Monday, February 26, 2007

Will Generals Stop Iran War?

I've been saying for some time that the only way the Pentagon might block a strike on Iran would be through key four-star officers resigning in protest. Michael Smith and Sarah Baxter of the Sunday Times reported this week that something like that might be afoot.
Some of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources…

…“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

As you might expect, Smith and Baxter don't mention any names--either of their sources or of what generals or admirals might be involved. "Four or five generals and admirals" could be the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff or it could be a handful of one and two-stars who whose careers are at a dead end anyway. It's very unlikely that Admiral William Fallon or General David Petraeus would resign over a strike on Iran having just taken over the top two slots in Central Command.

From the sound of things, a majority of the top Pentagon brass thinks a strike on Iran would be a disastrous failure, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates seems to agree with that view. Mr. Bush's chief ally overseas, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is on record as saying it would not "be right to take military action against Iran."

Yet, not surprisingly, Vice President Dick Cheney insists that the military option remains on the table. If this were coming from anyone but Cheney, I'd be willing to accept it as mere gamesmanship. But Cheney and his neo-confederates have been pushing for war with Iran for a long time.


Seymour Hersh appeared on CNN's Late Edition Sunday afternoon and talked about his upcoming story in the March 4 issue of The New Yorker. In "The Redirection" Hersh describes, among other things, how a planning cell in the Pentagon continues to rework the Iran target set.
…the Pentagon is continuing intensive planning for a possible bombing attack on Iran, a process that began last year, at the direction of the President. In recent months, the former intelligence official told me, a special planning group has been established in the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged with creating a contingency bombing plan for Iran that can be implemented, upon orders from the President, within twenty-four hours.

This week, Senate Democrats will attempt to pass legislation that puts an expiration date on the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. How they'll get that past a Republican filibuster is anybody's guess.

If Congress really wants to keep Mr. Bush from moving against Iran without legislative approval, however, the bill they really need to revise is the War Powers Resolution of 1973. The Resolution, in effect, allows a president to commit troops to combat for up to 60 days before he needs to come to Congress for a declaration of war or "specific statutory authorization." If Mr. Bush can order an air operation against Iran on a 24-hour notice, he can blow up a significant portion of the country in 60 days.

The tricky part for Bush is finding a good enough excuse to pull a stunt of this magnitude.

From the Los Angeles Times we learn that the U.N. deems U.S. intelligence on Iran's nuclear intentions to be unreliable.
VIENNA — Although international concern is growing about Iran's nuclear program and its regional ambitions, diplomats here say most U.S. intelligence shared with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has proved inaccurate and none has led to significant discoveries inside Iran.

The officials said the CIA and other Western spy services had provided sensitive information to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency at least since 2002, when Iran's long-secret nuclear program was exposed. But none of the tips about supposed secret weapons sites provided clear evidence that the Islamic Republic was developing illicit weapons.

The clumsy attempt two weeks ago by unnamed senior defense officials to "prove" Iran is supplying weapons to militant groups in Iraq virtually blew up in their faces. So Mr. Bush's best hope for a justification to bomb Iran is an incident at sea between U.S. and Iranian naval forces.

As the U.S. increases the number of ships deployed to the region, the greater the odds become of such an incident occurring. We can take some comfort in the fact that American and Iranian naval ships have operated in the vicinity of each other in the Gulf and the North Arabian Sea for decades and have learned to avoid "mistakes" that could lead to unintentional weapons exchanges. Nonetheless, the present situation between the two countries is more tense that it has been since the Tanker War in the 80s.

If a U.S. ship is attacked--or perceived to have been attacked--by an Iranian vessel, or hits a mine, would American generals and admirals follow through on the threat to resign rather than participate in a strike on Iran?

If they do, the times we live in will become interesting indeed.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.


  1. John Shreffler12:42 PM


    Conflicts Forum (a site with close links to MI-6) has a good bit more on this.

    It must be getting close to kick-off for this sort of rocket to be going up.

