April 18th, 2010
02:29 PM ET
5 years ago

U.S. military plans against Iran being updated

Washington (CNN) – The Pentagon and U.S. Central Command are updating military plans to strike Iran's nuclear sites, preparing up-to-date options for the president in the event he decides to take such action, an Obama administration official told CNN Sunday.

The effort has been underway for several weeks and comes as there is growing concern across the administration's national security team that the president needs fresh options ready for his approval if he were to decide on a military strike, according to the official who is familiar with the effort.

The official did not want to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the work being conducted.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continued to amp up his rhetoric against the West on Sunday, claiming that Iran is so powerful today that no country would dare attack it.

"Iran's army is so mighty today that no enemy can have a foul thought of invading Iran's territory," the Iranian leader said in a speech, according to state media.

The Iranian leader has had choice words for Obama and other Western leaders, especially after not receiving an invitation to the nuclear summit hosted in Washington last week. Obama has been pressing the U.N. Security Council to slap Iran with tougher sanctions for its nuclear ambitions. Iran says that its nuclear program is intended for civilian purposes.

In January, Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote a classified memo to the White House raising concerns about whether the administration had a sufficient policy in place, along with military options, for stopping Iran's progress in getting a nuclear weapon, the official confirmed.

The memo was first reported Sunday in the New York Times.

Gates spokesman Geoff Morrell declined to confirm the memo, but said in a written statement, "The Secretary believes the President and his national security team have spent an extraordinary amount of time and effort considering and preparing for the full range of contingencies with respect to Iran."

The planning effort for potential strikes against Iran actually has been underway for some time, the official said.

In December, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told his planners he didn't believe they were taking "seriously enough" the need for fresh thinking about how to attack Iran's nuclear sites if the
president ordered such a strike, the official said.

"He wanted to create a higher sense of urgency to create military options for the President," the official said. Mullen "wanted a more robust planning effort to provide the President with options, should he choose a military option," he said.

The official strongly emphasized that the U.S. military is always updating plans in order to be ready for the president. If Obama were to order a strike against Iran, he would turn to Mullen, Gates and Gen. David Petraeus, the head of Central Command, for their advice on how to proceed. The official would not discuss how any of the updated plans might differ from previously existing military strike options.

Mullen and other Pentagon officials have continuously endorsed diplomacy as the preferred option against Iran. In February Mullen publicly noted that a military strike against Iran's nuclear program would not be "decisive" and would only delay and set back Iran's efforts.

Gates recently expressed growing concern about understanding exactly what Iran's intentions may be.

"How you differentiate, how far have they gone. If their policy is to go to the threshold but not assemble a nuclear weapon, how do you tell that they have not assembled? So it becomes a serious verification question. And I don't actually know how you would verify that," Gates said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"So they are continuing to make progress on these programs. It's going slow - slower than they anticipated, but they are moving in that direction," he said.

In general, the U.S. military develops what is sometimes called targeting "folders." These files detail all the known facts and intelligence about a target, include precise location, how deeply buried it might be, the civilian population surrounding the target, the geology of the land and rock around the area, and detailed options about which U.S. weapons might be best used to destroy it.

The U.S. intelligence community is also currently involved in the updated planning effort, providing the latest assessments about Iran's nuclear progress at various sites around the Islamic republic.

There have been several public hints about the new target planning. Last week, a Pentagon official told the Senate Armed Services Committee in a written statement, "Through prudent military planning we continue to refine options to protect U.S. and partner interests from Iranian aggression, deter Iran's destabilizing behavior, and prepare for contingencies."

Back in December, Mullen deliberately, the official said, made a reference to Iran in a public document called "the chairman's guidance," posted on the Internet saying, "should the President call for military options, we
must have them ready."

There have been growing signs of Iranian efforts to militarily protect their nuclear sites. The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency notes that last year Iran established a separate air defense force, with the stated intention of defending nuclear sites with missiles and air defense radars.


