March 17, 2009

The Threat Of A Good Example? Iran

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution, Ervand Abrahamian, author of A History of Modern Iran, asks, in Middle East Report, why has the Islamic Republic survived? His answer may surprise you. It surprised me (excerpt):

The real answer lies not in religion, but in economic and social populism. By the early 1970s, Iran had produced a generation of radical intelligentsia that was revolutionary not only in its politics — wanting to replace the monarchy with a republic — but in its economic and social outlook. It wanted to transform the class structure root and branch. The trailblazer was a young intellectual named Ali Shariati, who did not live to see the revolution but whose teachings fueled the revolutionary movement. Inspired by the Algerians, Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh, Shariati spent his short life reinterpreting Shi‘ism as a revolutionary ideology and synthesizing it with Marxism. He produced what can be termed a Shi‘i version of Catholic liberation theology. His teachings struck a chord not just among college and high school students, but also among younger seminary students...Most of those who organized demonstrations and confrontations in the streets and bazaars during the turbulent months of 1978 were college and high school students inspired mainly by Shariati. His catch phrases — which had more in common with Third World populism than with conventional Shi‘ism — found their way, sometimes via Khomeini, into slogans and banners displayed throughout the revolution. Typical of them were: [...]
Islam belongs to the oppressed, not the oppressors!

Oppressed of the world unite! [...]

Islam is for equality and social justice!

Islam represents the slum dwellers, not the palace dwellers! [...]

Islam comes from the masses, not the rich! [...]

Islam will free the hungry from the clutches of the rich! [...]

The poor die for the revolution, the rich plot against it! [...]

This populism helps explain not only the success of the revolution but also the continued survival of the Islamic Republic. The Republic's constitution — with 175 clauses — transformed these general aspirations into specific inscribed promises. It pledged to eliminate poverty, illiteracy, slums and unemployment. It also vowed to provide the population with free education, accessible medical care, decent housing, pensions, disability pay and unemployment insurance. "The government," the constitution declared, "has a legal obligation to provide the aforementioned services to every individual in the country." In short, the Islamic Republic promised to create a full-fledged welfare state — in its proper European, rather than derogatory American, sense.

In the three decades since the revolution, the Islamic Republic — despite its poor image abroad — has taken significant steps toward fulfilling these promises. It has done so by giving priority to social rather than military expenditures, and thus dramatically expanding the Ministries of Education, Health, Agriculture, Labor, Housing, Welfare and Social Security. The military consumed as much as 18 percent of the gross domestic product in the last years of the shah. Now it takes up as little as 4 percent. [...]

In three decades the regime has come close to eliminating illiteracy among the post-revolutionary generations, reducing the overall rate from 53 percent to 15 percent. The rate among women has fallen from 65 percent to 20 percent...The percentage of women in university student populations has gone up from 30 percent to 62 percent. Thanks to medical clinics, life expectancy at birth has increased from 56 to 70, and infant mortality has decreased from 104 to 25 per 1,000. Also thanks to medical clinics, the birth rate has fallen from an all-time high of 3.2 to 2.1, and the fertility rate — the average number of children born to a woman in her lifetime — from 7 to 3. It is expected to fall further to 2 by 2012 — in other words, Iran in the near future will achieve near zero population growth.

The Islamic Republic has bridged the chasm between urban and rural life in part by raising the prices of agricultural goods relative to other commodities and in part by introducing schools, medical clinics, roads, electricity and piped water into the countryside. For the first time ever, villagers can afford consumer goods, even motorbikes and pickup trucks. According to one economist who, on the whole, is critical of the regime, 80 percent of rural households own refrigerators, 77 percent televisions and 76 percent gas stoves. Some 220,000 peasant families, moreover, have received 850,000 hectares of land confiscated from the old elite. They, together with the some 660,000 families who had obtained land under the earlier White Revolution, form a substantial rural class that has benefited not only from these new social services but also from state-subsidized cooperatives and protective tariff walls. This class provides the regime with a rural social base.

The regime has also tackled problems of the urban poor. It has replaced slums with low-income housing, beautified the worst districts and extended electricity, water and sewage lines to working-class districts. As an American journalist highly critical of the regime's economic policies admits, "Iran has become a modern country with few visible signs of squalor." What is more, it has supplemented the income of the underclass — both rural and urban — by generously subsidizing bread, fuel, gas, heat, electricity, medicines and public transport. The regime may not have eradicated poverty nor appreciatively narrowed the gap between rich and poor but it has provided the underclass with a safety net. In the words of the same independent-minded economist, "Poverty has declined to an enviable level for middle-income developing countries."

Not exactly the picture we get in mainstream media.

Some things just can't be said out loud. Not in American public life. We are fed a cartoon version of history and current affairs. It makes us coarse and stupid.

Not to say that Iran is a paradise or the Iranians saints. But neither is Iran a hell and the Iranians devils. But there's a taboo against saying so.

[Thanks, Miles]

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December 14, 2007

"Iraq Doesn't Exist Anymore" Afghanistan  Iran  Iraq  Palestine/Middle East

From an excellent interview with Nir Rosen:

Question: Is the "surge" working as Bush claims or is the sudden lull in the violence due to other factors like demographic changes in Baghdad?

Nir Rosen: I think that even calling it a surge is misleading. A surge is fast; this took months. It was more like an ooze. The US barely increased the troop numbers. It mostly just forced beleaguered American soldiers to stay longer. At the same time, the US doubled their enemies because, now, they're not just fighting the Sunni militias but the Shiite Mahdi army also.

No, I don't think the surge worked. Objectively speaking, the violence is down in Baghdad, but that's mainly due to the failure of the US to establish security. That's not success.

Sure, less people are being killed but that's because there are less people to kill.

The violence in Iraq was not senseless or crazy, it was logical and teleological. Shiite militias were trying to remove Sunnis from Baghdad and other parts of the country, while Sunni militias were trying to remove Shiites, Kurds and Christians from their areas. This has been a great success. So you have millions of refugees and millions more internally displaced, not to mention hundreds of thousands dead. There are just less people to kill.

Moreover, the militias have consolidated their control over some areas. The US never thought that Muqtada al Sadr would order his Mahdi Army to halt operations (against Sunnis, rival Shiites and Americans) so that he could put his house in order and remove unruly militiamen. And, the US never expected that Sunnis would see that they were losing the civil war so they might as well work with the Americans to prepare for the next battle.

More importantly, violence fluctuates during a civil war, so people try to maintain as much normalcy in their lives as possible. It's the same in Sarajevo, Beirut or Baghdad — people marry, party, go to school when they can — and hide at home or fight when they must.

The euphoria we see in the American media reminds me of the other so-called milestones that came and went while the overall trend in Iraq stayed the same. Now Iraq doesn't exist anymore. Thats the most important thing to remember. There is no Iraq. There is no Iraqi government and none of the underlying causes for the violence have been addressed, such as the mutually exclusive aspirations of the rival factions and communities in Iraq. [...]

Question: The media rarely mentions the 4 million refugees created by the Iraq war. What do you think the long-term effects of this humanitarian crisis will be?

Nir Rosen: Well, the smartest Iraqis — the best educated, the professionals, the middle and upper classes — have all left or been killed. So the society is destroyed. So there is no hope for a non-sectarian Iraq now.

The refugees are getting poorer and more embittered. Their children cannot get an education and their resources are limited. Look at the Palestinian refugee crisis. In 1948 you had about 800,000 Palestinians expelled from their homes and driven into Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East. Over time, they were politicized, mobilized and militarized. The militias they formed to liberate their homeland were manipulated by the governments in the region and they became embroiled in regional conflicts, internal conflicts and, tragically, conflicts with each other. They were massacred in Lebanon and Jordan. And, contributed to instability in those countries.

Now you have camps in Lebanon producing jihadists who go to fight in Iraq or who fight the Lebanese Army. And this is all from a population of just 800,000 mostly rural, religiously-homogeneous (Sunni) refugees.

Now, you have 2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, a million in Jordan and many more in other parts of the Middle East. The Sunnis and Shiites already have ties to the militias. They are often better educated, urban, and have accumulated some material wealth. These refugees are increasingly sectarian and are presently living in countries with a delicate sectarian balance and very fragile regimes. Many of the refugees will probably link up with Islamic groups and threaten the regimes of Syria and Jordan. They're also likely to exacerbate sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

They're also bound to face greater persecution as they "wear out their welcome" and put a strain on the country's resources.

They'll probably form into militias and either try go home or attempt to overthrow the regimes in the region. Borders will change and governments will fall. A new generation of fighters will emerge and there'll be more attacks on Americans.

Question: You have compared Iraq to Mogadishu. Could you elaborate?

Nir Rosen: Somalia hasn't had a government since 1991. I've been to Mogadishu twice. Its ruled by warlords who control their own fiefdoms. Those who have money can live reasonably well. That's what it's like in Iraq now — a bunch of independent city-states ruled by various militias — including the American militia and British militias.

Of course, Somalia is not very important beyond the Horn of Africa. It's bordered by the sea, Kenya and Ethiopia. There's no chance of the fighting in Somalia spreading into a regional war. Iraq is much more dangerous in that respect.

Question: Is the immediate withdrawal of all US troops really the best option for Iraq?

Nir Rosen: It really doesn't matter whether the Americans stay or leave. There are no good options for Iraq; no solutions. The best we can hope for is that the conflict won't spread....The civil war has already been fought and won in many places, mainly by the Shiite militias.

The Americans are still the occupying force, which means that they must continue to repress people that didn't want them there in the first place. But, then, if you were to ask a Sunni in Baghdad today what would happen if the Americans picked up and left, he'd probably tell you that the remaining Sunnis would be massacred. So, there's no "right answer" to your question about immediate withdrawal. [...]

Question: The US-led war in Afghanistan is not going well. The countryside is controlled by the warlords, the drug trade is flourishing, and America's man in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, has little power beyond the capital. The Taliban has regrouped and is methodically capturing city after city in the south. Their base of support, among disenchanted Pashtuns, continues to grow. How important is it for the US to succeed in Afghanistan? Would failure threaten the future of NATO or the Transatlantic Alliance?

Nir Rosen: Although the US has lost in Afghanistan; what really matters is Pakistan. That's where the Taliban and al Qaeda are actually located. No, I'm NOT saying that the US should take the war into Pakistan. The US has already done enough damage. But as long as America oppresses and alienates Muslims; they will continue to fight back. [...]

Question: The US military is seriously over-stretched. Still, many political analysts believe that Bush will order an aerial assault on Iran. Do you think the US will carry out a "Lebanon-type" attack on Iran; bombing roads, bridges, factories, government buildings, oil depots, Army bases, munitions dumps, airports and nuclear sites? Will Iran retaliate or simply lend their support to resistance fighters in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Nir Rosen: I think it's quite likely that Bush will attack Iran; not because he has a good reason to, but because Jesus or God told him to and because Iran is part of the front-line resistance (along with Hizballah, Syria and Hamas) to American hegemony in the region. Bush believes nobody will have the balls to go after the Iranians after him. He believes that history will vindicate him and he'll be looked up to as a hero, like Reagan.

There is also a racist element in this. Bush thinks that Iran is a culture based on honor and shame. He believes that if you humiliate the Iranian regime, then the people will rise up and overthrow it. Of course, in reality, when you bomb a country the people end up hating you and rally around the regime. Just look at the reaction of the Serbs after the bombing by NATO, or the Americans after September 11. [...]

Question: Bush's war on terror now extends from the southern border of Somalia to the northern tip of Afghanistan — from Africa, through the Middle East into Central Asia. The US has not yet proven — in any of these conflicts — that it can enforce its will through military means alone. In fact, in every case, the military appears to be losing ground. And it's not just the military that's bogged down either. Back in the United States, the economy is rapidly deteriorating. The dollar is falling, the housing market is collapsing, consumer spending is shrinking, and the country's largest investment banks are bogged down with over $200 billion in mortgage-backed debt. Given the current state of the military and the economy, do you see any way that the Bush administration can prevail in the war on terror or is US power in a state of irreversible decline?

Nir Rosen: Terror is a tactic; so you can't go to war with it in the first place. You can only go to war with people or nations. To many people it seems like the US is at war with Muslims. This is just radicalizing more people and eroding America's power and influence in the world. But, then, maybe that's not such a bad thing.

There's a lot more in the original interview. It's worth reading in full.

One thinks of Yeats:

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed...

And one thinks of Humpty Dumpty. This particular Humpty Dumpty won't be put back together again any time soon.

None of this was necessary.

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October 25, 2007

"Like A Madman With A Razor Blade" Iran

The US announced new sanctions today against Iran. Putin's response was interesting. AP (via Cryptogon):

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned strongly Thursday against imposing new international sanctions on Iran, in words that appeared to be a response to newly announced U.S. measures to punish Tehran.

Putin spoke hours after Washington cut off Iranian military and banking institutions from the American financial system. The U.S. said the sanctions were in response to Iran's defiance of U.N. demands to curb its nuclear program and its alleged support for terrorism.

Arriving for a summit with European Union leaders, the Russian leader did not make any direct reference to the U.S. announcement., but he said the standoff with Iran will have to be resolved through patient talks.

"Why worsen the situation and bring it to a dead end by threatening sanctions or military action?" Putin asked. "Running around like a madman with a razor blade, waving it around, is not the best way to resolve the situation."

Russia, which is building Iran's first nuclear power plant, has opposed a new push for a third round of U.N. sanctions over the Iranian defiance of a Security Council demand that it suspend enriching uranium. [...]

Speaking at a news conference after talks with Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva, Putin pointed to the long negotiations with North Korea that led to an agreement earlier this year for that communist nation to begin dismantling its nuclear facilities.

"Not long ago it didn't seem possible to resolve the situation with North Korea's nuclear program, but we have practically solved it relying on peaceful means," he said. [Emphasis added]

Bush famously said he looked Putin in the eye and got "a sense of his soul." Putin seems to have done likewise — and he sees a madman running around waving a razor blade. Which pretty much sums it up.

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October 24, 2007

Dems Suck, Too Iran  Iraq  Politics

The other day, I got a fund-raising call from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). I told the caller I was sick of the Democrats' caving in to Bush on Iraq, Iran, torture, wiretaps, and everything else, and they weren't getting any of my money, and I hung up. What surprised me was how angry I was. I've had it with the Democrats, and I guess I'm angrier than I knew. Chris Floyd is pissed, too:

Outrage follows outrage, surrender follows surrender: Every day the unreality of our political discourse worsens, even as the reality on the ground grows more bitter and uncontainable. As we approach the anniversary of the Democrats' recapture of Congress — an event that was supposed to mark the repudiation of the Bush administration's lawless, blood-soaked enterprise — it is undeniable that the situation is actually worse now than before.

The prospect of a Democratic victory in 2006 was for many people the last, flickering hope that the degradation of the republic could be arrested and reversed within the ordinary bounds of the political system. This was always a fantasy, given the strong bipartisan nature and decades-long cultivation of greed, arrogance and militarism that has now come to its fullest bloom in the Bush administration. But desperation can crack the shell of the most hardened cynic, and no doubt there were few who did not harbor somewhere deep inside at least a small grain of hope against hope that a slap-down at the polls would give the Bush gang pause and confound its worst depredations.

