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. Lawrence

    In my opinion, it is imperative that the US Government also develop a policy and plan to find leakers of classified documents and materials, and that the most severe sanctions as possible be applied to those who divulge such classified information...and when the safety and security of the country is at stake, those sanctions should apply equally to the American press and media.

    The security and safety of the people of this country should always trump freedom of the press!!!!

    April 18, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  2. Jim

    Are two wars not enough? Iran hasn't left its borders.

    April 18, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  3. Proud member of Global Zero

    NO more killing of innocents. NO MORE WARS

    April 18, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  4. Nemo007

    yep, I remember Saddam Husein's famous last words......gigidy :-)))
    but wasn't it him(SH) who kicked Iran's ass when they were on the war path??

    April 18, 2010 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  5. Dave

    Ahmadinutjob tries to start conflict with the USA because he is losing support at home from stealing the election. Iranian people don't want a nuclear war.

    April 18, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  6. Recently Employed by Federal Stimulus Spending

    Why didn't George W. Bush take military action against Iran when he had the opportunity to do it?

    Oh...that's right...we had to go take down the man who tried to have George W's "daddy" killed.

    April 18, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  7. Bill

    Well I think that Iran wants a nuclear weapon so we should GIVE them one.........air bust should do just fine.........

    April 18, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  8. Bri333

    People don't be so cavalier about attacking Iran. Yes the US could defeat them however at a huge monetary cost let alone the cost of the lives lost on both sides. Oil will be through the roof and it wont be the US benefiting from the mess. The big winners would be Russia getting a big boost in oil revenue and actually being able to pay off its national debt entirely while we run ours up even more and China jumping in and playing the neutral side and gaining on the rebuild by selling goods and taking oil contracts.

    If the guy wants to build a nuke who cares. Now if he uses it anywhere Iran will cease to exist. Simple way to keep him in check.

    The cost of going to war far out weighs the benefits in my opinion.

    April 18, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  9. rally2xs

    I think this whole thing could be handled with a 5 cent piece of paper from the Prez to Iran:

    Dear Holocoust Denier,

    Please be advised that if you, or any of your agents manage to exploade a nuclear weapon on our soil, or on any of our allies, we will know who and when and how.

    Be further advised that there wll always be a US Nuclear submarine that will be in range, and will reduce your sad little country to a border to border, glass-paved, self-lighting parking lot.

    Now, you just sit back and consider that for a bit, and have yourself a nice day.

    That is all.


    The President of the United States

    April 18, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  10. Tom

    I feel for the Iranian people. They no more want nukes or war with the west than anyone else. Unfortunaley they are being crushed by a ruthless dictatorship. To solve the Iranian issue then you need to make sure we know who the enemy is and it's not the people of Iran.

    April 18, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  11. Historyfreak

    Iran is a nuclear threat to Israel?? Do people not know that Jerusalem is the third most holy site for Islam? So the Iranian cannot attack Israel with a nuclear bomb without destroying s the site where Muhammad ascended to Heaven. Obviously the Israelis who share the city know this all to well. They count on the rest of the world’s ignorance to hype the idea of an Iranian nuclear attack on them. Sure it would be better if the Iranians did not have a nuclear bomb. It would be better if no one had a nuclear bomb. As long as their adjacent neighbors, Pakistan and the USA (in Afghanistan and Iran), and near neighbors, India, Russia, China and Israel have nuclear bombs. The Iranians will not feel safe until they too have nuclear bombs. Iran could cause us untold grief in Iraq and Afghanistan if we or the Israelis attack them. We relied on MAD to keep the Soviets from attacking us. Surely the same deterrent would work with Iran. Even if individuals seek martyrdom having their country reduced to rubble will deter the leadership. Of all the countries with nuclear weapons only one has actually used them- USA! And then we only used them when no one else had them. This is a ruse for other political agendas.