Filed under: Iran • Obama administration • Pentagon • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (115 Responses)
  1. dave b

    lets all remember how Sadam/ Iraq said the US army would drown in its own blood......if it invaded..... and how did that turn out .....?

    a can of whoop.....

    April 18, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  2. jmd

    Interesting that we have occupied nations that neighbor Iran. My thought is that this has been in the works all along. This whole Iraq conflict has been one step in a several step process to eventually get the big prize...

    April 18, 2010 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  3. Big Daddy

    If all else fails perhaps he can offer to add all them to our health care plan as an incentive. Obama is a joke

    April 18, 2010 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  4. LetsBeCivil

    We must be prepared but one of the worse things we can do is threaten or attack Iran. If we did, the people would unite behind Ahmadinejad just as we would unite behind our President if someone threatened us. They are a very proud and nationalistic people. They don't like Ahmadinejad but they would unite behind him as the strongest person to protect them and the nation. The people want Ahmadinejad out but thus far have not been able to prevail. Our previous administration did some hefty grandstanding before Ahmadinejad's first election win which ensured Ahmadinejad's election. If we had stayed quiet, one of the more moderate candidates would probably have taken that election.

    April 18, 2010 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  5. John Lennon

    All we are saying, is give PEACE a chance.

    April 18, 2010 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  6. Chris

    The Obama adminstration won't do anything anytime soon or until its too late. Senator McCain is right by saying "Obama needs to pull the trigger." The government is reluctant to take action. The Government had intel on the Fort Hood shooter but didn't taken action because they did not want to profile. The Iranian regime is not going to change. It is going to be a military strike by the United States Air Force and the allies.

    April 18, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  7. Robert Wagner

    Obama needs to do somethigng before it is too late. Israel is a responsible nation and would not simply go out and use nuclear weapons just because they feel like it or because they get angry. They are a peaceful and logical people, even in disagreement. However, Iran is a nation that promotes hate, terror and destruction, and would indeed use a nuclear weapon against innocents and anyone else that they dislike or wish to terrorize. It is only a matter of time, so what are we waiting for....?

    April 18, 2010 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  8. PeaceOrWar

    It seems 80 percent of the posts here are going for war. Add me in even though I am anti-war guy. But for Iran, it is a different story. The Iranian president is more than just a dictator . He is an insane and idiot person.
    Just hope the Iranian knows that what their leader are taking them down to the self-destruction road.

    April 18, 2010 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  9. Matt

    What if we knew in 1938 what we know now about Hitler. He started WWII. Would we bomb weapons factories, armament works, airplance factories? Would that have stopped him? No, that would have emboldened him. But, what if we had taken out Hitler, Himmler, Heindrick, Gobbles, Goering, Ribbentrop, Hess, Borman, etc, all at once. They were together many times. One well placed bomb and they are gone and WWII would not have happened. Take out the whole Iranian government all at once. The Mullahs and the Parliment. Live with the consequences and live with the leaders who are left, they seem reasonible, these Iranians who don't care for the present government.

    April 18, 2010 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  10. Joe Jaramillo

    Other than for prpaganda purposes, I doubt this is all that new. All countries Military Intelligence (G2) have OOB Order of Battle studies that are constatly updated, especially on belligerant countries and their leaders. Remember the scenes from Patton where the German High Command was showen keeping tabs on General Patton even when his career seemed to have been sidtracked. Iran is no Germany and Ahamadinejad is no Patton. Personally I say "Jump froggy, here's your lilly pad.

    April 18, 2010 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  11. Robert

    How would military ibtervention have the the best effect??? When the vast majority of our forces our spread across the nation,North Korea Example.....! Yes we have forces in other areas around or near Iran,that are already invovled in those wars. Is it not true that our military forces are so invovled already in other conflicts, to become engaged in another conflict???? What about our allies Israel? Who is on our side,I simply feel, that we cannot effectivley do this alone! Now if we were not already invovled in other conflicts and or " War's " than it would be a much different story! What about N. Korea and all of its attempts as well, it is all tied in together. As well as other Islamic nations, and thier allies!

