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. Moses Nation

    So all of you forgot about what Hitler said at the beginning of his speeches.... little by little Ahmadinejad is making his case against Israel and the west. We need to put an end to this cat and mouse game. The entire world is looking at us (U.S) to see what we do. We must act quick and smart. We need to have Israel's intelligence as well to put an end to ahmadinejad's stupidity. Saddam Husein also said that no nation dares to attack us!!!!! what happened next? he was hiding in a whole for how many month????

    April 18, 2010 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  2. Don

    Thank you, Ms. Starr, for helping to prep the American people for yet another unjustified – and unjustifiable – war. It's always exciting to watch the pitchers' windups in these games. At the current rate, we should be looking for a Pearl Harbor event (Obama's not crass enough to pre-emtively strike) sometime in early September. Afghanistan should be declared stabilized by then, and whatever will we do with all our troops there otherwise? Gotta feed the monster, after all.

    April 18, 2010 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  3. jphilly08

    yeah, I remember when saddam was tough talking too, how mighty his military was. look how well that worked for him. i bet we will one day find the president of iran cowering in a hole somewhere just like saddam

    April 18, 2010 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  4. Barry Gurley

    If I was in Charge I would have already destroyed Iran and North Korea

    April 18, 2010 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  5. Dan Lafayette,IN

    That's what I say Bobby no more talk it's time for action! We need to get rid of all Islamic radicals including the clerics in charge in Iran! They will give us more of a headache than the extremists in Afghanistan or Pakistan if we keep giving them the opportunity!

    April 18, 2010 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  6. Steve in Oregon

    Let israel do fighting in Iran.

    April 18, 2010 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  7. Brown

    Let those whom are planning yet another war send their kids to the front line.

    April 18, 2010 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  8. Greg Gilbert

    How about we become brave and wise Americans and just realize that wishing technology advancements away from our enemies is undoable, therefore, foolish.

    April 18, 2010 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  9. incredulous watcher

    "Iran's army is so mighty today that no enemy can have a foul thought of invading Iran's territory,"

    By the end of the 1930's, a certain German personality that sported a little narrow moustache, exclaimed the exact same thing.......The end result? Nearly six years of relative World conflict.. AND as everybody knows human beings have a propensity for repeating history.........I have grave doubts that there will be any departure from the obvious and we will at some point "enjoy" the sequel....

    April 18, 2010 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  10. Dr. Strangelove

    As soon as it looks like their atomic bomb is about to go online...we strike them hard-bomb them back into the stone age. Then North Korea would be isolated. Oh...time to go toe to toe with dem Iranian towelheads.

    April 18, 2010 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  11. 82nd

    There is no doubt that Iran has to be dealt with as a result of its continued disruptive activities in the region. The US and Israel will no doubt have to conduct joint strike int he region.

    I suspect that this is where Iran will see the use of US's latest cruise missile and the mother of all drones followed by the joint strikes. Off shore will be a reasonable flotilla of stealth ships to blunt their use of their subs that will try to head towards Israel.

    April 18, 2010 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  12. realist

    Is it smart for websites to post our plans for the whole world to see... I just don't get peoples logic... Let's tell people the time and place we are going to surprise attack them so they don't know when we are going to surprise attack them! Iran sucks but that president is crazy enough to say ohhhh look CNN says they are planning to attack us... Nuke them! not good

    April 18, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  13. Doug

    ALL of Irans military might can be taken out in less than 10 minuets with a joint strike from the US and Israel. Iran talk all you want, its the talk of a scared child.

    April 18, 2010 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  14. Scott Bruneau

    Any military strike on Iran would create a massive ripple effect like a mid east world war. Hezbollah and Hamas would jump in attacking Israel dragging Lebanon in. Syria would probably jump in on Iran's side. US and Other troops would be fair game for a VERY angry Iran lashing out in every direction it could in all ways it could. The strait of Hormuz would be blocked mined and probably most oil going through there shut down. The world economy so much based on oil would take a HUGE hit. The area's arab largely Sunni governments friendly to the USA would be targeted. It would be a free for all fight with factions and sides lining up. ECONOMIC disaster for the world. But then again, someone as nuts as Ahmadinejad and Iran with nukes is .... just as scary.

