Pentagon predicts Israel will drag US into war with Iran

Secret US simulation assumes Tehran would retaliate against ships if nuclear sites bombed

Classified war games conducted by the Pentagon have sketched a scenario in which an attack by Israel on Iran's suspected nuclear facilities would lead to Tehran launching a counter-strike against a US ship in the Gulf. That in turn would drag a reluctant US into a fresh war in the Middle East.

The results of the simulation, meant primarily to test co-ordination and communications between the various arms of the US military in the event of a flare-up with Iran, were reported by The New York Times.

The revelations came as Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned yesterday that Tehran would attack any enemy "on the same level" as it attacks Iran. He named both Israel and the US as enemies, in remarks on state television.

The war games were completed earlier this month under a long-standing programme called Internal Look to test the readiness of the Pentagon, Central Command in Florida and military resources in the Middle East to respond to any fallout from an Israeli strike.

That fallout, the simulation showed, might include the Iranian leadership reasoning that any Israeli incursion would have come with an American stamp of approval and would justify a counter-strike against a US target. Under that scenario, Tehran would hit a US Navy vessel in the Gulf with the loss of 200 or more American lives. At that point, the US would feel bound to retaliate. The top military commander in the Gulf, the Middle East and Southwest Asia, General James Mattis, is reportedly using these results to underscore his belief that any attempt by Israel to take out Iran's nuclear facilities could lead to a potentially disastrous conflagration.

Yesterday, President Barack Obama sent a message to Iranians celebrating New Year, or Nowruz, saying he hoped to bridge divides with their country. "America seeks a dialogue to hear your views and understand your aspirations," he said, calling on the regime in Tehran to respect human rights. During a visit to Washington last week by David Cameron, the President conceded that the US military was engaged in contingency planning with regard to Iran. But he underscored that the Pentagon has a responsibility to prepare for any eventuality and it did not follow that the US expected war with Iran.

Mr Obama has said repeatedly that the "military option" is on the table if diplomatic efforts to resolve the nuclear stand-off with Iran fail. Recently Iran agreed to resume talks with the permanent five UN Security Council members, plus Germany, to try to resolve the dispute.

Washington has no appetite for a new war in the region and would prefer to rein in Iran through tougher sanctions and at the negotiating table. But Mr Obama may find himself hostage to the intentions of Israel, which believes more strongly than the US that the window for sanctions to work is narrowing quickly. Any daylight between Mr Obama and Israel could be costly for him in an election year.

According to The New York Times, the exercise lasted two weeks. It suggested an Israeli strike on Iran would delay it achieving a nuclear weapon by one year, but subsequent – and presumably more intense – US attacks would set the programme back by only two more years.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This winner of the best new business in shrops...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - Email Marketing Services

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are looking for a highly or...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultan...

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£22000 - £25900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company is expanding and th...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders