Situation Report

Pentagon planners: Israel’s three options for an Iranian strike

FP gets sneak peek at Dempsey’s “Joint Force 2020” plan, Joint operations return to Afghanistan, and more.

Welcome to Friday’s edition of FP’s Situation Report, where we almost always have a plan of attack. Follow me @glubold or hit me anytime at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com.

Israeli has three options when it comes to attacking Iran. A day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held up a cartoonish drawing of a bomb to illustrate the need to establish redlines on Iran, we learn the U.S. has been largely kept in the dark when it comes to Israeli plans but some scenarios are emerging. There is renewed hope that an attack on Iran would not come before November. But these options remain viable scenarios for when Israel may seriously consider a strike, according to journalist and author Mark Perry, writing on FP.

According to several high-level U.S. military and civilian intelligence sources, one of the three scenarios for taking out Iran’s nuclear facilities is an "Iranian Entebbe," named for Israel’s rescue of hostages in Uganda in 1976, in which Israeli commandos would storm Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility and remove as much enriched uranium as they could, according to Perry. They would then plant explosives to destroy the facility as they left. 

Option 2 is the most pundit-ized one: a bombing campaign targeting nuclear sties, coupled with strikes from sub-launched cruise missiles and Israeli-based medium-range Jericho II and long-range Jericho III missiles, according to a senior U.S. military officer. But U.S. military officials believe that the limits of Israeli air capabilities mean they would have a single shot at destroying Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

Option 3 is "regime decapitation," in which the Israelis would simply remove the Iranian leadership. Perry: "The downside of a decapitation strike is that it would not end Iran’s nuclear program; the upside is that it would almost certainly trigger an Iranian response targeting U.S. military assets in the region, as it would leave the Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces in charge of the country. It would be the one sure way, U.S. officers with whom I spoke believe, for Israel to get the United States involved in its anti-Iran offensive, with the U.S. mounting operations in a conflict it didn’t start."

But it’s the "Iranian Entebbe" option that is most striking. Some experts believe it is very doable, while others think that Entebbe was one thing but that Iran is another, demonstrating Israel’s desperation for a military solution that could work.

"The operation’s success would depend on speed, secrecy, simplicity and the credibility of Israeli intelligence," Perry writes. "According to the Pentagon war planner, Israel’s access to intelligence on Iranian military and policy planning is unprecedented, as is their willingness to share it with U.S. intelligence officials." http://bit.ly/PushYW 

Who is Mark Perry? He‘s a Washington-based author and reporter. His most recent book is Partners in Command. His forthcoming book (Basic Books, 2013) is a study of the relationship between President Franklin Roosevelt and General Douglas MacArthur.

Meanwhile, FP’s E-Ring got an exclusive, early look at Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey’s 15-page "Capstone Concept for Joint Operations: Joint Force 2020," a document that shows Dempsey’s worldview and how the uniforms should plan for it. The world, according to the document, is headed to a dark place and the military needs to plan accordingly — with a flexible, easily adaptable force that is "ready to handle an increasingly diffuse array of security threats at a clip faster than its enemies," E-Ring’s Kevin Baron writes.

"We’re trying to say that the world is changing, and we have to change to the world," said Lt. Gen. George Flynn, Dempsey’s J-7, in an interview with E-Ring in his D-ring office.

It’s all about decentralization, the document argues. Dempsey, who wrote some of the sections of the new guidance himself, believes that means giving subordinate commanders greater power and trust to carry out their missions independently. It’s what Dempsey has dubbed "globally integrated operations." That, as the report points out, "will improve a commander’s ability to tailor the force to the situation" and will help that commander scale military force as he needs to, all the way down to the lowest echelons, to exercise their own initiative.

Flynn: "You need leaders who are comfortable trusting people, are willing to empower people and are willing to let people operate on their intent so that everybody can be focused on what they’re supposed to be doing." http://bit.ly/OX1zJd

Most joint operations are back on track in Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking at a briefing at the Pentagon yesterday, said that most ISAF units have returned to their "normal partnered options" at all levels. And Dempsey, who returned from Afghanistan Wednesday, said he is confident the Afghans are doing everything possible to help stem the rate of insider attacks, which had caused ISAF to direct the operational pause. "What I’m telling you now that I’ve returned from visiting there personally, meeting the new minister of defense, the new minister of interior, two corps commanders, I can tell you without hesitation they are taking this as seriously as we are and taking active measures to help us and them defeat this threat," Dempsey said at the press briefing yesterday. 

ISAF was never willing to quantify the way in which partnered operations had been affected since the order went into effect earlier this month. And yesterday, neither Panetta nor Dempsey were able to characterize it that way either. Prior to the order directing joint operations to cease — or be approved at higher levels — 90 percent of all missions were considered "partnered." Dempsey did say that he believed at this point, joint operations had returned to that level but couldn’t put a specific number on it.

Transcript: http://1.usa.gov/PtLbzj

In a reflection of the growing independence of Afghan forces, CNN embedded a reporter with the ANSF without American troops in tow. http://bit.ly/S0Ik5N

Cyber-insecurity! Defense contractors welcomed to participate in a Pentagon cyber-information-sharing program. When it comes to protecting government agencies and the private sector from cyber threats, there’s always a big problem between sharing information with private sector proprietary concerns on one side and national security concerns on another. But the Pentagon’s Defense Industrial Base Cybersecurity and Information Assurance program, started some years ago, is asking defense contractors to participate in a program in which cyber threat information can be shared, as Killer Apps’ John Reed reports.

It’s all voluntary. But perhaps, extremely encouraged. "We’ll share with you, you share with us," said Richard Hale, the Pentagon’s deputy chief information officer for cyber during a Sept. 27 conference. "We also have a second part of that program that allows you to get security services from a service provider that’s getting classified information and using it to protect you." http://bit.ly/S419Fg 

Why did Dempsey take what amounts to a secret trip to Afghanistan? Washington Post reporter Craig Whitlock wanted to know why the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff jumped on a plane without nary a reporter or even his spokesman, Col. David Lapan. At a press briefing Thursday, Dempsey first answered the question jokingly, saying he didn’t announce the trip because he was afraid reporters would want to go with him. Then he gave his real answer: "No, I kept — the truth is I originally planned to go to Pakistan to meet with [Pakistan’s military chief] Gen. [Parvez] Kayani, and because of some of the issues related to that film, he and I discussed postponing that visit," referring to the controversial "Innocence of Muslims," which has sparked widespread outrage. The two generals did postpone. "And then, with the available time I decided to extend my trip in Afghanistan."

Dempsey, as Kevin pointed out, has been a "quieter chairman" than some of his predecessors, and has travelled without the press before. http://bit.ly/QsLGMX

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