    April 18, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  12. W l jones

    The military is short of a few good mens.. stop talking and show the Marine you have what it take to lead by example.

    April 18, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  13. Andrew

    This guy wants us to invade.I do not believe we should either.....by land.Bomb him into the stone age and park a few carriers and battleships off the coast.Let him scramble his air force.It would be over quick.His trash talk has gone on long enough and one day his threats and rhetoric will become reality.

    April 18, 2010 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  14. Tom

    Let us hope and pray that the "intelligence" information on Iran is correct. We do not need to start another conflict like we had with Iraq based on those non existent weapons of mass destruction per George Bush. Deja Vu all over again?

    April 18, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  15. Dawn

    This is insane. Sorry, exactly how many of these wars do you people support us fighting at once? We cannot afford this and it's honestly not our job to be the world's policeman! If you think this will stop at "targeted strikes," you are wrong.

    April 18, 2010 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  16. bman

    Forget Iran,
    They will collapse under the weight of their own BS in a few years. If we continue to behave like the bully of the world, we will also collapse under the weight of our own BS.
    Iran can not hurt us. Their closest enemy is Isreal, an Apartheid state that we have supported for various reasons none of them worthy.
    Iran is not a threat to us nor to any democratic state in the world. We can let the dictators sort this out on their own.

    April 18, 2010 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  17. Joeber

    The way I see it is that Iran will ultimately become a nuclear power. It has been 5 years since Israel has been threatening to bomb their nuclear facilities but so far they have come short of their threat because it is obvious that Iran (even though not a nuclear power now) has enough conventional weaponry to devastate Israel. You have to remember that Israel is a tiny puny country that is no bigger than the size of an American city so it cannot withstand an assault of tens of thousands of large missiles that are laden with dirty radioactive waste. Which is why so far they haven't made their long-promised moved. I hope I am wrong for the sale of Israel but I can see the handwriting on the wall: Iran is its way to become a nuclear power, after which there will be a balance of power in the Middle East which will lead to a long-term peace.

    April 18, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  18. Wade

    Iran is banking on China and Russia defending their actions. They always have had Russia/China in their back pocket. So they feel inclined to act a bully, with the real power backing their ridiculous actions. Hopefully they are wrong and Russia and China turn their backs on Iran. Maybe then, there can be a real chance for peace, in that region.

    April 18, 2010 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  19. John Brown

    America will nuke Iran to prevent possible nuclear war... How exactly does this make sense?

    April 18, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  20. Mike

    Iran is a threat to world stability. Simple as that! Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is on his high horse. He will die in the name of Allah with no remorse for others. He is basically suicidal, and will take many with him. In the name of Allah. “Death to America” he says. “Allah is great”. He is looking for support such as Hitler did.

    April 18, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  21. George

    I'm confident that the US has the power to take out Iran's nuclear sites, but what then? Can we keep the Straits of Harmuz open and keep oil flowing? Maybe – Maybe not. Can we prevent Iran forces from taking the Iraqui oil fields? Probably not. Can we try and contain Iran for decades? I think not. Can we expect the Iranian opposition to continue to try to change the country? Not a chance. Read the STRATFOR analysis of the situation and you might understand the world better.

    April 18, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  22. AN

    Iran is a threat to world stability. Simple as that! Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is on his high horse. He will die in the name of Allah with no remorse for others. He is basically suicidal, and will take many with him. In the name of Allah. “Death to America” he says. “Allah is great”. He is looking for support such as Hitler did.

    April 18, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  23. JC

    The US has more bombs and nuclear weapons than any other country. Let's be real, this military option is purely for economic gain and to ensure the US/Western influence over the rest of the world remains intact. Just know that when you shop in comfort at Walmart, thousands of people are dying every day in the name of profit.

    -Capitalist not in denial.

    April 18, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  24. Bull

    "You've done nothing when you've bested a fool".

    April 18, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  25. Brent

    "All warfare is based on deception." – Sun Tzu

    April 18, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
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