Seymour Hersh maintains that the Bush administration is determined to strike Iran, though tactics and justifications have changed:
This summer, the White House, pushed by the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney, requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on Iran, according to former officials and government consultants. The focus of the plans had been a broad bombing attack, with targets including Iranâ€™s known and suspected nuclear facilities and other military and infrastructure sites. Now the emphasis is on â€œsurgicalâ€ strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq. What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism. â€¦
I was repeatedly cautioned, in interviews, that the President has yet to issue the â€œexecute orderâ€ that would be required for a military operation inside Iran, and such an order may never be issued. But there has been a significant increase in the tempo of attack planning. In mid-August, senior officials told reporters that the Administration intended to declare Iranâ€™s Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization. And two former senior officials of the C.I.A. told me that, by late summer, the agency had increased the size and the authority of the Iranian Operations Group. â€¦
The revised bombing plan for a possible attack, with its tightened focus on counterterrorism, is gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon. 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.
But historian Gabriel Kolko writes in to say that “war with Iran is not likely.”
- THE U.S. AND EUROPEAN ECONOMIES are now in a crisis, and it may be protracted. The dollar is falling in value, Gulf States and others may abandon it, etc. A war with Iran would produce economic chaos, because oil would be scarce. There are states, like Russia and Venezuela, who can sell it. In a word, the balance of world economic power is involved, and that is a great issue.
- THE GULF STATES do not like Shia Iran, but they export oil, becoming rich thereby. They are dependent on peace, not war.
- THE U.S. PUBLIC AND CONGRESS are variable factors. As the last election proved, anyone who thinks the Democrats will stop wars is fooling himself or herself. But war with Iran would require new authorizations. Then the Congress would, potentially, be very important. I may be wrong, but I may be right.
- CHENEY AND THE NEOCONS huff and puff ideologies and are very articulate ideologues. Will they volunteer to fight Iran, and what will they do on the battlefield? How many effective fighters do they have at the Weekly Standard or AEI?
- THE AMERICAN MILITARY is at the present moment stretched to the limit. They are losing both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Everything is being sacrificed for these wars: money, equipment in Asia, American military power globally, etc. Where and how can they fight yet another?
- BUNKER BUSTERS can knock out so many bunkers â€“ not all. If they are nuclear they are very useful, but they are also radioactive. In addition to killing enemies, they may kill friends and nearby U.S. soldiers also. It depends where you must drop them.
- WHAT WILL IRAN DO, and what sorts of technology do they possess? They fought against Iraq about a decade, and suffered about half a million casualties. Perhaps they will roll over, but it’s not likely. There are a number of tiny islands in the Gulf they have had years to fortify. Can 90 percent of their weapons be knocked out? The remainder will be sufficient to sink many boats and tankers. The oil exported through the Gulf will thereby be reduced, and perhaps cease altogether.
- ISRAEL may be a factor. They must cross Syrian and Jordanian airspace, and the Iranians will be prepared if they are not shot down over Syria. Their countermeasures may be effective, but perhaps not. Hence a number of Israeli pilots will realize they are embarking on suicide missions. Will they? Some will, others will not.
- IRAN IS LIKELY TO GET NUCLEAR BOMBS, sooner or later. So will other nations. Israel has hundreds already. Israeli strategists believe deterrence will then exist. Why risk war?
There may be other factors. But these are sufficient.
The Bush-Cheney administration, as the Iraq war proved, is full of mad, irrational people, and there is no way to account for them. But not everyone in Washington thinks like them, especially in the military, and those on Wall Street who have the most to lose from a war have great political influence. We are obligated to count on them because that is they way the U.S. has operated for decades. According to an article in Salon, Sept. 28, “the military would revolt and there would be no pilots to fly those missions” were it ordered to war against Iran. Without them, there is no danger. The American public is a small factor, as elections have repeatedly shown, but may play some role also. But the U.S. fights wars and loses most of them. The U.S. is very likely to lose a war with Iran if it fights. It probably will not.
I recommend reading the Hersh piece in its entirety.