The White House and the Pentagon last week discreetly asked NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Adm. James G. Stavridis, and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to assign teams for drafting operational plans for US and NATO military action against the Iranian nuclear program.
This is reported exclusively by DEBKA-Net-Weekly' sources in Washington.
Those teams would need to work with the heads of the US Armed Forces who would update them on American plans. Our sources add the wording of the request hints that unilateral US action against the Iranian nuclear installations is possible regardless of cooperation with NATO.
Our sources also say that the American request stressed three basic premises as guidelines for the NATO teams:
– NATO commanders were asked to draw up alternative operational plans for limited actions inside Iran.
– These plans must all fall short of precipitating total war with Iran. Any option that might generate all-out war with the Islamic Republic must be taken off the table.
– Regular exchanges will take place between US Armed Forces chiefs and the NATO drafting teams to coordinate any military actions against Iran.
This is the first time since the Cold War with Russia ended in the early 1990s that the United States is integrating NATO in its preparations for an armed conflict.
Ahead of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, President George Bush did not invite NATO to take part in the Iraq war. He also turned down a subsequent offer to join from alliance leaders. Instead, the Bush administration established the Multi-National Force-Iraq.
Now, seven years later, President Barack Obama has gone the internationalist route and asked NATO to assume a role in the preparations leading up to an American military operation in Iran.
Keeping the mullahs on tenterhooks
Whereas the White House does not intend to publish this request formally, it is not averse to any NATO- member government going public with a statement that it has sent officers to planning teams working at NATO headquarters in Brussels on preparations for a military strike against Iran.
This indirect publicity would serve the Obama administration in four ways:
1. Tehran would be made aware that the US president has taken another big step towards American military action against Iran.
2. The Iranians would understand they could be in for a confrontation not just with US forces but a coalition of Western allies.
3. It would turn the heat on Iran ahead of a new round of nuclear talks due to begin this month with the Six Powers (the five Permanent UN Security Council Members + Germany).
4. The knowledge that the US is preparing to destroy their nuclear installations – even though Washington was not seeking a full-scale war – would keep Iran's rulers on tenterhooks for D-Day.
In the past week, some of the more influential US media have interpreted President Obama's latest steps and military buildup opposite Iran as signifying he planned to respond to the widely-predicted failure of his Democratic party in the midterm elections of Nov. 3 by focusing on foreign policy.
A boost for Obama's 2012 reelection race?
Some speculated that hammering Iran and its nuclear installations would give his prospects of reelection as president in 2012 a powerful shot in the arm.
The Washington Post carried a piece by David Broder on October 31 which said: "If Obama cannot spur that [economic] growth by 2012, he is unlikely to be reelected… Can Obama harness the forces that might spur new growth?… What are those forces?… One is the power of the business cycle… What else might affect the economy? The answer is obvious, but its implications are frightening. War and peace influence the economy. Here is where Obama is likely to prevail… He can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve.
"I am not suggesting, of course, that the president incite a war to get reelected. But the nation will rally around Obama because Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century. If he can confront this threat and contain Iran's nuclear ambitions, he will have made the world safer and may be regarded as one of the most successful presidents in history."
Broder came in for scathing criticism for these comments from many parts of the American media. But DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Washington sources report his conclusions were practical and based on his knowledge of trends current in the Oval Office in the White House.