April 18th, 2010
02:29 PM ET
12 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. phillip

    Why is it ok for Israel to have nukes, but we talk about invading or bombing Iran for even discussing having them....it doesn't make sense. Israel has been a far more aggressive state than Iran over the last 30 years. They are far more volatile and dangerous. Once again, racism and xenophobia rule.

    April 18, 2010 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  2. DG


    News is news. I get that. I work in the field so I fully understand the nature of the beast. However, publishing such things, to me, only feeds a growing situation. It is almost as if you want to fuel the flames of the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Not that he needs any help but that is beyond the point.

    News is news, I get that; but I ask you this..

    At what cost?

    April 18, 2010 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    It seems so obvious that Iran is intentionally trying to appear to have nuclear ambitions...

    Saddam Hussein did the same. He hoped that his country would be attacked, only to find no WMDs. Saddam thought that the US would be embarrassed by the mistake, and he would emerge victorious, making a fool of the US.

    In the case of Iran... it just might work.

    Call the bluff.

    April 18, 2010 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  4. Irish

    In due time he will reap what he has planted. When the timing is right, he won't know what hit them.

    April 18, 2010 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  5. veteran for peace

    I have yet to see a comment on why Iran should not have a nuclear capability, civilian or otherwise. So many other suspect countries have a nuclear capability.

    April 18, 2010 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  6. Kong Lor

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Iranian military is challenging Obama and US military in war. Guess what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an idiot. US military could defeat Iranian military easily. Iran air force is old including their air defence like SAM & Triple AAA. Also even if Iran receive SA-20 from Russia. US F-22 Raptor would knock out those SA-20 easily. F-22 Raptor is 5th Gen. Stealth Fighter Aircraft which is invisible to radar and inferred. Iranian Army, Marines, all their Commandos, Quds Forces, Takavar, Revolutionary Guard, & Navy aren't as could as US military. US Army, Marines, Army Rangers, Delta Forces, Navy Seals, Seal Team 6, & Green berets could kick their butts easily. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad & Iranian military know they can't defeat US military powers. Ahamdinejad is a Crazy Mad Man like Adolf Hitler.

    April 18, 2010 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  7. Bill F.

    a comment of moderation: The conduct of the United States gives Iran incentives to develop its military power, beginning with the US-UK supported Coup in 1953, giving military assistance to Iraq – Iran's then-primary adversary- through the 1980s, offering the diplomatic support necessary for Israel to maintain nuclear weapons, occupying two countries bordering Iran, and threatening Iran with military force. Whatever conversation we have about Iran has to respect these basic historical facts, which themselves grant no conclusion.

    April 18, 2010 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  8. jon

    It will be Israel that does it, we will have to act then, thefinger is already on the trigger, get ready, its gonna happen soon, and watch out, its gonna be tough times ahead when Iran blocks the Straights of Hormuz with burning supertankers, there will be lots of response from Venezuela too, that will be a long cold winter, I am gonna be spending it in a warm climate, cuz there will be no heating oil available for civilians! We are still
    getting the bulk of oil from the straights, thats the lynch pin and all the wrong people know it!

    April 18, 2010 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  9. Vern in Ohio

    Didn't Saddam Hussein, in '91, promise the "Mother of All Battles" in the Gulf War? I don't think Iran would be a pushover like Iraq was-much bigger nation, and a better military, but if the U.S, in the unlikely scenario, did have to invade, and used the Powell Doctrine to do so, it would be bloody, but Iran could not win.

    The Iranian president should be told of the old American adage: be careful what you wish for. You just may get it.

    April 18, 2010 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  10. Russ H

    Great going media. Just like Iraq, let some idiot from the government open their mouth and the media jumps on it. You guys are as bad as the government. You all need to be fired and left in iran.

    April 18, 2010 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  11. Minotts

    Can anyone find a reason why Palestine isn,t a nation yet. That would sure be the first step in starting to create peace in the middle East. The US was insulted by Israel last month. Iran is only a distraction to the State of Israel to keep the heat off, because Israel will do to the Palestians what we did to the American Indian. Finally Israel has become what it has escaped from the are the new nazis. Heil Neanahu"

    April 18, 2010 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |

    US weapons like CBU-97 SFW, IMS (Intelligence Munitions Systems), & XM501 Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System could whipped out the entire Iranian Tanks, APC, AIFV, IFV, SPAAG, SPA, Towed Artillery, SAM, AAA, & other Iranian war ground machines. USAF/USN F-22 Raptor, F-16C/D Block 32/40/42/50/52 Fighting Falcon, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-15C Eagle, & F-35A/B/C Lightning II could destroyed entire Iran air force fighters, ground attacks, AWACS, other military aircraft, & helicopters in 3 days air campaign operations. US M1A2 SEP v1/2, 10 Stryker Variants, M2A3 Bradley, M109A6 PIM, M777A2, EFV, M270A1, HIMARS, M-ATV, Buffalo MRAP, Cougar MRAP, MaxxPro MRAP, Caiman MRAP, & RG-33L MRAP would pound enemy armour division. US training like CQB & CCB could kick Iranian Revolutionary Guards butts.

    April 18, 2010 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  13. Mike

    Muslims have never used any nuclear bomb against anyone. If I remember quite well, the 2 times an atomic bomb was dropped on civilians happened in Japan and we did it. Is it OK for Isreal to wipe out palestinians while the whole world is watching and no one else can say anything about it? But it is OK to send our Brothers and Sisters to go die for Israel. Use your brain folks. MUSLIMS DID NOT CRUCIFIED JESUS. MUSLIMS CONSIDER JESUS AS ONE ONE THEIR PROPHETS WHILE THE ISRAELIS DENIED HIM.

    April 18, 2010 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  14. Minotts

    Can anyone find a reason why Palestine isn,t a nation yet. That would sure be the first step in starting to create peace in the middle East. The US was insulted by Israel last month. Iran is only a distraction to the State of Israel to keep the heat off, because Israel will do to the Palestians what we did to the American Indian. Finally Israel has become what it has escaped from they are the new nazis. Heil Netanahu"

    April 18, 2010 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  15. anthony

    Im glad Obama hasnt shown his hand. Our military obviously knows far more then they lead on, and why shouldn't they. We've all seen a poker match... only a fool lets his "tells" slip.

    Iran's posturing is only going to provoke Isreal, who in turn will pre-emptively strike in their best interest.
    Now if those two finally want to see who has the bigger sticks, then so be it, theyll both wake up with a monster hang over the next day.

    And when the dust settles, we wont be worrying about who has what nuclear capabilities, as they will have both wiped each other's out.

    Good riddance, just dont let your garbage spill over into our yard.

    April 18, 2010 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
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