WASHINGTON - The Pentagon declined to comment Monday on a report that US military planning for Iran began in 2002 and has been continually updated since.

"This is the United States Defense Department. We plan for all sorts of things," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.

"With respect to Iran the United States governnment approach has been very clear," he added, saying it was working through the international community to try to resolve concerns about Iran's nuclear program diplomatically.

William Arkin, a well-connected military analyst writing in the Washington Post on Sunday, said the planning has been conducted under the codename TIRANNT, an acronym for Theater Iran Near Term.

It includes a scenario for a land invasion led by the US Marine Corps, a detailed analysis of the Iranian missile force and a global strike plan against any Iranian weapons of mass destruction, Arkin wrote.

Army General John Abizaid, the commander of the US Central Command, was given the task of planning military options for Iran in 2002 and by May 2003 the planning was underway in earnest, according to Arkin.

Air Force planners have modeled attacks against Iranian air defenses, while Navy planners have evaluated coastal targets and drawn up scenarios for keeping control of the Strait of Hormuz.

A follow-on TIRANNT analysis, which began in October 2003, calculated the results of different scenarios to provide options to commanders, Arkin wrote.

The Marines, meanwhile, explored the possibility of moving forces from ship to shore without establishing a beachhead first.

Arkin's account of the planning followed a report in the New Yorker magazine April 9 that said options under consideration include the use of nuclear bunker-busting bombs to destroy deeply buried targets.

The Washington Post reported the same day that planning for Iran strike options was underway as part of a campaign of coercive diplomacy.

"With respect to stories that I have seen that try to characterize military planning with respect to Iran, I would characterize as wild speculation," Whitman said, echoing President George W. Bush's reaction to the New Yorker story.

04/17/2006 19:26 GMT

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