Growing Threat

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," January 23, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Iran restarts its nuclear program. The West threatens sanctions. Iran shrugs, says no big deal. So let's say diplomacy fails. Is there a military solution to this showdown? Let's ask retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney.

Gen. McInerney, show me a couple of the things that may happen. Suppose we feel like we have to strike Iran. What is it we would have to hit?

LT. GEN. THOMAS MCINERNEY, RETIRED U.S. AIR FORCE: Well, John, let me first preface it's not our preferred choice, but I want to assure you that we can do it very effectively and efficiently.

So what I would like to do is go to the screenwriter right now and talk about — we need to get a coalition air force. And that coalition air force should consist of our allies in Saudi Arabia, in Jordan, in Egypt, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, as well as Iraq.

And this will be our logistics base, our air hits. We have 18 bases over there already assembled in the region. So it's not going to be a difficult thing. And it's also important we bring in the EU3, our European allies. Once again we have exhausted all efforts for diplomacy.

GIBSON: General, let me just ask you quickly. You are saying that this should be an Arab coalition? Are the politics in place for that?

MCINERNEY: Arab and European coalition as well as the United States. We need to be working that right now. I believe the conditions are there. They do not want a nuclear Iran with hegemony over the entire region. So we need to work that hard now.

GIBSON: General, everybody sort of dreads this, but if Israel had to do it, how would they do it?

MCINERNEY: Well Israel would be a lot harder and I can tell you that when you see the target array, how as I'll jump to that chart, we would do it. These are the targets that we have to hit.

GIBSON: Somebody has to hit.

MCINERNEY: Somebody has to hit. And if you look at them, there are 12 primary targets but they are probably in this about 70 to 80 aim points. And so if you look at forces coming from Turkey — and that's why it's important that we get the Turkey relationship — forces coming out of Saudi Arabia, out of Iraq, out of Afghanistan, out of the United Arab Emirates and of course, out of Diego Garcia and if you have B-2s, they would be the primary leads on this, as well as you'd have global hawks and other drones supporting you, in addition to the tanker forces that you would need back here.

This would be the attack axis and the forces. We'd need somewhere between 200 and 400 aircraft to do this. And we could do it in one or two days. But my point is, it's much more difficult for the Israelis, if they had to transition this area coming from that direction.

And so the Israelis would have a much more difficult time because they would have to come from here over to here and hit all those targets. That's why I believe it is important for an Arab, U.S., European coalition to do this.

GIBSON: Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney. General, it's good to see you again. Thanks a lot for the insight.

MCINERNEY: Great seeing you, John.

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