Friday, August 31, 2007
Over the past two months a coalition has formed around Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to bolster his rule. Desperate to maintain his hold on power, Abbas has chosen to forgo national unity and rely on support from the U.S. and Israel to tighten his hold on the West Bank and target Gaza. Abbas and his benefactors have made it clear to the residents of Gaza that only by abandoning Hamas will the siege be lifted. In the interim, any deaths or starvation, while regrettable, are the requisite price to maintain Abbas' presidency and the position of his cronies. In pursuing this course, he and his appointed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have tied their fate to American and Israeli officials in the mistaken belief that they will deliver an independent Palestinian state. In doing so, Abbas and Fayyad ignore the personal, professional, and ideological relationships uniting these officials, which, contrary to their public statements, serve to undermine Palestinian aspirations. The result of this delusional strategy will be a cage disguised as a country.
Five years ago, as the second intifada spiraled out of control in the spring of 2002, President Bush asked his then National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice what was the "fundamental problem" preventing the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to the New York Times her answer was "Yasser Arafat." Rice explained, "When you think about the way people had thought about the Middle East, it was just about land." Her decision led the Bush administration's sidelining of Arafat, the emergence of Abbas, as well as their reliance on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to end the conflict through force rather than negotiations. These policies have had a devastating impact on Palestinian society, with an immeasurable cost in human life, property and infrastructure.
During the 2000 Presidential Campaign, Rice was portrayed by the Bush campaign and the mainstream American media as one of Bush's foreign policy tutors and advisers. However, she is a former Soviet specialist and by her own admission had little knowledge (or interest) in the history or politics of the Middle East. What then was the source of her keen analysis of the conflict? Rice's key adviser for Middle East affairs on the National Security Council was neo-conservative American Likudnik Elliot Abrams. An avowed opponent of the "land for peace" formula which would be at the center of any negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians, Abrams is an infamous figure in Washington due to his role in the Iran-Contra affair. As Kathleen Christison recently detailed in Counterpunch, Abrams has actively worked to subvert the Palestinian national unity government and advocated a "hard coup" against Hamas. This included coordinating with like-minded allies in the State Department to pervert international law and human rights by pressuring the United Nations to impose sanctions on the occupied, not the occupier, in the wake of Hamas' election victory.
Rice's more recent confidant is Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. In a fawning New York Times Magazine cover story profile of Livni last month, Rice described her as a "friend" and a "woman of peace." A trained lawyer and former Mossad agent, Livni's meteoric rise in Israeli politics was hastened by Sharon. According to the Times, Rice and Livni share "the same intensity and work ethic, the same difficulty in thinking beyond a doctrine once it has been formed, the same disciplined intelligence that sometimes appears to lack the subtlety of wisdom and the same penchant for talking about 'values' and what is 'right'" -- and then, of course, doing the exact opposite. One example of this approach was Livni's boast that through a meeting with Rice she directly influenced Bush's 14 April 2004 statement undercutting the right of return for Palestinian refugees. She claimed "I did the right thing -- and so did Bush."
Hoping to salvage her term as Secretary of State, Rice has been publicly preparing for a renewed peace effort for some time. In March, the Washington Post reported that she finally decided to review the peace efforts of previous administrations. According to Time Magazine, this also included requesting the notes of Jordanian diplomats from the ill-fated 2000 Camp David Summit, which the Bush administration had previously disparaged. Rice's belated efforts were supposed to coincide with a resurrected Arab League peace initiative, whose proposal was based on existing UN resolutions and was again rejected by Israel for the second time in five years. Attempting to prop up Abbas, President Bush initially called for a regional summit to be held in November. To galvanize support for this initiative, Rice paid yet another high profile visit to the region accompanied by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. In addition, Washington announced an increase in military aid to Israel over the next ten years. Yet, in spite of the attention and incentives, Bush's summit has since been downgraded to a "meeting," and one expects soon it will be further demoted to a "discussion." Meanwhile, as part of Rice's inane "confidence building measures," a process borrowed from the Oslo period, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas meet regularly, supposedly to finalize yet another "declaration of principles." However, adamant denials from Olmert's office inevitably follow each highly placed leak about the substance of the negotiations.
In contrast, ominous signs have appeared in the Arab and Israeli press that have not elicited denials. For several weeks the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership has claimed that early elections would be needed to break the deadlock between Fatah and Hamas, a move the latter rejected as unconstitutional. However, Fayyad recently told reporters that new elections were "not feasible" at this time. Moreover, he and other officials have suggested that Hamas will be shut out from any new elections unless they accept existing agreements. Abbas even briefly flirted with the notion of reviving the Palestinian National Council, without including Hamas of course, and sought the support of moribund leftists. Desperate for relevancy, several, like Nayef Hawatmeh of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, were eager to comply. Predictably this effort has also stalled. Meanwhile, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Abbas was requesting American weaponry, including new armored cars for "crowd dispersal," replacing those destroyed by the Israelis during the early part of the second intifada. In addition, Washington has also agreed to train Abbas' presidential guard. Concurrently, American Lt. General Keith Dayton continues training security personnel loyal to Fatah in Jericho, and a new training base may be created in Bethlehem. It would appear that Abbas and his backers are intent on a showdown with Hamas, not negotiations.
To prepare the ground for this confrontation, the PA leadership has embraced the siege of Gaza. This strategy reached a new nadir when Ambassador Riyad Mansour of the Palestinian Observer Mission to the UN recently blocked an attempt by Qatar and Indonesia to obtain a Security Council resolution expressing concern over a pending humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Mansour explained in a prepared statement that "It is unacceptable for anyone, including friends, to act on our behalf without our knowledge, without consulting us." When asked why the Palestinians did not coordinate with its "friends" to reintroduce the resolution, he answered that there was "no specific need" for one at this time, in spite of the dire warnings from multiple international aid organizations to the contrary. The diplomatic corps, which operates from the former Palestine Liberation Organization missions around the globe, purportedly represents the Palestinian people, but their recent actions and rhetoric culminating in the disgraceful charade perpetrated at the UN demonstrates where their loyalties truly lie.
Moreover, Mansour's statement of "no specific need" is as shockingly inaccurate as it is despicable. Gaza is one of the most densely populated places in the world, with nearly 1.5 million Palestinians -- roughly 80 percent of them refugees -- crowded into a mere 360 square kilometers. With unemployment of 40 percent and underemployment far higher, the UN estimates that over 60 percent of Palestinians live below its "poverty line" of less that two dollars a day. Gaza has no functioning sea or airport facilities and all human and commercial traffic flows through Israeli-controlled (and sealed) border crossings, rendering it totally isolated. Due to the border closures, there are constant shortages of medical and food supplies, and now fuel supplies are also being used as a weapon, forcing electricity to be shut off across the strip for hours and sometimes days at a time. These actions represent a continuation of the siege and sanctions policy promoted by Abrams. As Dov Weinglass, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, explained the goal is to "put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger." By adopting this strategy as their own, Abbas and Fayyad have demonstrated they are beyond redemption.
With each passing day the depth of the PA leadership's degeneracy is revealed. Their corruption and ineptitude, so blatant and glaring over the past 13 years, has now been supplemented by a cynicism and sadism directed toward their own people with the support and encouragement of the US, Israel, the European Union, and the international community. This leadership, which once proclaimed "revolution until victory," long ago abandoned that mantra and chose to turn rebellion into money. They have shamelessly ignored the needs and will of the Palestinian people and led them to the brink of ruin. Only by abandoning this leadership can Palestinians hope to reverse this course and ensure that they determine their own future. The choice has never been starker or more certain.
Osamah Khalil is a Palestinian-American doctoral candidate in US and Middle East History at the University of California, Berkeley, focusing on US foreign policy in the Middle East. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Former CIA Analyst
Why do I feel like the proverbial skunk at a Labor Day picnic? Sorry; but I thought you might want to know that this time next year there will probably be more skunks than we can handle. I fear our country is likely to be at war with Iran-and with the thousands of real terrorists Iran can field around the globe.