One year on, we can all see how the Democrats have made a mockery of those dreams. Their epic levels of unpopularity are richly deserved. At every step they evoke the remarks of the emperor Tiberius, who, after yet another round of groveling acquiescence from the once-powerful Roman Senate, dismissed them with muttered contempt: "Men fit to be slaves." The record of the present Congress provides copious and irrefutable evidence for this judgment.

After 10 full months of Democratic command in the legislative branch -- 10 full months under the "liberal," "progressive," "antiwar" Democratic leadership -- where are we? The Iraq war, far from being ended or even curtailed, was instead escalated by Bush in the face of popular discontent and establishment unease: the first, and most egregious, Democratic surrender. Bush's illegal spying on Americans was not only not punished, it was formally legitimized by Congress, whose Democratic leaders are now hastening to give their telecom paymasters retroactive immunity for taking part in what they knew to be a massive criminal operation...The Military Commissions Act -- which eviscerated 900 years of habeas corpus, as even Arlen Specter admitted (before slavishly voting for the bill anyway) -- remains on the books, unshaken by the Democrats, despite all the cornpone about "restoring the Constitution" they've dished out for the rubes back home.

And now we stand on the brink of another senseless, useless, baseless war, this time with Iran -- a conflict that, as Juan Cole pointed out on Salon recently, is likely to make the belching hell of Iraq look like a church picnic. Dick Cheney's bellicose outburst Sunday in a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Studies -- a reprise of many similar war dances he performed in the run-up to the unprovoked invasion of Iraq -- takes us one step closer to this new crime. But Cheney's assertions of Persian perfidy -- all of them unsubstantiated, and in the case of the nuclear program, refuted by the IAEA -- were simply the culmination of a remarkable bipartisan campaign of demonization in which the Democrats have actually taken the public lead, repeatedly castigating the administration for not being "tough enough" on Iran, and repeatedly vowing that "all options are on the table" against the mad mullahs. [...]

The Democrats have already overwhelmingly -- and officially -- accepted the administration's arguments for war against Iran. The first on-the-record embrace came in June, on a 97-0 Senate vote in favor of a saber-rattling resolution from Fightin' Joe Lieberman [that] affirmed as official fact all of the specious, unproven, ever-changing allegations of direct Iranian involvement in attacks on the American forces now occupying Iraq. [...]

But even this was not enough. A few weeks later, there was a new resolution, carefully calibrated to mesh with the all-out propaganda blitz surrounding the appearance of Gen. David Petraeus on Fox News in September. (He also put in an appearance on Capitol Hill, it seems.) Once again, the majority of Senate Democrats voted with the monolithic Republicans for yet another Lieberman-sponsored measure, which effectively if not formally authorized military action against Iran by declaring the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard a "foreign terrorist organization" and tying it to attacks on American soldiers in Iraq. [...]

Even the clueless Joe Biden...gets it. He told George Stephanopoulos Sunday that Bush will seize on the resolutions exactly as predicted: "The president's going to stand there and say ... 'Ladies and gentlemen, as the United States Congress voted, they said these guys are terrorists. I moved against them to save American lives.'"

But Bush is not the only president -- or potential president -- who might seize on the Senate votes. Last week -- just a few days before Cheney's speech -- Hillary Clinton weighed in with a "major policy article" in Foreign Affairs that regurgitated the administration's unproven allegations against Iran as indisputable fact. This too is ominous stuff, coming from a strong front-runner who not only is leading in the opinion polls but is also way out in front among an elite constituency whose support is much more important and decisive than that of the hapless hoi polloi: arms dealers. Clinton has surpassed all candidates -- including the hyper-hawkish Republican hopefuls -- in garnering cash payments from the American weapons industry, the Independent reports. Obviously, these masters of war are not expecting any drop-off in profits if Clinton takes the helm.

And indeed, beyond her "all options" thundering at Iran, Clinton has vowed to do the one thing guaranteed to breed more war, more ruin, more suffering, more "collateral damage," more terrorist blowback: keeping American forces in Iraq, come hell or high water. Clinton's "withdrawal" plan calls for retaining an unspecified number of "specialized units" in Iraq to "fight terrorism," train Iraqi forces and protect other American troops carrying out unspecified activities. Is it any wonder that she's the apple of Lockheed Martin's eye?

But in fact, the "antiwar" plans of the other "liberal" candidates -- the "serious" ones, that is -- are remarkably similar. In other words, the Democrats are promising a permanent (or in the current weasel-word jargon, "enduring") U.S. military presence in Iraq -- which of course has been one of the primary war aims of the Bush administration all along (even before it took office). Credible analysis shows that up to a million people or more have been slaughtered in this ghastly enterprise -- and still the Democrats will not act to end it or, God forbid, try to remove its perpetrators from office. Instead they will keep the red wheel of death rolling toward the ever-vanishing horizon. [...]

[The people] turned to the only serious alternative the system provided: the Democrats. And this is what they got: more war, more torture, more tyranny, more corruption, more lies. [Emphasis added]

The game's rigged. Democrats and Republicans pretend to be different by having different positions on abortion and gay marriage. But on issues of war and peace, military spending, government surveillance, and even torture, they're peas in a pod. Fraternal twins. Coke and Pepsi. An exquisite scam: keep people excited about abortion and gay marriage to make them feel like they have a meaningful choice, then ignore what they want on everything that really matters to the Big Money that drives the system.

What's the difference between Democrats and Republicans? Democrats tell different lies to get elected. A pox on both their houses.

[Thanks, Miles]

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October 09, 2007

Waiting On The Decider Iran  Politics

As we wait to see what Bush/Cheney will do vis-a-vis Iran, we read that former Mexican President Vicente Fox calls Bush "quite simply the cockiest man I have ever met in my life," while Bush tells his biographer he's "an October-November man." I.e., we may not have long to wait. David Bromwich:

Once again the president and vice president are ahead of us. Iraq is no longer on their minds. That chapter closed when Petraeus and Crocker administered the sedatives in Washington. Besides, Iraq had become tiresome to George W. Bush. The committee hearings in September were a necessary cover to tie down American soldiers in the Middle East. His excuse was signed by Congress, and now he is home clear.

The dates can only be guessed. November for the triggering incident, December for the trip to the U.N., February for the ultimatum, perhaps March again for the strikes. The repetition would suit his taste for boyish acts of defiance.

Diplomacy, to Bush, is one of those words you had to learn to say in school, like "serious consideration" and "concerted effort." There isn't any glamour in it, no kick. He intends to bomb Iran. He tells us so in every other speech and in everything he doesn't say and doesn't do. [...]

[The Democrats] won a mandate to stop an illegal war, but they let the war be widened; and they are about to consent to another war, before they ask for another mandate.

The president does not wait and he doesn't ask permission. In early February 2007, according to Robert Draper in his biography Dead Certain, Bush was looking to the end of the year, and to Iran: "I'm an October-November man." He had already factored in the pause for the summer, and the soothing September explanations. "The danger," he told Draper, "is that the United States won't stay engaged." But engagement means war: "People come to the office and say, 'Let us promote stability — that's more important.' The problem is that in an ideological war, stability isn't the answer to the root cause of why people kill and terrorize."

The only answer that goes to the root cause, Bush told his biographer, is to add more instability, the right kind of instability. After two wars and a proxy war, none of them yet successful, a lesser man might shrink from further dealing in blood; but in February, Bush was prepared: "I'm not afraid to make decisions."

Soon he will decide again. It is going to happen unless the lawmakers, the media, and those corporations that know they will find a war with Iran the reverse of profitable, overcome their lethargy and admit that this is really happening and decide to stop him. [Emphasis added]

Nobody seems to remark on how crazy it is, in this supposed democracy, that we're all in the dark, awaiting a unilateral decision by the man in the Oval Office. That's not how it's supposed to work. We might as well be Germans wondering what Der Fuhrer has in store for us. Der Fuhrer. The Decider.

[Thanks, Miles]

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October 04, 2007

Heart Of Darkness 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iran  Palestine/Middle East

You can't listen to Neocon éminence grise Norman Podhoretz, our bloodthirsty warmonger-in-chief, who says he "hopes and prays" that the US will bomb Iran, who never shuts up about his fantasy that the US is fighting for its very life in "World War IV" against "Islamofascism" — you can't listen to all his bluster and hyperbole and half-assed machismo and not conclude that the guy's wildly over-compensating for something. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the guy's nuts.

I just didn't realize how nuts. Via Glenn Greenwald, here's an excerpt from an essay of Podhoretz's from 1963, when he was already 33 years old and editor-in-chief of Commentary. It's one of the most appalling things I've ever read:

To me, at the age of twelve, it seemed very clear that Negores were better off than Jews — indeed, than all whites....[I]n my world it was the whites, the Italians and Jews, who feared the Negroes, not the other way around. The Negroes were tougher than we were, more ruthless, and on the whole were better athletes....I was still afraid of Negroes. And I still hated them with all my heart....

The orphanage across the street is torn down, a city housing project begins to rise in its place, and on the marvelous vacant lot next to the old orphanage they are building a playground....A week later, some us are swatting flies on the playground's inadequate little ball field. A gang of Negro kids, pretty much our own age, enter from the other side and order us out of the park. We refuse, proudly and indignantly, with superb masculine fervor. There is a fight, they win, and we retreat, half whimpering, half with bravado. My first nauseating experience of cowardice...

Gradually we abandon the place and use the streets instead. The streets are safer, though we do not admit this to ourselves. We are not, after all, sissies — the most dreaded epithet of an American boyhood...

That day in school the teacher had asked a surly Negro boy named Quentin a question he was unable to answer. As usual I had waved my arm eagerly...and, the right answer bursting from my lips, I was held up lovingly by the teacher as an example to the class. I had seen Quentin's face — a very dark, very cruel, very Oriental-looking face — harden, and there had been enough threat in his eyes to make me run all the way home for fear that he might catch me outside....

For me as a child the life lived on the other side of the playground and down the block on Ralph Avenue seemed the very embodiment of the values of the street — free, independent, reckless, brave, masculine, erotic....

The hatred I still feel for Negroes is the hardest of all the old feelings to face or admit, and it is the most hidden and the most overlarded by the conscious attitudes into which I have succeeded in willing myself. It no longer has, as for me it once did, any cause or justification (except, perhaps that I am constantly being denied my right to an honest expression of the things I earned the right as a child to feel). How, then, do I know that this hatred has never entirely disappeared? I know it from the insane rage that can stir in me at the thought of Negro anti-Semitism; I know it from the disgusting prurience that can stir in me at the sight of a mixed couple; and I know it from the violence that can stir in me whenever I encounter that special brand of paranoid touchiness to which many Negroes are prone....

There were plenty of bad boys among the whites — this was, after all, a neighborhood with a long tradition of crime as a career open to aspiring talents — but the Negroes were really bad, bad in a way that beckoned to one, and made one feel inadequate. [Emphasis in the original]

What a twisted, malevolent little shit. Bush gave this guy the Presidential Medal of Freedom and just recently sought his counsel on Iran. Rudy Giuliani made him his Senior Foreign Policy Advisor. How many Iranians and brown-skinned others will have to die because of the psychosexual disfigurement of Podhoretz and people like him?

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October 02, 2007

What Ahmadinajad Said At Columbia Iran

I didn't see, hear, or read Ahmadinajad's speech at Columbia, so like most of us, pretty much the only thing I knew about it was that he apparently said Iran has no homosexuals. The mainstream narrative is that the guy's crazy. So I was very interested to read this, from Col. Patrick Lang:

What Ahmadinajad Said At Columbia

I listened to it all.

His remarks were "bracketed" for me by those of Bollinger (the Columbia president) who sought to distance himself from any possible accusation of hospitality and Nora O'Donnell (MSNBC anchor) who sought to distance herself from any possible accusation of neutrality.

Ahmadinajad said:

- Scholars should seek the truth.

- That he does not dispute the facts of the Holocaust, but that he thinks that scholarship should continue on the details and on the effect on his part of the world. He particularly stressed the innocence of the Palestinian people in the matter of the Holocaust. Since scholarship continues on the matter of this subject (the Holocaust) under the sponsorship of the US Holocaust Museum, this was an interesting point.

- He said that the nature of Palestine/Israel should be determined by referendum among "Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians." This is a variation on the long standing Arab desire for either a bi-national state or a state that is not specifically a Jewish state. He did not specify whether his referendum would include Palestinians of the diaspora. That, of course, would make a difference in the outcome.

- He said that the Iranian nuclear enrichment program was forced on them by foreign defaults on agreements for nuclear electric assistance. He said that the Iranian sites are all under IAEA inspection and will remain that way. He also said that the concentration level of their enrichment did not meet the requirement for weapons production.

- He abjured the idea of nuclear weapons and said they do not want any. Presumably the IAEA inspection regime applies.

- When challenged on Iranian government support of international terrorist groups, he said that Iran herself is the victim of extensive terrorist attack sponsored by foreign governments. He clearly had in mind the MEK. He said that all parties should stop this kind of activity. There may have been an implied offer in that. The Persians are subtle people. Perhaps they are too subtle for his audience.

- He accepted the idea of wide negotiations with the US to resolve all differences.

- In response to a challenge by Bollinger, he invited Columbia to send delegations of faculty and students to any or all of Iran's 400 universities.

- He insisted that Iranian women are free. [...]

It was quite a performance. If this were a presidential debate, I would judge him the winner based on rhetorical skill and coolness under fire. The student audience got quieter and quieter as he spoke. There was no booing at the end.

On the whole I think this event was meaningless. I think that the die is cast and that this will have no effect on the international game. [Emphasis added]

Lang is a serious guy, with about as impressive a resume as one could imagine in the fields of US military intelligence and the Middle East. But everybody "knows" that Ahmadinajad's crazy and evil and a threat to world peace.

As Seymour Hersh put it in an interview with Der Spiegel:

We have this wonderful capacity in America to Hitlerize people. We had Hitler, and since Hitler we've had about 20 of them. Khrushchev and Mao and of course Stalin, and for a little while Gadhafi was our Hitler. And now we have this guy Ahmadinejad.

Small wonder elites hold us in contempt when we let ourselves be manipulated the way we do. They crank up the media machine and the herd moves wherever they want it to go. No questions, no resistance.

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September 04, 2007

Source: Pentagon Has Plans For Massive 3-Day Air Assault On Iran Iran

More on the Pentagon plans for a massive air assault on Iran. The Times (UK) Online:

The Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians' military capability in three days, according to a national security expert.

Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, said last week that US military planners were not preparing for "pinprick strikes" against Iran’s nuclear facilities. "They're about taking out the entire Iranian military," he said.

Debat was speaking at a meeting organised by The National Interest, a conservative foreign policy journal. He told The Sunday Times that the US military had concluded: "Whether you go for pinprick strikes or all-out military action, the reaction from the Iranians will be the same." It was, he added, a "very legitimate strategic calculus".

President George Bush intensified the rhetoric against Iran last week, accusing Tehran of putting the Middle East "under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust". He warned that the US and its allies would confront Iran "before it is too late".

