No one wants a nuclear Iran, but U.S. military leaders worry about the risks and strains of a third war
It was shortly after the bipartisan Iraq Study Group issued its recommendations to Congress in late 2006 that a directive came down from the highest levels of the Pentagon: an order for another war game involving Iran.
The study group had proposed that the Bush administration engage in direct diplomatic talks with its nemesis, a nation that Washington says supports terrorism, encourages attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, and, most ominously, is developing nuclear weapons. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, Gen. Peter Pace, asked the Defense Department's top war gamers to construct a scenario to be played out in early 2007. "We postulated that the president of the United States actually took the advice of the Iraq Study Group seriously and tried to engage diplomatically with Iran," says one defense analyst who took part.
Talks stall. There may be few greater symbols, senior officials point out, than the nation's military gaming diplomacy to illustrate the Pentagon's wariness of war with Iran. Such a conflict remains among the options "on the table," as President Bush reiterated in July, if Iran continues its nuclear program. The alternative approach, the European-led multilateral talks with Iran, stalled this month after the deadline expired on yet an-other offer of economic incentives. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed that his country would not surrender its "nuclear rights" in the face of U.S. and European demands to halt uranium enrichment, the process that produces fuel for generating electricity and making nuclear bombs. He has also threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic waterway through which some 40 percent of the world's oil passes, in the event of any American military attack.