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Hersh: Nukes Unlikely Vs. Iran

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Seymour Hirsh writes in the latest issue of The New Yorker magazine that the use of tactical nuclear weapons is one option being considered by the administration if Tehran doesn't abandon what Washington and other nations suspect are efforts by Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

But, on The Early Show Monday, Hersh pointed out to co-anchor Hannah Storm that it's unlikely the tactical nukes option will remain on the table for long.

According to CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante, a senior administration official tells CBS News that Hersh's report is "ill-informed." However, no one denies that there's military contingency planning under way.

Hersh also writes that the administration has concluded diplomacy is bound to fail, and American commandos are already on the ground in Iran gathering information on possible targets.

The New Yorker and Washington Post both say conventional air strikes are also being planned for.

Hersh told Storm: "When you give the president a range of options, what you do is say, 'Hey, here's what we can do, Mr. President. We can do nothing. We can guarantee we can take out the main facility in Iran … an underground bunker. … We want to get rid of it. To guarantee its demolition we have to use a tactical nuke.' But the real option is a bombing option."

"Nobody in the Pentagon," Hersh continued, "seriously thinks (the use of tactical nuclear weapons) could be — it's an impossible option. They (Pentagon planners) wanted to get rid of it (but) … the White House said, 'No.' And as I write, they (Pentagon planners) are going to come back to the president with a formal recommendation that they take this, this plan, this (tactical nuclear weapons) option out of the plan. And, if it doesn't happen, some people claim they will actually resign over the issue."

And all that, says Hersh, means the option will probably be dropped: "People think so. You can't cross — if the Joint Chiefs of Staff come to you and say, 'This is a no-go,' he has to stop. He can't overrule the military."

Hersh says the clandestine American forces already on the ground in Iran are collecting intelligence.

"They're talking to the various minorities, the ethnic minorities inside Iran that oppose the government, and they're also getting ready to pick targets," he said. "One of the ways we bomb, to ensure accuracy, is we use … laser guided bombs. In order for the bombs to be accurate, men on the ground have to be there to 'paint the target.' They have to put a laser beam on it. So, we have to get those guys in place. It's all part of the obvious planning for an offensive, if we decide to have one."

Bilateral talks between the United States and Iran "certainly" are out of the question, Hersh says, adding: "One of the great mysteries, to me, anyway, is why there isn't more pressure on this president to talk to the Iranians. They want to talk. He has refused to.

"But, certainly, there are people in the White House who simply believe any diplomacy is simply a stall that Iran really wants to get a weapon. Which, by the way, it does. They believe that, as long as Iran is talking, they're secretly going very fervently to get a weapon on the side."