Two recent orders by the American military have led some observers to conclude that the U.S. is preparing for an attack on Iran.
One order was a “Prepare to Deploy” command sent to a submarine, an Aegis-class cruiser, two minesweepers and two mine hunters, telling the ships’ commanders to be ready to move by Oct. 1.
The other was a request from the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) for a fresh look at long-standing U.S. plans to blockade two Iranian oil ports on the Persian Gulf.
The orders created a buzz within the military because there are few places in the world where minesweepers could be significant – chief among them, the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, where about 40 percent of the world’s oil passes each day.
“Coupled with the CNO’s request for a blockade review, a deployment of minesweepers to the west coast of Iran would seem to suggest that a much discussed – but until now largely theoretical – prospect has become real: that the U.S. may be preparing for war with Iran,” according to a special report in Time magazine.
The U.S. military routinely makes plans for many different scenarios, and the vast majority of them will never be carried out.
“And yet from the State Department to the White House to the highest reaches of the military command, there is a growing sense that a showdown with Iran – over its suspected quest for nuclear weapons, its threats against Israel and its bid for dominance of the world’s richest oil region – may be impossible to avoid,” Time reports.
The magazine’s reporters interviewed dozens of experts and government officials to find out what an attack on Iran would consist of – and what its repercussions might be.
First of all, most observers believe the attack would not involve ground forces and would instead be a massive air campaign against Iran’s 18 to 30 nuclear-related facilities.
But many of the targets are hardened, and would have to be struck repeatedly to ensure that they were destroyed or severely damaged. Some sites are in populated areas, and civilian casualties would be a certainty, according to Time. And there would be no guarantee that the strikes would destroy all nuclear-related sites, because some sites could be undiscovered.
What’s more, the attacks would spark retaliation from Iran that could include ordering a Hezbollah attack on Israel and stepping up the funnelling of money and weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan and insurgents in Iraq.
The likelihood that Iran would also seek to close the Strait of Hormuz is high, and a disruption of the oil supplies flowing through the strait could send oil prices skyrocketing. That in turn could spur a stepped-up military effort by the U.S. that could even include the “worst case” use of ground forces in an effort to topple the Iranian regime, retired Marine General Anthony Zinni told Time.
For that reason, Zinni believes an attack on Iran is a “dumb idea.”
And that is why the U.S. has sought to emphasize a possible diplomatic solution, Time concludes. One Bush administration official told the magazine:
“Nobody is considering a military option at this point. We’re trying to prevent a situation in which the President finds himself having to decide between a nuclear-armed Iran or going to war. The best hope of avoiding that dilemma is hard-nosed diplomacy, one that has serious consequences.”