One Washington source said the "temperature was rising" inside the administration. Bush was "sending a message to a number of audiences", he said — to the Iranians and to members of the United Nations security council who are trying to weaken a tough third resolution on sanctions against Iran for flouting a UN ban on uranium enrichment.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last week reported "significant" cooperation with Iran over its nuclear programme and said that uranium enrichment had slowed. Tehran has promised to answer most questions from the agency by November, but Washington fears it is stalling to prevent further sanctions. Iran continues to maintain it is merely developing civilian nuclear power.

Bush is committed for now to the diplomatic route but thinks Iran is moving towards acquiring a nuclear weapon. According to one well placed source, Washington believes it would be prudent to use rapid, overwhelming force, should military action become necessary.

Israel, which has warned it will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, has made its own preparations for airstrikes and is said to be ready to attack if the Americans back down. [Emphasis added]

That supposedly serious people can even discuss such an insanely reckless, doomed, and nightmarishly evil course of action in terms of a "very legitimate strategic calculus" is so incomprehensible, so dumbfounding — I find myself wondering if they're even members of the same species as you and I.

Have the last four and a half years taught them nothing?

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August 30, 2007

Flashing Red Iran

Is the US ramping up for an attack on Iran? It seems too insane to contemplate, but a number of warning lights are flashing red.

In a speech to the American Legion Tuesday, Bush said:

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.

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.) [...]

Every day we work to protect the American people. Our strategy is this: We will fight them over there so we do not have to face them in the United States of America. (Applause.) [...]

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.

That last paragraph is the tell: it's regime change they're after.

More signals — Barnett Rubin writes at Juan Cole's group blog:

Today I received a message from a friend who has excellent connections in Washington and whose information has often been prescient. According to this report, as in 2002, the rollout will start after Labor Day, with a big kickoff on September 11. My friend had spoken to someone in one of the leading neo-conservative institutions. He summarized what he was told this way:
They [the source's institution] have "instructions" (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don't think they'll ever get majority support for this — they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is "plenty." [Emphasis added]

Of course I cannot verify this report. But besides all the other pieces of information about this circulating, I heard last week from a former U.S. government contractor. According to this friend, someone in the Department of Defense called, asking for cost estimates for a model for reconstruction in Asia. The former contractor finally concluded that the model was intended for Iran. This anecdote is also inconclusive, but it is consistent with the depth of planning that went into the reconstruction effort in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then there's the detailed study by two prominent British analysts reported at RawStory:

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. [...]
  • 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. [...]

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. [Emphasis added]

"Once undertaken, the imperatives for success would be enormous" — while the probability of "success" would be vanishingly small. And if "success" is defined as turning Iran into a failed state, with the kind of chaos and disintegration now spreading in Iraq, it would be the most Pyrrhic of victories, an unimaginable nightmare, an abyss. It would be hard to overstate the insanity — and evil — of such a course of action.

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August 24, 2007

America To The Rescue 9/11, "War On Terror"  Humor & Fun  Iran  Iraq

A little history lesson from Jon Stewart:

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August 01, 2007

Gasoline On The Flames Iran  Iraq  Palestine/Middle East

The US has announced that it will send $63 billion in military aid to the Middle East: $20 billion for the Saudis and several small Gulf states, $13 billion for Egypt, and $30 billion for Israel.

William Arkin writes in the Washington Post:

There has been no official talk of a new U.S. military alliance in the Middle East. But my sense is that the Bush administration may be looking to solidify one before it leaves office — and the recently announced $63-billion Middle East arms deals are a stepping stone toward this goal.

The details are still sketchy. But from a strategic standpoint, the administration sees the alliance as serving at least two purposes. One, it ensures that some future president won't give up the fight. And two, it legitimizes future conflict with Iran.

"We are out here to talk about the long term," Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said at a press conference yesterday in Egypt. "The United States has been in this region and in the Gulf specifically for some 60 years. We have every intention of being here for a lot longer."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice equally spoke of "future security cooperation" beyond Iraq.

The new military alliance even has a temporary name: GCC+2. Yesterday, Rice and Gates met with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council of six nations: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — plus Egypt and Jordan.

"We have had historic interests in this region and we have pursued them through security cooperation for decades," Rice said, declining to go into the specific nature of any discussions. And indeed they were wide-ranging: Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, terrorism, Iran, Syria.

There is no question that the main event was enlisting the mostly Sunni-dominated governments to do more to prop up Baghdad and support the United States in Iraq. [Emphasis added]

Because if there's anything the Middle East needs more of, it's weapons. And I think we can pretty much conclude that all talk about a US withdrawal from Iraq is just that — talk. Just to placate us. Nobody, Democrat or Republican, who is serious about pulling out is ever going to be allowed to get in a position to make it happen. Not while there's oil in the ground.

See what they do, not what they say.

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July 17, 2007

USAF Steps Up Iraq Operations Iran  Iraq

Air power cannot defeat the insurgency in Iraq. It's a blunt instrument that inevitably kills non-combatants (i.e., people like you and me), alienating the few remaining Iraqis who don't already hate US forces. For the US military, though, it's seductive; it seems like an easy technological fix to an otherwise insoluble problem. But it cannot, will not, work. Vietnam taught us that. Even so, the US Air Force is ramping up Iraq operations in a big way. AP (via Cryptogon):

Away from the headlines and debate over the "surge" in U.S. ground troops, the Air Force has quietly built up its hardware inside Iraq, sharply stepped up bombing and laid a foundation for a sustained air campaign in support of American and Iraqi forces.

Squadrons of attack planes have been added to the in-country fleet. The air reconnaissance arm has almost doubled since last year. The powerful B1-B bomber has been recalled to action over Iraq. [...]

Inside spacious, air-conditioned "Kingpin," a new air traffic control center at this huge Air Force hub 50 miles north of Baghdad, the expanded commitment can be seen on the central display screen: Small points of light represent more than 100 aircraft crisscrossing Iraqi air space at any one time. [...]

Early this year, with little fanfare, the Air Force sent a squadron of A-10 "Warthog" attack planes — a dozen or more aircraft — to be based at Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq. At the same time it added a squadron of F-16C Fighting Falcons here at Balad. Although some had flown missions over Iraq from elsewhere in the region, the additions doubled to 50 or more the number of workhorse fighter-bomber jets available at bases inside the country, closer to the action.

The reinforcement involved more than numbers. The new F-16Cs were the first of the advanced "Block 50" version to fly in Iraq, an aircraft whose technology includes a cockpit helmet that enables the pilot to aim his weapons at a target simply by turning his head and looking at it.

The Navy has contributed by stationing a second aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, and the reintroduction of B1-Bs has added a close-at-hand "platform" capable of carrying 24 tons of bombs.

Those big bombers were moved last year from distant Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to an undisclosed base in the Persian Gulf. Since February, with the ground offensive, they have gone on Iraq bombing runs for the first time since the 2003 invasion. [...]

The demand for air support is heavy. On one recent day, at a briefing attended by a reporter, it was noted that 48 requests for air support were filled, but 16 went unmet.

"There are times when the Army wishes we had more jets," said F-16C pilot Lt. Col. Steve Williams, commander of the 13th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, a component of Balad's 379th Air Expeditionary Wing.

In addition, the Air Force is performing more "ISR" work in Iraq — intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. "We have probably come close to doubling our ISR platforms the past 12 months," said Col. Gary Crowder, a deputy air operations chief for the Central Command.

Those proliferating reconnaissance platforms include Predator drones, high-flying U2s and AWACS, the technology-packed airborne warning and control aircraft, three of which returned to the Persian Gulf in April after three years' absence.

The F-16Cs and other attack planes also do surveillance work with their targeting cameras, keeping watch on convoy routes, for example. By Oct. 1, Crowder said, all squadrons will have "ROVER" capability, able to download real-time aerial video to the laptop computers of troops on the ground — showing them, in effect, what's around the next corner.

"They love it. It's like having a security camera wherever you want it," said Col. Joe Guastella, the Air Force's regional operations chief.

Air Force engineers, meanwhile, are improving this centrally located home base, which supports some 10,000 air operations per week.

The weaker of Balad's two 11,000-foot runways was reinforced — for five to seven years' more hard use. The engineers next will build concrete "overruns" at the runways' ends. Balad's strategic ramp, the concrete parking lot for its biggest planes, was expanded last fall. The air traffic control system is to be upgraded again with the latest technology.

"We'd like to get it to be a field like Langley, if you will," said mission support chief Reynolds, referring to the Air Force showcase base in Virginia.

The Air Force has flown over Iraq for many years, having enforced "no-fly zones" with the Navy in 1991-2003, banning Iraqi aircraft from northern and southern areas of this country. Today, too, it takes a long view: Many expect the Army to draw down its Iraq forces by 2009, but the Air Force is planning for a continued conflict in which it supports Iraqi troops.

"Until we can determine that the Iraqis have got their air force to sufficient capability, I think the coalition will be here to support that effort," Lt. Gen. Gary North, overall regional air commander, said in an interview. The new Iraqi air force thus far fields only a handful of transports and reconnaissance aircraft — no attack planes.

North also echoed a common theme in today's Air Force: Some of the U.S. planes are too old. Some of his KC-135 air-refueling tankers date from 1956. Heavy use in Iraq and Afghanistan is cracking the wings of some A-10s, the Air Force says.

"We are burning these airplanes out," North said. "Our A-10s and our F-16s are rapidly becoming legacy systems." [Emphasis added]

One thing is clear: the US does not plan on pulling out its warplanes any time soon. Far from ramping down the air presence, they are busily ramping it up, building new facilities, adding aircraft.

And what in the world are long-range B-1B bombers, which cost something like a third of a billion dollars each, doing flying close air support against insurgents with AK-47s and homemade bombs? I hope the following story isn't a clue. Deutsche Welle (via Cryptogon):

The Ramstein air base in southwestern Germany, long the largest US nuclear storehouse in Europe, has been completely emptied of its atomic arsenal according to experts who say the weapons are out of the country.

This week the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists (FAS) said in a study that the US army had apparently completely removed its stock of an estimated 130 nuclear weapons from the Ramstein air base. [Emphasis added]

B-1B bombers and a bunch of repurposed nukes. Please say this has nothing to do with Iran.

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July 16, 2007

Guardian: Attack On Iran Gaining Favor In White House Iran

According to a report in the Guardian, Cheney has Bush leaning toward an attack on Iran before he leaves office. Excerpts:

The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned.

The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the state department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: "Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo."

The White House claims that Iran, whose influence in the Middle East has increased significantly over the last six years, is intent on building a nuclear weapon and is arming insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The vice-president, Dick Cheney, has long favoured upping the threat of military action against Iran. He is being resisted by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates.

Last year Mr Bush came down in favour of Ms Rice, who along with Britain, France and Germany has been putting a diplomatic squeeze on Iran. But at a meeting of the White House, Pentagon and state department last month, Mr Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr Bush sided with him. "The balance has tilted. There is cause for concern," the source said this week.

Nick Burns, the undersecretary of state responsible for Iran and a career diplomat who is one of the main advocates of negotiation, told the meeting it was likely that diplomatic manoeuvring would still be continuing in January 2009. That assessment went down badly with Mr Cheney and Mr Bush.

"Cheney has limited capital left, but if he wanted to use all his capital on this one issue, he could still have an impact," said Patrick Cronin, the director of studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The Washington source said Mr Bush and Mr Cheney did not trust any potential successors in the White House, Republican or Democratic, to deal with Iran decisively. They are also reluctant for Israel to carry out any strikes because the US would get the blame in the region anyway.

"The red line is not in Iran. The red line is in Israel. If Israel is adamant it will attack, the US will have to take decisive action," Mr Cronin said. "The choices are: tell Israel no, let Israel do the job, or do the job yourself."

Almost half of the US's 277 warships are stationed close to Iran, including two aircraft carrier groups. The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise left Virginia last week for the Gulf. A Pentagon spokesman said it was to replace the USS Nimitz and there would be no overlap that would mean three carriers in Gulf at the same time. [Emphasis added]

It's impossible to know if a story of this kind is to be taken at face value: it may be a leak meant to pressure Iran. And if this were any other White House, you'd have to think the idea of a war with Iran is just too crazy for them to contemplate. But it's not any other White House. When has crazy stopped them before?

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How The News Works Humor & Fun  Iran  Iraq  Media

This is excellent.

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April 19, 2007

"Bomb, Bomb, Bomb..." Iran  Politics


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April 09, 2007

Get Me Rewrite! Iran  Iraq  Media

A couple of months ago, the government line was that resurgents' use of EFPs was proof of high-level Iranian involvement. Remember this? CBS:

U.S. military officials charged on Sunday that the highest levels of the Iranian leadership ordered Shiite militants in Iraq to be armed with sophisticated armor-piercing roadside bombs that have killed more than 170 American forces. [...]

The deadly and highly sophisticated weapons the U.S. military said were coming into Iraq from Iran are known as "explosively formed penetrators," or EFPs.

But now Reuters says different:

"Iraqi army soldiers swept into the city of Diwaniya early this morning to disrupt militia activity and return security and stability of the volatile city back to the government of Iraq,” the US military said in a statement.

[Lieutenant-Colonel Scott] Bleichwehl said troops, facing scattered resistance, discovered a factory that produced "explosively formed penetrators" (EFPs), a particularly deadly type of explosive that can destroy a main battle tank and several weapons caches. [Emphasis added]

So the devices that couldn't possibly have come from anywhere but Iranian government sources are actually manufactured by insurgents in Iraq. Not surprising in itself: what don't they lie about? But the story doesn't end there. As Atrios noticed, the Washington Post online picked up the Reuters story, as captured by Google News:

Then almost immediately, the original version was down The Memory Hole, becoming instead:

The U.S. military said two U.S. soldiers died in separate roadside bombings in the east and west of Baghdad on Friday.

One of the bombs was an explosively formed projectile, a particularly deadly type of device which Washington accuses Iran of supplying Iraqi militants. [Emphasis added]

Like it was written by the Pentagon itself. Either it was, or the WaPo thinks it's their job to do the Pentagon's work without being asked. Either way, disgraceful.

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March 28, 2007

"Show Of Force" Iran

The US Navy is staging a huge "show of force" in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Iran. But what they're really doing, whether they acknowledge it to themselves or not, is positioning a whole bunch of sitting duck targets where any nut with a missile can start World War III. AP:

The U.S. Navy on Tuesday began its largest demonstration of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, led by a pair of aircraft carriers and backed by warplanes flying simulated attack maneuvers off the coast of Iran.

The maneuvers bring together two strike groups of U.S. warships and more than 100 U.S. warplanes to conduct simulated air warfare in the crowded Gulf shipping lanes. [...]

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Kevin Aandahl said the U.S. maneuvers were not organized in response to the capture of the British sailors - nor were they meant to threaten the Islamic Republic, whose navy operates in the same waters. [...]

Overall, the exercises involve more than 10,000 U.S. personnel on warships and aircraft making simulated attacks on enemy shipping with aircraft and ships, hunting enemy submarines and finding mines.

