Shock and Awe Iran, only Nuclear?

The Bush administration has intensified planning for military action against Iran. One of the options it is considering involves the use of nuclear weapons.

Respected investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who broke the story on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, makes the claim in an article to be published in The New Yorker magazine next week.

Hersh says the administration has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and has intensified planning for a possible major air attack.

Hersh writes that current and former American military and intelligence officials have said Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups. The officials say that President Bush is determined to deny the Iranian regime the opportunity to begin a pilot program, planned for this spring, to enrich uranium.

In recent weeks, writes Hersh, the President has quietly initiated a series of talks on plans for Iran with a few key senators and members of Congress, including at least one Democrat. A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, who did not take part in the meetings but has discussed their content with his colleagues, Hersh says told him there had been “no formal briefings,” because “they’re reluctant to brief the minority. They’re doing the Senate, somewhat selectively.”

The House member said that no one in the meetings “is really objecting” to the talk of war. “The people they’re briefing are the same ones who led the charge on Iraq. At most, questions are raised: How are you going to hit all the sites at once? How are you going to get deep enough?” (Iran is building facilities underground.) “There’s no pressure from Congress” not to take military action, the House member added. “The only political pressure is from the guys who want to do it.” Speaking of President Bush, the House member said, “The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision.”

The New Yorker report says some operations, apparently aimed in part at intimidating Iran, are already under way. American Naval tactical aircraft, operating from carriers in the Arabian Sea, have been flying simulated nuclear-weapons delivery missions, rapid ascending maneuvers known as “over the shoulder” bombing, since last summer, the former official said, within range of Iranian coastal radars.

Click the headline for the full story.

The New Yorker story by Seymour Hersh: The Iran Plans

Also: Nuclear inspectors arrive in Iran

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