Pentagon officials firmly opposed a proposal by Vice President Dick Cheney last summer for airstrikes against Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) bases by insisting that the administration would have to make clear decisions about how far the United States would go in escalating the conflict with Iran, according to a former George W. Bush administration official.
J. Scott Carpenter, who was then deputy assistant secretary of state in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, recalled in an interview that senior Defence Department (DoD) officials and the Joint Chiefs used the escalation issue as the main argument against the Cheney proposal.
McClatchy newspapers reported last August that Cheney had proposal several weeks earlier "launching airstrikes at suspected training camps in Iran", citing two officials involved in Iran policy.
According to Carpenter, who is now at the Washington Institute on Near East Policy, a strongly pro-Israel think tank, Pentagon officials argued that no decision should be made about the limited airstrike on Iran without a thorough discussion of the sequence of events that would follow an Iranian retaliation for such an attack. Carpenter said the DoD officials insisted that the Bush administration had to make "a policy decision about how far the administration would go — what would happen after the Iranians would go after our folks."..
Carpenter’s account of the Pentagon’s position on the Cheney proposal suggests, however, that civilian and military opponents were saying that Iran’s ability to escalate posed the question of whether the United States was going to go to a full-scale air war against Iran.
Pentagon civilian and military opposition to such a strategic attack on Iran had become well-known during 2007. But this is the first evidence from an insider that Cheney’s proposal was perceived as a ploy to provoke Iranian retaliation that could used to justify a strategic attack on Iran…
For many months, the propaganda line that explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) that could penetrate U.S. armoured vehicles were coming straight from Iran has been embraced publicly by the entire George W. Bush administration. But when that argument was proposed internally by military officials in January 2007, it was attacked by key administration officials as unsupported by the facts.
Vice President Dick Cheney was able to get around those objections and get his Iranian EFP line accepted only because of arrangements he and Bush made with Gen. David Petraeus before he took command of U.S. forces in Iraq.
The initial draft of the proposed military briefing on the issue of EFPs, which asserted flatly that EFPs were being manufactured and smuggled to Iraqi Shiite groups directly by the Iranian regime, was met with unanimous objection from the State Department, Defence Department and National Security Council staff, as administration officials themselves stated publicly.
Defence Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley tried to push back against Cheney’s proposed line because they recognised it as an effort to go well beyond the compromise policy toward Iran that had been worked out in December and early January. The compromise policy had been to focus on networks working on procuring EFPs within Iraq and not to target Iran as directly responsible.
At his regular press briefing on Jan. 24, 2007, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Department spokesman Sean McCormack revealed the primary basis for the State, Defence and NSC opposition to the Cheney line on EFPs.
Asked whether the U.S. government had any evidence that EFPs were manufactured in Iran, McCormack did not answer directly but said, "You don’t necessarily have to construct something in Iran in order for it to be a threat to the U.S. or British troops from the Iranian regime. There are lots of different ways you can do that. You can bring the know-how. You can train other people in Iraq to do that."
McCormack thus revealed that the State Department wasn’t buying the accusation that Iran was manufacturing EFPs and sending them to the Shiite forces of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army fighting against U.S. forces…