"What it should be seen as by Iran or anyone else is that it's for regional stability and security," Aandahl said. "These ships are just another demonstration of that. If there's a destabilizing effect, it's Iran's behavior." [Emphasis added]

"It's for regional stability and security." They think we're idiots.

Meanwhile, the Navy seems to be proving it's not immune to the sort of self-aggrandizement that led the other services to think they could crush Iraq like a bug. We see how that's working out.

The truth is that surface navies are an anachronism in a world where missiles are freely available on the international black market and non-State actors have learned that First World militaries are like big, blind, and very stupid elephants. Look what Hezbollah did to Israel, and what the Taliban in Afghanistan and a mixed bag of insurgents in Iraq are doing to the US. It's the Navy's turn now largely because that's about the only thing the US has left in reserve.

And what happens if some US ships get sunk? Nuclear war? Is that what they want, at the end of the day? Let us hope not, but one thing is certain — by positioning all those ships as sitting ducks they've created a hair-trigger that could cause things to ratchet up very, very quickly. It's madness.

Dems in Congress, take notice. Quickly.

[Thanks, Miles]

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March 07, 2007

Seven Countries In Five Years 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iran  Iraq  Politics

I'm astonished that this hasn't been all over the news. On February 27, Amy Goodman interviewed General Wesley Clark. Clark said this:

About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, "Sir, you've got to come in and talk to me a second." I said, "Well, you're too busy." He said, "No, no." He says, "We've made the decision we're going to war with Iraq." This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, "We're going to war with Iraq? Why?" He said, "I don't know." He said, "I guess they don't know what else to do." So I said, "Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?" He said, "No, no." He says, "There's nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq." He said, "I guess it's like we don't know what to do about terrorists, but we've got a good military and we can take down governments." And he said, "I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail."

So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, "Are we still going to war with Iraq?" And he said, "Oh, it's worse than that." He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, "I just got this down from upstairs" — meaning the Secretary of Defense's office — "today." And he said, "This is a memo that describes how we're going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran." I said, "Is it classified?" He said, "Yes, sir." I said, "Well, don’t show it to me." And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, "You remember that?" He said, "Sir, I didn't show you that memo! I didn't show it to you!" [Emphasis added]

It seems inconceivable that Clark is just making this up. So I guess it's official: we're in the hands of complete and utter lunatics. Seven countries — seven unprovoked, preemptive wars — in five years. They think they're Hitler, or Napoleon, or Alexander the Great — with nukes. In their minds, the Republic is over; it's Empire time.

People who think like this, what are the chances they're going to accept defeat in Iraq quietly? If you're not scared yet, you should be.

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February 26, 2007

Mutiny? Iran

The Sunday Times [UK] reports that a number of US generals and admirals are ready to resign their posts if the White House orders an attack on Iran:

Some of America's most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.

Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.

"There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran," a source with close ties to British intelligence said. "There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible."

A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. "All the generals are perfectly clear that they don't have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.

"There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations."

A generals' revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. "American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired," said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.

The threat of a wave of resignations coincided with a warning by Vice-President Dick Cheney that all options, including military action, remained on the table. He was responding to a comment by Tony Blair that it would not "be right to take military action against Iran". [...]

A second US navy aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS John C Stennis arrived in the Gulf last week, doubling the US presence there. Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, the commander of the US Fifth Fleet, warned: "The US will take military action if ships are attacked or if countries in the region are targeted or US troops come under direct attack."

But General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said recently there was "zero chance" of a war with Iran. He played down claims by US intelligence that the Iranian government was responsible for supplying insurgents in Iraq, forcing Bush on the defensive.

Pace's view was backed up by British intelligence officials who said the extent of the Iranian government's involvement in activities inside Iraq by a small number of Revolutionary Guards was "far from clear".

Hillary Mann, the National Security Council's main Iran expert until 2004, said Pace's repudiation of the administration's claims was a sign of grave discontent at the top.

"He is a very serious and a very loyal soldier," she said. "It is extraordinary for him to have made these comments publicly, and it suggests there are serious problems between the White House, the National Security Council and the Pentagon."

Mann fears the administration is seeking to provoke Iran into a reaction that could be used as an excuse for an attack. A British official said the US navy was well aware of the risks of confrontation and was being "seriously careful" in the Gulf.

The US air force is regarded as being more willing to attack Iran. General Michael Moseley, the head of the air force, cited Iran as the main likely target for American aircraft at a military conference earlier this month. [Emphasis added]

If there's one thing the military's good at, it's taking orders. For a significant number of senior military officers to decide that "duty, honor, country" compel their resignations, they'd have to conclude that what they were being asked to do was unprecedented in its recklessness. It would be a unique moment in US history: an open break between senior military officers and their civilian leaders, with the military coming down on the side of sanity and prudence.

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February 14, 2007

Counting Coup Iran

Not sure what to make of this, but it sure is interesting. From Yossi Melman, intelligence correspondent with Israel's Haaretz:

A commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guards said Wednesday that a commando unit has engraved the military organization's emblem into the side panel of an American warship stationed in the Persian Gulf.

Nur Ali Shushkari, the head of the Revolutionary Guards ground forces, told Iranian pro-government news agencies that the symbol was etched onto the ship by the crew of a submarine that had managed to reach the U.S. vessel without detection by radar.

Shushkari did not release specific details about the incident, but claimed that the operation proved that Iranian forces are following American fleet traffic in the region. [Emphasis added]

It's hard to believe Iranian commandos got close enough to a US warship to tag it with grafitti, so you've got to be skeptical. Unless US forces are purposely letting down their guard to invite an attack to trigger a war. Remember the Maine. But if the story's not true, the question becomes: what's it doing in a leading Israeli paper under the byline of a highly experienced intel correspondent? Who's trying to send what message?

And if the story is true? You'd have to give the Iranians props for simply counting coup on the ship and moving on. Iranians: the people who invented chess.

[Thanks, Miles]

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February 13, 2007

Reality Check From Chairman Of Joint Chiefs Iran

One of the ways we confuse ourselves is by carelessly using language that anthropomorphizes inanimate objects or institutions (see General Semantics). If weapons containing materials of Iranian manufacture are discovered in Iraq and people say "Iran is supplying weapons," suddenly it's the entire nation of Iran, or at least its government, that is the culprit. That's sloppy thinking. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs thinks so, too. AP:

A top U.S. general said Tuesday there was no evidence the Iranian government was supplying Iraqi insurgents with highly lethal roadside bombs, apparently contradicting claims by other U.S. military and administration officials.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said U.S. forces hunting down militant networks that produced roadside bombs had arrested Iranians and that some of the material used in the devices were made in Iran.

"That does not translate that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this," Pace told reporters in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. "What it does say is that things made in Iran are being used in Iraq to kill coalition soldiers." [Emphasis added]

It's a measure of how debased our public discourse has become that when someone in a responsible position manages to say something this level-headed and straight-forwardly rational, it comes as a big breath of fresh air, worthy of comment.

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February 07, 2007

Preemptive Strike? 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iran  Iraq

You know things are bad when former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski starts to sound like the sanest guy in the room. Here's an excerpt from Brzezinski's testimony last week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a "defensive" U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated. Initially justified by false claims about WMD's in Iraq, the war is now being redefined as the "decisive ideological struggle" of our time, reminiscent of the earlier collisions with Nazism and Stalinism. In that context, Islamist extremism and al Qaeda are presented as the equivalents of the threat posed by Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia, and 9/11 as the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack which precipitated America's involvement in World War II.

This simplistic and demagogic narrative overlooks the fact that Nazism was based on the military power of the industrially most advanced European state; and that Stalinism was able to mobilize not only the resources of the victorious and militarily powerful Soviet Union but also had worldwide appeal through its Marxist doctrine. In contrast, most Muslims are not embracing Islamic fundamentalism; al Qaeda is an isolated fundamentalist Islamist aberration; most Iraqis are engaged in strife because the American occupation of Iraq destroyed the Iraqi state; while Iran — though gaining in regional influence — is itself politically divided, economically and militarily weak. To argue that America is already at war in the region with a wider Islamic threat, of which Iran is the epicenter, is to promote a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Deplorably, the Administration's foreign policy in the Middle East region has lately relied almost entirely on such sloganeering. Vague and inflammatory talk about "a new strategic context" which is based on "clarity" and which prompts "the birth pangs of a new Middle East" is breeding intensifying anti-Americanism and is increasing the danger of a long-term collision between the United States and the Islamic world. [...]

One should note here also that practically no country in the world shares the Manichean delusions that the Administration so passionately articulates. The result is growing political isolation of, and pervasive popular antagonism toward the U.S. global posture. [Emphasis added]

The section highlighted in red above clearly suggests that the White House may seek to use a terrorist incident as a pretext to push the country into war with Iran. Possibly even that the White House may fabricate such an incident. An amazing suggestion for a national-security insider like Brzezinski to make in open testimony. Draw your own conclusions, but it seems to me that Brzezinski knew exactly what he was doing. It was a prepared statement, and Brzezinski's too careful and experienced an operator not to understand how his words would be taken. Note also the quotation marks around "defensive."

In the Q&A, Brzezinski had more to say along these lines. Barry Grey (via RI):

Following his opening remarks, in response to questions from the senators, Brzezinski reiterated his warning of a provocation.

He called the senators' attention to a March 27, 2006 report in the New York Times on "a private meeting between the president and Prime Minister Blair, two months before the war, based on a memorandum prepared by the British official present at this meeting." In the article, Brzezinski said, "the president is cited as saying he is concerned that there may not be weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, and that there must be some consideration given to finding a different basis for undertaking the action."

He continued: "I'll just read you what this memo allegedly says, according to the New York Times: 'The memo states that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation.'

"He described the several ways in which this could be done. I won't go into that... the ways were quite sensational, at least one of them.

"If one is of the view that one is dealing with an implacable enemy that has to be removed, that course of action may under certain circumstances be appealing. I'm afraid that if this situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, and if Iran is perceived as in some fashion involved or responsible, or a potential beneficiary, that temptation could arise." [Emphasis added]

The "sensational" provocation that Brzezinski alluded to was this (NYT):

"The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours," the memo says, attributing the idea to Mr. Bush. "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."

As I say, draw your own conclusions, but one has to ask why someone like Brzezinski would want to open this particular can of worms in public. It may have been a sort of preemptive strike: an attempt to create enough suspicion before the fact that the White House would be discouraged from trying to carry out the kinds of provocations Brzezinski warned about.

None of this received any coverage in the major US media.

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February 05, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance Iran  Iraq  Politics

While administration rhetoric against Iran grows more heated, a new US National Intelligence Estimate finds it "not likely" that Iran is a significant cause of violence in Iraq. Seattle Times:

The Bush administration is escalating its confrontation with Iran, sending an additional aircraft carrier and minesweepers into the Persian Gulf as it accuses the Islamic regime of arming Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq for attacks on U.S. troops.

A new U.S. intelligence estimate Friday, however, concluded that Iranian and other outside meddling is "not likely" a major cause of the bloodshed in Iraq, and a new McClatchy analysis of U.S. casualties in Iraq found that Sunni Muslim insurgents, not Iranian-backed Shiites, have mounted most — but not all — attacks on American forces.

The Bush administration, which made exaggerated or incorrect claims about Iraq's weapons programs and ties to al-Qaida to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq, hasn't provided evidence to back up its charges. [...]

"The vast majority of Americans who are being killed are still being killed by IEDs [improvised explosive devices] set by Sunnis," said Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA and White House expert on Persian Gulf affairs. [...]

"The evidence that I am seeing does not seem to support the level of rhetoric, let alone the military actions" the administration is taking, Pollack said. [...]

On Friday, the National Intelligence Council, comprising the top U.S. intelligence analysts, released an assessment of the Iraq crisis that said "lethal support" from Iran to Shiite militants "clearly intensifies" the conflict, but isn't a significant factor.

"Iraq's neighbors influence, and are influenced by, events in Iraq, but the involvement of these outside actors is not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability because of the self-sustaining" sectarian strife, said the analysis, known as a National Intelligence Estimate.

Intelligence officials said they have strong evidence of Iranian support for Iraqi Shiite militias, especially the Mahdi Army. The question is how great a role they're playing in the conflict.

"No one sees a problem," said a U.S. defense official who requested anonymity because the issue involves top-secret intelligence. [Emphasis added]

The analysts who generated the NIE have seen whatever evidence exists. If they haven't seen any evidence that Iran is playing a significant role in Iraq, it's because there isn't any evidence.

No one should be giving the White House the benefit of the doubt on this. Not after all the lies they told us to sell their attack on Iraq. The penalty for lying is not to be believed.

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February 02, 2007

Fool Me Once Global Guerrillas  Iran  Iraq  Politics

The influence of Israel (via AIPAC) on US politics is enormous, and that influence is pushing us towards war with Iran. The Democrats are, if anything, more in AIPAC's debt than the Republicans. On Iraq, the Dems are making gestures, at least, of opposition, but Iran is another story. Digby has a very important post on this subject. It deserves to be read in full, but let me just highlight a few things.

First, Hillary Clinton speaking the other night at an AIPAC dinner (IHT):

Calling Iran a danger to the U.S. and one of Israel's greatest threats, U.S. senator and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said "no option can be taken off the table" when dealing with that nation.

"U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons," the Democrat told a crowd of Israel supporters. "In dealing with this threat ... no option can be taken off the table."

And John Edwards, speaking in Israel (RawStory):

Although Edwards has criticized the war in Iraq, and has urged bringing the troops home, the former senator firmly declared that "all options must remain on the table," in regards to dealing with Iran, whose nuclear ambition "threatens the security of Israel and the entire world."

"Let me be clear: Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons," Edwards said. "For years, the US hasn’t done enough to deal with what I have seen as a threat from Iran. As my country stayed on the sidelines, these problems got worse."

Their rhetoric is utterly indistinguishable from the White House's. So much for the opposition party. Digby says he's "starting to get agitated" about the Democrats' approach to Iran. He calls it "discouraging," a misguided political strategy. But it goes way beyond just a strategy. It's who the Democrats are. Unfortunately.

All the hysteria about Iran getting a bomb is wildly overblown. As Jacques Chirac put it:

"Where would Iran drop this bomb? On Israel?" he asked. "It would not have gone off 200 metres into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed to the ground."

Iran doesn't want to nuke Israel. The Iranians want a deterrent, so they won't be attacked by the US and/or Israel. The US attack on Iraq — but not North Korea — has proved the importance of a deterrent. Especially, if you've been designated a member of the "Axis of Evil." In any case, international inspections could keep a rein on an Iranian weapons program. But, as was the case with Iraq, the US refuses to take yes for an answer and let inspections do their work.

The final, horrifying irony is that an attack on Iran is certain to be far more dangerous and destructive to Israel than would be a situation where Iran is sitting with a bomb or two as a deterrent. As Digby says:

It is very unfortunate that it came to this. But you also have to recognise that as unpalatable as it might be to have another nuclear armed nation in a volatile region, it doesn't really take us much closer to the end of the world or even the end of Israel, despite all the kooky talk coming from Ahmadinejad.