It is going to happen, folks, unless we put our lawn chairs away on Tuesday, take part in some serious grass-roots organizing, and take action to prevent a wider war-while we still can.
President George W. Bush's speech Tuesday lays out the Bush/Cheney plan to attack Iran and how the intelligence is being "fixed around the policy," as was the case before the attack on Iraq.
It's not about putative Iranian "weapons of mass destruction"-not even ostensibly. It is about the requirement for a scapegoat for U.S. reverses in Iraq, and the White House's felt need to create a casus belli by provoking Iran in such a way as to "justify" armed retaliation-eventually including air strikes on its nuclear-related facilities.
Bush's Aug. 28 speech to the American Legion comes five years after a very similar presentation by Vice President Dick Cheney. Addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Aug. 26, 2002, Cheney set the meretricious terms of reference for war on Iraq.
Sitting on the same stage that evening was former CENTCOM commander Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who was being honored at the VFW convention. Zinni later said he was shocked to hear a depiction of intelligence (Iraq has WMD and is amassing them to use against us) that did not square with what he knew. Although Zinni had retired two years before, his role as consultant had enabled him to stay up to date on key intelligence findings.
"There was no solid proof that Saddam had WMD...I heard a case being made to go to war," Zinni told Meet the Press three and a half years later.
(Zinni is a straight shooter with considerable courage, and so the question lingers: why did he not go public? It is all too familiar a conundrum at senior levels; top officials can seldom find their voices. My hunch is that Zinni regrets letting himself be guided by a misplaced professional courtesy and/or slavish adherence to classification restrictions, when he might have prevented our country from starting the kind of war of aggression branded at Nuremberg the "supreme international crime.")
Cheney: Dean of Preemption
Zinni was not the only one taken aback by Cheney's words. Then-CIA director George Tenet says Cheney's speech took him completely by surprise. In his memoir Tenet wrote, "I had the impression that the president wasn't any more aware than we were of what his number-two was going to say to the VFW until he said it."
Yet, it could have been anticipated. Just five weeks before, Tenet himself had told his British counterpart that the president had decided to make war on Iraq for regime change and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
When Bush's senior advisers came back to town after Labor Day, 2002, the next five weeks (and by now, the next five years) were devoted to selling a new product-war on Iraq. The actual decision to attack Iraq, we now know, was made several months earlier but, as then-White House chief of staff Andy Card explained, no sensible salesperson would launch a major new product during the month of August-Cheney's preemptive strike notwithstanding. Yes, that's what Card called the coming war; a "new product."
After assuring themselves that Tenet was a reliable salesman, Cheney and then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld dispatched him and the pliant Powell at State to play supporting roles in the advertising campaign: bogus yellowcake uranium from Niger, aluminum tubes for uranium enrichment, and mobile trailers for manufacturing biological warfare agent-the whole nine yards. The objective was to scare or intimidate Congress into voting for war, and, thanks largely to a robust cheering section in the corporate-controlled media, Congress did so on October 10 and 11, 2002.
This past week saw the president himself, with that same kind of support, pushing a new product-war with Iran. And in the process, he made clear how intelligence is being fixed to "justify" war this time around. The case is too clever by half, but it will be hard for Americans to understand that. Indeed, the Bush/Cheney team expects that the product will sell easily-the more so, since the administration has been able once again to enlist the usual cheerleaders in the media to "catapult the propaganda," as Bush once put it.
Iran's Nuclear Plans
It has been like waiting for Godot...the endless wait for the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear plans. That NIE turns out to be the quintessential dog that didn't bark. The most recent published NIE on the subject was issued two and a half years ago and concluded that Iran could not have a nuclear weapon until "early- to mid-next decade." That estimate followed a string of NIEs dating back to 1995, which kept predicting, with embarrassing consistency, that Iran was "within five years" of having a nuclear weapon.
The most recent NIE, published in early 2005, extended the timeline and provided still more margin for error. Basically, the timeline was moved 10 years out to 2015 but, in a fit of caution, the drafters settled on the words "early-to-mid next decade." On Feb. 27, 2007 at his confirmation hearings to be Director of National Intelligence, Michael McConnell repeated that formula verbatim.
A "final" draft of the follow-up NIE mentioned above had been completed in Feb. 2007, and McConnell no doubt was briefed on its findings prior to his testimony. The fact that this draft has been sent back for revision every other month since February speaks volumes. Judging from McConnell's testimony, the conclusions of the NIE draft of February are probably not alarmist enough for Vice President Dick Cheney. (Shades of Iraq.)
According to one recent report, the target date for publication has now slipped to late fall. How these endless delays can be tolerated is testimony to the fecklessness of the "watchdog" intelligence committees in House and Senate.
As for Iran's motivation if it plans to go down the path of producing nuclear weapons, newly appointed defense secretary Robert Gates was asked about that at his confirmation hearing in December. Just called from the wings to replace Donald Rumsfeld, Gates apparently had not yet read the relevant memo from Cheney's office. It is a safe bet that the avuncular Cheney took Gates to the woodshed, after the nominee suggested that Iran's motivation could be, "in the first instance," deterrence:"
"While they [the Iranians] are certainly pressing, in my opinion, for a nuclear capability, I think they would see it in the first instance as a deterrent. They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons-Pakistan to the east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west, and us in the Persian Gulf."
Unwelcome News (to the White House)
There they go again-those bureaucrats at the International Atomic Energy Agency. On August 28, the very day Bush was playing up the dangers from Iran, the IAEA released a note of understanding between the IAEA and Iran on the key issue of inspection. The IAEA announced:
"The agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of the declared nuclear materials at the enrichment facilities in Iran and has therefore concluded that it remains in peaceful use."
The IAEA deputy director said the plan just agreed to by the IAEA and Iran will enable the two to reach closure by December on the nuclear issues that the IAEA began investigating in 2003. Other IAEA officials now express confidence that they will be able to detect any military diversion or any uranium enrichment above a low grade, as long as the Iran-IAEA safeguard agreement remains intact.
Shades of the preliminary findings of the U.N. inspections-unprecedented in their intrusiveness-that were conducted in Iraq in early 2003 before the U.S. abruptly warned the U.N. in mid-March to pull out its inspectors, lest they find themselves among those to be shocked-and-awed.
Vice President Cheney can claim, as he did three days before the attack on Iraq, that the IAEA is simply "wrong." But Cheney's credibility has sunk to prehistoric levels; witness the fact that the president was told that this time he would have to take the lead in playing up various threats from Iran. And they gave him new words.
The President's New Formulation
As I watched the president speak on Aug. 28, I was struck by the care he took in reading the exact words of a new, subjunctive-mood formulation regarding Iran's nuclear intentions. He never looked up; this is what he said:
"Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust."
The cautious wording suggests to me that the White House finally has concluded that the "nuclear threat" from Iran is "a dog that won't hunt," as Lyndon Johnson would have put it. While, initial press reporting focused on the "nuclear holocaust" rhetorical flourish, the earlier part of the sentence is more significant, in my view. It is quite different from earlier Bush rhetoric charging categorically that Iran is "pursuing nuclear weapons," including the following (erroneous) comment at a joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in early August:
"This [Iran] is a government that has proclaimed its desire to build a nuclear weapon."
The latest news from the IAEA is, for the White House, an unwelcome extra hurdle. And the president's advisers presumably were aware of it well before Bush's speech was finalized; it will be hard to spin. Administration officials would also worry about the possibility that some patriotic truth teller might make the press aware of the key judgments of the languishing draft of the latest NIE on Iran's nuclear capability-or that a courageous officer or official of Gen. Anthony Zinni's stature might feel conscience bound to try to head off another unnecessary war, by providing a more accurate, less alarmist assessment of the nuclear threat from Iran.