    April 18, 2010 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  15. Rock Singer

    Dr. Carl Sagan use to say "if your in a room full of gasoline, whats the difference if you have more than one match".

    April 18, 2010 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  16. Margaret

    Obama? If you're listening? I would be VERY disappointed in you if you ordered any airstrikes on Iran!

    My understanding is that even if you DO bomb their nuclear facilities the best possible outcome would to be to delay their development by only a year or so.

    Diplomacy, engagement and open channels of communication will achieve more than bombs.

    This business of Iran being characterized as the bogeyman is all a smokescreen people! Educate yourselves! Iranians, even the more fiery ones, know that if they were to ever drop a nuke on anyone they would be retaliated upon a hundred fold.

    April 18, 2010 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  17. marcm057

    it's coming fast, Israel will take care of this, you gentiles stay homeand do what you do best !! NOTHING

    April 18, 2010 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  18. Joel

    It's the Pentagon's job to come up with contingency plans for every imaginable scenario. They have contingency plans for launching strikes on half the countries on the globe – 99.9% of them will never be executed. This is not a big deal.

    April 18, 2010 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  19. george

    Deja vu again. Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapons programme. That was the unanimous verdict of the US intelligence agencies a few years ago. Now Obama is using weasel words such as Iran is seeking to have the capacity to have a programme. How can the American people be fooled again by this warmongering? There's only one nuclear state in the ME and noone is allowed to mention them.

    April 18, 2010 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  20. pkfops

    If GWB left Iraq alone this clown wouldn't be talking crap.

    The guy is full of hot air and he's got nothing.

    April 18, 2010 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  21. Ben

    Estger Haman is the only one commenting on this story who has any knowledge of global politics. The President of Iran is NOT a dictator – he has no legitimate power – if you knew anything about Iran, you would know that. What he says doesn't matter, and frankly it's no less-offensive than the things that we or the Israeli's say. It's okay though, I don't expect people to actually do the research required to intelligently discuss such matters.

    April 18, 2010 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  22. Nick

    Everyone here, you should not condone fighting. we should not be instigating this fight. We should want to prove the Iranians wrong by arguing the fact that the don't need nuclear energy for weapons. We should only attack when they attack and when we do it will be justified as to why Iran was attacked. There is no reason to tolerate Iran but at the same time attacking it has no merit either. To control Iran is to control this gov't bent on writing its own history. We started out bad with this country or region. We can't continue with this kind of relationship with them.

    April 18, 2010 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  23. israeli

    i think obama is too scared to do anything and iran is getting one of the strongest nations in the world.

    April 18, 2010 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  24. rihard winkel

    Who is a greater terrorist, Iran with the potential of someday have somthing that could hurt someone or the U,S, goverment terrifying peopple by telling them if you do not listen to us we will kill you. Even up to the points of nukes on them. This is like saying in oder to stop you from rapinf someone we must rape you first. War does not lead to peace unless there is assimilation. We cannot assimilate with these people. I do not want that. Iranians are good people with a good culture. Why don't we just leave them alone. If it wasn't for us. The ayatoollah would be in power. If it wasn't for us the shaw wouldn't be in power. If it wasn't for us mossadek and his demacracy would still be there. Leave them alone and leave us alone. We don't want to go over seas and kill millions more. We don't need the blood or the debt on our hands.

    April 18, 2010 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  25. Harold G. Gatz

    Netanyahoo needs to quiet his rhetoric, this stuff is serious and doesnt need foolish israeli's mettling. Israel attacks Iran, Israel is gonna get wiped off the face of the earth.

    April 18, 2010 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
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