Predicting that Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon within three years and claiming to have a strike plan in place, senior American military officers have told The Jerusalem Post they support President George W. Bush's stance to do everything necessary to stop the Islamic Republic's race for nuclear power. Bush has repeatedly said the United States would not allow Iran to "go nuclear."
Israel successfully launches Ofek 7 spy satellite
JPost special: US candidates talk tough on Iran
A high-ranking American military officer told the Post that senior officers in the US armed forces had thrown their support behind Bush and believed that additional steps needed to be taken to stop Iran.
Predictions within the US military are that Bush will do what is needed to stop Teheran before he leaves office in 2009, including possibly launching a military strike against its nuclear facilities.
On Sunday, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut said the US should consider a military strike against Iran over its support of Iraqi insurgents.
"I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," he said. "And to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers."
According to a high-ranking American military officer, the US Navy and Air Force would play the primary roles in any military action taken against Iran. One idea under consideration is a naval blockade designed to cut off Iran's oil exports.
The officer said that if the US government or the UN Security Council decided on this course of action, the US Navy would most probably not block the Strait of Hormuz - a step that would definitely draw an Iranian military response - but would patrol farther out and turn away tankers on their way to load oil.
On Sunday, the Israel Air Force held joint exercises with visiting US pilots, but IDF sources dismissed speculation that the drills were connected to an attack on Iran.
The US officer said that perhaps even more dangerous to Israel and the Western world than Iranian nukes was the possibility that a terrorists cell associated with al-Qaida or global jihad would acquire a highly radioactive "dirty bomb" or a vial of deadly chemical or biological agents. The officer said al-Qaida was gaining a strong foothold in the Middle East and that Israel was being surrounded by global jihad elements in Lebanon, Jordan and Sinai.
"Iran is a state-sponsored type of terrorism that can be dealt with," he said, adding that it was far more difficult to strike at the source of an isolated terrorist cell.
To combat this threat, the US Navy has come up with a plan for a "1,000-ship navy" - a transnational network composed of navies from around the world that would raise awareness of maritime threats and more effectively thwart sea-based terrorism and the illicit transfer of arms by sea.
"The idea is to allow free trade and to prevent criminal and terror activity at sea," the officer said.
A smaller-scale example of the US Navy's vision is NATO's Active Endeavor antiterrorism operation based in Naples. Israel plans to send an officer to be stationed there in the coming months. NATO launched Operation Active Endeavor in wake of 9/11 and has succeeded in bringing together a number of Mediterranean countries to work together in Naples to share information on naval terrorism and suspicious vessels in the region.