It is just too much of a stretch to suggest that Iran could be a nuclear threat to the United States within the next 17 months, and that's all the time Bush and Cheney have got to honor their open pledge to our "ally" Israel to eliminate Iran's nuclear potential. Besides, some American Jewish groups have become increasingly concerned over the likelihood of serious backlash if young Americans are seen to be fighting and dying to eliminate perceived threats to Israel (but not to the U.S.). Some of these groups have been quietly urging the White House to back off the nuclear-threat rationale for war on Iran.
The (Very) Bad News
Bush and Cheney have clearly decided to use alleged Iranian interference in Iraq as the preferred casus belli. And the charges, whether they have merit or not, have become much more bellicose. Thus, Bush on Aug. 28:
"Iran's leaders...cannot escape responsibility for aiding attacks against coalition forces...The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops. I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities."
How convenient: two birds with one stone. Someone to blame for U.S. reverses in Iraq, and "justification" to confront the ostensible source of the problem-"deadeners" having been changed to Iran. Vice President Cheney has reportedly been pushing for military retaliation against Iran if the U.S. finds hard evidence of Iranian complicity in supporting the "insurgents" in Iraq.
President Bush obliged on Aug. 28:
"Recently, coalition forces seized 240-millimeter rockets that had been manufactured in Iran this year and that had been provided to Iraqi extremist groups by Iranian agents. The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased in the last few months..."
Recent U.S. actions, like arresting Iranian officials in Iraq-eight were abruptly kidnapped and held briefly in Baghdad on Aug. 28, the day Bush addressed the American Legion-suggest an intention to provoke Iran into some kind of action that would justify U.S. "retaliation." The evolving rhetoric suggests that the most likely immediate targets at this point would be training facilities inside Iran-some twenty targets that are within range of U.S. cruise missiles already in place.
Iranian retaliation would be inevitable, and escalation very likely. It strikes me as shamelessly ironic that the likes of our current ambassador at the U.N., Zalmay Khalilizad, one of the architects of U.S. policy toward the area, are now warning publicly that the current upheaval in the Middle East could bring another world war.
The Public Buildup
Col. Pat Lang (USA, ret.), as usual, puts it succinctly:
"Careful attention to the content of the chatter on the 24/7 news channels reveals a willingness to accept the idea that it is not possible to resolve differences with Iran through diplomacy. Network anchors are increasingly accepting or voicing such views. Are we supposed to believe that this is serendipitous?"
And not only that. It is as if Scooter Libby were back writing lead editorials for the Washington Post, the Pravda of this administration. The Post's lead editorial on Aug. 21 regurgitated the allegations that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is "supplying the weapons that are killing a growing number of American soldiers in Iraq;" that it is "waging war against the United States and trying to kill as many American soldiers as possible." Designating Iran a "specially designated global terrorist" organization, said the Post, "seems to be the least the United States should be doing, giving the soaring number of Iranian-sponsored bomb attacks in Iraq."
As for the news side of the Post, which is widely perceived as a bit freer from White House influence, its writers are hardly immune. For example, they know how many times the draft National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program has been sent back for redrafting...and they know why. Have they been told not to write the story?
For good measure, the indomitable arch-neocon James Woolsey has again entered the fray. He was trotted out on August 14 to tell Lou Dobbs that the US may have no choice but to bomb Iran in order to halt its nuclear weapons program. Woolsey, who has described himself as the "anchor of the Presbyterian wing of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs," knows what will scare. To Dobbs: "I'm afraid within, well, at worst, a few months; at best, a few years; they [Iran] could have the bomb."
As for what Bush is telling his counterparts among our allies, reporting on his recent meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy are disquieting, to say the least. Reports circulating in European foreign ministries indicate that Sarkozy came away convinced that Bush "is serious about bombing Iran's secret nuclear facilities," according to well-connected journalist Arnauld De Borchgrave.
It Is Up To US
Air strikes on Iran seem inevitable, unless grassroots America can arrange a backbone transplant for Congress. The House needs to begin impeachment proceedings without delay. Why? Well, there's the Constitution of the United States, for one thing. For another, the initiation of impeachment proceedings might well give our senior military leaders pause. Do they really want to precipitate a wider war and risk destroying much of what is left of our armed forces for the likes of Bush and Cheney? Is another star on the shoulder worth THAT?
The deterioration of the U.S. position in Iraq; the perceived need for a scapegoat; the knee-jerk deference given to Israel's myopic and ultimately self-defeating security policy; and the fact that time is running out for the Bush/Cheney administration to end Iran's nuclear program-together make for a very volatile mix.
So, on Tuesday let's put away the lawn chairs and roll up our sleeves. Let's remember all that has already happened since Labor Day five years ago.
There is very little time to exercise our rights as citizens and stop this madness. At a similarly critical juncture, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was typically direct. I find his words a challenge to us today:
"There is such a thing as being too late.... Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with lost opportunity.... Over the bleached bones of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: 'Too late.'"
Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst from 1963 to 1990 and Robert Gates' branch chief in the early 1970s. McGovern now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). He is a contributor to Imperial Crusades, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
President Bush's most recent ranting, in which he accused Iran of threatening to unleash a "nuclear holocaust," must be seen, for sure, in the context of the drumbeat for military aggression against the Islamic Republic.
Within the space of a few days, several articles appeared in the mainstream press, indicating that the Cheney project for launching a new war is on the front burner. Most explicit was the report of two British think tankers, Daniel Pletsch and Martin Butcher, issued on August 27 and leaked by Raw Story the following day. Their study, entitled, "Considering a war with Iran: A discussion paper on WMD in the Middle East," claimed that the US could destroy Iran's nuclear program, industrial base and government infrastructure within days.
But Bush's specific reference to Iran's alleged ambitions to develop a nuclear bomb, should be placed in the category of one who "doth protest too much." What Bush did NOT mention is a development of major significance, which may well have been the trigger for his wild assertions. This was the agreement reached by the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran, which proved that the persistent, rigorous approach pursued by the IAEA, to solve the conflict over Iran's nuclear energy program through diplomatic means, has yielded results which the Agency itself has dubbed a breakthrough. The contention of the Bush-Cheney administration, which is bent on war at all costs, has been that the efforts of the European Union group of three (Great Britain, Germany and France) as well as those of the IAEA, have been destined to failure, since Tehran was only interested in gaining time to build its bomb.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking to journalists in Tehran on August 28, announced unequivocably that he believed, on the basis of the agreement with the IAEA, that the entire matter should be considered "closed." This was not empty rhetoric of the sort often attributed to Ahmadinejad, but a statement of fact, as documented in the "Understandings of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the IAEA on the modalities of resolution of the outstanding issues," published on August 29, by the new Iranian all news station News TV, among others. The text makes clear that the discussion process involving Iranian chief negotiator Ali Larijani and his IAEA interlocutors, including Director General Mohammad ElBaradei, has borne its desired fruits: to wit, that through the question-and-answer process, whereby the IAEA has raised its queries regarding specific aspects of Iran's program and Iran has given its clarifications, has satisfied the agency's demands. In sum, the document states that certain specific issues have been fully resolved, and that those yet to be resolved, will be dealt with in the same manner, such that specific timeframes can be defined for "closing the dossier," as Ahmadinejad put it.
The text of the agreement was published on request of Iran, "as an INFCIRC document and to be made available to the public through the IAEA website." It states: "Pursuant to the negotiations between H.E. Dr. Larijani, I. R. of Iran's Secretary of Supreme National Security Council and H.E. Dr. ElBaradei, Director General of the IAEA, in Vienna; following the initiative and good will of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the agreement made, a high ranking delegation consisting of the directors of technical, legal and political departments of the IAEA, paid a visit to Tehran from 11 to 12 July 2007 during which 'Understandings of The Islamic Republic of Iran and the IAEA on the Modalities of Resolution of the Outstanding Issues, Tehran 12 July 2007' were prepared."