  2. John Shreffler12:56 PM

    BTW, the Conflicts Forum post was all about JCS Chairman Pace. I thought Cheney picked jarheads for Joint Commands because they'd do what he'd tell them to. (There's one in charge at Stratcom too, and they're tasked with the current Iran war planning according to Vanity Fair and Col. Lang-how else would that have happened? The Marines don't have strategic weapons, do they?) Anyhow Pace isn't on board big time and is one of the ones the Times article was talking about.

  3. I'd like to think Pace is the guy behind the threatened walkout. It will take somebody that senior to get Bush and Cheney's attention.

  4. Anonymous2:58 PM

    The tricky part for Bush is finding a good enough excuse to pull a stunt of this magnitude.


    As the U.S. increases the number of ships deployed to the region, the greater the odds become of such an incident occurring.

    I've been wondering (feeling, really) if the main reason behind the increases ordered by Bush is to create a good enough excuse.

  5. I know nothing about military procedures, so forgive me if the questions I have have obvious answers, I just don't know them.

    First, let's assume these "4 or 5", while not probably the Joint Chiefs, are also not dead-ended lower echelon types, but are people of some renown and position. Do Bush / Cheney really care if they resign? What actually are the ramifications of a walk out like this? How are these types of positions replaced? If Bush has power to appoint, would he not view this as a godsend, enabling him to install in their place sycophants and other useful idiots to unquestioningly carry out his will?

    In the short term, would it really make that much difference operationally? Nothing seems to be working anyway in our theaters of operation that could not be continued by any career hack that just knows how to engage auto pilot. And, I am sure there are established pro temp type replacement processes, so the immediate by-the-book backfilling of the chain of command would likely do no more or less than maintain the already miserable status quo.

    Also, the plausible initial "success" of some "Shock and Awe II" onslaught in Iran, and concomitant disorientation there from knocking down and breaking things, would buy a small window of time before the impact of whatever retaliation is meted on us. Hence, this period should also be capable of administration by next-level underlings, familiar with the already established plan-A.

    If there is any oversight of these appointments from Congress, can they muster the will and the votes to do it proper justice? Or would the pressure to see stability brought back to the military leadership not allow them enough time? So, if say 4 or 5 do quit, and Bush can replace them with 2 or 3 lackeys of his choosing, has he not just improved his position considerably?

    Again, not having military understanding, it would seem the political advantages to having recalcitrant military brass suddenly go away, with the real prospects of replacement with one's favorites, would be a Rovewellian wet dream. Can someone clarify how this works?

  6. If these reports are true about the generals that would resign if we strike Iran for its 25 years of exporting terror, it's utter snubbing of the United Nations and all diplomatic efforts, it's culpability in the killings of American soldiers and now it's voiced intent to attack Israel and stop at nothing to attain "peaceful" nuclear technology, then I say GOOD RIDDANCE, generals.

  7. None of our flags have those kind of cojones to resign. If they did not resign when Rumsfeld was screwing them over and coming up with stupid ideas like FRP and repeated deployemnts to Iraq-as well as the current procurment train wreck-they won't resign now.

    They are two busy telling Sailors how to live their personal lives and how its ok for a woman to get pregnant without marriage, but its wrong to shag a freelancer in Hong Kong............

    I have no faith in our current crop of flags- none. They will compliantly do whatever they are told. Because its all about them first-not their Sailors.

  8. SS,

    I don't have a lot of faith in them either. That's why I think that if this story is true, they're talking about one and two star dead-enders, not the really big guns.

  9. Dick Cheney thinks the Persian Gulf is like his private acreage where he is free to occasionally shoot people in the face without consequences. I have absolutely no doubt that if the U.S. did hit Iran, aside from whatever damage we did to Iran, the blowback would be so severe that it would seriously imperil U.S. economic, energy, political, and security interests That Cheney is working hard to achieve war with Iran reflects on his lack of shame or decency, as well as common sense..

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