A classified war simulation exercise held earlier this month by the United States estimated that a strike on Iran would lead to a regional war which could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead, a New York Times report revealed on Monday night.
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According to the report, top American officials said the so-called war game was not designed as a rehearsal for American military action, and emphasized that the results were not the only possible outcome of a potential conflict.
However, the report also stated that the simulation has raised fears among top American planners that it may be impossible to prevent American involvement in any escalating confrontation with Iran, the officials said.
The New York Times report further revealed that the results of the war game were especially troubling to General James N. Mattis, who commands American forces in the Middle East, Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia, and who told aides, upon the conclusion of the exercise, that an Israeli first-strike could have dire consequences for the region and for United States forces stationed there.
According to the report, the two-week war game, played out a potential narrative in which the United States found itself pulled into the conflict after Iranian missiles struck a Navy warship in the Persian Gulf, killing about 200 Americans, said officials with knowledge of the exercise. The United States then responded by launching its own strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The initial Israeli attack was assessed to have set back the Iranian nuclear program by roughly a year, and the subsequent American strikes were not able to slow the Iranian nuclear program by more than an additional two years, the report said.
However, the report also stated that Pentagon officials have said that America’s arsenal of long-range bombers, refueling aircraft and precision missiles could do far more damage to the Iranian nuclear program should President Obama were to decide on a full-scale retaliation.
In the end, the report states, the war game reinforced to the unpredictable nature of a strike by Israel, as well as a counterstrike by Iran, the officials said.
According to the New York Times, the war game, called “Internal Look,” has been one of Central Command’s most significant planning exercises, and is carried out about twice a year to assess how the headquarters, its staff and command posts in the region would respond to various real-world situations.