    April 18, 2010 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  12. INDEPENDENT

    My opinion, cause all we do here is state our opinions in hopes someone of interest takes it into consideration what we are saying.

    due to the fact that GWB hurt our reputation badly in the world with false intel and ruined a real candidate for president (colin powell) we must walk this line of diplomacy. Until after Russia and China are tired of our nagging, can we then attack iran, unless they attack any of interest first.

    No country has the capablity to go toe to toe with our military might. iran is just saying "hellooo...look at me, im over here." their rag tag army is no better than saddam's military was. there air force is basically in shambles due to our sanctions and they are using technology from the the 1970s. Sometimes its better to sit and wait and look at all the options before you rush into something we just might regret later.

    April 18, 2010 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  13. a guy

    this has NOTHING to do with politics, if the top military were not constantly asking for the full range of up to date options they wee not be doing their duty to the troops they command

    all this is, and it goes on all the time, is people in the military doing what they shoudl be, having the best range of options ready if the Presdient says lets do this.

    Its really funny though that Obama thought just talking to these clowns woudl do any good....

    April 18, 2010 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Wow the NWO is back at it again. This guys will never finish bombing countries. We have too put a stop to it. You watch, one of these days they will go after Canada....

    April 18, 2010 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  15. Bud

    Iran needs to look down. Their "foundation" is made of sand.

    April 18, 2010 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  16. Kevin

    Internet tough guys...Obama's a wimp etc, blah, blah.
    Have you considered this battle would close the gulf of
    Hormuz and thus the flow of mid east oil? How well would $12 gallon gas be in this economy. The solutions aren't that simple.

    April 18, 2010 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  17. Jacq

    I say knock their butts 50 years back bomb them,let the UN baby sit

    April 18, 2010 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  18. Chris

    Let me quote Sen. John McCain, "Bomb-Bomb-Bomb-BombBomb-Iran"

    April 18, 2010 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  19. American

    Concerned Canadian, the Israelis may have nuclear weapons because the Arab world has been at war with it for 60+ years. You really are an ignorant one aren't you?

    April 18, 2010 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  20. Unsatisfied

    it's sad when peoples life's and hearts have to pay at the game of power by governments

    April 18, 2010 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  21. JoJo

    Ahmadenijad in his last speech was inviting someone to a duel. Either he is stupid, which I doubt it. Or crazy which I also doubt it. He might think then that if attack by the US or Israel. China, Russia, or even Turkey and Pakistan and North Korea will be somehow in the conflict. Iran might then sustain some damages but as far as retaliating, Israel will be his punching bag, all Iran missiles will end up on Israel. Somehow it will be the end of the Palestinians problems with Israel.

    April 18, 2010 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  22. American

    Concerned Canadian, is Israel the cause of all the problems in the Middle East? How about in the whole world? That sounds better doesn't it? Let's blame Israel for everything. Makes life easy! But wait, that is what the UN does. And what the Arabs do (are you a Canadian Arab?). And what the Europeans do! And soon, what Obama is doing. How easy then – solve the problem of Israel and the world goes into nirvana! Great!!

    April 18, 2010 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  23. Rick

    There is no solution. The world is doomed. I think China ,Russia and US should flatten the middle east and share the oil. Flatten Pakistan as a bonus.

    April 18, 2010 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Israel has taken out nuclear reactors in Iraq and Syria in operation opera and operation orchard but they have no long range bombers and cant reach Iran so that means American forces would have to take it out.

    April 18, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  25. manuallabor

    Why is our government bent on expanding military operations in the world when we cannot afford the ones we are in now?To attack Iran would be a tragic mistake.If people thought Saddam started shooting every direction ,that would be nothing compared to Iran.It would start world war 3.If America does not start scaling down and pulling out we have nowhere to go but to the bottom of the bankruptcy pit.

    April 18, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
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