The Times of India picks up on a story from the Sunday Herald in Scotland that suggests the US may be preparing for military strikes on Iran. The story, dated on Sunday but apparently not widely noticed until yesterday, reports that the Obama administration has sent hundreds of bunker buster bombs to the island of Diego Garcia, a staging area for military operations in the Persian Gulf:
Hundreds of powerful US “bunker-buster” bombs are being shipped from California to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for a possible attack on Iran.
The Sunday Herald can reveal that the US government signed a contract in January to transport 10 ammunition containers to the island. According to a cargo manifest from the US navy, this included 387 “Blu” bombs used for blasting hardened or underground structures.
Experts say that they are being put in place for an assault on Iran’s controversial nuclear facilities. There has long been speculation that the US military is preparing for such an attack, should diplomacy fail to persuade Iran not to make nuclear weapons. …
A shipping company based in Florida, Superior Maritime Services, will be paid $699,500 to carry many thousands of military items from Concord, California, to Diego Garcia.
Crucially, the cargo includes 195 smart, guided, Blu-110 bombs and 192 massive 2000lb Blu-117 bombs.
“They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran,” said Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London, co-author of a recent study on US preparations for an attack on Iran. “US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours,” he added.
I have no doubt that the US has gamed for a military strike on Iran, but 10,000 sorties in “a few hours” would compare with the “shock and awe” campaign at the beginning of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It would take a significant buildup of forces to accomplish that, especially since Iraq would probably not be terribly happy if we used our bases there as a staging area for it. That would constitute an act of war on Baghdad’s part, one they can hardly afford with Iran at the moment.
Assuming the report of the bomb movement is accurate (which is a large assumption at this point), what could it mean? One possibility is that Barack Obama has really decided to damage Iran’s nuclear capabilities, having concluded that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khameini won’t budge after all. Four hundred bunker busters would make sense if US forces have targeted a few dozen sites — not 10,000. That would also mean that the US has concluded that having Israel conduct the attack would be more inflammatory than us doing it ourselves, or perhaps even that we need to do it before an inevitable Israeli attack.
Another possibility, though, is that the White House wants Iran to know that our patience is not unlimited. It’s not a bad ploy, either, although it’s unlikely to generate any compliance on the part of Tehran. At this point, it can’t hurt to have a reminder sent that the US hasn’t taken military options off the table.
These bombs could be meant for somewhere else other than Iran, too. Al-Qaeda has holed up in Pakistan, presumably in fortified bunkers somewhere in the Afghanistan frontier. A few of these could wipe out AQ leadership. The Herald appears to forget that we are fighting an actual war in that theater; the assumption that these are meant for Iran is based on little but speculation.
Most likely, though, is that either the report is wrong or it’s just a routine movement of munitions between American bases. I’m skeptical that this administration would conduct a military operation against Iran at any point, which would be an adventure fraught with potential catastrophe under the best of circumstances anyway. Thus far, the White House hasn’t even rattled a saber yet.
Update: HA reader Andy says my skepticism is justified:
The media report is simply wrong. The BLU-110 and BLU-117 are simply the naval variants of the 1000 pound and 2000 pound series of general purpose (GP) bombs. They are not specialized penetrators in any way and so their transit to Diego Garcia should carry no special significance. The only difference between these weapons and standard GP bombs is that they have a special coating on their casing and an fire-resistant explosive – a necessity for naval operations since ships don’t have storage bunkers and you don’t want a ship-board fire detonating and destroying your own ship. Because of the fire hazard on board ships, the Navy uses different aviation fuel and different munitions from the other services. It appears the authors, or whoever “leaked” this information assumes that anything with “BLU” is a penetrating weapon. That’s simply not true.
FAS.org has the details as well, so it’s not like it’s any secret.