Attacking Iran, however, just might. The repurcussions of such a move would cut the last frayed ties with many allies, finally destroy all of our moral authority and convince the world that we are a super-power to be contained, not an international leader that can be relied upon to behave rationally. It is a disasterous strategic move on virtually all levels that only someone with a puerile "might makes right" strategic vision would even contemplate.

As John Robb says, a war between the US/Israel and Iran "would quickly destabilize every state in the Middle East and allow them to fall prey to open source war like Iraq." I.e., we'd have not just one Iraq on our hands, but many. Failed states, torn apart by tribal guerrillas, jihadists, and criminal gangs, as in Iraq. It's hard to imagine what centripetal force would ever put those Humpty-Dumptys back together again. There are right-wingers in Israel — and here in the US — who embrace that scenario: if the other nations in the Middle East collapse, Israel will be left to dominate the region. But it's lunacy. Once those atomizing forces are put in motion, chaos will be inexorable. These people are playing with matches in a world of gasoline.

But more and more people seem to buy that Iran is "on the brink" of getting nukes (plural), that that's "unacceptable," that the Iranians are madmen, worse than Hitler, etc., etc. Why? Because that's what they're saying on the teevee? It's exactly the same script that was used to sell Iraq, but for some reason a lot of people think this time it's on the level. Please.

The people telling us what to think about Iran are the same people who lied through their teeth to get us into Iraq. They are the same people who were absolutely wrong about what the outcome of that would be. Everything they have ever said on the subject was a lie or wrong. Everything.

What are we, suckers?

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January 31, 2007

Parry: US-Israeli Attack On Iran May Be Imminent Iran  Iraq

Robert Parry is part of a dying breed in the US: a true investigative reporter. Among other things, Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra revelations while working for AP and Newsweek in the 1980s. He's continued writing about covert ops and national security matters to this day. In other words, he's a responsible guy with sources. Here's what he wrote today.

First, an attack on Iran may be imminent:

While congressional Democrats test how far they should go in challenging George W. Bush’s war powers, the time may be running out to stop Bush from ordering a major escalation of the Middle East conflict by attacking Iran.

Military and intelligence sources continue to tell me that preparations are advancing for a war with Iran starting possibly as early as mid-to-late February. The sources offer some differences of opinion over whether Bush might cite a provocation from Iran or whether Israel will take the lead in launching air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

But there is growing alarm among military and intelligence experts that Bush already has decided to attack and simply is waiting for a second aircraft carrier strike force to arrive in the region — and for a propaganda blitz to stir up some pro-war sentiment at home.

One well-informed U.S. military source called me in a fury after consulting with Pentagon associates and discovering how far along the war preparations are. He said the plans call for extensive aerial attacks on Iran, including use of powerful bunker-busting ordnance.

Another source with a pipeline into Israeli thinking said the Iran war plan has expanded over the past several weeks. Earlier thinking had been that Israeli warplanes would hit Iranian nuclear targets with U.S. forces in reserve in case of Iranian retaliation, but now the strategy anticipates a major U.S. military follow-up to an Israeli attack, the source said.

Both sources used the same word "crazy" in describing the plan to expand the war to Iran. The two sources, like others I have interviewed, said that attacking Iran could touch off a regional — and possibly global — conflagration.

"It will be like the TV show '24'," the American military source said, citing the likelihood of Islamic retaliation reaching directly into the United States.

Though Bush insists that no decision has been made on attacking Iran, he offered similar assurances of his commitment to peace in the months before invading Iraq in 2003. Yet leaked documents from London made clear that he had set a course for war nine months to a year before the Iraq invasion.

In other words, Bush's statements that he has no plans to "invade" Iran and that he's still committed to settle differences with Iran over its nuclear program diplomatically should be taken with a grain of salt. [Emphasis added]

As if that weren't bad enough, Parry writes that the situation in Iraq is worse than we know:

The rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq is seen as another factor pressing on Bush to act quickly against Iran.

Other sources with first-hand knowledge of conditions in Iraq have told me that the U.S. position is even more precarious than generally understood. Westerners can't even move around Baghdad and many other Iraqi cities except in armed convoys.

"In some countries, if you want to get out of the car and go to the market, they'll tell you that it might be dangerous," one experienced American cameraman told me. "In Iraq, you will be killed. Not that you might be killed, but you will be killed. The first Iraqi with a gun will shoot you, and if no one has a gun, they'll stone you."

While U.S. war correspondents in most countries travel around in taxis with "TV" taped to their windows, Western journalists in Iraq move only in armed convoys to and from specific destinations. They operate from heavily guarded Baghdad hotels sometimes with single families responsible for security since outsiders can't be trusted.

The American cameraman said one European journalist rebelled at the confinement, took off on her own in a cab — and was never seen again.

Depression also is spreading among U.S. intelligence officials who monitor covert operations in Iraq from listening stations sometimes thousands of miles away. The results of these Special Forces operations have been so horrendous that morale in the intelligence community has suffered. [Emphasis added]

Meanwhile, the LA Times reports today the US Air Force and Navy warplanes are stepping up aggressive patrols along the Iraq-Iran border. It's hard not to suspect that the purpose is to create a provocation that can lead to an incident that will be used to justify an attack. Excerpt:

The Air Force is preparing for an expanded role in Iraq that could include aggressive new tactics designed to deter Iranian assistance to Iraqi militants, senior Pentagon officials said.

The efforts could include more forceful patrols by Air Force and Navy fighter planes along the Iran-Iraq border to counter the smuggling of bomb supplies from Iran, a senior Pentagon official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing future military plans.

Such missions also could position the Air Force to strike suspected bomb suppliers inside Iraq to deter Iranian agents that U.S. officials say are assisting Iraqi militias, outside military experts said. [Emphasis added]

Maybe this is all a big game of chicken with the Iranians. But given all the White House lies about Iraq, who is going to believe anything they say about Iran? What is not clear is what can be done to stop them — even though the country is overwhelmingly against widening the war. A crazy spot to be in in a democracy.

[Thanks, Miles]

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January 25, 2007

"Hitler Is Back — This Time He's Iranian" Iran

Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs commentator for the Financial Times, on an Israeli conference devoted to beating the drum for war with Iran. War with Iran is madness, but these people are serious. Excerpts:

It sounds like the stuff that conspiracy theories are made of. In a coastal resort near Tel Aviv, senior Israeli politicians and generals confer with top officials and politicians from Washington to discuss the threat of a nuclear Iran. [...]

The Israel participation is, as one would expect, high level. The conference is scheduled to close with a speech from Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. The lunch-time speaker yesterday was Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud leader, and maybe the next prime minister. We're hearing from the foreign minister, the defence minister and a string of present and former generals.

But what has really struck me is the number of top Americans who have bothered to come over for the conference. The speaker at dinner last night was Gordon England, America's deputy defence secretary; earlier in the day we heard from Nick Burns, the number three at the State Department. Several contenders for the presidency in 2008 have also felt obliged to tip their hat to Herzliya. Mitt Romney, who is probably second favourite for the Republican nomination, is turning up in person. John McCain, the GOP front-runner is appearing by satellite, so is Rudy Giuliani. For the Democrats, John Edwards is also scheduled to make a satellite address. I cannot think of any other country in the world that could summon up this level of American participation for a conference like this. Certainly not Britain.

Also well represented among the participants are well-known hawks like Richard Perle, Jim Woolsey (the former CIA director), Newt Gingrich and Jose Maria Aznar, the former Spanish prime minister. A lot of these chaps were very prominent in the drive to go to war in Iraq. Now, flushed by their undoubted success there, they are turning their attention to Iran.

There is no doubt that the war drums are beating pretty loudly here in Herzliya. The main topics of conversation that keep coming back and back – in the corridors and also in the conference hall – is how close is Iran to the bomb. Can anything short of military action stop the Iranians? If it comes to bombing, could the Israelis do it alone – or would they have to rely on the United States? Would President Bush give the order? [...]

Netanyahu claimed that Iran is 1,000 days away from having nukes. But the Israelis tend to argue that military action would have to come much sooner than that, before the Iranians learn how to enrich enough uranium to make a bomb. Shaul Mofaz, Israel's deputy prime minister, argued that Iran is bent on building a "hegemonic empire in the Middle East" and presents an "existential threat to Israel".

The official American speakers have tended to be a little more circumspect. Nick Burns talked a lot about diplomacy and the UN. But he earned a big round of applause, when he declared – "It is the policy of the United States that we cannot afford to let Iran become a nuclear-weapons state."

The unofficial Americans are much less careful. Jim Woolsey, a former director of the CIA, castigated Burns for his caution and his emphasis on diplomacy. He also likened Iran to Nazi Germany. Funny thing is I distinctly remember hearing a similar speech from Woolsey at an international conference in 2002, when he likened Saddam Hussein to Hitler. Now Hitler is back – except that this time he's Iranian.

It doesn't do to criticize Israel in public in the US — witness the attacks on Jimmy Carter — but there's no denying Israel's clout in US politics. Not for nothing do all those American presidential candidates show up at an Israeli conference far from the eyes of US media and voters.

Israeli hardliners are adamant that Israel must remain the only nuclear power in the Middle East. Where is the US politician of any importance who will stand up and tell them no?

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January 18, 2007

Refusing To Take Yes For An Answer Iran

BBC reports that in 2003 Iran offered to concede pretty much everything the White House claims it wants, and Cheney turned them down:

Iran offered the US a package of concessions in 2003, but it was rejected, a senior former US official has told the BBC's Newsnight programme. Tehran proposed ending support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups and helping to stabilise Iraq following the US-led invasion.

Offers, including making its nuclear programme more transparent, were conditional on the US ending hostility.

But Vice-President Dick Cheney's office rejected the plan, the official said.

The offers came in a letter, seen by Newsnight, which was unsigned but which the US state department apparently believed to have been approved by the highest authorities.

In return for its concessions, Tehran asked Washington to end its hostility, to end sanctions, and to disband the Iranian rebel group the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and repatriate its members.

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had allowed the rebel group to base itself in Iraq, putting it under US power after the invasion.
One of the then Secretary of State Colin Powell's top aides told the BBC the state department was keen on the plan — but was over-ruled.

"We thought it was a very propitious moment to do that," Lawrence Wilkerson told Newsnight.

"But as soon as it got to the White House, and as soon as it got to the Vice-President's office, the old mantra of 'We don't talk to evil'... reasserted itself."

Observers say the Iranian offer as outlined nearly four years ago corresponds pretty closely to what Washington is demanding from Tehran now. [Emphasis added]

This isn't the first time the Bush administration has refused to take yes for an answer when its heart was set on war. You'd think by now we would have learned to ignore their words — it is their actions that matter. They want war, apparently having learned exactly nothing from the past four years.

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January 17, 2007

Cakewalk Humor & Fun  Iran  Iraq

Tom Tomorrow, from April Fool's Day, 2003.

[Via Atrios]

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January 14, 2007

The "Surge" — Buying Time With A Hoax Iran

Conservative Paul Craig Roberts points out that administration claims that Iran is backing the Iraq insurgency are dubious at best, given that Iran is Shi'ite and the insurgents are mostly Sunnis. Excerpts:

Bush's "surge" speech is a hoax, but members of Congress and media commentators are discussing the surge as if it were real.

I invite the reader to examine the speech. The "surge" content consists of nonsensical propagandistic statements. The real content of the speech is toward the end where Bush mentions Iran and Syria.

Bush makes it clear that success in Iraq does not depend on the surge. Rather, "Succeeding in Iraq . . . begins with addressing Iran and Syria."

Bush asserts that "these two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops."

Bush's assertions are propagandistic lies.

The Iraq insurgency is Sunni. Iran is Shi'ite. If Iran is supporting anyone in Iraq it is the Shi'ites, who have not been part of the insurgency. Indeed, the Sunni and Shi'ites are engaged in a civil war within Iraq. [...]

The "surge" is merely a tactic to buy time while war with Iran and Syria can be orchestrated. The neoconservative/Israeli cabal feared that the pressure that Congress, the public, and the American foreign policy establishment were putting on Bush to de-escalate in Iraq would terminate their plan to achieve hegemony in the Middle East.

Failure in Iraq would mean the end of the neoconservatives' influence. It would be impossible to start a new war with Iran after losing the war in Iraq.

The neoconservatives and the right-wing Israeli government have clearly stated their plans to overthrow Muslim governments throughout the region and to deracinate Islam. These plans existed long before 9/11.

Near the end of his "surge" speech, Bush adopts the neoconservative program as US policy. The struggle, Bush says, echoing the neoconservatives and the Israeli right-wing, goes far beyond Iraq. "The challenge," Bush says, is "playing out across the broader Middle East...It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time." [...]

Bush suggests that Muslims in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine are waiting and hoping for more invasions to free them of violence. Did Bush's invasion free Iraq from violence or did it bring violence to Iraq? [...]

It is naked aggression justified by transparent lies. No one has ever heard governments in Iraq, Syria, or Iran declare "their intention to destroy our way of life." To the contrary, it is the United States and Israel that are trying to destroy the Muslim way of life.

Hitler portrayed Germany's attacks as acts of self-defense. Czechoslovakia was a dagger pointed at the heart of the Reich, and so on. It's a formula that seldom fails. Most people are basically decent, and they don't want to believe their own country is engaged in naked aggression. Even when it's obvious.

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January 13, 2007

Rice: Bush Authorized Raids On Iranians Global Guerrillas  Iran  Iraq

Condoleezza Rice says Bush personally authorized aggressive raids against Iranian targets in Iraq. NYT:

A recent series of American raids against Iranians in Iraq was authorized under an order that President Bush decided to issue several months ago to undertake a broad military offensive against Iranian operatives in the country, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday.

"There has been a decision to go after these networks," Ms. Rice said in an interview with The New York Times in her office on Friday afternoon, before leaving on a trip to the Middle East.

Ms. Rice said Mr. Bush had acted "after a period of time in which we saw increasing activity" among Iranians in Iraq, "and increasing lethality in what they were producing." She was referring to what American military officials say is evidence that many of the most sophisticated improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.'s, being used against American troops were made in Iran.

Ms. Rice was vague on the question of when Mr. Bush issued the order, but said his decision grew out of questions that the president and members of his National Security Council raised in the fall.

The administration has long accused Iran of meddling in Iraq, providing weapons and training to Shiite forces with the idea of keeping the United States bogged down in the war. Ms. Rice's willingness to discuss the issue seemed to reflect a new hostility to Iran that was first evident in Mr. Bush's speech to the nation on Wednesday night, in which he accused Tehran of providing material support for attacks on American troops and vowed to respond.

Until now, despite a series of raids in which Iranians have been seized by American forces in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq, administration officials have declined to say whether Mr. Bush ordered such actions.

The White House decision to authorize the aggressive steps against Iranians in Iraq appears to formalize the American effort to contain Iran's ambitions as a new front in the Iraq war. Administration officials now describe Iran as the single greatest threat the United States faces in the Middle East, though some administration critics regard the talk about Iran as a diversion, one intended to shift attention away from the spiraling chaos in Iraq.

