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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Pentagon sees Iran bombing as unsuccessful: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top Pentagon officers have told the Bush administration that bombing Iranian nuclear facilities would probably fail to destroy that country's nuclear program, the New Yorker magazine reported on Sunday.

The senior commanders also warned that any attack launched if diplomacy fails to end the standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions could have "serious economic, political, and military consequences for the United States," the article said, citing unidentified U.S. military officials.

"A crucial issue in the military's dissent, the officers said, is the fact that American and European intelligence agencies have not found specific evidence of clandestine activities or hidden facilities; the war planners are not sure what to hit," according to the report.

The U.S. military's experience in Iraq, where no weapons of mass destruction were found and the war continues, has affected its approach to Iran, the magazine quoted a high-ranking general as saying.

"The target array in Iran is huge, but it's amorphous," the unidentified general was quoted as saying. "We built this big monster with Iraq, and there was nothing there.

"This is son of Iraq."

The United States on Friday spurned Iranian calls for more time to study an offer of incentives to curb its nuclear fuel program, insisting Tehran must reply by the Group of Eight industrialized nations' deadline on July 5.

The article, by journalist Seymour Hersh, also questioned the effectiveness of U.S. targeting potential nuclear sites.

"Intelligence has also shown that for the past two years the Iranians have been shifting their most sensitive nuclear-related materials and production facilities, moving some into urban areas, in anticipation of a bombing raid," it said.

Another parallel U.S. military leaders drew with Iraq is the administration's desire for a swift and cheap intervention in Iran without sufficient regard for economic and political consequences, including oil supplies and a backlash in the broader Muslim world and in Europe.

"If you're a military planner, you try to weigh options," one senior military official was quoted as saying. "What is the capability of the Iranian response, and the likelihood of a punitive response like cutting off oil shipments? What would that cost us?"

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his aides "really think they can do this on the cheap, and they underestimate the capability of the adversary," the official told the magazine.
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