulated nuclear-bomb runs within range of Iranian coastal radars. A Pentagon official said he was unaware of any such flights, but added that within the last three weeks Iran had ratcheted up its air defenses so high that it accidentally shot one of its own aircraft.

Senior administration officials, while emphasizing that their preferred path is diplomatic, have not ruled out military attacks if negotiations should fail. Senior officers and Pentagon officials said war planners, in particular Air Force targeting teams, have updated contingencies for dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, as they periodically do. But they emphasized that this did not reflect any guidance from the civilian leadership to prepare for military confrontation.

“There have been no operational plans or options presented to the White House,” said the senior Pentagon official.

Top commanders say the military options range from bad to unimaginable. None guarantee success, planners say, given that dozens of suspected sites are buried deep underground or near urban centers. Many risk causing not only casualties but a political crisis in the Middle East.

Mr. Hersh is a well-known journalist credited with uncovering major stories including the My Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1969 and details of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Some military and political officials have contested details of some of his articles, and some critics say he is too eager to report assertions critical of the government that are difficult to fully substantiate.

Scott Shane contributed reporting for this article.

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