Iran - Ready to attack
American preparations for invading Iran are complete
By Dan Plesch
Statesman" -- - American military
operations for a major conventional war with Iran could
be implemented any day. They extend far beyond targeting
suspect WMD facilities and will enable President Bush to
destroy Iran's military, political and economic
infrastructure overnight using conventional weapons.
British military sources told the New Statesman, on
condition of anonymity, that "the US military switched
its whole focus to Iran" as soon as Saddam Hussein was
kicked out of Baghdad. It continued this strategy, even
though it had American infantry bogged down in fighting
the insurgency in Iraq.
The US army, navy, air force and marines have all
prepared battle plans and spent four years building
bases and training for "Operation Iranian Freedom".
Admiral Fallon, the new head of US Central Command, has
inherited computerised plans under the name TIRANNT
(Theatre Iran Near Term).
The Bush administration has made much of sending a
second aircraft carrier to the Gulf. But it is a tiny
part of the preparations. Post 9/11, the US navy can put
six carriers into battle at a month's notice. Two
carriers in the region, the USS John C Stennis and the
USS Dwight D Eisenhower, could quickly be joined by
three more now at sea: USS Ronald Reagan, USS Harry S
Truman and USS Theodore Roosevelt, as well as by USS
Nimitz. Each carrier force includes hundreds of cruise
Then there are the marines, who are not tied down
fighting in Iraq. Several marine forces are assembling,
each with its own aircraft carrier. These carrier forces
can each conduct a version of the D-Day landings. They
come with landing craft, tanks, jump-jets, thousands of
troops and, yes, hundreds more cruise missiles. Their
task is to destroy Iranian forces able to attack oil
tankers and to secure oilfields and installations. They
have trained for this mission since the Iranian
revolution of 1979.
Today, marines have the USS Boxer and USS Bataan carrier
forces in the Gulf and probably also the USS Kearsarge
and USS Bonhomme Richard. Three others, the USS Peleliu,
USS Wasp and USS Iwo Jima, are ready to join them.
Earlier this year, HQ staff to manage these forces were
moved from Virginia to Bahrain.
Vice-President Dick Cheney has had something of a love
affair with the US marines, and this may reach its
culmination in the fishing villages along Iran's Gulf
coast. Marine generals hold the top jobs at Nato, in the
Pentagon and are in charge of all nuclear weapons. No
marine has held any of these posts before.
Traditionally, the top nuclear job went either to a
commander of the navy's Trident submarines or of the air
force's bombers and missiles. Today, all these forces
follow the orders of a marine, General James Cartwright,
and are integrated into a "Global Strike" plan which
places strategic forces on permanent 12-hour readiness.
The only public discussion of this plan has been by the
American analysts Bill Arkin and Hans Kristensen, who
have focused on the possible use of atomic weapons.
These concerns are justified, but ignore how forces can
be used in conventional war.
Any US general planning to attack Iran can now assume
that at least 10,000 targets can be hit in a single
raid, with warplanes flying from the US or Diego Garcia.
In the past year, unlimited funding for military
technology has taken "smart bombs" to a new level.
New "bunker-busting" conventional bombs weigh only
250lb. According to Boeing, the GBU-39 small-diameter
bomb "quadruples" the firepower of US warplanes,
compared to those in use even as recently as 2003. A
single stealth or B-52 bomber can now attack between 150
and 300 individual points to within a metre of accuracy
using the global positioning system.
With little military effort, the US air force can hit
the last-known position of Iranian military units,
political leaders and supposed sites of weapons of mass
destruction. One can be sure that, if war comes, George
Bush will not want to stand accused of using too little
force and allowing Iran to fight back.
"Global Strike" means that, without any obvious signal,
what was done to Serbia and Lebanon can be done
overnight to the whole of Iran. We, and probably the
Iranians, would not know about it until after the bombs
fell. Forces that hide will suffer the fate of Saddam's
armies, once their positions are known.
The whole of Iran is now less than an hour's flying time
from some American base or carrier. Sources in the
region as well as trade journals confirm that the US has
built three bases in Azerbaijan that could be transit
points for troops and with facilities equal to its best
Most of the Iranian army is positioned along the border
with Iraq, facing US army missiles that can reach 150km
over the border. But it is in the flat, sandy oilfields
east and south of Basra where the temptation will be to
launch a tank attack and hope that a disaffected
population will be grateful.
The regime in Tehran has already complained of US- and
UK-inspired terror attacks in several Iranian regions
where the population opposes the ayatollahs' fanatical
policies. Such reports corroborate the American
journalist Seymour Hersh's claim that the US military is
already engaged in a low-level war with Iran. The
fighting is most intense in the Kurdish north where Iran
has been firing artillery into Iraq. The US and Iran are
already engaged in a low-level proxy war across the
And, once again, the neo-cons at the American Enterprise
Institute have a plan for a peaceful settlement: this
time it is for a federal Iran. Officially, Michael
Ledeen, the AEI plan's sponsor, has been ostracised by
the White House. However, two years ago, the Congress of
Iranian Nationalities for a Federal Iran had its
inaugural meeting in London.
We should not underestimate the Bush administration's
ability to convince itself that an "Iran of the regions"
will emerge from a post-rubble Iran.
Dan Plesch is a research associate at the School of
Oriental and African Studies
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