Pentagon prepares Iran air campaign

From the UK Telegraph, Feb. 12:

US prepares military blitz against Iran’s nuclear sites
Strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran’s nuclear sites as a “last resort” to block Teheran’s efforts to develop an atomic bomb.

Central Command and Strategic Command planners are identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation, the Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

They are reporting to the office of Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, as America updates plans for action if the diplomatic offensive fails to thwart the Islamic republic’s nuclear bomb ambitions. Teheran claims that it is developing only a civilian energy programme.

“This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment,” said a senior Pentagon adviser. “This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months.”

…The most likely strategy would involve aerial bombardment by long-distance B2 bombers, each armed with up to 40,000lb of precision weapons, including the latest bunker-busting devices. They would fly from bases in Missouri with mid-air refuelling.

On the other hand, there may be a split between Pentagon hardliners preparing a military option and State Department pragmatists brewing up the usual “regime change” recipe. From the New York Times, Feb. 15:

Rice Is Seeking Millions to Prod Changes in Iran
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration, frustrated by Iranian defiance over its nuclear program, proposed Wednesday to spend $85 million to promote political change inside Iran by subsidizing dissident groups, unions, student fellowships and television and radio broadcasts.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, announcing a request for the money at a Senate hearing, said the administration had worked out a way to circumvent American laws barring financial relations with Iran to allow some money to go directly to groups promoting change inside the country. “We are going to begin a new effort to support the aspirations of the Iranian people,” Ms. Rice said at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We will use this money to develop support networks for Iranian reformers, political dissidents and human rights activists.”

Senior State Department officials said they did not intend to publicize recipients of the money in the future, for fear that they could be jailed or even killed. “This is a very good idea, but all these efforts face the same problem,” said Michael McFaul, a political science professor at Stanford University. “In working with their potential colleagues in Iran, will they get them into trouble? Once they participate in a training program, what happens to them back in their country?”

The scope of the administration’s effort goes beyond the numbers. Until now, the United States has been cautious about supporting dissident groups, fearful that Iranians may view these efforts as an echo of past American meddling in Iran’s affairs. Though no one uses the words “regime change” to describe the ultimate American goal, that term has been used by conservatives in Congress who have in the last few years pressed for aid to Iranian dissidents.

Ms. Rice said the State Department was requesting $75 million to promote democracy in Iran, which she said would be added to $10 million already appropriated for that purpose. The total is an increase from only $3.5 million the previous year.

See our last post on Iran.