U.S. Said Mulling 'Surgical' Strikes on Revolutionary Guards in Iran

New Yorker: Israeli officials 'alarmed' at shift away from focus on nuclear program.

The New Yorker magazine reported Monday that the U.S. defense chiefs have drawn up new plans for a possible attack on Iran, shifting the focus from a broad bombing assault on suspected nuclear facilities, to "surgical" strikes on Revolutionary Guard bases in Tehran and elsewhere.

According to New Yorker correspondent Seymour Hersh, the shift reflects a Bush Administration redefinition of the war in Iraq, as a "strategic battle between the United States and Iran."

The report, which quotes unnamed former officials and government consultants, states that over the summer, the White House, "pushed by the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney, requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on Iran."

Israeli military and political leaders were "alarmed" by the plan, believing that it did not sufficiently target Iran's nuclear facilities, the New Yorker stated.

The White House, attempting to reassure the Israeli government, counters that "the more limited target list would still serve the goal of counter-proliferation by decapitating the leadership of the Revolutionary Guards, who are believed to have direct control over the nuclear-research program."

The shift in targets, from known and suspected nuclear sites to Revolutionary Guard facilities, stems in part from American contentions that the Guard are behind attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. "What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism," Hersh writes.

"The revised bombing plan for a possible attack, with its tightened focus on counterterrorism, is gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon," the report states. "The strategy calls for the use of sea-launched cruise missiles and more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps, supply depots, and command and control facilities."

The report cites three developments as responsible for the shift. "First, the President and his senior advisers have concluded that their campaign to convince the American public that Iran poses an imminent nuclear threat has failed (unlike a similar campaign before the Iraq war), and that as a result there is not enough popular support for a major bombing campaign. The second development is that the White House has come to terms, in private, with the general consensus of the American intelligence community that Iran is at least five years away from obtaining a bomb. And, finally, there has been a growing recognition in Washington and throughout the Middle East that Iran is emerging as the geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq."