US Plan to Invade Iran Is Updated, Says Top Intelligence Analyst

Barbara Ferguson, Arab News

WASHINGTON, 17 April 2006 — Disconcerting news from Washington. First we learned earlier this year that the Bush administration was making plans to attack Iraq even before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now we learn Iran may also have been included in that plan.

Recent media reports have suggested that President George W. Bush’s administration is considering a military attack of Iran over concerns that the country is developing a nuclear weapon. Bush has dismissed those reports as “wild speculation.”

But a former US intelligence analyst disclosed yesterday that the Bush Administration has made plans to use nuclear weapons against Iran, to prevent it acquiring its own atomic warheads. This includes missile strikes, a land invasion and a naval operation to establish control over the Strait of Hormuz, all this before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

William Arkin, who served as the US Army’s top intelligence strategist on West Berlin in the 1970s and accurately predicted US military operations against Iraq, said the plan is known in military circles as TIRANNT, an acronym for “Theater Iran Near Term.”

The plan includes a scenario for a land invasion led by the US Marine Corps, a detailed analysis of the Iranian missile force and a global strike plan against any Iranian weapons of mass destruction, Arkin wrote in The Washington Post.

US and British planners have already conducted Caspian Sea war games as part of these preparations, the scholar said.

“According to military sources close to the planning process, this task was given to Army Gen. John Abizaid, now commander of CENTCOM, in 2002,” Arkin wrote, referring to the Florida-based US Central Command.

A follow-on TIRANNT analysis, which began in October 2003, calculated the results of different scenarios to provide options to commanders, Arkin wrote. But preparations under TIRANNT began in earnest in May 2003 and never stopped, he said. The plan has since been updated using information collected in Iraq.

In June 2004, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld alerted the US Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska, to be prepared to implement CONPLAN 8022, a global strike plan that includes Iran, according to the scholar.

The news has caused much alarm among Middle East experts in Washington. In an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times, former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke warned the Bush administration against a military strike on Iran. The piece was co-authored by another former senior counterterrorism official, Steven Simon.

Clarke and Simon theorized that Iran would respond to US aggression in three possible ways: attack Gulf oil facilities to drive up oil prices, use its alleged terror network to strike American targets around the world, or send militias to aid insurgents in Iraq.

Clarke has before called the invasion of Iraq an “enormous mistake” that is further increasing US tensions with the countries in the region.

Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned this weekend “there are some in this administration who have been pushing to make nuclear weapons more usable.” “This is pure folly,” the Democratic senator commented in The Los Angeles Times. “First use of nuclear weapons by the United States should be unthinkable.”

But President George W Bush is said to be so alarmed by the threat of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that privately he refers to him as “the new Hitler”, says Seymour Hersh, who broke the story of the Abu Ghraib Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.

Hersh claims that one of the plans, presented to the White House by the Pentagon, entails the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites. One alleged target is Iran’s main centrifuge plant, at Natanz, 320 km south of Tehran.

A hard-line Iranian group said in Tehran yesterday that some 200 Iranians have volunteered in the past few days to carry out “martyrdom missions” against US and British interests if Iran is attacked over its nuclear program.

Mohammad Ali Samadi, spokesman for the Committee for the Commemoration of Martyrs of the Global Islamic Campaign, said fresh fears over a possible US attack on Iran’s nuclear sites helped attract volunteers during its latest recruitment drive. “Because of the recent threats, we have started to register more volunteers since Friday,” Samadi was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying.

“Some 200 people have registered to carry out operations against our enemies. America and Britain are definitely considered enemies.” Chanting “Death to America” and “Nuclear technology is our right,” volunteers registered their names at the former American Embassy in southern Tehran yesterday.

They signed a document called “Registration form for martyrdom-seeking operations” and pledged to “defend the Islamic republic’s interests.”