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23 March 2012
Iran Watch: Bunker-buster buildup

By Uri Friedman

President Obama often talks about all options being on the table when it comes to confronting Iran over its nuclear program, but what's going on underneath this most mysterious of tables? The United States is preparing for a possible military conflict with Iran, among other things.

The Hill reports that top Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee are spearheading an effort to divert defense dollars in the upcoming fiscal 2013 budget toward weapons systems and programs that could be used in a confrontation with Tehran. 

Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) has previously said he will seek "things like powerful bunker-busting munitions, countermeasures for mines, and appropriate sensor and intelligence platforms." Earlier this month, an Air Force general declared that a new 30,000-pound bunker-buster bomb that can penetrate 200 feet of concrete would be a "great weapon" again Iran. The fearsome and appropriate name of the beast? The Massive Ordnance Penetrator bomb.

Iran meter: The congressional funding effort isn't the only indication that the U.S. military is preparing for a potential showdown with Iran. The U.S. Navy has doubled the number of mine-hunting vessels in the Persian Gulf and equipped its warships with Gatling guns, according to The Hill.

Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that U.S. Central Command is beefing up its military capabilities against Iran by "fielding new laser target-trackers for machine guns, enhanced sensors for underwater vehicles, improved protection against drone attacks, and upgrades of U-2 spy planes" through "reprogramming" requests. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the Pentagon is exploring several military options.

Sure, it's not particularly surprising that the U.S. military is engaging in contingency planning. But Obama has emphatically dismissed the idea of containing a nuclear Iran, and a U.S. war game this month highlighted what U.S. officials already knew all too well -- that a unilitaral Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities could spark a regional war. If the United States concludes that sanctions have failed to blunt the Iranian nuclear threat and that an Israeli strike is too dangerous, we could be hearing a lot more about that Massive Ordnance Penetrator.

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