U.S. Threatens War on Iran – Nuclear Strikes Contemplated

Revolution #044, April 23, 2006, posted at revcom.us

A startling new story by journalist Seymour Hersh reveals that the war criminal Bush administration may be feverishly preparing for new, even greater crimes: a possible attack on Iran, an attack which could involve nuclear weapons.

In the April 17 issue of the New Yorker, Hersh writes: “The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups. The officials say that President Bush is determined to deny the Iranian regime the opportunity to begin a pilot program, planned for this spring, to enrich uranium.”

Attack planning is "enormous," "hectic" and "operational,” according to former intelligence officials quoted by Hersh. “There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change,” Hersh reports. A European diplomatic advisor told him, “the United States wants regime change.”

Hersh reports that using nuclear weapons is a definite and real possibility: “One of the military’s initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites,” Hersh writes. A former intelligence official told him that whenever anybody tries to remove the nuclear option “they’re shouted down” by top Bush officials.

U.S. forces are already practicing nuclear bombing runs: “American Naval tactical aircraft, operating from carriers in the Arabian Sea, have been flying simulated nuclear-weapons delivery missions—rapid ascending maneuvers known as ‘over the shoulder’ bombing—since last summer...within range of Iranian coastal radars,” Hersh writes.


"What you're reading is wild speculation,” Bush told the media. This is yet another big lie. There is abundant evidence that the Bush regime’s planning for a possible attack is real and happening now.

“This is not wild speculation,” Hersh told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. “It's simply a fact that the planning has gone beyond the contingency stage, and it’s gone into what they call the operational stage, sort of an increment higher. And it's very serious planning, of course. And it's all being directed at the wish of the President of the United States.”

Military analyst William Arkin writes in the Washington Post:

“Less than three weeks after Saddam Hussein's statue was toppled in central Baghdad in April 2003, the U.S. military finished campaign planning to invade Iran. Contrary to all the speculation this week that all U.S. contingency planning for Iran is about quick, surgical action short of war, both the Army and Marine Corps are newly looking at full scale war scenarios.”

“Army organizations, together with CENTCOM headquarters planners, have been examining... scenarios for war with Iran, covering all aspects of a major combat operation from mobilization and deployment of forces through post-war ‘stability’ operations after regime change.” (See William M. Arkin, “Iran: Send in the Marines?” and “Despite Denials, U.S. Plans for Iran War,” Washington Post online.)

William Kristol of the right-wing Weekly Standard compared Iran to Nazi Germany and argued for “serious preparation for possible military action—including real and urgent operational planning for bombing strikes and for the consequences of such strikes.” The Wall Street Journal called upon Bush to give top priority to developing "bunker buster" nuclear bombs. These publications are not marginal. The run-up to the Iraq war proved that they reflect the thinking—and are listened to—at the highest levels of the Bush administration. (See Jim Lobe, “Neocons Turn Up Heat for Iran Attack,” antiwar.com, 4/14/06)


Hersh’s reporting, as well as the stated agenda and whole trajectory of the Bush regime, make it clear that it would be willful disbelief to ignore the growing danger of a U.S. attack on Iran. One reason: its objectives are not limited to disarming Iran—its goal is regime change, as in Iraq.

Hersh reports that one former defense official told him that “military planning was premised on a belief that ‘a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.’” A Pentagon adviser told Hersh, “This White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran, and that means war.” He said that the U.S. was planning to “strike many hundreds of targets in Iran but that ‘ninety-nine percent of them have nothing to do with proliferation.’”

One military planner told Hersh, “People think Bush has been focused on Saddam Hussein since 9/11,” but, “in my view, if you had to name one nation that was his focus all the way along, it was Iran.” Secretary of State Rice recently told the Senate, "I think there's no doubt that Iran is the single biggest threat from a state that we face.” The new Bush National Security Strategy document called posed a graver challenge to the U.S. than any other country.

The problem for the imperialists is not that the Islamic Republic is a reactionary, obscurantist regime. Nor is it primarily that it may be pursuing nuclear weapons. The U.S. allies with plenty of reactionary, obscurantist regimes—Saudi Arabia being a case in point—as well as regimes with nuclear weapons such as Israel, India, and Pakistan.

The problem for the U.S. rulers is that the Islamic Republic is something of a barrier to its unfettered domination of the Persian Gulf. Iran poses a challenge because it is a large state with enormous oil reserves and a relatively large population, and its rulers are seeking to maintain their rule and extend their influence in ways that conflict with U.S. goals. For instance, the Islamic Republic has ties to other powers like Russia and China, and it supports forces in Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq that have come into sharp conflict with the U.S. and Israel. Bush officials frequently blame Iran for fomenting unrest, backing anti-U.S. Shi’ite forces, and seeking to extend its influence in Iraq. And it is possible that Tehran’s ruling Ayatollahs are attempting to develop nuclear weapons in order to defend their rule and strengthen their leverage—both against the U.S. and in the region.