The text reports on the following meetings that took place in Vienna and Tehran on July 24, and August 20-21, following which "both Parties reached the following understandings...." First, regarding the enirchment program, which has been targetted by the Bush-Cheney cabal as "proof" that Tehran wants the bomb. "The Agency and Iran agreed to cooperate in preparing the safeguards approach for the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant in accordance with Iran's Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. The draft text of the safeguards approach paper, and the facility attachment of IRN- were provided to Iran on 23 July 2007. The safeguards approach and the facility attachment were discussed during technical meetings in Iran between the Agency and the AEOI from 6 to 8 August 2007. Further discussions will be held with the aim of finalizing the facility attachment by the end of September 2007."
As for the heavy water reactor in Arak, "Iran agreed with the Agency's request to visit the heavy water research reactor (IR40) site in Arak. A successful visit took place on 30 July 2007." Furthermore, it is reported that "On 12 July 2007, Iran accepted the designation of five additional inspectors" and "On 12 July 2007, Iran agreed to issue one year multiple entry visas for 14 inspectors and staff of the Agency."
Under the rubric of "Past Outstanding Issues," the question of plutonium experiments was dealt with. Here, the joint text reports that in the course of July and August, the IAEA presented questions, and Iran, answers, to various issues. Then, in a sentence which might have caused heart tremors for Dick Cheney, the text states: "On 20 August 2007 the Agency stated that earlier statements made by Iran
Regarding other vital issues, a clear timeline is set for the question-and-answer process to yield its results. regarding the issue of P1-P2, the IAEA says the Pu experiments should close by August 31, and that it will therefore provide all its remaining questions to Iran by that date. Discussions are scheduled then for September 24-25 in Tehran, followed by a mid-October meeting, both to clarify the questions. "The Agency's target date for the closure of this issue is November 2007," says the text.
And, for remaining issues, the same sensible approach is adopted: "once all the above mentioned issues are concluded and their files are closed," further questions can be submitted by the IAEA, again with specific dates, and Iran will respond, within deadlines.
In a final paragraph entitled "General Understandings," the document asserts five points which must have sent Bush ballistic. Since it is absurd to imagine that the establishment press will give the public any insight into what is going on here between the IAEA and Iran, it is worth quoting the points in full:
"1. These modalities cover all remaining issues and the Agency confirmed that there are no other remaining issues and ambiguities regarding Iran's past nuclear program and activities.
2. The Agency agreed to provide Iran with all remaining questions according to the above work plan. This means that after receiving the questions, no other questions are left. Iran will provide the Agency with the required clarifications and information.
3. The Agency's delegation is of the view that the agreement on the above issues shall further promote the efficiency of the implementation of safeguards in Iran and its ability to conclude the exclusive peaceful nature of the Iran's nuclear activities.
4. The Agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of the declared nuclear materials at the enrichment facilities in Iran and has therefore concluded that it remains in peaceful use.
5. The Agency and Iran agreed that after the implementation of the above work plan and the agreed modalities for resolving the outstanding issues, the implementation of safeguards in Iran will be conducted in a routine manner."
The gist of this document is that, contrary to the hysterical ravings from the White House, diplomacy does work, and that if Iran were treated as a normal country, with due respect, as Tehran has always insisted, then progress could be made on any front. The implications of the IAEA-Iran "understandings" are profound: we are not dealing here with a "rogue state" or a member of the "axis of evil," but with a sovereign nation which correctly asserts its right to nuclear energy technology, in the framework of the IAEA and NPT.
The fact that the IAEA reached this groundbreaking agreement has thrown a major monkey-wrench into the Bush-Cheney cabal's plans for war, based on their claims that Iran is building the bomb. But then, Washington will quickly retort, aren't the Iranian Revolutionary Guards killing our troops in Iraq?
Much attention has been given to the Bush Administration’s preparations for possible war against Iran as well as its drive to impose sanctions. Meanwhile, a less noticed policy has been unfolding, one that may in time prove to have grave consequences for the region. There is a covert war underway in Iran, still in its infancy, but with disturbing signs of impending escalation. In the shadowy world of guerrilla operations, the full extent of involvement by the Bush Administration has yet to be revealed, but enough is known to paint a disturbing picture.
The provision of aid to anti-government forces offers certain advantages to the Bush Administration. No effort needs to be expended in winning support for the policy. Operations can be conducted away from the public eye during a time of growing domestic opposition to the war in Iraq, and international opinion is simply irrelevant where the facts are not well known. In terms of expenditures, covert operations are a cost-effective means for destabilizing a nation, relative to waging war.
There is nothing new in the technique, and it has proven an effective means for toppling foreign governments in the past, as was the case with socialist Afghanistan and Nicaragua. In Yugoslavia, U.S. and British military training and arms shipments helped to build up the secessionist Kosovo Liberation Army from a small force of 300 soldiers into a sizable guerrilla army that made the province of Kosovo ungovernable. The very chaos that the West did so much to create was then used as the pretext for bombing Yugoslavia.
According to a former CIA official, funding for armed separatist groups operating in Iran is paid from the CIA’s classified budget. The aim, claims Fred Burton, an ex-State Department counter-terrorism agent, is “to supply and train” these groups “to destabilize the Iranian regime.” (1)
The largest and most well known of the anti-government organizations is Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), operating out of Iraq. For years MEQ had launched cross-border attacks and terrorist acts against Iran with the support of Saddam Hussein. Officially designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department in 1997, and disarmed of heavy weaponry by the U.S. military six years later, Washington has since come to view MEK in a different light. Three years ago, U.S. intelligence officials suggested looking the other way as the MEK rearmed and to use the organization to destabilize Iran, a recommendation that clearly has been accepted. (2)
Accusing MEK of past involvement in repressive measures by former president Saddam Hussein, the current Iraqi government wants to close down Camp Ashraf, located well outside of Baghdad, where many of the MEK fighters are stationed. But the camp operates under the protection of the U.S. military, and American soldiers chauffeur MEK leaders. The Iraqi government is unlikely to get its way, as the MEK claims to be the primary U.S. source for intelligence on Iran. (3)
U.S. officials “made MEK members swear an oath to democracy and resign from the MEK,” reveals an intelligence source, “and then our guys incorporated them into their unit and trained them.” Reliance on the MEK began under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with the direction of Vice President Dick Cheney, and soon MEK soldiers were being used in special operations missions in Iran. “They are doing whatever they want, no oversight at all,” said one intelligence official of the MEK’s American handlers. (4)
The Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), is another organization that conducts cross-border raids into Iran. Israel provides the group with “equipment and training,” claims a consultant to the U.S. Defense Department, while the U.S. gave it “a list of targets inside Iran of interest to the U.S.” Aid to guerrilla groups, the consultant reports, is “part of an effort to explore alternative means of applying pressure on Iran.” (5) It has been noted that PJAK has recently shown an impressive gain in capability during its operations, both in terms of size and armament, a fact that can surely be attributed to Western support. (6)
Jundallah (God’s Brigade) is an extremist Sunni organization operating in Sistan-Balochistan province that has been launching armed attacks, planting explosives, setting off car bombs, and kidnapping. Based in Pakistan, it is unclear if this group is connected with the Pakistani organization of the same name, which has ties with Al-Qaeda. (7) Jundallah denies that it has any links to either Al-Qaeda or to the U.S. But Iranian officials claim that a recently arrested Jundallah guerrilla has confessed that he was trained by U.S. and British intelligence officers. There is no way to verify that such a confession has actually taken place, nor its reliability as it may have come as a result of coercion, but the claim would not be inconsistent with U.S. policy elsewhere in Iran. (8)
It is probable that in the coming months the Bush Administration will expand support for anti-government forces in order to more effectively destabilize Iran and gather intelligence. Already U.S. Special Forces are operating in Iran collecting data, planting nuclear sensors, and electronically marking targets. Separatist forces have cooperated in those efforts. “This looks to be turning into a pretty large-scale covert operation,” comments a former CIA official. U.S. and Israeli officials are establishing front companies to help finance that covert war. (9) To fully capitalize on ethnic discontent along Iran’s periphery, the U.S. Marine Corps has commissioned a study from defense contractor Hicks and Associates on Iran and Iraq’s ethnic groups and their grievances. (10)
That these separatist organizations clearly engage in terrorism hasn’t deterred the Bush Administration from backing them. The potential for baneful consequences is considerable. CIA support for the anti-Soviet and anti-socialist Mujahedin in Afghanistan spawned a worldwide movement of Islamic extremism. Western support for ethnic secessionists shattered Yugoslavia and the invasion of Iraq fired the flames of ethnic discord and made a shared life impossible. It remains to be seen if the Bush Administration can succeed in achieving its goal of effecting regime change in Iran. That process could have devastating consequences for the people of Iran. Those officials in the Bush Administration who advocated and implemented covert operations “think in Iran you can just go in and hit the facilities and destabilize the government,” explains a former CIA official. “They believe they can get rid of a few crazy mullahs and bring in the young guys who like Gap jeans, [and] all the world’s problems are solved. I think it’s delusional.” (11)
Gregory Elich is the author of Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit. Gregory Elich is a frequent Global Research contributor.
