'US plan to bomb Iran'
Anne Davies | October 1, 2007
Australia, Britain and Israel have "expressed interest" in a US campaign to launch "surgical" bombing raids on Iran targeting the Revolutionary Guard facilities, one of the US's leading investigative reporters, Seymour Hersh, reports.
In a lengthy article in the latest issue of The New Yorker, Hersh details how the US is making plans for a strike on Iran, beefing up intelligence resources within the CIA and shifting its rhetorical campaign in a bid to win support from the American people should the strikes proceed.
Hersh says the Administration has stopped trying to justify the campaign on the basis of curtailing Iran's nuclear ambitions, to redefining the war in Iraq as a strategic battle.
This is because there is a consensus within the intelligence community that Iran is at least five years away from obtaining a bomb, Hersh said in an interview on CNN on Sunday.
Hersh pointed to a speech US President George Bush made in August to the American legion in which he said: "The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian supplied munitions have increased ... the Iranian regime must halt these actions and, until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops."
He ended: "I have authorised our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities."
Since then Mr Bush has made a number of other comments that suggest the Administration might still be hopeful of a diplomatic solution and, in recent weeks, has prevailed upon France to assist in dealing with Tehran.
A Pentagon spokesman in response to Hersh's inquiries said: "The President has made it clear that the US Government remains committed to a diplomatic solution with respect to Iran."
The White House declined to comment, and Hersh says he was warned during his research that the President had yet to issue an execute order on the plans, and that such an order may never be issued.
But Hersh's article detailed conversations with numerous sources in the Department of Defence, the CIA and former Administration officials who have heard talk of the strike plans.
Hersh said the bombing plan has had its most positive reception from Britain's Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.
While Hersh did not mention Australia in the article, he told CNN that there had been "expressions of interest" from Australia and Israel for the strike plan.
"There's been expressions of interest from Australia, other countries," he said.
"The Israelis, of course, have gone bananas. They're very upset about the idea of not going. If you're going into Iran, the Israeli position is very firm. They want us to go. And they want us to hit hard. As an Israeli told me, if you run into a lion, you either shoot it or ignore it. You don't pluck out its eyebrows."
Australia's Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson, was in the US a month ago for briefings with defence officials and a meeting with Defence Secretary Robert Gates.
He told reporters at the time that he had discussed Iran, but declined to elaborate.
Hersh said the revised bombing plan with its tightened focus on counter-terrorism was gathering support among the generals and admirals in the Pentagon, who had been apprehensive about the earlier broader bombing plan.
"The strategy calls for the use of sea-launched cruise missiles and more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps, supply depots and command-and-control facilities," Hersh wrote.
He said there were also plans to hit Iran's anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile sites.
He said a Pentagon consultant on counter-terrorism had told him that if the bombing campaign took place, it would be accompanied by a series of what he called "short sharp incursions" by American Special Forces into suspected Iranian training sites.