World War III begins in a series of miscalculations and disruptions. Conplan 8022 In January 2003, Bush signed a classified presidential directive, Conplan 8022-02. This is a war plan different from all prior in that it posits "no ground troops". It was specifically drafted to deal with "imminent" threats from states such as North Korea and Iran. Unlike the warplan for Iraq, a conventional one, which required coordinated preparation of air, ground and sea forces before it could be launched, a process of months, even years, Conplan 8022 called for a highly concentrated strike combining bombing with electronic warfare and cyberattacks to cripple an opponent's response-cutting electricity in the country, jamming communications and hacking computer networks. Conplan 8022 explicitly includes a nuclear option, specially configured earth-penetrating "mini" nukes to hit underground sites such as Iran's. Last summer, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a top secret "Interim Global Strike Alert Order" directing around-the-clock military readiness to be directed by the Omaha-based Strategic Command (Stratcom), according to a report in the May 15 Washington Post. Previously, ominously enough, Stratcom oversaw only the US nuclear forces. In January 2003, Bush signed on to a definition of "full spectrum global strike", which included precision nuclear as well as conventional bombs, and space warfare. This was a follow-up to the president's September 2002 National Security Strategy, which laid out as US strategic doctrine a policy of "preemptive" wars. The burning question is whether, with plunging popularity polls, a coming national election, scandals and loss of influence, the Bush White House might "think the unthinkable" and order a nuclear preemptive global strike on Iran before the November elections, perhaps early after the March 28 Israeli elections. Some Pentagon analysts have suggested that the entire US strategy towards Iran, unlike with Iraq, is rather a carefully orchestrated escalation of psychological pressure and bluff to force Iran to back down. It seems clear, especially in light of the strategic threat Iran faces from US or Israeli forces on its borders after 2003, that Iran is not likely to back down from its clear plans to develop full nuclear fuel cycle capacities, and with it the option of developing an Iranian nuclear capability. The question then is, what will Washington do? The fundamental change in US defense doctrine since 2001, from a posture of defense to offense, has significantly lowered the threshold of nuclear war, perhaps even of a global nuclear conflagration. Geopolitical risks of nuclear war The latest Iranian agreement to reopen talks with Moscow on Russian spent fuel reprocessing has taken some of the edge off of the crisis for the moment. On Friday, Bush announced publicly that he backed the Russian compromise, along with China and ElBaradei of the IAEA. Bush signaled a significant backdown, at least for the moment, stating, "The Russians came up with the idea and I support it ... I do believe people ought to be allowed to have civilian nuclear power." At the same time, Rice's State Department expressed concern the Russian-Iran talks were a stalling ploy by Tehran. Bush added. "However, I don't believe that non-transparent [sic] regimes that threaten the security of the world should be allowed to gain the technologies necessary to make a weapon." The same day at Davos, Rice told the World Economic Forum that Iran's nuclear program posed "significant danger" and that Iran must be brought before the UN Security Council. In short, Washington is trying to appear "diplomatic" while keeping all options open. Should Iran be brought before the UN Security Council for violations of the NPT and charges of developing weapons of mass destruction, it seems quite probable that Russia and China will veto imposing sanctions, such as an economic embargo on Iran, for the reasons stated above. The timetable for that is likely some time about March-May, that is, after a new Israeli government is in place. At that point there are several possible outcomes. # The IAEA refers Iran to the UN Security Council, which proposes increased monitoring of the reprocessing facilities for weapons producing while avoiding sanctions. In essence, Iran would be allowed to develop its full fuel cycle nuclear program and its sovereignty is respected, so long as it respects NPT and IAEA conditions. This is unlikely for the reasons stated above. # Iran, like India and Pakistan, is permitted to develop a small arsenal of nuclear weapons as a deterrent to the growing military threat in its area posed by the US from Afghanistan to Iraq to the Emirates, as well as by Israel's nuclear force. The West extends new offers of economic cooperation in the