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Senior intel official: Pentagon moves to second-stage planning for Iran strike option

Larisa Alexandrovna
Published: Thursday September 21, 2006

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The Pentagon's top brass has moved into second-stage contingency planning for a potential military strike on Iran, one senior intelligence official familiar with the plans tells RAW STORY.

The official, who is close to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest ranking officials of each branch of the US military, says the Chiefs have started what is called "branches and sequels" contingency planning.

"The JCS has accepted the inevitable," the intelligence official said, "and is engaged in serious contingency planning to deal with the worst case scenarios that the intelligence community has been painting."

A second military official, although unfamiliar with these latest scenarios, said there is a difference between contingency planning -- which he described as "what if, then what" planning -- and "branches and sequels," which takes place after an initial plan has been decided upon.

Adding to the concern of both military and intelligence officials alike is the nuclear option, the possibility of pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons targeting alleged WMD facilities in Iran.

An April New Yorker report by Sy Hersh alleged that the nuclear option was on the table, and that some officers of the Joint Chiefs had threatened resignation.

"The attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he added, and some officers have talked about resigning," Hersh wrote. "Late this winter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sought to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans for Iran´┐Żwithout success, the former intelligence official said."

The senior intelligence official who spoke to RAW STORY, along with several military intelligence sources, confirmed that the nuclear option remains on the table. In addition, the senior official added that the Joint Chiefs have "come around on to the administration's thinking."

"The Joint Chiefs have no longer imposed roadblocks on a possible bombing campaign against Iran's nuclear production facilities," the intelligence official said. "In the past, only the Air Force had endorsed the contingency, saying that it could carry out the mission of destroying, or at least significantly delaying, Iran's ability to develop a nuclear weapon."

Preparation for such a strike would require contingency plans for securing oil transport lines and dealing with possible riots, as well as assessment of issues that arose during the Iran-Iraq war.

"Bahrain will be a battleground as it is majority Shi'a and has had Shi'a riots stimulated by Iran in the past," the official said. "The US Fifth Fleet is also based there. A system for [protection of] oil transport in the Gulf will have to be devised by the US Navy to protect against attacks."

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to repeated emails requesting comment.

Deployment orders

With allegations of a plan in place and contingency scenarios in play, several military and intelligence experts see this as proof of a secret White House order to proceed with military action.

Last week, a military intelligence official described to this reporter the movement of Naval submarines and a deployment order sent out to Naval assets of strategic import, such as minesweepers, that could indicate contingency planning is already under way to secure oil transport routes and supplies.

On Sunday, Time Magazine confirmed much of what the military intelligence source had described.

"The first message was routine enough: a 'Prepare to Deploy Order' sent through Naval communications channels to a submarine, an Aegis-class cruiser, two minesweepers and two mine hunters," Time's Michael Duffy wrote. "The orders didn't actually command the ships out of port; they just said be ready to move by October 1. A deployment of minesweepers to the east coast of Iran would seem to suggest that a much discussed, but until now largely theoretical, prospect has become real."

Retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner also expressed concern about the deployment orders, but cautioned that these particular ships are slow-moving and would take "a month or so" to arrive in position.

"Minecountermeasures, the four ships mentioned, are generally not self-deploying," Gardiner said Wednesday. "When previously sent to the Gulf, they were transported on the decks of heavy lift ships. The earliest they would arrive would be around the first of November."

Although some claim the Defense Department has denied the deployment order, no official denial has been made. The Pentagon does not comment on operational plans, not even to issue a denial.

Lawmakers in the dark?

Attempts to contact members of the Senate Armed Services Committee provided little help in confirming allegations of the deployment order made to this reporter and Time. Senate offices that were available for comment would not do so on the record.

From all appearances, however, it would seem that at least some members of the Senate Armed Services Committee have not been briefed on deployment orders or on any strike plans, even contingency plans. The Senate Intelligence Committee is attempting to get a grasp on what is and has been going on.

A source close to the Committee, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the information, explained that a series of briefings will be going on this week and into next.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has "embarked on a much more aggressive review of what the intelligence community knows and is doing regarding Iran," the source said.

"In fact [the Committee has] a number of Iran related briefings this week and next before the senators leave town," the source added. They "will cover the full spectrum including various aspects of their nuclear program and all U.S. collection efforts."

Related Raw Story articles:

US military, intelligence officials raise concern about possible preparations for Iran strike

Intelligence officials doubt Iran uranium claims, say Cheney receiving suspect briefings

Spurious attempt to tie Iran, Iraq to nuclear arms plot bypassed U.S. intelligence channels

Cheney has tapped Iranian expatriate, arms dealer to surveil discussions with Iran, officials say

Larisa Alexandrovna is managing investigative news editor for Raw Story and regularly reports on intelligence and national security matters.

Contact Larisa Alexandrovna