Indeed, Washington began casing potential targets last summer, according to Hersh:
The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer. Much of the focus is on the accumulation of intelligence and targeting information on Iranian nuclear, chemical, and missile sites, both declared and suspected. The goal is to identify and isolate three dozen, and perhaps more, such targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and short-term commando raids. "The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible," the government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon told me. (Hersh, January 24, 2005)Iranian officials, however, say that leaks to Hersh are part of psychological warfare:
Ali Agha-Mohammadi, head of the propaganda committee of the Supreme National Security Council, said a report in the New Yorker magazine that claimed the US had started to identify alleged hidden nuclear sites inside Iran as potential targets in its war against terror, was part of a campaign of "psychological warfare".That's very plausible, but it may be the case that both the claims made by Hersh's sources and the Iranian officials are true: Washington is really casing the targets in Iran and using leaks about its "covert actions" for psychological warfare against it.
"The entry of American commandos for espionage is not that easy. It would be naive to believe it," he told Iran's state radio.
Another senior Iranian official who asked not to be named saw the article as a US reaction to the talks that had been taking place this month between Iran and the EU 3 -- Britain, Germany and France on curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"Americans now leak such stories to adversely affect Iran-EU talks which are progressing now. This is to exert more pressure on Iran and to imply that they are pursuing their own methods. It is part of their carrot and stick policy," the official told the Financial Times. (Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Guy Dinmore, "Tehran Denies US Nuclear Spy Missions in Iran," Financial Times, January 18, 2005)
In any case, despite the quagmire in Iraq, neo-conservatives appear to be still driven by delusion:
The government consultant ["with close ties to the Pentagon"] told me that the hawks in the Pentagon, in private discussions, have been urging a limited attack on Iran because they believe it could lead to a toppling of the religious leadership. "Within the soul of Iran there is a struggle between secular nationalists and reformers, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the fundamentalist Islamic movement," the consultant told me. "The minute the aura of invincibility which the mullahs enjoy is shattered, and with it the ability to hoodwink the West, the Iranian regime will collapse" -- like the former Communist regimes in Romania, East Germany, and the Soviet Union. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz share that belief, he said. (Hersh, January 24, 2005)Is their seeming delusion also part of psy-war?
What is undeniably true as well as most alarming, "[t]he President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia" (emphasis added, Hersh, January 24, 2005). The decline of US economic power must have made the reigning US power elite go bonkers.