By Jim Lobe
"Retired US Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner, a well-connected analyst who has been extensively involved in government war-gaming on Iran, reported this week that war plans had moved from the Pentagon to the White House, suggesting that preparations for an attack on Iran were much more advanced than previously assumed.
Gardiner, who just completed a report, "Considering the US Military Option for Iran", for the New York-based Century Foundation, also told CNN that the evidence that military operations - confined mostly to intelligence-gathering - had been under way inside Iran for "at least 18 months ... is overwhelming".
At the same time, analysts who believe that the administration sees war as inevitable cite the creation by the Pentagon last spring of a new office on Iran staffed by some of the same individuals who worked for the Office of Special Plans (OSP), a group of mainly political appointees that sent questionable and now discredited intelligence regarding Baghdad's alleged programs for weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda directly to Cheney's office and the White House in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
"It seems like Iran is becoming the new Iraq," one unnamed "US counter-terrorism official" told the same reporters from the McClatchy Newspapers (formerly Knight-Ridder) who first uncovered OSP's operations last week in an article titled "In a replay of Iraq, a battle is brewing over intelligence on Iran".
One difference between Iran now and the run-up to Iraq, however, is that the hawks lack the same eagerness for war that they showed in 2002 and 2003. While they saw the invasion of Iraq as a no-lose proposition, they clearly recognize that the costs of attacking Iran will be, in Krauthammer's words, "terrible" - yet slightly less than acquiescence in a nuclear-armed Tehran."