The News International / Pakistan – 2006-04-17 00:37:00
WASHINGTON (April 17, 2006) — The United States began planning a full-scale military campaign against Iran that involves missile strikes, a land invasion and a naval operation to establish control over the Strait of Hormuz even before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, a former US intelligence analyst disclosed on Sunday.
William Arkin, who served as the US Army’s top intelligence mind on West Berlin in the 1970s and accurately predicted US military operations against Iraq, said the plan is known in military circles as TIRANNT, an acronym for “Theater Iran Near Term”.
It includes a scenario for a land invasion of the country led by the US Marine Corps, a detailed analysis of the Iranian missile force and a global strike plan against any Iranian weapons of mass destruction, Arkin wrote in The Washington Post. US and British planners have already conducted a Caspian Sea war game as part of these preparations, the scholar said.
“According to military sources close to the planning process, this task was given to Army General John Abizaid, now commander of CENTCOM, in 2002,” Arkin wrote, referring to the Florida-based US Central Command. But preparations under TIRANNT began in earnest in May 2003, when modelers and intelligence specialists pulled together the data needed for theater-level warfare analysis for Iran, he said. This effort has never stopped. The plan has since been updated using information collected in Iraq, the analyst pointed out.
Air Force planners have modeled attacks against existing Iranian air defences and targets, while Navy planners have evaluated coastal defenses and drawn up scenarios for keeping control of the Strait of Hormuz, the gateway to the oil-rich Gulf.
A follow-on TIRANNT analysis, which began in October 2003, calculated the results of different scenarios for action against Iran to provide options to US commanders, Arkin wrote. The Marines, meanwhile, have come up with their own document called “Concept of Operations” that explores the possibility of moving forces from ship to shore against a determined enemy without establishing a beachhead first.
“Though the Marine Corps enemy is described only as a deeply religious revolutionary country named Karona, it is ˜ with its Revolutionary Guards, WMD and oil wealth ˜ unmistakably meant to be Iran,” Arkin said.
Various scenarios involving Iran’s missile force have also been examined in another study, initiated in 2004 and known as BMD-I, which is short for “ballistic missile defense ˜ Iran”, Arkin said.
In June 2004, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld alerted the US Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska, to be prepared to implement CONPLAN 8022, a global strike plan that includes Iran.
“The new task force, sources have told me, mostly worries that if it were called upon to deliver Œprompt‚ global strikes against certain targets in Iran under some emergency circumstances, the president might have to be told that the only option is a nuclear one,” Arkin said.
In Vienna a US think tank said Iran has expanded its uranium conversion facilities in Isfahan and reinforced its Natanz underground uranium enrichment plant, amid growing concern over possible US military action.
Talk of a US attack has topped the international news agenda since a report in New Yorker magazine said this month that Washington was mulling the option of using tactical nuclear weapons to knock out Iran’s subterranean nuclear sites.
Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on Sunday any US attack on Iran would plunge the region into instability. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also warned that US military intervention in Iran was not the best solution to resolve the nuclear standoff and a leading US senator called for direct US talks with Iran.
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said in an email sent to news media that Iran has built a new tunnel entrance at a uranium processing plant in Isfahan. “This new entrance is indicative of a new underground facility or further expansion of the existing one,” said ISIS, led by ex-UN arms inspector and nuclear expert David Albright.
ISIS also released four satellite images taken between 2002 and January 2006 it said showed Natanz’s two subterranean cascade halls being buried by successive layers of earth, apparent concrete slabs and more earth and other materials. The roofs of the halls now appear to be eight metres underground, ISIS said.
The revelations came one week after Iran announced it had enriched uranium for use in power stations for the first time, stoking a diplomatic row over Western suspicions of a covert Iranian atomic bomb project. Iran says it seeks nuclear power.
Wielding the threat of sanctions, the United Nations Security Council has urged Iran to stop enrichment work and asked nuclear watchdog head Mohamed ElBaradei to report on Tehran’s reply on April 28. Iran stood its ground when ElBaradei visited the country last week.
US President George W Bush has dismissed reports of plans for a military strike against Iran as “wild speculation” and said he remained focused on diplomacy to defuse the standoff. But analysts said Iran was not taking any chances. “Iran is taking extraordinary precautions to try to protect its nuclear assets. But the growing talk of eliminating Iran’s nuclear programme from the air is pretty glib,” Albright told Reuters by telephone from Washington.
Despite Bush’s denial, Iran’s Rafsanjani said Tehran could not discount the possibility of a US military strike. “Harm will not only engulf the Islamic Republic of Iran, but the region and everybody,” the influential Iranian leader told a news conference during a visit to Syria.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Tehran was still seeking a diplomatic solution for the crisis, (but) America should be aware it is not in a position to create another crisis in the region”, an apparent reference to Iraq.
In Washington, Richard Lugar, a leading Republican senator, said the United States should hold direct talks with Iran on its nuclear programme and go slow on sanctions. “We need to make more headway diplomatically” before moving toward sanctions, Lugar said on the ABC television programme “This Week”.
Annan told Spain’s ABC daily that the situation was “too heated” and could not withstand any further aggravation. “I still think the best solution is a negotiated one, and I don’t see what would be solved by a military operation,” he said. “I hope the will to negotiate prevails and that the military option proves to be only speculation.”
A leading US senator said the United States must continue to pressure Russia and China to support international sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. “This is a situation that cries out for UN Security Council action and for multilateral sanctions that actually mean something,” Republican Sen Mitch McConnell told Fox News.
“Nobody seriously thinks there is a unilateral solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis. It has to be done on a multilateral basis.” Former White House counterterrorism head Richard Clarke wrote in Sunday’s New York Times that a US war with Iran could be even more damaging to America’s interests than the Iraq war.
In an article co-authored with Steven Simon, a former State Department official who also worked for the National Security Council, he warned that Iran’s likely response would be to use “its terrorist network to strike American targets around the world, including inside the United States”. A hardline Iranian group said on Sunday 200 people had signed up in the past few days to carry out “martyrdom missions” against US and British interests if Iran was attacked.
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