April 18th, 2010
02:29 PM ET
11 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. Bobby

    Yep. Talk. Talk, talk, and more talk. Maybe the administration is in a time lock or something. All it is is stale talk. Reminds me of GWB. Talk, talk, talk. Talking is getting us nowhere. Iran is a group of crazies. Their only goal is to cause us harm. It is past time we ended this so we can not have to waste more words in the future. No more chances.

    April 18, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  2. Liberal4Obama

    I'm not a hawk but I think a targeted strike, if sanctions fail to bring Iran to the table, is warranted. I applaud President Obama for not taking any options of the table, time for Iran to see that not only do we offer carrots we also carry a very BIG stick.

    April 18, 2010 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  3. Estger Haman

    What was our plan for the Pakistan? A radical Sunni Muslim country with over 100 nuclear tipped missiles, which has great relationship and contact with the Taliban and the Al-Quida for the 12 years? Or what was our plan for the India with more nuclear missiles and bombs? Or what is out plan for the Rogue Zionists state with over 200+ A-bombs and now with nuclear submarines that can deliver them from any where?!

    Can the Zionists start a nuclear war with the Muslims, and detonate an A-bomb any where they want to and blame it on the Muslims? By then the world is in Chaos and we be nuking any Muslim nation that that even talked about having nuclear what ever! Think about it.

    The Zionists forged papers and documents and came up with a phony lap-top computer to show that Iran had nuclear detonator and plans to build a A-bomb etc to get us to bomb them. Don't you think MOSAD can blame the Iranians for any nuclear detonation some where in the world and say that Hamas was given the bomb to deliver it?! They are very well capable of this type of shenanigans.

    As long as the Zionists have A-bombs, there is no clear cut resolution to any of this.

    April 18, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  4. Josh

    All you naysayer, don't under estimate this president. He has things going on that you don't and shouldn't know about. We can not put every move we make on CNN so it can be broad casted all over the world. I'm a retired military man and I think that the news media spend to much of it's time trying to get top secretes strategies out so our enemies can prepare for what may be coming. I ask of the media to stay clear of out top secrete information.

    April 18, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  5. steven harnack

    Why would anyone care WHAT he said? You don't have to react to everything that comes out of a little pest's mouth. Be bigger than that and just ignore him. As evidenced by his snit at being left out of the nuclear summit being ignored gets his goat worse than anything else.

    April 18, 2010 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  6. Dave

    Instead, we looked for WMDs in Iraq.

    April 18, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  7. Concerned Canadian

    A s much as I abhor the Iranian leadership I do not believe they are fools. They know very well what the consequences would be if they ever used a nuclear bomb preemptively. Why does Obama not address the issue of Israel's nuclear arsenal? This is the real reason for an arms race in the Middle East, not the potential for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons as the Administration would have you believe.

    April 18, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  8. James W.

    So glad to see the neo-con strategy of pre-emptive war on nations that are no direct threat to the U.S. is one thing Obama hasn't changed. I guess Bush and Obama aren't so different after all.

    April 18, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  9. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Ahmadinejad is ramping us his rhetoric as propaganda for Iranians who have been protesting against him in hopes they will side with him, I don't think that will happen. Iranians will rise up against him and be liberated from this cruel dictator. Ahmadinejad knows the danger he himself is in and he will fall at the hands of his own people, he is weakened and he's afraid.

    April 18, 2010 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  10. jdmintexas

    Here is my two cents: forget the sites themselve, target the Revolutionary Guard.

    April 18, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  11. hongli

    Leave the JOB for Israel to complete. Israel will knock out all the sites and flatten Iran. Enough said.

    April 18, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  12. Andy from NYC

    I would like someone to put that might to the test, just for old times sake.

    April 18, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  13. jpires

    A military option is the best, and to end this novel once and forever. The words and endless accusations, only to have time to obtain nuclear weapons. Then it will be too late.

    April 18, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  14. Unicorn Diplomacy

    Seems like Iran is always spoiling for a fight. Inviting it actually. That means they probably think they have a formidable defense in place that will inflict a lot of damage on anyone who tries to take out their nuke development facilities. I'm quite sure we understand this.

    But I doubt Obama would be decisive enough to do anything effective even if Iranian defenses were much weaker. So, instead, we'll probably find ourselves in reaction mode after Israel finally takes the initiative to attack those facilities. Israel has much less room for error than we do. It's smaller than Rhode Island. Even a single nuke over Israel would effectively end that nation. And they are already within range of Iranian missile technology. So what do you think is going to happen? (Hint: Netanyahu is probably done with waiting for Obama)

    April 18, 2010 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  15. D

    Obama didn't invite Ahmadinejad to the Nuclear summit? what a MORON – he won't talk to him, he won't use any force, how the hell are we supposed to accomplish anything?

    April 18, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  16. Billy

    NoBama doesn't have the spine to do anything to Iran. Besides, he is too busy dismantling the US economy.

    April 18, 2010 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  17. Ryan

    In my opinion, we don't need a third war to be fighting. We have been fighting two since 2001, and now they are planning a third. It is just useless, all that will do is lead to another war after that, and another, and will never stop.

    April 18, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  18. Chris

    I'm betting that Iran will do the same thing as North Korea and sooner rather than later detonate a nuke. And once you have a nuke there is no attacking them. And I bet that Obama doesn't have the guts to attack them first.

    April 18, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  19. Jsick

    What ever happened to the anti-war left?

    April 18, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  20. amj53

    It appears that Iran is spoiling for a fight. Israel should not be the one to take the Iranian nuclear sites down as that would only deepen the hostilities between them and the Arab World. The U.S. must act, and quickly, to minimize the chances of a formidable Iranian counterstrike that could worsen the tensions in the Middle East. Many in the Arab World are already afraid of Iran so they may act angrily toward us if we strike but in reality would be breathing a sigh of relief.

    April 18, 2010 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  21. Wes

    Why would Ahmadinejad encourage a confrontation? He understands that when the bombs fall on his (nearly empty) "nuclear" facilities, the price of oil will go through the roof!! He is the "Mouse that Roared," and has everything to gain from a limited strike on his "nuclear" facilities.

    April 18, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  22. sensible Cape Coral FL

    Every war is an expression of failure.

    April 18, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  23. Adalbert

    Unfortunately, it appears that Israel has once again succeeding to get America to do their dirty work. In recent history, unlike Israel, Iran has not attacked anyone anywhere. So, why is it that the US is planning an attack on Iran? And why is it that Iran wants to be a nuclear power? Is it because arrogant Israel is a nuclear power? Just think about it.

    April 18, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  24. Mark5

    I would feel badly for the people of Iran who are against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They tried to protest and were squashed by him. However, maybe a military strike would help their cause too.

    April 18, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  25. Ex-Brainwashed Dem

    Looks like another war of agression perpatrated by our criminal government is on the horizon. I find it find amussing that the average American i talk to, regaurdless of political leanings, is completely against the current wars and very much against engaging in another war. Also most Americans do not care if Israel is attacked or not, i think they feell the billions of tax payer dollars we give Israeal each year should be enough, not much of a return on such a large investment. Are any of the elected reps even listening?

    April 18, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
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