1. William Lowther and Colin Freeman, “US Funds Terror Groups to Sow Chaos in Iran,” Sunday Telegraph (London), February 25, 2007.
2. “Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO), Global Security.org Syed Saleem Shahzad, “Sleeping Forces Stir in Iran,” Asia Times, June 26, 2003.Gian Marco Chiocci and Alessia Marani, “Iranian Mujaheddin Gather Funds in Italy,” Il Giornale (Milan), October 2, 2006.
3. Ernesto Londono and Saad al-Izzi, “Iraq Intensifies Efforts to Expel Iranian Group,” Washington Post, March 14, 2007.
4. Larisa Alexandrovna, “On Cheney, Rumsfeld Order, US Outsourcing Special Ops, Intelligence to Iraq Terror Group, Intelligence Officials Say,” The Raw Story, April 13, 2006.
5. Seymour Hersh, “The Next Act,” New Yorker, November 27, 2006.
6. James Brandon, “PJAK Claims Fresh Attacks in Iran,” Global Terrorism Analysis, March 6, 2007.
7. Ali Akbar Dareini, “Explosion Kills 11 Members of Iran’s Elite Revolutionary Guards,” Associated Press, February 14, 2007.
8. Broadcast, Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (Teheran), February 17, 2007.
9. Richard Sale, “Cat and Mouse Game Over Iran,” UPI, January 26, 2005.
10. Guy Dinmore, “US Marines Probe Tensions Among Iran’s Minorities,” Financial Times (London), February 23, 2006.
11. Julian Borger and Ian Traynor, “Now US Ponders Attack on Iran,” The Guardian (London), January 18, 2005.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
As we all await the Petraeus Report on the state of the surge, we may also need to be anticipating the Allawi Coup. I'm talking, of course about Ayad Allawi, longtime C.I.A. asset and former interim prime minister of Iraq. He's making quite the PR push to get his old job back, penning an op-ed for the Washington Post, hooking up with Wolf Blitzer on Late Edition on Sunday, and even putting the high-powered GOP lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers on a $300,000 retainer.
It says everything you need to know about who the true power holders in Iraq are that Allawi, who has a "six-point plan" for Iraq that involves replacing the current Prime Minister, is campaigning in Washington -- not Baghdad. He clearly knows that despite Bush's bathetic paeans to Iraqi sovereignty, the real deciders in Iraq are not the Iraqi people, but a few dozen folks in the White House and the Pentagon. They are Allawi's true constituency.
So where does the White House stand on the idea of Allawi replacing current embattled prime minister Nouri al-Maliki? Well, it depends on whether you think Mitch McConnell was freelancing on Fox News Sunday when he jumped on the bash-Maliki bandwagon, calling the Maliki-led Iraqi government "pretty much a disaster" -- or whether you think he was performing his familiar function as White House water carrier.
Could the White House be seeing in the blame-Maliki-for-the-disaster-in-Iraq meme an opportunity replace the sputtering "give the surge a chance" plan with a "give Allawi a chance" plan?
Let's go to the Blitzer-Allawi interview to see what such a move would mean for the White House.
For starters, Allawi told Blitzer that his "six points call for a full partnership with the United States" and that his "objective is to develop a plan to save Iraq and to save American lives, as well as, of course, Iraqi lives, and to save the American mission in Iraq." Full Partnership? Save the American mission? Surely, music to the White House's ears. And it was good of him to toss in those Iraqi lives -- of course.
So what would an Allawi takeover mean in terms of U.S. troops remaining in Iraq? "If we talk around the region of two to two-and-a-half years," Allawi told Blitzer, "I think we are in the right direction." Who needs Petraeus buying the administration another few months with his report when the Allawi coup can buy them another two-and-a-half years?
And the White House doesn't have to worry about Allawi knowing his lines -- he's already memorized the playbook. When Blitzer asked him when the United States might be able to start reducing our presence in Iraq, Allawi responded with a Bush classic: "As soon as the Iraqi forces are able to stand on their feet and provide security for the Iraqis I think the draw-down should start." Ah: When they stand up, we can stand down! Misty water-colored memories. Being away from Iraq so much, I guess Allawi missed all those reports about the repeated failure of Iraqi forces to "stand on their feet."
So exactly how would an Allawi-for-Maliki switch occur? Allawi says he wants to proceed by "democratic means." But after being appointed interim prime minister by the U.S.-led coalition in June of 2004, Allawi had six months to campaign before the January 2005 legislative elections. He came in third with 14% of the vote.
When Blitzer asked Allawi who is paying for the $300,000 Barbour Griffith & Rogers lobbying contract, Allawi wouldn't say. He was only willing to disclose that the "payment is made by an Iraqi person who was a supporter of us, of the INA, of myself, of our program, and he has supported this wholeheartedly, without any strings attached."
As Spencer Ackerman of TPMmuckracker wrote, perhaps it's being financed by Allawi's old buddy Hazem Shaalan, who Allawi appointed as his defense minister. Shaalan is currently fighting charges that he stole $1 billion from the Iraqi defense budget (out of a total of $1.3 billion). That's some way to endear yourself to the Iraqi people.
Allawi and Shaalan are also closely tied to the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, which is funded and controlled by the C.I.A. and which has been a persistent thorn in relations between the U.S. and Maliki.
Meanwhile, we'll have to see whether Barbour Griffith & Rogers' lobbying will be as effective with administration officials as it has been with Washington's media gatekeepers. Last week, Bush issued a tepid defense of Maliki, saying he is "a good guy, a good man with a difficult job, and I support him." Hmm, didn't he say the same thing about Alberto Gonzales? And Don Rumsfeld?
While I was working on this post, I got a call from John Cusack, who had watched Blitzer's interview with Allawi from Berlin, where he is making a movie. He was stunned by Blitzer's remark to Allawi, after he had read him Maliki's quote about Iraq being able to "find friends elsewhere": "Those words," Blitzer said, "were seen here in Washington as pretty biting, given the enormous amount of support the United States has provided Iraq over these years."
"Can you imagine?" Cusack told me. "We invade their country, an invasion that has resulted in over 100,000 -- and maybe as many as 650,000 -- Iraqi civilians dead; 2 million Iraqis having fled the country, with 1.14 million displaced from their homes within Iraq; and tens of thousands of Iraqis detained -- with many of them tortured. After that 'enormous amount of support,' Iraqis have the temerity to complain?"