In adopting a more confrontational approach toward Iran, Mr. Bush has decisively rejected recommendations of the Iraq Study Group that he explore negotiations with Tehran as part of a new strategy to help quell the sectarian violence in Iraq. [...]

In the view of American officials, Iran is engaged in a policy of "managed chaos" in Iraq. Its presumed goal, both policymakers and intelligence officials say, is to raise the cost to the United States for its intervention in Iraq, in hopes of teaching Washington a painful lesson about the perils of engaging in regime change.

Toward this end, American officials charge, Iran has provided components, including explosives and infrared triggering devices, for sophisticated roadside bombs that are designed to penetrate armor. They have also provided training for several thousand Shiite militia fighters, mostly in Iran. Officials say the training is carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security. [...]

This week, American forces in Iraq conducted at least two raids against suspected Iranian operatives, including the raid in Erbil. The United States is currently detaining several individuals with Iranian passports who were picked up in those raids. [...]

A defense official said Friday that such raids would continue. "We are going to be more aggressive," he said, referring to the suspected Iranian operatives. [Emphasis added]

There seems to be a fundamental misconception at work here: that if insurgents are succeeding against the US military, there has to be a nation-state behind them, pulling the strings. This is 19th century thinking in a 21st century world. See the previous post.

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January 12, 2007

Escalating Failure Iran

Conservative Fourth-Generation Warfare expert William S. Lind looks at Bush's proposals and sees the possibility for "disaster on a truly historic scale." Excerpt:

[I]f we look at the President's proposal more carefully, we find it actually...hints at actions that may turn a mere debacle into disaster on a truly historic scale.

First, Mr. Bush said that previous efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two reasons, the second of which is that "there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have." This suggests the new "big push" will be even more kinetic that what we have done in the past, calling in more firepower — airstrikes, tanks, artillery, etc. — in Baghdad itself. Chuck Spinney has already warned that we may soon begin to reduce Baghdad to rubble. If we do, and the President's words suggest we will, we will hasten our defeat. In this kind of war, unless you are going to take the "Hama model" and kill everyone, success comes from de-escalation, not from escalation.

Second, the President not only upped the ante with Syria and Iran, he announced two actions that only make sense if we plan to attack Iran, Syria or both. He said he has ordered Patriot missile batteries and another U.S. Navy aircraft carrier be sent to the region. Neither has any conceivable role in the fighting in Iraq. However, a carrier would provide additional aircraft for airstrikes on Iran, and Patriot batteries would in theory provide some defense against Iranian air and missile attacks launched at Gulf State oil facilities in retaliation.

To top it off, in questioning yesterday on Capitol Hill, the Tea Lady, aka Secretary of State Rice, refused to promise the administration would consult with Congress before attacking Iran or Syria.

As I have said before and will say again, the price of an attack on Iran could easily be the loss of the army we have in Iraq. No conceivable action would be more foolish than adding war with Iran to the war we have already lost in Iraq. Regrettably, it is impossible to read Mr. Bush's dispatch of a carrier and Patriot batteries any other way than as harbingers of just such an action.

The final hidden message in Mr. Bush's speech confirms that the American ship of state remains headed for the rocks. His peroration, devoted once more to promises of "freedom" and democracy in the Middle East and throughout the world, could have been written by the most rabid of the neocons. For that matter, perhaps it was. So long as our grand strategy remains that which the neocons represent and demand, namely remaking the whole world in our own image, by force where necessary, we will continue to fail. Not even the greatest military in all of history, which ours claims to be but isn't, could bring success to a strategy so divorced from reality. Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's words give the lie to those who have hoped the neocons' influence over the White House had ebbed. From Hell, or the World Bank which is much the same place, Wolfi had to be smiling.

No, Incurious George has offered no new strategy, nor new course, nor even a plateau on the downward course of our two lost wars and failed grand strategy. He has chosen instead to escalate failure, speed our decline and expand the scope of our defeat. Headed toward the cliff, his course correction is to stomp on the gas. [Emphasis added]

The November elections and Iraq Study Group report gave Bush political cover for de-escalating, but he's not interested. He doesn't care what the rest of us think. Instead, he's made it clear that he will only settle for "victory," whatever that might mean. He will continue to raise the stakes, doubling down, going for broke, and disaster will lead to ever bigger disasters.

He can't stop himself, so there's no point waiting for him to. He doesn't have it in him. We have to find a way to stop him.

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Lessons Not Learned Iran  War and Peace

As Bush sends a second carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf, days after putting a Navy Admiral in command of two land-locked wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it seems clear that the intended target is Iran. Maybe the intent is to intimidate Iran, not to attack it, but it sure doesn't feel that way. The ships will be sitting ducks, inviting attack, so their presence only makes war more likely.

In modern warfare, ships don't fare well, a fact demonstrated in dramatic fashion in the Pentagon's Millenium 2002 wargame. From Wikipedia's account:

Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC02) was a major wargame exercise conducted by the United States armed forces in mid-2002, likely the largest such exercise in history. The exercise, which ran from July 24 to August 15 and cost 250 million dollars, involved both live exercises and computer simulations. MC02 was meant to be a test of future military "transformation" — a transition toward new technologies that enable network-centric warfare and provide more powerful weaponry and tactics. The simulated combatants were the United States, denoted "Blue", and an initially unknown adversary in the Middle East, "Red". Most of the people on the U.S. side assumed that the adversary in the game would be Iraq, but it was later revealed that the other side was simulating the military forces of Iran, the only Middle Eastern state that most observers feel has a strong ability to counter an American military engagement.

In the early days of the exercise, Red, commanded by retired Marine Corps general Paul K. Van Riper, launched a massive salvo of cruise missiles, overwhelming the Blue forces electronic sensors, destroying thirteen warships. Soon after that offensive, another significant portion of Blue's navy was "sunk" by an armada of small Red boats carrying out both conventional and suicide attacks, able to engage Blue forces due to Blue's inability to detect them as well as expected. At this point, the exercise was suspended and Blue's ships were "re-floated". In addition, Red's command used motorcycle messengers to evade Blue's sophisticated electronic surveillance network and transmit orders to front-line troops.

There were many within the upper echelons of the Department of Defense that found the results displeasing and it was decided that the wargame should be started over. The rules of the exercise were essentially changed shortly thereafter, with the different sides ordered to follow predetermined, scripted plans of action, leading to allegations that the exercise was scripted and "$250 million was wasted". General Van Riper resigned soon after, concerned that the wargame would serve to merely reinforce an increasing notion of infallibility within the U.S. military rather than serve as a learning experience. [Emphasis added]

In a real conflict, there will be no "re-floating", no do-overs. But as Iraq demonstrates all too clearly, the US leadership hasn't learned the central lesson: technology alone doesn't win wars. Denial is subject to rude awakenings.

In an interview with Nova, General Van Riper said something very telling. In an environment where an adversary knows the US is determined to attack, its best strategy is to strike first. This is how his Red team had such success:

My belief at the outset of Millennium Challenge was that Blue believed it had a monopoly on preemption, and it would strike first. And, of course, in any war game I was familiar with up to that point, that had never been the case. The U.S. had only gone to war as a result of some aggression by an enemy, and so always had to react. Now that it was announced policy that we reserved the right to do that, the Blue force was going to take full advantage of it and plan to strike first.

So I simply stepped back and said, "What advantage is there for Red to wait for Blue to strike?" There was none. And that lead to the natural conclusion that if they're coming, and we can't persuade them not to diplomatically, then we will strike.

As I looked at an ultimatum that gave me less than 24 hours to respond to what literally was a surrender document, it was clear to me that there was no advantage in any of this diplomacy. I was very surprised that the Joint Forces Command personnel who had argued for using all of the elements of national power—the economic, the diplomatic, the political information—in some sort of coherent fashion, really came at Red with a blunt military instrument. So it was clear to me that this was not going to be negotiated, this was going to be a fight. And if it was going to be a fight, I was going to get in the first blow. [Emphasis added]

Iran is rapidly being put in the position Van Riper faced: cave or fight. No diplomacy. At some point, they may come to the same conclusion Van Riper did, that they may as well strike first. Even more likely, and therefore more dangerous, is the possibility that as more and more ships are moved to the Gulf, some freelancer will take a potshot with a missile and that will become the excuse for war. Maybe that's the point. Dangle enough targets, and sooner or later shots will be fired and war will begin.

[Thanks, Miles]

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January 11, 2007

Prepping For A Wider War Iran  Iraq

Investigative journalist Robert Parry looks at Bush's words — and, more importantly, his deeds — and sees a clear pattern of preparation for a wider war. Parry:

At a not-for-quotation pre-speech briefing on Jan. 10, George W. Bush and his top national security aides unnerved network anchors and other senior news executives with suggestions that a major confrontation with Iran is looming.

Commenting about the briefing on MSNBC after Bush's nationwide address, NBC's Washington bureau chief Tim Russert said "there's a strong sense in the upper echelons of the White House that Iran is going to surface relatively quickly as a major issue – in the country and the world – in a very acute way."

Russert and NBC anchor Brian Williams depicted this White House emphasis on Iran as the biggest surprise from the briefing as Bush stepped into the meeting to speak passionately about why he is determined to prevail in the Middle East.

"The President's inference was this: that an entire region would blow up from the inside, the core being Iraq, from the inside out," Williams said, paraphrasing Bush.

Despite the already high cost of the Iraq War, Bush also defended his decision to invade Iraq and to eliminate Saddam Hussein by arguing that otherwise "he and Iran would be in a race to acquire a nuclear bomb and if we didn't stop him, Iran would be going to Pakistan or to China and things would be much worse," Russert said.

If Russert's account is correct, there could be questions raised about whether Bush has lost touch with reality and may be slipping back into the false pre-invasion intelligence claims about Hussein threatening the United States with "a mushroom cloud." [...]

While avoiding any overt criticism of Bush's comments about an imaginary Iraqi-Iranian arms race, Russert suggested that the news executives found the remarks perplexing.

"That's the way he sees the world," Russert explained. "His rationale, he believes, for going into Iraq still was one that was sound." [...]

In his prime-time speech, Bush injected other reasons to anticipate a wider war. He used language that suggested U.S. or allied forces might launch attacks inside Iran and Syria to "disrupt the attacks on our forces" in Iraq.

"We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria," Bush said. "And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

Bush announced other steps that could be interpreted as building a military infrastructure for a regional war or at least for air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

"I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region," Bush said. "We will expand intelligence sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies."

Though most news accounts of Bush's speech focused on his decision to send about 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq – on top of the 132,000 already there – Bush's comments about his regional strategy could ultimately prove more significant.

Militarily, a second aircraft carrier strike force would do little to interdict arms smuggling across the Iran-Iraq border. Similarly, Patriot anti-missile batteries would be of no use in defeating lightly armed insurgent forces and militias inside Iraq.

However, both deployments would be useful to deter – or defend against – retaliatory missile strikes from Iran if the Israelis or the United States bomb Iran's nuclear facilities or stage military raids inside Iranian territory. [...]

In other words, the deployments would fit with Israel or the United States bombing Iran's nuclear sites and then trying to tamp down any Iranian response.

Another danger to American interests, however, would be pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq seeking revenge against U.S. troops. If that were to happen, Bush's escalation of troop levels in Iraq would make sense as a way to protect the Green Zone and other sensitive targets.

So, Bush's actions and rhetoric over the past several weeks continue to mesh with a scenario for a wider regional war – a possibility that now mainstream journalists, such as Tim Russert, are beginning to take seriously.

Other data points are aiming in that same direction.

On Jan. 4, Bush ousted the top two commanders in the Middle East, Generals John Abizaid and George Casey, who had opposed a military escalation in Iraq. Bush also removed Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, who had stood by intelligence estimates downplaying the near-term threat from Iran's nuclear program.

Bush appointed Admiral William Fallon as the new chief of Central Command for the Middle East despite the fact that Fallon, a former Navy aviator and currently head of the Pacific Command, will oversee two ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The choice of Fallon makes more sense if Bush foresees a bigger role for two aircraft carrier groups off Iran's coast. [...]

McConnell is seen as far more likely than Negroponte to give the administration an alarming assessment of Iran's nuclear capabilities and intentions in an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate. To the consternation of neoconservatives, Negroponte has splashed cold water on their heated rhetoric about the imminent threat from Iran. [...]

Bush reportedly has been weighing his military options for bombing Iran's nuclear facilities since early 2006. But he has encountered resistance from the top U.S. military brass, much as he has with his plans to escalate U.S. troop levels in Iraq.

As investigative reporter Seymour Hersh wrote in The New Yorker, a number of senior U.S. military officers were troubled by administration war planners who believed "bunker-busting" tactical nuclear weapons, known as B61-11s, were the only way to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities buried deep underground. [...]

"Bush and [Vice President Dick] Cheney were dead serious about the nuclear planning," one former senior intelligence official said.

But one way to get around the opposition of the Joint Chiefs would be to delegate the bombing operation to the Israelis. Given Israel's powerful lobbying operation in Washington and its strong ties to leading Democrats, an Israeli-led attack might be more politically palatable with the Congress. [...]

While some observers believe Israel or the Bush administration may be leaking details of the plans as a way to frighten Iran into accepting international controls on its nuclear program, other sources indicate that the preparations for a wider Middle Eastern war are very serious and moving very quickly. [Emphasis added]

The country's moving one way — as witness the November elections, the national opinion polls, and the Establishment position represented by the Iraq Study Group — and the White House neocons another. And they sure seem to be in a hurry. They appear determined to get into a war with Iran, and they must know their time is running out. 2008 is just around the corner.

It's not clear at this point that anyone can or will stand in their way. All the discussion of the troop "surge" may just be so much misdirection — a red herring to distract us while the wider war takes shape.

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December 29, 2006

Widening The War Iran  Iraq  Palestine/Middle East

Two important items from Swoop. First, regarding the White House's Middle East counteroffensive following the November elections and the Iraq Study Group recommendations. Swoop:

During his current consultations on the new strategy for Iraq, President Bush has told those advising him that he is not interested in any proposals that do not involve "success." "Anyone who does not believe in victory should leave the room right now," was how he began one consultation session. Top National Security Council officials are describing the Iraq Study Group as "discredited" and "dead and buried." Instead a new policy is taking shape. Based on recent discussions between former Saudi Ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar bin Sultan and NSC Middle East Director Elliott Abrams, this policy foresees a central role for Saudi Arabia as a supplier of money and weapons to local conflicts involving Iranian surrogates. This is already happening in Lebanon, where anti-Hezbollah groups are receiving substantial Saudi help. Israeli intelligence officials are also encouraging these moves. "What we are seeing here," a second NSC official commented, "is the Administration's counter-attack to the ISG. Bush wants to negotiate from strength not weakness. He is trying to create new facts on the ground. This is an ambitious strategy. If it works, it allows us to recover much of the ground that Iraq has cost us. The opposite is also true. This strategy could double our losses. The key point here is that the Administration is still playing for a win in the Middle East. It is not leaving quietly." [Emphasis added]

Second, on Iran. It's not just a question of Iran's nuclear program. Far from it. Swoop:

A change of emphasis is taking place in the US approach to Iran. State Department officials tell us that they now see the nuclear weapons issue as just one aspect of a more all-encompassing competition with Iran. "It is clear that Iran is challenging us for mastery of the Middle East. Lebanon, Syria, the peace process, terrorism, energy: We are always bumping up against Iranian meddling. The stakes go far beyond nuclear weapons. It is clear that we have to orientate our policy so that we can teach Iran a decisive lesson." Support for this policy of long-term confrontation with Iran extends widely inside the Administration and Washington’s political elites. How this confrontation expresses itself remains undecided, with the military option still confined to the group around Vice-President Cheney and his circle. This group is, however, actively seeking international support. Privately the conservative Arab leaders of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council are urging the US to mount a broad counter to Iran. [Emphasis added]

Joshua Landis at SyriaComment speculates that the White House is using Saudi Arabia as a cutout to fund covert action in the Middle East, à la Iran-Contra. Excerpt:

The NSC diehards and Bandar (with Israeli coordination) have been working on a covert action program, the purpose of which is to strike back at Iran through surrogates, with the arrangements made in such a way as to obviate the need for a Presidential Covert Action Finding, which in today's Washington could not be kept secret. The Saudis would play the role of paymasters and prospective unindicted co-conspirators in case the operation is exposed (which seems to be the likely outcome). [...]

