The U.S. Air Force is playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse with Iran’s ayatollahs, flying American combat aircraft into Iranian airspace in an attempt to lure Tehran into turning on air defense radars, thus allowing U.S. pilots to grid the system for use in future targeting data, administration officials said.

“We have to know which targets to attack and how to attack them,” said one, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The flights, which have been going on for weeks, are being launched from sites in Afghanistan and Iraq and are part of Bush administration attempts collect badly needed intelligence on Iran’s possible nuclear weapons development sites, these sources said, speaking on condition of strict anonymity.

“These Iranian air defense positions are not just being observed, they’re being ‘templated,'” an administration official said, explaining that the flights are part of a U.S. effort to develop “an electronic order of battle for Iran” in case of actual conflict. ~UPI (courtesy of World Peace Herald)

It is difficult to read in these actions anything other than a plan for an impending U.S. or ‘allied’ military strike in the relatively near future. No state needs to have information on targeting other nations’ air defense systems unless its government means to launch airstrikes against them, and this is a course of action that has not been sanctioned by Congress or accepted by the public.

Not only are these flights quite illegal and provocative by any measure, once again making the United States the aggressor and international outlaw, but they are profoundly unwise. Should something go wrong, or if it were to provoke an incident in which Americans or Iranians were killed, these illicit activities would draw us into conflict with a country with which we have no necessary antagonism. It is frankly incoceivable how, on the eve of Shi’i electoral dominance in Iraq and Iran’s potential ability to explode what little political stability that there is in Iraq, the U.S. government has authorised provoking Iran more and more to take a hostile course against us.