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'Big George': The Coming Attack on Iran

Thursday, 13 April 2006 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney calls it the "Big George" scenario.

According to the man who helped plan the first air war against Saddam in 1991, U.S. aircraft, armed with conventional bunker-buster bombs, would be more than enough to wipe out Iran's nuclear and missile facilities, and cripple its ability to command and control its military forces.

McInerney believes that U.S. air power is so massive, precise, and stealthy, it can effectively disarm Iran with just limited assistance from covert operators on the ground whose task would be to light up enemy targets.

In his "Big George" scenario, the United States would attack 1,000 targets in Iran. Fifteen B2 stealth bombers based in the United States and another 45 F117s and F-22s based in the region would carry out the initial waves of the attack, crippling Iran's long-range radar and strategic air defenses.

Massive, additional waves of carrier-based F-18s, as well as F-15s and F-16s launching from ground bases in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, and Bahrain, would take out Iran's known nuclear and missile sites.

"Big George" would also target command and control facilities – Revolutionary Guards command centers, key clerics, and other regime-sensitive sites – in the hope of triggering a revolt against the clerical regime by opposition groups inside Iran.

The massive strike scenario could be carried out in just two days, McInerney told an audience of intelligence specialists recently in Washington. "We must destroy and damage Iran's nuclear capability for at least five years," McInerney said.

If the president decided to focus solely on Iran's nuclear and missile sites, McInerney proposed a Plan B version he called "Big Rummy."

"Big Rummy" would be executed in a single night, and would concentrate on 500 "aim points." It would require greater assistance from covert operators if the administration's goal was to provoke regime collapse, McInerney added. But in a report appearing in the New Yorker, left-wing columnist Seymour Hersh claims that President Bush is so filled with doubt over the Pentagon's conventional capabilities that he asked military planners to consider using nuclear weapons against Iran.

Hersh claimed that his sources in the defense and intelligence establishment suggested the military could use the B61-11 warhead. But Hersh's scenario, based on old technology, packs more political shock value than actual military punch.

The first B61 warhead, now designated B61-1, entered the U.S. strategic stockpile in 1968, according to the Department of Energy.

A reconfigured B61, designated B61-7, was the first U.S. strategic nuclear weapon to be equipped with a "hardened ground-penetrator nose." It was introduced into the stockpile in 1985 and had a selectable yield of 10 to about 340 kilotons, according to a report by the anti-nuclear Los Alamos Study Group. The report can be viewed at www.brookings.edu/fp/projects/nucwcost/lasg.htm.

The 1990s upgrade, B61-11, can be "dialed down" to even smaller nuclear yields, reportedly to just 0.3 kilotons.

All the B61 family of warheads are gravity bombs using delayed fuzes to allow the attacking aircraft to escape. But it remains unclear how successful such weapons would be at reaching hardened nuclear sites buried deep inside mountains, where some of Iran's clandestine facilities are believed to be.

U.S. military planners have long wanted to develop a new generation of low yield, nuclear earth penetrators, to hit hardened nuclear sites. In their arguments to Congress in favor of such weapons, they have cited the necessity of eliminating facilities buried deep in the mountains of North Korea.

However, arms control advocates have argued successfully that such weapons would constitute an unwarranted threat to non-nuclear countries. Last year the United States Senate refused yet again to authorize funds to develop a new generation of nuclear bunker buster bombs by one vote.

The alleged White House request to include nuclear weapons in strike plans against Iran upset the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hersh writes.

Citing a former senior intelligence officer, Hersh claims that top commanders "have talked about resigning," because their efforts to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans for Iran have fallen on deaf ears.

Hersh has frequently quoted former DIA analyst Colonel Patrick Laing and like-minded former officials who have vigorously denounced the Bush administration over the war in Iraq.

Their claims have been dismissed by current military and intelligence officials who argue that they are politically motivated.

In one such story in 2003, Hersh alleged the Pentagon had a "secret" Iraq war planning outfit that was carrying out rogue intelligence operations, when in fact the Office of Special Plans was an analytical unit that was part of the Pentagon's policy shop.

