US weighs possible strikes on Iran's military: report
The US administration has shifted strategy and is drawing up plans for possible air strikes against Iran's Revolutionary Guard instead of the country's nuclear sites, the New Yorker magazine reported on Sunday.
Read the full New Yorker article here.
President George W. Bush has requested the Joint Chiefs of Staff revise plans for a possible attack on Iran, with the focus on "surgical" raids against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps which Washington accuses of targeting US forces in Iraq, the magazine wrote.
Previous contingency plans called for a more elaborate bombing campaign against suspected nuclear sites in Iran as well as other infrastructure, the magazine reported, citing unnamed former officials and government consultants.
The change in focus comes as Bush and his top aides have begun to describe the war in Iraq in public statements as increasingly a "strategic battle between the United States and Iran," said the article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh.
During a video conference over the summer, Bush allegedly told Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq, that he was considering striking Iranian targets across the border and that the British "were on board," according to the article.
But Israeli leaders were dismayed that Washington had decided not to target Iran's nuclear program and French officials had expressed doubts about the possible limited air strikes, it said.
While Bush has not yet issued an "execute order" for a military operation inside Iran, the pace of attack planning has increased markedly and the CIA has dramatically expanded a unit focusing on Iran, it said.
The amended plan would call for using the US Navy's "sea-launched cruise missiles and more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps, supply depots, and command and control facilities," it said.
Vice President Dick Cheney was pushing to confront the Iranians despite deep concerns from Republicans that any action could be politically disastrous for the party given popular opposition to the Iraq war, a former intelligence official said.
"There is a desperate effort by Cheney et al. to bring military action to Iran as soon as possible," the official said. "Meanwhile, the politicians are saying, 'You can't do it, because every Republican is going to be defeated, and we're only one fact away from going over the cliff in Iraq.'"
Bush and his advisers have adopted the new "counter-terrorism" approach recognizing the US public is not convinced that Iran poses an imminent nuclear threat and that the US intelligence community believes Tehran is at least five years away from obtaining an atomic bomb.
But officials are betting the case for hitting Iranian forces blamed for attacking US soldiers would be easier to make, the magazine wrote.
"This time, unlike the attack in Iraq, we're going to play the victim. The name of our game seems to be to get the Iranians to overplay their hand," said Zbigniew Brezinski, a former national security adviser under ex-president Jimmy Carter and a critic of the Bush administration's foreign policy.
Brezinski said that Iran would probably respond to a US attack "by intensifying the conflict in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, their neighbors, and that could draw in Pakistan.
"We will be stuck in a regional war for twenty years," he said.
The magazine quoted a Defense Department spokesman saying the administration remains committed to a diplomatic solution to disputes with Iran.