Talk about ingratitude. I bet Allawi would never bite the hand that feeds -- and bombs -- him.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
George Bush, speaking before yet another military audience, yesterday delivered what might actually be the most disturbing speech of his presidency, in which he issued more overt war threats than ever before towards Iran:
The other strain of radicalism in the Middle East is Shia extremism, supported and embodied by the regime that sits in Tehran. Iran has long been a source of trouble in the region. It is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. Iran backs Hezbollah who are trying to undermine the democratic government of Lebanon. Iran funds terrorist groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which murder the innocent, and target Israel, and destabilize the Palestinian territories. Iran is sending arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan, which could be used to attack American and NATO troops. Iran has arrested visiting American scholars who have committed no crimes and pose no threat to their regime. And Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.Leave aside all of the dubious premises -- the fact that the U.S. is supposed to consider Iran "the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism" because of its support for groups that are hostile to Israel; that Iran is arming its longstanding Taliban enemies; that Iran is some sort of threat to Iraq's future even though it is an ally of Iraq's government; and that Iran's detention of American-Iranians inside its own country is anything other than retaliation for our own equally pointless detention of Iranians inside of Iraq, to say nothing of a whole slew of other provacative acts we have recently undertaken towards Iran. Leave all of that aside for the moment.
Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. And that is why the United States is rallying friends and allies around the world to isolate the regime, to impose economic sanctions. We will confront this danger before it is too late (Applause.)
Viewed through the prism of presidential jargon, Bush's vow -- "We will confront this danger before it is too late" -- is synonymous with a pledge to attack Iran unless our array of demands are met. He is unmistakably proclaiming that unless Iran gives up its nuclear program and fundamentally changes its posture in the Middle East, "we will confront this danger." What possible scenario could avert this outcome?
By now it is unmistakably clear that it is not only -- or even principally -- Iran's nuclear program that is fueling these tensions. As Scott Ritter and others have long pointed out, the fear-mongering warnings about an Iranian "nuclear holocaust" (obviously redolent of Condoleezza Rice's Iraqi smoking gun "mushroom cloud") is but the pretext for achieving the true goal -- regime change in Tehran. Bush all but said so yesterday:
We seek an Iran whose government is accountable to its people -- instead of to leaders who promote terror and pursue the technology that could be used to develop nuclear weapons.In other words, we "seek" a new government in Iran. Are there really people left who believe, with confidence, that Bush is going to leave office without commencing or provoking a military confrontation with Iran?
Bush also added: "I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities." To underscore the fact that this is not mere rhetoric, the U.S. military in Iraq, following Bush's speech, arrested and detained eight Iranian energy experts meeting in Baghdad with the Iraqi government -- handcuffing, blindfolding, and interrogating them -- only to then release them when the Iraqi government protested. The path we are on -- with 160,000 of our troops in Iran's neighbor, escalating war-threatening rhetoric, and increasingly provocative acts -- is obviously the path to war.
The Iraq debate is over, at least from the perspective of actual results. It has been over for some time. The Congress is never going to force Bush to withdraw from Iraq. We are going to remain in Iraq in more or less the same posture through the end of the Bush presidency. That is just a fait accompli. The real issue of grave importance that remains unresolved is Iran, and it is hard to find causes for optimism there either.
There are, of course, significant steps that the Congress could take to impose at least some restraints on the Bush administration's ability to attack Iran unilaterally. It could make clear that the existing Iraq AUMF does not include authorization to attack Iran inside Iranian territory. It could enact legislation requiring Congressional approval before an attack on Iran is authorized. It could make clear that no funding will be available for any such attack in the absence of a Resolution authorizing a new war.
But all of that is exceedingly unlikely. The Bush administration is obviously aware of how weak the Congress is. Even the most mild of those measures -- an amendment which would merely have required Congressional authorization before the administration attacks Iran -- was meekly withdrawn by Democratic House leaders back in May because, as The Hill reported, Israeli-centric Congressmen and AIPAC itself "lobbied heavily to remove the Iran provision in the supplemental."
That happened a mere three months ago. Last month, the Senate unanimously passed a Lieberman-sponsored resolution gratuitously accusing Iran of acts of war against the U.S. -- a resolution with no purpose other than to strengthen the case for war against Iran. Clearly, Congress can (or at least will) do nothing to restrain the White House.
More disturbingly still, we have the same exact cast of neoconservative warmongers who brought us the invasion of Iraq, now chirping away ever more loudly, performing their tough guy war dances while courageously beating their little chests and urging on new wars.
More explicit war demands are now issuing from the warped though representative likes of Max Boot (of the Council on Foreign Relations, The LA Times, and Norm Podhoretz's Commentary Magazine) -- who wants to invade Syria and bomb the Damascus airport -- and then fueled by fresh-faced war cheerleaders like James Kirchick, who simultaneously (and revealingly) serves as Marty Peretz's assistant and writes both for the "liberal" New Republic and Podhoretz's Commentary blog. Yesterday, Kirchick -- who has convinced himself and then publicly announced that his desire to send other people off to war proves how much "grit" he has -- swaggered up and showed real grit by proclaiming:
Max is right on the crucial point, which is that Syria and Iran have effectively declared war on us. Make of that what you will. But it's not "warmongering" to simply state the fact that two rogue states are themselves complicit in unwarranted acts of warmongering against the United States and a nascent democracy in the Middle East.They want a war not only with Iran, but also with Syria -- as do their ideological comrades such as Joe Lieberman, the only person whom Bush quoted yesterday in his speech.
The real tough Max Boot, in responding to Greg Djerejian's arguments that war cries against Syria are based on pure "hysteria," made sure to note yesterday that Djerejian is merely a "a lawyer who works at a financial services company," while Boot's pro-new-wars position is supported not only by Lieberman but also by what he calls "my current colleague at the Council on Foreign Relations, Mike Gerson." Many of our Serious Foreign Policy experts -- and certainly the ones with the greatest influence within the administration -- are fully on board with these new wars.
The groundwork for an attack on Iran is so plainly being laid in the same systematic way as the attack on Iraq was and by the same people. Last week, Djerejian read and then dissected the full "trip report" issued by Pollack and O'Hanlon following their return from Iraq. In addition to including even more propaganda-bolstering claims about Iraq than was found in their Op-Ed, Djerejian noted that the report also recites the most mendacious aspects of the administration's case for war against Iran, including the truly idiotic accusation regarding "Iran's ability to supply al-Qa'ida" -- an accusation so absurd that nobody other than Joe Lieberman has been willing to voice it until now. Yet now it issues from our most Serious Democratic, "liberal" foreign policy "scholars": Iran is arming Al Qaeda.
The true danger here is that even if there would be marginally more political opposition to an attack on Iran than there was for an attack on Iraq -- and surely there would be, perhaps considerably more opposition -- those who favor an attack are still politically strong within the administration. And there simply are no factions which would oppose such an attack that are anywhere near strong enough to stop one. Who and where are they? What are the political factions which have sufficient political strength and who are willing to risk political capital to stop such a confrontation?
By stark and dispositive contrast, those who are pining for an attack on Iran -- from the Weekly Standard to the AEI and various generic warmongers of the Dick Cheney/National Review strain, as well as our most pious evangelical Christian warriors -- are zelaous adherents, True Believers. Bringing about a military confrontation with Iran has always been, and continues to be, their paramount priority.
As but one example, "Democrat" Hiam Saban, who funds the "liberal" Pollack's work at the Brookings Institution as well as any Democratic candidates he can find, described himself thusly: "I'm a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel . . . .On the issues of security and terrorism I am a total hawk."