development of Iran's oil and gas infrastructure and Iran is slowly welcomed into the community of the World Trade Organization and cooperation with the West. A new government in Israel pursues a peace policy in Palestine and with Syria, and a new regional relaxation of tensions opens the way for huge new economic development in the entire Middle East region, Iran included. The mullahs in Iran slowly loose influence. This scenario, desirable as it is, is extremely unlikely in the present circumstances. # Bush, on the urging of Cheney, Rumsfeld and the neo-conservative hawks, decides to activate Conplan 8022, an air attack bombing of Iran's presumed nuclear sites, including, for the first time since 1945, with deployment of nuclear weapons. No ground troops are used and it is proclaimed a swift surgical "success" by the formidable Pentagon propaganda machine. Iran, prepared for such a possibility, launches a calculated counter-strike using techniques of guerrilla war or "asymmetrical warfare" against US and NATO targets around the world. The Iran response includes activating trained cells within Lebanon's Hezbollah; it includes activating considerable Iranian assets within Iraq, potentially in de facto alliance with the Sunni resistance there targeting the 135,000 remaining US troops and civilian personnel. Iran's asymmetrical response also includes stepping up informal ties to the powerful Hamas within Palestine to win them to a Holy War against the US-Israel "Great Satan" Alliance. Israel faces unprecedented terror and sabotage attacks from every side and from within its territory from sleeper cells of Arab Israelis. Iran activates trained sleeper terror cells in the Ras Tanura center of Saudi oil refining and shipping. The Eastern province of Saudi Arabia around Ras Tanura contains a disenfranchised Shi'ite minority, which has historically been denied the fruits of the immense Saudi oil wealth. There are some 2 million Shi'ite Muslims in Saudi Arabia. Shi'ites do most of the manual work in the Saudi oilfields, making up 40% of Aramco's workforce. Iran declares an immediate embargo of deliveries of its 4 million barrels of oil a day. It threatens to sink a large oil super-tanker in the narrows of the Strait of Hormuz, choking off 40% of all world oil flows, if the world does not join it against the US-Israeli action. The strait has two 1-mile-wide channels for marine traffic, separated by a 2-mile-wide buffer zone, and is the only sea passage to the open ocean for much of OPEC oil. It is Saudi Arabia's main export route. Iran is a vast, strategically central expanse of land, more than double the land area of France and Germany combined, with well over 70 million people and one of the fastest population growth rates in the world. It is well prepared for a new Holy War. Its mountainous terrain makes any thought of a US ground occupation inconceivable at a time the Pentagon is having problems retaining its present force to maintain the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations. World War III begins in a series of miscalculations and disruptions. The Pentagon's awesome war machine, "total spectrum dominance" is powerless against the growing "asymmetrical war" assaults around the globe. Clear from a reading of their public statements and their press, the Iranian government knows well what cards its holds and what not in this global game of thermonuclear chicken. Were the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld axis to risk launching a nuclear strike on Iran, given the geopolitical context, it would mark a point of no return in international relations. Even with sagging popularity, the White House knows this. The danger of the initial strategy of preemptive wars is that, as now, when someone like Iran calls the US bluff with a formidable response potential, the US is left with little option but to launch the unthinkable - nuclear strike. There are saner voices within the US political establishment, such as former National Security Council heads, Brent Scowcroft or even Zbigniew Brzezinski, who clearly understand the deadly logic of Bush's and the Pentagon hawks' preemptive posture. The question is whether their faction within the US power establishment today is powerful enough to do to Bush and Cheney what was done to Richard Nixon when his exercise of presidential power got out of hand. It is useful to keep in mind that even were Iran to possess nuclear missiles, the strike range would not reach the territory of the US. Israel would be the closest potential target. A US preemptive nuclear strike to defend Israel would raise the issue of what the military agreements between Tel Aviv and Washington actually encompass, a subject neither the Bush administration nor its predecessors have seen fit to inform the American public about.