US trains Gulf air forces for possible Iran war, while revisiting strategy at home

John Byrne
Published: Monday October 1, 2007

Two days after the a British report that an Assistant Secretary of Defense declared, "I hate all Iranians," a report from the Gulf reveals the US is training Arab militaries and regional leaders for a possible war with Iran.

A Washington-based air warfare conference last month, led by Air Force chief of staff Gen. Michael Mosley, was told how the US has helped coordinate intelligence sharing and organize group military exercises designed to make parallel warfare easier.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, Mosley "used the conference to seek closer links with allies whose support America might need if President George W. Bush chooses to bomb Iran."

The report says the Pentagon has helped set up an air warfare center in the United Arab Emirates, modeled on a US base in Nevada. Dubai and Amman are participating in the program.

The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh said Sunday the Bush Administration will engage Iran on the basis that Iran is supplying the Iraqi insurgency.

In a piece Sunday, Hersh writes, "During a secure videoconference that took place early this summer, the President told Ryan Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, that he was thinking of hitting Iranian targets across the border and that the British 'were on board'... Bush ended by instructing Crocker to tell Iran to stop interfering in Iraq or it would face American retribution."

Another report last month asserted that the US Air Force has reestablished the elite fighting force which planned the 1991 Gulf War's air campaign and tasked them with "fighting the next war" as US-Iran tensions bloom.

"Project Checkmate," resurrected in June, reports directly to Mosley and "consists of 20-30 top air force officers and defence and cyberspace experts with ready access to the White House, the CIA and other intelligence agencies."

Though Iran wasn't the focus of the conference, it came up, the Telegraph says.

"We need friends and partners with the capabilities to take care of their own security and stability in their regions and, through the relationship, the inter-operability and the will to join us in coalitions when appropriate," said Bruce Lemkin, the American air force deputy under-secretary for international affairs. "On its most basic level, it's about flying together, operating together and training together so, if we have to, we can fight together."

It's unlikely Gulf states would join any Western attack. But the US might still need airspace access, and border nations might need to be prepared for counterstrikes.

A Jordanian military aide told the paper "concern at Iran's attempt to establish itself as a regional superpower" had fostered cooperation, "not just at the inter-service level but also at the political level."