The scenario raises fears among top U.S. planners that it may be impossible to prevent U.S. involvement in any escalating confrontation between Israel and Iran.
A classified war simulation held this month to assess the repercussions of an Israeli attack on Iran forecasts that the strike would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead, according to U.S. officials.
The officials said the so-called war game was not designed as a rehearsal for U.S. military action, and they emphasized that the exercise’s results were not the only possible outcome of a real- world conflict.
But the game has raised fears among top U.S. planners that it may be impossible to preclude U.S. involvement in any escalating confrontation with Iran, the officials said. In the debate among policy makers over the consequences of any Israeli attack, that reaction may give stronger voice to those in the White House, Pentagon and intelligence community who have warned that a strike could prove perilous for the United States.
The results of the war game were particularly troubling to Gen. James N. Mattis, who commands all U.S. forces in the Middle East, the Gulf and Central Asia, according to officials who either participated in the Central Command exercise or who were briefed on the results and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of its classified nature. When the exercise had concluded earlier this month, according to the officials, General Mattis told aides that an Israeli first strike would be likely to have dire consequences across the region and for U.S. forces there.