Watching Iran

Tomorrow is the UN Security Council's deadline for Iran to cease enriching uranium.  The time has come for regular updates on this blog detailing the buildup to an attack on Iran.

Maybe such an attack will never come about.  But the evidence is too powerful to ignore.

For starters, the BBC says it's seen plans that indicate the targets of air strikes would go well beyond Iran's nuclear facilities.

It is understood that any such attack – if ordered – would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres…

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the trigger for such an attack reportedly includes any confirmation that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon – which it denies.

Alternatively, our correspondent adds, a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq could also trigger a bombing campaign if it were traced directly back to Tehran.

Long range B2 stealth bombers would drop so-called "bunker-busting" bombs in an effort to penetrate the Natanz site, which is buried some 25m (27 yards) underground.

The BBC's Tehran correspondent France Harrison says the news that there are now two possible triggers for an attack is a concern to Iranians.

So is this report from the German news agency DPA, official denials notwithstanding:

The US Navy's top Persian Gulf commander on Monday
denied reports of a US naval offensive military build-up in the
region, affirming however that the coalition was keeping a close
watch on increasing Iranian naval exercises in Gulf waters.
Commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command and the
Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, said that this
was "an unprecedented time of instability and insecurity in the
region," with tension in Somalia, Lebanon, Eastern Mediterranean,
Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran.

He also said that Iranian military naval exercises in the past
nine months showed the suggestion of the use of mines and the threat
of the closure of the strait of Hormuz, the only sea access into and
out of the region.

Expect to hear more about what the Navy's doings in the coming weeks.  The new head of Central Command is a Navy guy, Adm. William Fallon.  As has been pointed out elsewhere, putting a Navy guy in charge of the messy ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan doesn't make sense on the surface…unless a new operation is in the works that would draw on his area of expertise.