By Vic Rosenthal
The BBC claims to have details of an American plan to attack Iran:
US contingency plans for air strikes on Iran extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country’s military infrastructure, the BBC has learned.
It is understood that any such attack – if ordered – would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres. — BBC
As I’ve said in connection with similar reports of Israeli plans, the fact that they exist means little. Part of the job of the military establishment is to create contingency plans for every imaginable scenario. So it doesn’t imply that there is any intent on the part of the political leadership to actually do such a thing. However, there is significance to the fact that information about the plan has been leaked now.
The BBC report continues
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the trigger for such an attack reportedly includes any confirmation that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon – which it denies.
This is not exactly an information-rich statement, since everyone knows that they are at some stage of development of a nuclear weapon. But how far would they have to get for it to be a ‘trigger’?
Alternatively, our correspondent adds, a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq could also trigger a bombing campaign if it were traced directly back to Tehran.
I think this explains the reason that this report has surfaced just now. Top priority for the US leadership today — more than the future danger from an Iranian nuclear weapon — is getting out of Iraq as cleanly as possible; that is, with as few US casualties as possible and with some semblance of stability and independence in Iraq. The US thinks that the Iranian people are nervous about the military expenditures and possible adventures of the government, and this report may be intended to reinforce such feelings.
The US is quite capable of warning the Iranian government directly if it feels that such a warning would deter unwanted behavior. The news report, I think, is aimed at the mass of Iranians in order to encourage those among them that would oppose Teheran’s aggressive policies. So I would say that this report, rather than implying that an American attack is imminent, suggests that US policy is to try to weaken the Iranian regime by political means.
Israel, on the other hand, is primarily worried about Iran getting a practical nuclear weapon. Unlike the US, Israel would be existentially threatened by such a weapon, and almost certainly has a red line that would trigger an attack on Iran.
However, Israel’s military is less capable of carrying it out successfully than is the US, due to the massive and extended nature of the campaign required. Israel is also much more vulnerable to Iranian counterattacks, perhaps by means of terrorist proxies such as Hezbollah. So such an attack would be a last resort. If it happens, it will be because the alternative is perceived to be an Iranian nuclear (or other WMD) attack on Israel.