Pentagon: US Air Force has plan for Iran strike

A US Air Force B-1 strategic bomber practices for a future strike. (USAF)

JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—Pentagon officials on Thursday revealed plans for a possible sustained aerial bombing of Iranian nuclear facilities, should this become necessary. The plans include the option of providing aerial refueling for Israel Air Force planes.

US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said Washington has prepared several military options to strike Iran’s nuclear sites, according to a report by Bloomberg. His disclosure came only four days before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is to meet in Washington with US President Barack Obama.

“What we can do, you wouldn’t want to be in the area,” Schwartz told reporters in Washington.

Bloomberg quoted Pentagon officials as saying some of the contingencies include providing aerial refueling for Israel Air Force planes and attacking the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iranian military bases, and Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

In a related development, The Washington Post reported Thursday that the US is confident that the air force’s new generation of “bunker-buster” bombs could destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Fordow, which is deeply buried inside a mountain.

The paper quoted officials as saying the Pentagon’s newest bunker-buster weapon— called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP)—would not necessarily have to penetrate the deepest bunkers to cause irreparable damage and setting back Iran’s nuclear weapons program by years.

The officials said a sustained US attack over several days would collapse tunnels and destroy highly sensitive centrifuge equipment, not to mention infrastructure that includes the miles of pipes and wiring required to operate it.

US preparations have included bombing exercises in which strategic bombers have obliterated targets in deeply buried bunkers and mountain tunnels, the officials said.

While Pentagon officials have said that Israel is capable of unilaterally attacking Iranian sites such as Fordow with its own bunker-buster bombs, they note that Israel lacks more advanced ordnance such as the MOP, as well as the logistical ability to conduct a sustained bombing campaign over many days.

Netanyahu is widely expected to press Obama at their meeting next week to express public support for a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, should the Islamic Republic cross an as-yet unmarked red line.

Whatever the public outcome of next week’s Washington summit, behind the scenes military cooperation between the two allies is proceeding apace.