The sudden unannounced departure of Saudi Ambassador Prince Turki suggests that Saudi Arabia will be the financier of this operation. Prince Bandar bin Sultan's return to Washington in the form of his young protégé, Adel al-Jubeir. Polished and American-educated, Mr. Jubeir, 44, once worked for Prince Bandar when he was ambassador to Washington. Over the past few months, we know that Prince Bandar has been visiting Washington frequently, staying at the Hay Adams Hotel and visiting people at the White House. He was not notifying Prince Turki of these visits, which has been a flagrant and insulting breach of diplomatic protocol, to say nothing of its personal discourtesy to his own brother-in-law.

Another curiosity has been the repeated rumors of a meeting between Bandar and some unidentified Israelis, time and place unspecified. (The strongest rumor was that one meeting took place in Amman last summer.) The rumors have been persistent, and deserve some credence. [Emphasis added]

So, the American people think they got their message across in the November elections, and following the Iraq Study Group report they think Bush's current round of policy discussions is aimed at doing what everybody else wants: extricating the US from Iraq. But if the stories above are accurate, what's happening is quite the opposite: Bush is raising the stakes, widening the war, counter-attacking with "victory" — whatever that may mean — still the goal. It's crazy, but when has that ever stopped them?

[Thanks, Miles]

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November 01, 2006

Plunder Iran

Reuters reports that the USAF is asking for a jaw-dropping $50 billion in emergency funds for 2007. That's in addition to its regular budget of about $100 billion. Excerpts:

The U.S. Air Force is asking the Pentagon's leadership for a staggering $50 billion in emergency funding for fiscal 2007 — an amount equal to nearly half its annual budget, defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute said on Tuesday.

The request is expected to draw criticism on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are increasingly worried about the huge sums being sought "off budget" to fund wars, escaping the more rigorous congressional oversight of regular budgets.

Another source familiar with the Air Force plans said the extra funds would help pay to transport growing numbers of U.S. soldiers being killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. [$50 billion for that — what are we here, suckers?] [...]

"This amount of money is so much bigger than the Air Force would normally request ... it hints at a basic breakdown in the process for planning and funding war costs," said Thompson. [...]

The Air Force's proposed emergency budget is nearly half the $105.9 billion it requested as its total base budget for fiscal year 2007, which began on October 1.

The Air Force said it asked Pentagon officials for $17.4 billion in emergency war funds in August, but was now submitting "additional requirements to cover costs for the longer war against terror," based on England's memo. [...]

She said the service had already mapped out an expected supplemental funding request of $50 billion for fiscal 2008. [Emphasis added]

There are several ways of looking at this, none of them good. Maybe the whole system has broken down and devolved into simple naked plundering of the national treasury. But given that the brunt of the Iraq fighting and costs are being borne by the Army and Marines, we have to ask what leads the Air Force to conclude that expenditures on this scale will be necessary and justified. More to the point, what makes them think they have a prayer of selling this to Congress? The only answer seems to be: Iran. An attack on Iran presumably will start out, at least, as a massive air war. So, the USAF knows an attack on Iran is in the cards. Or — as John Robb suggests — they want the money and they'll use Iran to get it.

As usual, there is a confluence of interest groups who stand to gain from an Iran attack. It's never just one thing, one reason, one interest group. It's bad news indeed that there are powerful players (not just the Pentagon, but all the military-aerospace giants who will get the contracts) who stand to make this kind of money. That creates a nearly unstoppable constituency. It may be that some people who advocate war and stand to profit from it consciously tell themselves a hundred other reasons why war is desirable and necessary. But if humans are good at anything, they're good at rationalizing their own self-interest. And when you're talking about tens or hundreds of billions of dollars, that's an awful lot of self-interest.

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October 15, 2006

Why We're Still In Iraq Iran  Iraq  Politics

Conservative William S. Lind, a leading thinking on fourth-generation warfare, tells us why we're still in Iraq:

At least 32 American troops have been killed in Iraq this month [as of October 11]. Approximately 300 have been wounded. The "battle for Baghdad" is going nowhere. A Marine friend just back from Ramadi said to me, "It didn't get any better while I was there, and it's not going to get better." Virtually everyone in Washington, except the people in the White House, knows that is true for all of Iraq.

Actually, I think the White House knows it too. Why then does it insist on "staying the course" at a casualty rate of more than one thousand Americans per month? The answer is breathtaking in its cynicism: so the retreat from Iraq happens on the next President's watch. That is why we still fight.

Yep, it's now all about George. Anyone who thinks that is too low, too mean, too despicable even for this bunch does not understand the meaning of the adjective "Rovian." Would they let thousands more young Americans get killed or wounded just so George W. does not have to face the consequences of his own folly? In a heartbeat.

Not that it's going to help. When history finally lifts it leg on the Bush administration, it will wash all such tricks away, leaving only the hubris and the incompetence. Jeffrey Hart, who with Russell Kirk gone is probably the top intellectual in the conservative movement, has already written that George W. Bush is the worst President America ever had. I think the honor still belongs to the sainted Woodrow, but if Bush attacks Iran, he may yet earn the prize. That third and final act in the Bush tragicomedy is waiting in the wings. [Emphasis added]

Lind sees no reason to expect Democratic victories in next month's midterm elections to change anything:

A Democratic Congress will be as stupid, cowardly and corrupt as its Republican predecessor; in reality, both parties are one party, the party of successful career politicians. The White House will continue a lost war in Iraq, solely to dump the mess in the next President's lap. America or Israel will attack Iran, pulling what's left of the temple down on our heads. Congress will do nothing to stop either war. [Emphasis added]

It is disgusting to think of a war being continued just to protect the egos of powerful men, but we've seen it before. Vietnam lasted for years after it was evident that no victory would be forthcoming, simply because neither Johnson nor Nixon wanted to be the first American president to lose a war. Now it's happening again. Except the danger this time around is that Bush et al will expand the war by attacking Iran, applying the desperate gambler's strategy of last resort: doubling the size of the bet, then doubling it again.

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October 13, 2006

Prepping Public Opionion For An Attack On Iran? Iran

Jonathan Cook, British journalist and writer based in Nazareth, Israel, writes in CounterPunch that Israel may be preparing to strike Iran, possibly using nuclear bunker-busting weapons. An Israeli documentary aired this week on the BBC, he says, preps public opinion for just such an attack. Excerpts:

The Middle East, and possibly the world, stands on the brink of a terrible conflagration as Israel and the United States prepare to deal with Iran's alleged ambition to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel, it becomes clearer by the day, wants to use its air force to deliver a knock-out blow against Tehran. It is not known whether it will use conventional weapons or a nuclear warhead in such a strike.

At this potentially cataclysmic moment in global politics, it is good to see that one of the world's leading broadcasters, the BBC, decided this week that it should air a documentary entitled "Will Israel bomb Iran?". It is the question on everyone's lips and doubtless, with the imprimatur of the BBC, the programme will sell around the world.

The good news ends there, however. Because the programme addresses none of the important issues raised by Israel's increasingly belligerent posture towards Tehran.

It does not explain that, without a United Nations resolution, a military strike on Iran to destroy its nuclear research programme would be a gross violation of international law.

It does not clarify that Israel's own large nuclear arsenal was secretly developed and is entirely unmonitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or that it is perceived as a threat by its neighbours and may be fuelling a Middle East arms race.

Nor does the programme detail the consequences of an Israeli strike on instability and violence across the Middle East, including in Iraq, where British and American troops are stationed as an occupying force.

And there is no consideration of how in the longer term unilateral action by Israel, with implicit sanction by the international community, is certain to provoke a steep rise in global jihad against the West.

Instead the programme dedicates 40 minutes to footage of Top Gun heroics by the Israeli air force, and the recollections of pilots who carried out a similar, "daring" attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor in the early 1980s; menacing long shots of Iran's nuclear research facilities; and interviews with three former Israeli prime ministers, a former Israeli military chief of staff, various officials in Israeli military intelligence and a professor who designs Israel's military arsenal.

All of them speak with one voice: Israel, they claim, is about to be "wiped out" by Iranian nuclear weapons and must defend itself "whatever the consequences". [...]

Shimon Peres, the Israeli government's veteran roving ambassador, claims, for example, that Iran has made "a call for genocide" against Israel, compares an Iranian nuclear bomb to a "flying concentration camp", and warns that "no one would like to see a comeback to the times of the Nazis".

Cabinet minister Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet domestic security service, believes Israel faces "an existential threat" from Iran. And Zvi Stauber, a former senior figure in military intelligence, compares Israel's situation to a man whose neighbour "has a gun and he declares every day he is going to kill you".

But pride of place goes to Binyamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister and the current leader of the opposition. He claims repeatedly that the only possible reason Iran and its president could want a nuclear arsenal is for Israel's "extermination". "If he can get away with it, he'll do it." "Ayatollahs with atombic bombs are a powerful threat to all of us." A nuclear Iran "is a threat unlike anything we have seen before. It's beyond politics" — apparently worse than the nuclear states of North Korea and Pakistan, the latter a military dictatorship and friend of the US barely containing within its borders some of the most fanatical jihadist movements in the world.

Apart from a brief appearance by an Iranian diplomat, no countervailing opinions are entertained in the BBC programme; only Israel's military and political leadership is allowed to speak. [...]

Overlooked by the programme makers is the fact that "fragile" Israel is currently the only country in the Middle East armed with nuclear warheads, several hundred of them, as well as one of the most powerful armies in the world, which presumably make most of its neighbours feel "fragile" too, with far more reason.

And, as we are being persuaded how "fragile" Israel really is, another former prime minister, Ehud Barak, is interviewed. "Ultimately we are standing alone," he says, in apparent justification for an illegal, unilateral strike. Iran's nuclear reasearch facilities, Barak warns, are hidden deep underground, so deep that "no conventional weapon can penetrate", leaving us to infer that in such circumstances Israel will have no choice but use a tactical nuclear strike in its "self-defence". And, getting into his stride, Barak adds that some facilities are in crowded urban areas "where any attack could end up in civilian collateral damage".

But despite the terrifying scenario laid out by Israel's leaders, the BBC website cheerleads for Israel in the same manner as the programme-makers, suggesting that Israel has the right to engineer a clash of civilisations: "With America unlikely to take military action, the pressure is growing on Israel's leaders to launch a raid."

As should be clear by now, the Israeli government's fingerprints are all over this BBC "documentary". And that is hardly surprising because the man behind this "independent" production is Israel's leading film-maker: Noam Shalev. [...]

Before the disengagement from Gaza last year, for example, Shalev made a sympathetic documentary, shown by the BBC, about a day in the life of one Israeli soldier serving there. The film largely concealed the context that might have alerted viewers to the fact that the soldier was enforcing a four-decade illegal occupation of Gaza, or that the Strip is an open-air prison in which thousands of Palestinian have been killed by the Israeli army and in which a majority of Gazans live in abject poverty.

Interviewed about the documentary, Shalev observed: "The army really is very, very careful. There is no indiscriminate firing. I saw, and this was not a show put on just for us, that before any shot is fired there is confirmation that there is nobody behind or in front of the objective. The army is very sensitive to non-deliberate fire."

In other words, Shalev's film for the BBC shed no light on why Israel's "deliberate" fire has killed hundreds of Palestinian children during the second intifada or why a large number of civilians have died from Israeli gunfire and missile strikes inside the Gaza Strip.

Shalev's latest film, "Will Israel bomb Iran?", follows this well-trodden path. Arabs and Muslims are again deprived of a voice, as are non-Israeli experts.

Is the Israeli government using Shalev, wittingly or not, and is he in turn using the BBC, to spread Israeli propaganda? Propaganda that may soon propel us towards the "clash of civilisations" so longed for by Israel's leadership. [Emphasis added]

Let us hope Cook is wrong, that no such attack is in the works, but it is hard not to worry that we are being prepared for what would surely be an utter catastrophe.

[Thanks, Miles]

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October 09, 2006

Apocalypse Soon Iran  Politics

Chris Hedges, who used to be the Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times, thinks a Bush administration attack on Iran is inevitable. And the disaster that follows, he says, will be, quite literally, apocalyptic. Excerpts:

The aircraft carrier Eisenhower, accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage, guided-missile destroyer USS Mason and the fast-attack submarine USS Newport News, is, as I write, making its way to the Straits of Hormuz off Iran. The ships will be in place to strike Iran by the end of the month. It may be a bluff. It may be a feint. It may be a simple show of American power. But I doubt it.

War with Iran — a war that would unleash an apocalyptic scenario in the Middle East — is probable by the end of the Bush administration. It could begin in as little as three weeks. This administration, claiming to be anointed by a Christian God to reshape the world, and especially the Middle East, defined three states at the start of its reign as "the Axis of Evil." They were Iraq, now occupied; North Korea, which, because it has nuclear weapons, is untouchable; and Iran. Those who do not take this apocalyptic rhetoric seriously have ignored the twisted pathology of men like Elliott Abrams, who helped orchestrate the disastrous and illegal contra war in Nicaragua, and who now handles the Middle East for the National Security Council. He knew nothing about Central America. He knows nothing about the Middle East. He sees the world through the childish, binary lens of good and evil, us and them, the forces of darkness and the forces of light. And it is this strange, twilight mentality that now grips most of the civilian planners who are barreling us towards a crisis of epic proportions. [...]

These men advocate a doctrine of permanent war...[b]ut this war will be different. It will be catastrophic. It will usher in the apocalyptic nightmares spun out in the dark, fantastic visions of the Christian right. And there are those around the president who see this vision as preordained by God; indeed, the president himself may hold such a vision.