The two most extremist factions when it comes to the Middle East -- Israel-centric neoconservatives and Christian evangelicals -- have long been telling the President that stopping Iran is his most important mission, the ultimate challenge that history will use to judge his strength, character and conviction. And it is beyond question that those are the groups who continue to hold the greatest sway over the decision-making process of the Commander-in-Chief himself.
Who is going to match the zeal and influence of these warmongers in order to stop them? The notion of attacking Iran may be insane, but it is not considered such by our mainstream establishment. Those who muse about it openly -- Lieberman, McCain, Giuliani, Kristol, Max Boot -- are not considered fringe extremists or unserious radicals, even though they are. Their views are comfortably within what is considered to be the realm of serious and responsible foreign policy advocacy.
As we march step by step with barely a debate towards a confrontation with Iran -- one that neoconservatives have long been proclaiming is inevitable -- are there any meaningful efforts to avert this? We frequently hear the slogan from war critics about Iraq that "hope is not a policy." The same is true with regard to preventing an attack on Iran.
UPDATE: Kimberly Kagan, of our nation's preeminent War Family (speciality: Advocating Wars, not fighting them), has a new report in The Weekly Standard today melodramatically entitled: "The Iran Dossier -- Iraq Report VI: Iran's proxy war against the U.S. in Iraq." Wow, she has a "dossier." Sounds ominous, and very serious.
She alleges that "Iranian-backed insurgents accounted for roughly half the attacks on Coalition forces" and decrees that "Iranian intervention is the next major problem the Coalition must tackle." In other words, we are at war with Iran. One would be remiss if one failed to note that always fueling these efforts is the incomparably gullible "war reporting" of Michael Gordon and his endless series of NYT front page articles designed to legitimize the war case against Iran.
UPDATE II: With his little self-glorifying "grit" routine, James "Jamie" Kirchick is merely reciting what neoconservatives have long said about themselves. Via Propagandee in comments, this amazing passage appeared in Time Magazine all the way back in July, 2004 -- in an article entitled "What to do about Iran":
But just as Tehran is divided over how to deal with Washington, so is Washington split over how to deal with Tehran. The neo-conservative ideologues in the Bush administration have never made any secret of their desire to see the U.S. military pursue "regime change" in Tehran next. "Real men go to Tehran" was one of their playful slogans during the buildup to Operation Iraqi Freedom.That passage contains two critical insights into how our country has functioned over the last six years. Neoconservatives like Kirchick think they become real men by sending others into new wars (with Iran as the ultimate prize), while our leading media organs consider such twisted militarism to be "playful."
“This October 22-26, I am declaring Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week,” declared David Horowitz Tuesday in a friendly interview on www.FrontpageMag.com, one of Horowitz’s many front groups. “I will hold demonstrations and protests, teach-ins and sit-ins on more than 100 college campuses. Our theme will be the Oppression of Women in Islam and the threat posed by the Islamic crusade [????] against the West.”
Horowitz, who, along with Frank Gaffney, James Woolsey, and Rick Santorum has played a truly vanguard role in the “Islamo-Fascism” movement, apparently has few doubts about his impact. “During the week of October 22-26, 2007, the nation will be rocked by the biggest conservative campus protest ever – Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, a wake-up call for Americans on 200 university and college campuses.” The event will confront the two “Big Lies of the political left:” that “George Bush created the war on terror and that Global Warming is a greater danger to Americans than the terrorist threat.” In fact, according to Horowitz, Islamo-fascism constitutes “the greatest danger Americans have ever confronted.”
Horowitz, president of the David Horowitz Freedom Center (previously the Center for the Study of Popular Culture) editor-in-chief of FrontPageMag.com, and founder of Students for Academic Freedom, is, of course, a former leading New Leftist who has found fame and fortune – he made $352,647 in 2005, according to tax records – on the extreme right and has done particularly well since 9/11 when he got in on the “Islamo-fascist” ground floor.
“Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week,” according to Horowitz will be a “national effort …to rally American students to defend their country” and will feature “memorial services for the victims of Islamic terror both in America and around the globe” (the guide suggests putting up crosses to commemorate victims presumably regardless of their religion); sit-ins (Horowitz suggests the office of the Women’s Studies Department or the campus Women’s Centers “to protest their silence about the oppression of women in Islam”) teach-ins on ‘’The Oppression of Women in Islam;” “a student petition denouncing Islamo-Fascist violence against women, gays, Christians, Jews and non-religious people” (and press releases at the ready if Muslim student groups, campus administrators, or student government officers fail to sign); and prominent speakers, such as the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Ayan Hirsi Ali, columnist Mark Steyn, Frank Gaffney, Daniel Pipes, Rick Santorum, as well as Horowitz himself.
In addition, participants will distribute pamphlets on Islamo-Fascism, including “The Islamic Mein Kampf,” “Why Israel is the Victim,” “Jimmy Carter’s War Against the Jews,” “And What Every American Needs to Know About Jihad.” Films to be shown include “Suicide Killers,” “Obsession” (about which my colleague, Khody Akhavi, wrote earlier this year), or “Islam: What the West Needs to Know.” For the films, Horowitz advises campus organizers to invite a “local radio host or other local figure to introduce the film and possibly moderate a discussion on it afterwards.” Organizers are encouraged to request funding from the student government. If is not forthcoming, according to the Guide, “it will prove the hypocrisy of your university’s claim to be committed to intellectual diversity and academic freedom.” Other possible funders and sponsors include Young Americans Foundation, the Leadership Institute, the campus College Republican club and Hillel,
The program clearly models itself after strategies employed by left-wing radicals in the 1960s and 1970s but is careful to protect the campus rules and local laws that Horowitz’s ideological enemies on the left would blatantly disregard. Organizers of the sit-ins are explicitly warned not to obstruct university operations or violate university rules. As my colleague, Eli Clifton noted, it combines some of the hardware of the 1960s student movement with the software of Horowitz’s hard-right – dare one say it? Islamophobic — ideology.
According to tax records obtained through the Foundation Center, Horowitz has been the beneficiary in recent years of a number of far-right foundations, including the Allegheny ($575,000 since 2001), Carthage ($125,000) and Sarah Scaife Foundations ($800,000) – all three are part of Richard Scaife’s empire and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation (nearly $1.3 million). The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation ($475,000) also contributed nearly $500,000 to Horowitz’s enterprises over the same period.
The United States has the capacity for and may be prepared to launch without warning a massive assault on Iranian uranium enrichment facilities, as well as government buildings and infrastructure, using long-range bombers and missiles, according to a new analysis.
The paper, "Considering a war with Iran: A discussion paper on WMD in the Middle East" – written by well-respected British scholar and arms expert Dr. Dan Plesch, Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, and Martin Butcher, a former Director of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) and former adviser to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament – was exclusively provided to RAW STORY late Friday under embargo.
"We wrote the report partly as we were surprised that this sort of quite elementary analysis had not been produced by the many well resourced Institutes in the United States," wrote Plesch in an email to Raw Story on Tuesday.
Plesch and Butcher examine "what the military option might involve if it were picked up off the table and put into action" and conclude that based on open source analysis and their own assessments, the US has prepared its military for a "massive" attack against Iran, requiring little contingency planning and without a ground invasion.
The study concludes that the US has made military preparations to destroy Iran’s WMD, nuclear energy, regime, armed forces, state apparatus and economic infrastructure within days if not hours of President George W. Bush giving the order. The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely. The US retains the option of avoiding war, but using its forces as part of an overall strategy of shaping Iran’s actions.
- Any attack is likely to be on a massive multi-front scale but avoiding a ground invasion. Attacks focused on WMD facilities would leave Iran too many retaliatory options, leave President Bush open to the charge of using too little force and leave the regime intact.
- US bombers and long range missiles are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours.
- US ground, air and marine forces already in the Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan can devastate Iranian forces, the regime and the state at short notice.
