Senior American intelligence and defence officials believe that President George W Bush and his inner circle are taking steps to place America on the path to war with Iran, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.
Pentagon planners have developed a list of up to 2,000 bombing targets in Iran, amid growing fears among serving officers that diplomatic efforts to slow Iran's nuclear weapons programme are doomed to fail.
Pentagon and CIA officers say they believe that the White House has begun a carefully calibrated programme of escalation that could lead to a military showdown with Iran.
Now it has emerged that Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, who has been pushing for a diplomatic solution, is prepared to settle her differences with Vice-President Dick Cheney and sanction military action.
In a chilling scenario of how war might come, a senior intelligence officer warned that public denunciation of Iranian meddling in Iraq - arming and training militants - would lead to cross border raids on Iranian training camps and bomb factories.
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