Former President George H.W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to repatriate all remaining U.S. tactical nuclear weapons stationed overseas in 1991.

The deployment of tactical nuclear weapons overseas would require the approval of host governments, thus increasing the likelihood that news of the deployment would leak.

The only country that has threatened to use nuclear weapons against a terrorist state is France.

On Jan. 19, French President Jacques Chirac announced publicly that he had ordered the French military to utilize French nuclear weapons to hit targets in countries that threaten to use weapons of mass destruction in a terrorist attack.

His speech was widely interpreted in France to mean that the weapons had been retargeted against Iran.

For its part, Iran is unlikely to sit still should the United States or its NATO allies make active preparations for a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

Iran tested its war plans last week, mobilizing tens of thousands of troops, and hundreds of small boats, missile boats, aircraft and new missiles in the Persian Gulf.

Revolutionary Guards Air Force Cmdr. General Hossein Salami reconfirmed in an April 4 Iranian TV interview (www.memritv.org/search.asp?ACT=S9&P1=1106) that Iran had the capability to block the Strait of Hormuz, where 20 percent of the world's oil supplies transit daily. [

"Iran controls over 2,000 km of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Even without this [latest] maneuver Iran has this ability. This is a natural ability of our country. Iran can block oil export whenever necessary," he said.

Iran also announced that it had tested a series of new missiles, including a Shahab-3 variant with multiple warheads. The United States believes Iran redesigned the Shahab-3 in 2004 to carry a nuclear warhead. The missile has sufficient range to reach Israel.

A further redesign to carry multiple warheads could only mean one thing, former White House counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke, told ABC News: "Iran is claiming that missile has multiple warheads," he said. "The only reason for having multiple warheads is if you have nuclear weapons."

NewsMax first revealed Iran's first-strike plans in February, after obtaining copies of the classified war plans from a former Iranian intelligence officer.

The plans instructed Iranian forces to use chemical, biological, and radiological weapons to repulse a U.S.-led ground offensive in the Strait of Hormuz.

They also called on Iran's Revolutionary Guards Navy to launch hundreds of explosives-laden speedboats in swarming suicide attacks against U.S. warships.

Iran will use Chinese and Russian-made bottom-tethered mines to block the Strait of Hormuz, and to bottle up U.S. and foreign warships already present inside the Persian Gulf.

The EM-53 bottom-tethered mines Iran purchased from China in the 1990s uses a rocket-propelled charge that can hit the hull of its target at speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour. Some analysts believe it can knock out a U.S. aircraft carrier.

The United States currently has a carrier battle group in the Persian Gulf, led by the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).

The battle group includes Aegis-class cruisers and destroyers capable of launching cruise missiles, anti-submarine and anti-mine warfare vessels, nuclear submarines, and some 70 attack and support aircraft.

And the United States is not alone in handling maritime security operations in the Persian Gulf. More than a half-dozen other nations participating in three international task forces are helping to keep tabs on the area and on Iran.

Combined Task Force 58 patrols the northern Persian Gulf area near Basra, Iraq, with the specific mission of protecting Iraqi oil export terminals, according to U.S. Navy Web sites. It is made up of forces from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Iraq, and is led by a Royal Navy officer.

Combined Task Force 152 is an exclusively American force, and patrols the central and southern Persian Gulf, including the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. Fifth Fleet, which contributes forces to Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq, is headquartered in Bahrain.

Combined Task Force 150 is based outside the Gulf and patrols the Gulf of Oman, the North Arabian Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. It includes ships from France, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, as well as Pakistan.

Altogether, the three international task forces include on average 45 ships and 20,000 personnel from various nations, according to the U.S. Navy.

Of course, all of this news doesn't bode well for oil prices. Reacting to escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf, oil was trading for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange at just under $69 per barrel yesterday.


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WASHINGTON -- Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney calls it the "Big George" scenario. According to the man who helped plan the first air war against Saddam in 1991, U.S. aircraft, armed with conventional bunker-buster bombs, would be more than enough to wipe out...
Thursday, 13 April 2006 12:00 AM
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