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Secret US air force team to perfect plan for Iran strike




Secret US air force team to perfect plan for Iran strike
Secret US air force team to perfect plan for Iran strike



http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article2512097.ece 

By Sarah Baxter
Washington
The Sunday Times
September 23, 2007

THE United States Air Force has set up a highly confidential strategic 
planning group tasked with fighting the next war as tensions rise with 
Iran.

Project Checkmate, a successor to the group that planned the 1991 Gulf 
Wars air campaign, was quietly reestablished at the Pentagon in June.

It reports directly to General Michael Moseley, the US Air Force chief, 
and consists of 20-30 top air force officers and defence and cyberspace 
experts with ready access to the White House, the CIA and other 
intelligence agencies.

Detailed contingency planning for a possible attack on Iran has been 
carried out for more than two years by Centcom (US central command), 
according to defence sources.

Checkmates job is to add a dash of brilliance to Air Force thinking by 
countering the militarys tendency to fight the last war and by providing 
innovative strategies for warfighting and assessing future needs for 
air, space and cyberwarfare.

It is led by Brigadier-General Lawrence Stutz Stutzriem, who is 
considered one of the brightest air force generals. He is assisted by Dr 
Lani Kass, a former Israeli military officer and expert on cyberwarfare.

The failure of United Nations sanctions to curtail Irans nuclear 
ambitions, which Tehran claims are peaceful, is giving rise to an 
intense debate about the likelihood of military strikes.

Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, said last week that it 
was necessary to prepare for the worst . . . and the worst is war. He 
later qualified his remarks, saying he wanted to avoid that outcome.

France has joined America in pushing for a tough third sanctions 
resolution against Iran at the UN security council but is meeting strong 
resistance from China and Russia. Britain has been doing its best to 
bridge the gap, but it is increasingly likely that new sanctions will be 
implemented by a US-led coalition of the willing.

Irans President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who arrives in New York for the 
United Nations general assembly today, has been forced to abandon plans 
to visit ground zero, where the World Trade Center stood until the 
September 11 attacks of 2001. Politicians from President George W Bush 
to Senator Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner in the 2008 race 
for the White House, were outraged by the prospect of a visit to New 
Yorks most venerated site by a state sponsor of terrorism.

Bush still hopes to isolate Iran diplomatically, but believes the regime 
is moving steadily closer to obtaining nuclear weapons while the 
security council bickers.

The US president faces strong opposition to military action, however, 
within his own joint chiefs of staff. None of them think it is a good 
idea, but they will do it if they are told to, said a senior defence 
source.

General John Abizaid, the former Centcom commander, said last week: 
Every effort should be made to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, 
but failing that, the world could live with a nuclear-armed Iran.

Critics fear Abizaid has lost sight of Irans potential to arm militant 
groups such as Hezbollah with nuclear weapons. You can deter Iran, but 
there is no strategy against nuclear terrorism, said the retired air 
force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney of the Iran policy committee.

There is no question that we can take out Iran. The problem is the 
follow-on, the velvet revolution that needs to be created so the Iranian 
people know its not aimed at them, but at the Iranian regime.

Checkmates freethinking mission is to provide planning inputs to 
warfighters that are strategically, operationally and tactically sound, 
logistically supportable and politically feasible. Its remit is not 
specific to one country, according to defence sources, but its forward 
planning is thought relevant to any future air war against Iranian 
nuclear and military sites. It is also looking at possible threats from 
China and North Korea.

Checkmate was formed in the 1970s to counter Soviet threats but fell 
into disuse in the 1980s. It was revived under Colonel John Warden and 
was responsible for drawing up plans for the crushing air blitz against 
Saddam Hussein at the opening of the first Gulf war.

Warden told The Sunday Times: When Saddam invaded Kuwait, we had access 
to unlimited numbers of people with expertise, including all the 
intelligence agencies, and were able to be significantly more agile than 
Centcom.

He believes that Checkmates role is to develop the necessary expertise 
so that if somebody says Iran, it says: here is what you need to think 
about. Here are the objectives, here are the risks, here is what it will 
cost, here are the numbers of planes we will lose, here is how the war 
is going to end and here is what the peace will look like.

Warden added: The Centcoms of this world are executional ? they dont 
have the staff, the expertise or the responsibility to do the thinking 
that is needed before a country makes the decision to go to war. War 
planning is not just about bombs, airplanes and sailing boats.


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