- Some form of low level US and possibly UK military action as well as armed popular resistance appear underway inside the Iranian provinces or ethnic areas of the Azeri, Balujistan, Kurdistan and Khuzestan. Iran was unable to prevent sabotage of its offshore-to-shore crude oil pipelines in 2005.
- Nuclear weapons are ready, but most unlikely, to be used by the US, the UK and Israel. The human, political and environmental effects would be devastating, while their military value is limited.
- Israel is determined to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons yet has the conventional military capability only to wound Iran’s WMD programmes.
- The attitude of the UK is uncertain, with the Brown government and public opinion opposed psychologically to more war, yet, were Brown to support an attack he would probably carry a vote in Parliament. The UK is adamant that Iran must not acquire the bomb.
- The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely. The US retains the option of avoiding war, but using its forces as part of an overall strategy of shaping Iran’s actions.
When asked why the paper seems to indicate a certainty of Iranian WMD, Plesch made clear that "our paper is not, repeat not, about what Iran actually has or not." Yet, he added that "Iran certainly has missiles and probably some chemical capability."
Most significantly, Plesch and Butcher dispute conventional wisdom that any US attack on Iran would be confined to its nuclear sites. Instead, they foresee a "full-spectrum approach," designed to either instigate an overthrow of the government or reduce Iran to the status of "a weak or failed state." Although they acknowledge potential risks and impediments that might deter the Bush administration from carrying out such a massive attack, they also emphasize that the administration's National Security Strategy includes as a major goal the elimination of Iran as a regional power. They suggest, therefore, that:
This wider form of air attack would be the most likely to delay the Iranian nuclear program for a sufficiently long period of time to meet the administration’s current counterproliferation goals. It would also be consistent with the possible goal of employing military action is to overthrow the current Iranian government, since it would severely degrade the capability of the Iranian military (in particular revolutionary guards units and other ultra-loyalists) to keep armed opposition and separatist movements under control. It would also achieve the US objective of neutralizing Iran as a power in the region for many years to come.
However, it is the option that contains the greatest risk of increased global tension and hatred of the United States. The US would have few, if any allies for such a mission beyond Israel (and possibly the UK). Once undertaken, the imperatives for success would be enormous.
Butcher says he does not believe the US would use nuclear weapons, with some exceptions.
"My opinion is that [nuclear weapons] wouldn't be used unless there was definite evidence that Iran has them too or is about to acquire them in a matter of days/weeks," notes Butcher. "However, the Natanz facility has been so hardened that to destroy it MAY require nuclear weapons, and once an attack had started it may simply be a matter of following military logic and doctrine to full extent, which would call for the use of nukes if all other means failed."
The bulk of the paper is devoted to a detailed analysis of specific military strategies for such an attack, of ongoing attempts to destabilize Iran by inciting its ethnic minorities, and of the considerations surrounding the possible employment of nuclear weapons.
In particular, Plesch and Butcher examine what is known as Global Strike – the capability to project military power from the United States to anywhere in the world, which was announced by STRATCOM as having initial operational capability in December 2005. It is the that capacity that could provide strategic bombers and missiles to devastate Iran on just a few hours notice.
Iran has a weak air force and anti aircraft capability, almost all of it is 20-30 years old and it lacks modern integrated communications. Not only will these forces be rapidly destroyed by US air power, but Iranian ground and air forces will have to fight without protection from air attack.
British military sources stated on condition of anonymity, that "the US military switched its whole focus to Iran" from March 2003. It continued this focus even though it had infantry bogged down in fighting the insurgency in Iraq.
Global Strike could be combined with already-existing "regional operational plans for limited war with Iran, such as Oplan 1002-04, for an attack on the western province of Kuzhestan, or Oplan 1019 which deals with preventing Iran from closing the Straits of Hormuz, and therefore keeping open oil lanes vital to the US economy."
The Marines are not all tied down fighting in Iraq. Several Marine forces are assembling in the Gulf, each with its own aircraft carrier. These carrier forces can each conduct a version of the D-Day landings. They come with landing craft, tanks, jump-jets, thousands of troops and hundreds more cruise missiles. Their task is to destroy Iranian forces able to attack oil tankers and to secure oilfields and installations. They have trained for this mission since the Iranian revolution of 1979 as is indicated in this battle map of Hormuz illustrating an advert for combat training software.
Special Forces units – which are believed to already be operating within Iran – would be available to carry out search-and-destroy missions and incite internal uprisings, while US Army units in both Iraq and Afghanistan could mount air and missile attacks on Iranian forces, which are heavily concentrated along the Iran-Iraq border, as well as protecting their own supply lines within Iraq:
A key assessment in any war with Iran concerns Basra province and the Kuwait border. It is likely that Iran and its sympathizers could take control of population centres and interrupt oil supplies, if it was in their interest to do so. However it is unlikely that they could make any sustained effort against Kuwait or interrupt supply lines north from Kuwait to central Iraq. US firepower is simply too great for any Iranian conventional force.
Experts question the report's conclusions
Former CIA analyst and Deputy Director for Transportation Security, Antiterrorism Assistance Training, and Special Operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism, Larry Johnson, does not agree with the report’s findings.
"The report seems to accept without question that US air force and navy bombers could effectively destroy Iran and they seem to ignore the fact that US use of air power in Iraq has failed to destroy all major military, political, economic and transport capabilities," said Johnson late Monday after the embargo on the study had been lifted.
"But at least in their conclusions they still acknowledge that Iran, if attacked, would be able to retaliate. Yet they are vague in terms of detailing the extent of the damage that the Iran is capable of inflicting on the US and fairly assessing what those risks are."
There is also the situation of US soldiers in Iraq and the supply routes that would have to be protected to ensure that US forces had what they needed. Plesch explains that “"firepower is an effective means of securing supply routes during conventional war and in conventional war a higher loss rate is expected."
"However as we say do not assume that the Iraqi Shiia will rally to Tehran – the quietist Shiia tradition favoured by Sistani may regard itself as justified if imploding Iranian power can be argued to reduce US problems in Iraq, not increase them."
John Pike, Director of Global Security, a Washington-based military, intelligence, and security clearinghouse, says that the question of Iraq is the one issue at the center of any questions regarding Iran.
"The situation in Iraq is a wild card, though it may be presumed that Iran would mount attacks on the US at some remove, rather than upsetting the apple-cart in its own front yard," wrote Pike in an email.
Plesch and Butcher write with concern about the political context within the United States:
This debate is bleeding over into the 2008 Presidential election, with evidence mounting that despite the public unpopularity of the war in Iraq, Iran is emerging as an issue over which Presidential candidates in both major American parties can show their strong national security bona fides. ...
The debate on how to deal with Iran is thus occurring in a political context in the US that is hard for those in Europe or the Middle East to understand. A context that may seem to some to be divorced from reality, but with the US ability to project military power across the globe, the reality of Washington DC is one that matters perhaps above all else. ...
We should not underestimate the Bush administration's ability to convince itself that an "Iran of the regions" will emerge from a post-rubble Iran. So, do not be in the least surprised if the United States attacks Iran. Timing is an open question, but it is hard to find convincing arguments that war will be avoided, or at least ones that are convincing in Washington.
Plesch and Butcher are also interested in the attitudes of the current UK government, which has carefully avoided revealing what its position might be in the case of an attack. They point out, however, "One key caution is that regardless of the realities of Iran’s programme, the British public and elite may simply refuse to participate – almost out of bloody minded revenge for the Iraq deceit."
And they conclude that even "if the attack is 'successful' and the US reasserts its global military dominance and reduces Iran to the status of an oil-rich failed state, then the risks to humanity in general and to the states of the Middle East are grave indeed."
Larisa Alexandrovna is managing editor of investigative news for Raw Story and regularly reports on intelligence and national security stories. Contact: email@example.com
Muriel Kane is research director for Raw Story.