The special planning group was established within the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in recent months, according to an unidentified former US intelligence official cited in the article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in the March 4 issue.
The panel initially focused on destroying Iran's nuclear facilities and on regime change but has more recently been directed to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq, according to an Air Force adviser and a Pentagon consultant, who were not identified.
The consultant and a former senior intelligence official both said that US military and special-operations teams had crossed the border from Iraq into Iran in pursuit of Iranian operatives, according to the article.
In response to the report, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said: "The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran. To suggest anything to the contrary is simply wrong, misleading and mischievous.
"The United States has been very clear with respect to its concerns regarding specific Iranian government activities. The president has repeatedly stated publicly that this country is going to work with allies in the region to address those concerns through diplomatic efforts," Whitman said.
Pentagon officials say they maintain contingency plans for literally dozens of potential conflicts around the world and that all plans are subject to regular and ongoing review.
The article, citing unnamed current and former US officials, also said the Bush administration received intelligence from Israel that Iran had developed an intercontinental missile capable of delivering several small warheads that could reach Europe. It added the validity of that intelligence was still being debated.
Gulf states to let Israel use airspaceThe article also included an interview conducted in December with Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who said that while he had no interest in initiating another war with Israel, he was anticipating and preparing for another Israeli attack sometime this year.
Israel launched an offensive against Hizbullah in Lebanon last July after the Shiite group kidnapped 2 soldiers and killed 8 others in a cross-border attack.
Nasrallah also said he was open to talks with Washington if such discussions "can be useful and influential in determining American policy in the region," but they would be waste of time if the purpose was to impose policy.
Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti daily al-Siyassah reported on Sunday that the Gulf states of Oman and the UAE would allow Israel to use their airspace should the Jewish state decide to launch preemptive strikes against Iran. The report quoted European and Arab diplomats.
The newspaper also quoted a Pentagon official said saying that Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan would assist Israeli raids on Iran.