“This is much more than a nuclear issue,” one European diplomat told Hersh. “That’s just a rallying point...the Administration believes it cannot be fixed unless they control the hearts and minds of Iran. The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years.”

(There is, as yet, no clearcut evidence that Iran is firmly committed to building nuclear weapons. According to the Washington Post, the most recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate predicated that if Iran did try to develop nuclear weapons, it couldn’t do so for at least 10 years. This past week Iran announced it had successfully enriched uranium to a purity necessary to fuel nuclear reactors, but it continues to insist its programs are peaceful. None of this has stopped the Bush regime from hyping the Iranian threat; this past week one State Department official claimed that Iran could make a nuclear weapon in 16 days.)


Regime change and crushing Iran as a regional power involve a murderous logic that could lead to widespread U.S. bombing in Iran, murdering thousands of Iranians, and possibly to using nuclear weapons. Hersh reports that one military analyst argued last month that “at least four hundred targets would have to be hit” to destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and that U.S. objectives went far beyond Iran’s nuclear facilities:

“I don’t think a U.S. military planner would want to stop there. Iran probably has two chemical-production plants. We would hit those. We would want to hit the medium-range ballistic missiles that have just recently been moved closer to Iraq. There are fourteen airfields with sheltered aircraft. . . . We’d want to get rid of that threat. We would want to hit the assets that could be used to threaten Gulf shipping. That means targeting the cruise-missile sites and the Iranian diesel submarines.”

With or without nuclear weapons, a massive bombing campaign could cause widespread death and suffering to Iran. Another former defense official told Hersh that the U.S. could bludgeon Iran into submission: “we can tell them that, if necessary, we’ll keep knocking back their infrastructure.” Destroying a country’s civilian infrastructure is a war crime—and it’s what the U.S. did 13 years ago to Iraq by destroying its power grid and water and sewage systems. Between one and two million Iraqis, mainly children and the elderly, died as a result of this bombing coupled with U.S.-imposed sanctions.

The use of nuclear weapons would add exponentially to the horror, but the U.S. may use tactical nuclear weapons to be certain all Iran’s underground facilities are destroyed. Hersh reports, “The lack of reliable intelligence [concerning Iran’s underground facilities] leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. ‘Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap,’ the former senior intelligence official said. “Decisive” is the key word of the Air Force’s planning. It’s a tough decision. But we made it in Japan.’ ”

Hersh writes that one Pentagon adviser told him that “some in the Administration were looking seriously at this [nuclear] option, which he linked to a resurgence of interest in tactical nuclear weapons among Pentagon civilians and in policy circles,” and that “the idea of using tactical nuclear weapons in such situations has gained support from the Defense Science Board, an advisory panel whose members are selected by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.” In 2001, some top Bush officials signed a report calling for “treating tactical nuclear weapons as an essential part of the U.S. arsenal.” The Pentagon adviser called it “a juggernaut that has to be stopped.”

Many people refuse to believe that the Bush regime can get away with war on Iran while it’s bogged down in Iraq. In reality the difficulties the U.S. is confronting in Iraq may be one element impelling them toward attacking Iran. More fundamentally, the Bush agenda was never about conquering this or that country, but about reshaping the entire planet, and they’re willing to wage war for years to come, and bludgeon their way through every obstacle in their way in order to do so. The problem isn’t that they have no sense of the possible pitfalls, or that they’re oblivious to reality. The problem is that they feel the future of the U.S. empire is at stake, and they’re willing to murder millions and commit enormous crimes to maintain it. "[A] great nation has to be serious about its responsibilities," declares Kristol, a leading proponent of the Iraq war, “even if executing other responsibilities has been more difficult than one would have hoped.”

Ominously, one Pentagon consultant told Hersh, Bush believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.” As a congressman put it to Hersh, “The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision.”


One congressman told Hersh, "There’s no pressure from Congress" not to take military action, and added, "The only political pressure is from the guys who want to do it." Robert Dreyfuss (“Hawk-Tied Democrats” on www.tompaine.com) that “many (perhaps most) elected Democrats are demanding a confrontation with Iran, too. Some, such as Hillary Clinton, are even trying to out-Bush the president in demanding a showdown with Iran.”

It is clearer than ever that it’s up to the people to do this—and illusory to expect the Democratic Party or Congress to do so.

Any attack on Iran would be criminal aggression which would cause widespread destruction, suffering, and death. People in the U.S. have the responsibility to step out NOW and oppose U.S. war plans against Iran with all their energy.

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