This new presidential directive extends the license President George W. Bush issued last month to US troops to capture or kill Iranian agents supporting Iraqi insurgency and al Qaeda attacks on American forces.
It is causing great concern in Tehran's ruling circles - especially as the new license may well be applied when the downing of a large US helicopter ends in a heavy US death toll.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that American commanders in Iraq are studying the innovative methods for shooting down US aircraft which Iranian Revolutionary Guards instructors are imparting to Iraqi insurgents.
Maj. Gen James E. Simmons, deputy commander of US forces in Iraq, describes multiple weapons systems fired at the same time as having brought down 7 American helicopters in the last month. This, says Simmons, is the sign of “a thinking enemy” - although sometimes the insurgents appear to have got lucky and hit helicopters with automatic weapons fire as they chanced by.
The New York Times reports these multiple systems may include shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades – RPGs and unguided rockets that can’t be diverted by American helicopters’ anti-heat-seeking flares.
Our military sources say this mix of weaponry is designed to ambush the aircraft at any altitude chosen to escape the ground fire.
Under the new presidential directive, the downing of a helicopter carrying a large number of US troops could trigger a bombing campaign against Iran such as, for example, the dispatch of long-range B2 stealth bombers with bunker-busting bombs for dropping on the 25m deep Natanz site, where centrifuges are positioned for enriching uranium.
Attacks mount also be mounted against Iran’s military infrastructure.