"I have reserve capability, in particular our navy and our air force so
it would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability," Adm.
Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.
Under the plan approved by the Defense Department, Central Command would
be allowed to retaliate for an Iranian attack with U.S. air strikes. The
sources said the plan contained a series of options that range from a
limited to full-scale attack.
"We are not taking any military elements off the table," Mullen said.
The most comprehensive retaliation would target all Iranian military
assets in the Gulf. The sources said the aim of Central Command was to
prevent any Iranian attempt to block the Straits of Hormuz, the passage of
40 percent of global oil.
In the second stage, the U.S. Navy and Air Force would strike missile
centers and command and control facilities deep in Iran. Much of the strikes
would be conducted from the two U.S. Navy carrier strike groups in the Gulf.
If the second stage of the plan is implemented, the sources said, the
U.S. military would also target Iran's nuclear weapons program. The sources
said all major facilities, including Arak, Bushehr and Isfahan, would be
The sources said the Pentagon has not approved a Centcom option to
initiate a U.S. strike on Iran's nuclear program. They said that at this
point the Pentagon was concern with protecting the huge U.S. Navy presence
in the Gulf.
"I believe recent events, especially the Basra operation, have revealed
just how much and just how far Iran is reaching into Iraq to foment
instability," Mullen said.