Second Carrier Group Deployed To Gulf As U.S. Approves Plans For Iran Counterstrike

LONDON — The U.S. military has drafted and won approval for attack plans in response to an Iran attack..

Western diplomatic sources said the U.S. military’s Central Command has submitted plans for an air and naval strike on Iran. The sources said the plan envisioned escalating tensions that would peak with an Iranian-inspired insurgency strike against U.S. military assets in the Gulf.

Meanwhile, on April 29, a second American aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln, steamed into the Gulf in what officials termed a show of force. They said the U.S. Navy plans to withdraw a carrier group, USS Harry S. Truman, from the region.

“There is tremendous tactical benefit to us to operate the two side-by-side in restricted space,” Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, director of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Wednesday. “We can generate more sorties, some of them strike, some of them reconnaissance, some of them to perform other operations.”

“This is not some grand scheme to destroy the Iranian regime and its nuclear program,” a source said. “It is a practical plan on how to respond to an Iranian strike or a provocation.”

Officials said the Defense Department has sought an update for plans to attack Iran amid what they term its “increasingly hostile role” against the United States. The officials cited the weapons flow to insurgency groups in Iraq as well as confrontations with U.S. ships in the Gulf.

“I have reserve capability, in particular our navy and our air force so it would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability,” Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

Under the plan approved by the Defense Department, Central Command would be allowed to retaliate for an Iranian attack with U.S. air strikes. The sources said the plan contained a series of options that range from a limited to full-scale attack.

“We are not taking any military elements off the table,” Mullen said.

The most comprehensive retaliation would target all Iranian military assets in the Gulf. The sources said the aim of Central Command was to prevent any Iranian attempt to block the Straits of Hormuz, the passage of 40 percent of global oil.

In the second stage, the U.S. Navy and Air Force would strike missile centers and command and control facilities deep in Iran. Much of the strikes would be conducted from the two U.S. Navy carrier strike groups in the Gulf.

If the second stage of the plan is implemented, the sources said, the U.S. military would also target Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The sources said all major facilities, including Arak, Bushehr and Isfahan, would be destroyed.

The sources said the Pentagon has not approved a Centcom option to initiate a U.S. strike on Iran’s nuclear program. They said that at this point the Pentagon was concern with protecting the huge U.S. Navy presence in the Gulf.

“I believe recent events, especially the Basra operation, have revealed just how much and just how far Iran is reaching into Iraq to foment instability,” Mullen said.

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