The hypocrisy of this vaunted moral crusade is not lost on those in the Middle East. Iran actually signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has violated a codicil of that treaty written by European foreign ministers, but this codicil was never ratified by the Iranian parliament. I do not dispute Iran's intentions to acquire nuclear weapons nor do I minimize the danger should it acquire them in the estimated five to 10 years. But contrast Iran with Pakistan, India and Israel. These three countries refused to sign the treaty and developed nuclear weapons programs in secret. Israel now has an estimated 400 to 600 nuclear weapons. The word "Dimona," the name of the city where the nuclear facilities are located in Israel, is shorthand in the Muslim world for the deadly Israeli threat to Muslims' existence. What lessons did the Iranians learn from our Israeli, Pakistani and Indian allies? [...]

Those in Washington who advocate this war, knowing as little about the limitations and chaos of war as they do about the Middle East, believe they can hit about 1,000 sites inside Iran to wipe out nuclear production and cripple the 850,000-man Iranian army. The disaster in southern Lebanon, where the Israeli air campaign not only failed to break Hezbollah but united most Lebanese behind the militant group, is dismissed. These ideologues, after all, do not live in a reality-based universe. The massive Israeli bombing of Lebanon failed to pacify 4 million Lebanese. What will happen when we begin to pound a country of 70 million people? As retired General Wesley K. Clark and others have pointed out, once you begin an air campaign it is only a matter of time before you have to put troops on the ground or accept defeat, as the Israelis had to do in Lebanon. And if we begin dropping bunker busters, cruise missiles and iron fragmentation bombs on Iran this is the choice that must be faced — either sending American forces into Iran to fight a protracted and futile guerrilla war or walking away in humiliation.

"As a people we are enormously forgetful," Dr. [William R.] Polk, one of the country's leading scholars on the Middle East, told an Oct. 13 gathering of the Foreign Policy Association in New York. "We should have learned from history that foreign powers can't win guerrilla wars. The British learned this from our ancestors in the American Revolution and re-learned it in Ireland. Napoleon learned it in Spain. The Germans learned it in Yugoslavia. We should have learned it in Vietnam and the Russians learned it in Afghanistan and are learning it all over again in Chechnya and we are learning it, of course, in Iraq. Guerrilla wars are almost unwinnable. [...]

An attack on Iran will ignite the Middle East. The loss of Iranian oil, coupled with Silkworm missile attacks by Iran on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, could send oil soaring to well over $110 a barrel. The effect on the domestic and world economy will be devastating, very possibly triggering a huge, global depression. The 2 million Shiites in Saudi Arabia, the Shiite majority in Iraq and the Shiite communities in Bahrain, Pakistan and Turkey will turn in rage on us and our dwindling allies. We will see a combination of increased terrorist attacks, including on American soil, and the widespread sabotage of oil production in the Gulf. Iraq, as bad as it looks now, will become a death pit for American troops as Shiites and Sunnis, for the first time, unite against their foreign occupiers.

The country, however, that will pay the biggest price will be Israel. And the sad irony is that those planning this war think of themselves as allies of the Jewish state. A conflagration of this magnitude could see Israel drawn back in Lebanon and sucked into a regional war, one that would over time spell the final chapter in the Zionist experiment in the Middle East. The Israelis aptly call their nuclear program "the Samson option." The Biblical Samson ripped down the pillars of the temple and killed everyone around him, along with himself.

If you are sure you will be raptured into heaven, your clothes left behind with the nonbelievers, then this news should cheer you up. If you are rational, however, these may be some of the last few weeks or months in which to enjoy what is left of our beleaguered, dying republic and way of life. [Emphasis added]

You think: they can't possibly be this misguided, this reckless, this insane. But then you look at everything else they've done, and you realize that the expectations and standards you use with your friends and neighbors simply don't apply with these people.

It's an administration of psychopaths. Anyone who wasn't a psychopath got weeded out long ago.

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September 21, 2006

The "Making Sense" Filter Iran

Retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner (via Billmon):

When I discuss the possibility of an American military strike on Iran with my European friends, they invariably point out that an armed confrontation does not make sense — that it would be unlikely to yield any of the results that American policymakers do want, and that it would be highly likely to yield results that they do not. I tell them they cannot understand U.S. policy if they insist on passing options through that filter. The "making sense" filter was not applied over the past four years for Iraq, and it is unlikely to be applied in evaluating whether to attack Iran.

Once again, we're confronted with a choice between two equally frightening possibilities. Either everything's going according to plan — they wanted chaos and civil war in Iraq and Iraq's eventual breakup into three easy-to-dominate statelets, and they wanted chaos in Afghanistan and, for example, the truly astonishing upsurge in heroin exports that's occurred there — or they're just completely clueless, applying the logic of the compulsive gambler: trying to recoup their losses by doubling and redoubling their bet. Either way, they're out of control, and American democracy looks like so much window dressing.

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September 19, 2006

Gardiner: The Order's Been Given Iran

Retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner says we're already at war with Iran. Transcript via ThinkProgress:

BLITZER: How likely is the U.S. strike against Iran? And would it lead to all-out war? Joining us now is retired U.S. Air Force colonel Sam Gardiner. He has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, the Air War College, and the Naval War College. Colonel thanks very much for coming in. He just prepared a paper for the Century Foundation entitled "Considering the U.S. Military Option For Iran." You speak to a lot of people plugged in. What is your bottom line? How close in your opinion is the Bush Administration to giving that go ahead.

GARDINER: It's been given. In fact, we've probably been executing military operations inside Iran for at least 18 months. The evidence is overwhelming. [...]

BLITZER: When you say it's been given. The president says he wants diplomacy to work to convince the Iranian government to stop enriching uranium, not go forward. "I would tell the Iranian people that we have no desire for conflict." He told David Ignatius of the Washington Post the other day. So what does that mean, the order has been given?

GARDINER: We are conducting military operations inside Iran right now. The evidence is overwhelming. From both the Iranians, Americans, and from congressional sources.

BLITZER: What is "military operation?" Define that.

GARDINER: Sure. They probably have had two objectives going back 18 months. The first was to gather intelligence. Where is the Iranian nuclear program? The second has been to prepare dissident groups for phase two which will be the strike, which will come as the next phase, I think.

BLITZER: Preparing intelligence, that's understandable using all sorts of means. They want to know what the Iranians are up to in terms of their nuclear program. But are you suggesting that U.S. military forces, special operations forces, or others are on the ground right now in Iran.

GARDINER: Yes, sir. Certainly. Absolutely clear — the evidence is overwhelming from lots of sources, and, again, most of them you can read in the public. Seymour Hersh has done good work on it. There are lots of other people who have done that. I have talked to Iranians. I asked an Iranian ambassador to the IAEA, what's this I hear about Americans being there? He said to me, well, we've captured some people who worked with them. We've confirmed that they're there.

BLITZER: Yeah, but, you know, these guys — the Iranians, you can't necessarily believe what they're saying. They could arrest some dissidents in Iran and say these are American spies. They do that all the time.

GARDINER: Sure. Sure. The House Committee on Emerging Threats tried to have a hearing some weeks ago in which they asked the Department of State and Defense to come and answer this question because it's serious enough to be answered without congressional approval, and they didn't come to the hearing. There are sources that I have talked to on the Hill who believe that that's true and that it's being done without congressional oversight.

BLITZER: Look, I was once a Pentagon correspondent many years ago, and in those days and in these days, as Jamie McIntire just reported, and as you well know from your time in active duty in the Pentagon, in the U.S. military, these guys are planning contingency operations for almost everything. If Canada goes to war against the United States, they have a contingency plan.

GARDINER: Okay, two differences. Number one, we have learned from TIME Magazine today that some U.S. naval forces had been alerted for deployment. That is a major step. That's first. Second thing is the sources suggest the plan that's not in the Pentagon. The plan has gone to the White House. That's not normal [contingency] planning. When the plan goes to the White House, that means we've gone to a different state.

BLITZER: You think it's possible there is a little psychological warfare being played on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to rattle him. To spread the word. To put out this kind of information. To get him nervous, perhaps a little bit more agreeable to the diplomatic option.

GARDINER: It's possible. It's also possible that this path was selected a long time ago. You recall that even before Gulf II that a time when the president said we have no plan. I have no plan on my desk. In the summer of 2002 we began bombing Iraq. Operation Southern Focus, without congressional approval, without the U.N. sanctions, we went ahead and began bombing.

BLITZER: The argument at that time is if there were violations of the no-fly zone, U.S. war planes were flying in the north and the south and there were rockets or anti-aircraft fire going up, they could take those out.

GARDINER: Yes, but it was a campaign to begin the war before the war began. You know, I would suggest the evidence is there.

BLITZER: You see a similar pattern right now.

GARDINER: Exactly. [Emphasis added]

Fool me once, shame on you...

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August 30, 2006

The Lessons Of History Iran

Josh Marshall has a good post on the "lessons of history" as they apply to the putative case for attacking Iran. It's short, so rather than summarize it here, I'll just urge you to go read it. It's the antidote to all the heavy breathing about Iran being somehow akin to Germany in the 1930s. Go.

[Thanks, Miles]

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August 18, 2006

Selling The "Noble Cause" Iran

From Glenn Greewald, author of How Would a Patriot Act?, an important post regarding an essay by erstwhile Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson selling the "noble cause" of a war with Iran:

The most under-appreciated influence on the Bush presidency is almost certainly Michael Gerson, the evangelical Christian who served as Bush's chief speechwriter from the beginning of Bush's presidency until recently, when he resigned. a close confidant of the President.

He has a new essay in Newsweek purporting to describe how the 9/11 attacks "changed George W. Bush." [...]

What is most notable about Gerson's essay is that it certainly seems as though he believes a military confrontation with Iran is both necessary and imminent, and devotes the bulk of his essay to making the case:

First, the nation may be tired, but history doesn't care. It is not fair that the challenge of Iran is rising with Iraq, bloody and unresolved. But, as President Kennedy used to say, "Life is not fair."

Behind all the chaos and death in Lebanon and northern Israel, Iran is the main cause of worry in the West Wing — the crisis with the highest stakes. Its government shows every sign of grand regional ambitions, pulling together an anti-American alliance composed of Syria, terrorist groups like Hizbullah and Hamas, and proxies in Iraq and Afghanistan. And despite other disagreements, all the factions in Iran — conservative, ultraconservative and "let's usher in the apocalypse" fanatics — seem united in a nuclear nationalism.

Some commentators say that America is too exhausted to confront this threat. But presidential decisions on national security are not primarily made by the divination of public sentiments; they are made by the determination of national interests. And the low blood-sugar level of pundits counts not at all. Here the choice is not easy, but it is simple: can America (and other nations) accept a nuclear Iran? ...

There are still many steps of diplomacy, engagement and sanctions between today and a decision about military conflict with Iran — and there may yet be a peaceful solution. But in this diplomatic dance, America should not mirror the infinite patience of Europe. There must be someone in the world capable of drawing a line — someone who says, "This much and no further." At some point, those who decide on aggression must pay a price, or aggression will be universal. If American "cowboy diplomacy" did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it. [Emphasis added]

As Greenwald points out, this passage is noteworthy for its complete disdain for democracy. The population may be tired, with "low blood-sugar", but that "counts not at all". The President is The Decider, and since 9/11 Bush is, in fact, more than a President. Greenwald:

The 9/11 attacks justify all of this because it made the President something more than a President; it made him a Great Cause. As Gerson puts it, after recounting his most melodramatic 9/11 memories: "Starting in those days, I felt not merely part of an administration, but part of a story; a noble story." Nothing as lowly or ephemeral as public opinion is going to impede this "noble story," driven by this great man with his mission of overarching moral imperatives. In many ways, that is the Bush presidency in a nutshell.

Greenwald (an attorney) says the White House clearly believes it has the power to go to war with Iran without the approval of Congress or anyone else. Greenwald:

I have written before that the administration's theory of executive power almost certainly means that they believe they have the right to initiate a war on Iran even without any declaration of war or any other form of Congressional approval. Indeed, they would be empowered to do so even in the face of Congressional opposition. Groups such as the Heritage Foundation have made clear that in the wake of 9/11, there can be no limits on the President's decision-making powers with regard to the use of military force. [Emphasis added]

As Greenwald points out, Gerson's essay is significant because of Gerson's status as a Bush insider and confidant. This is no rant from a Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, or Ann Coulter. I think we have to assume it's part of a PR campaign to soften us for an attack that's probably already in the works. We're being fed a steady diet of accusations against Iran — nukes, Iraq IEDs, Lebanon and Hezbollah — just as we were regarding Iraq (WMD, etc.). You'd think there'd be greater media skepticism this time around, but you'd be wrong.

Time to decide: are we still a democracy?

[Thanks, Miles]

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August 17, 2006

Hurtling Towards The Abyss Iran  Palestine/Middle East

Seymour Hersh on CNN: The US and Israel, together, planned the Lebanon attack months in advance. Cheney and the neocons thought the attack on Lebanon was going to be "a model, a prototype" for an attack on Iran: "a lot of air [power] against...dug-in, underground facilities." Watch the clip.

Hersh: "It's time to decide if we're a democracy or not. This President is doing an awful lot of foreign policy without sharing it with the rest of us."

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August 14, 2006

John Robb On What's Coming Global Guerrillas  Iran  Palestine/Middle East  War and Peace

John Robb, the guy to read on fourth generation warfare and the rise of loosely-affilated, globalized, non-state forces that he calls global guerrillas, has posted an ominous analysis of what lies in store. Scary stuff. I don't know that I agree with all of it, but it's essential reading, so I'm taking the liberty of reproducing it in full:

As most readers of this blog already know, its focus is on putting the jigsaw pieces of a mega-trend together: the rise and evolutionary improvement of non-state foes. In this blog, we've tracked and analyzed everything from 9/11's terrorism to Iraq's open source warfare to Afghanistan's black globalization to Nigeria's system disruption to Hezbollah's fourth generation warfare. It's been a wild ride. Unfortunately, this process of evolution has caused a big problem. With each improvement in the capabilities of non-state groups, states have become more confused. Worse yet, they are blaming each other for the problems they are encountering with these groups.

This tension and confusion has now reached a tipping point, akin to the situation that preceded WW1. Nation-states, confused and locked into antiquated mindsets, are likely to stumble into a global war. To wit: Israel's loss to Hezbollah and the US loss of Iraq to civil war puts both countries into an untenable strategic situation. Instead of blaming themselves for an inability to reach victory, they are priming themselves for a confrontation with the perceived 'source' of the problem: Iran. As it stands right now, war with Iran is likely inevitable. It really doesn't matter whether it is caused by a US (or Israeli) air campaign against Iran, an Iranian pre-emptive special operation, or a simple error: it's on the way.

For better or worse, this impending war will not follow a familiar pattern of conflict we are used to. It will quickly evolve into something much more chaotic, an epochal conflict between non-states and states over control of vast sections of the globe. Here's how. Any attack on Iran will be constructed in a way to force regime change (my belief is that it will be an airpower EBO [effects-based operation — an attack on essential infrastructure] as we saw twice in Iraq and in a pale replica: Lebanon). When this doesn't occur quickly, and as regional chaos spreads due to Iranian counter-attacks the conflict will escalate to a ground invasion. At that point, the Iranian state will cease to exist in any recognizable form. A plethora of energized non-state foes will populate the landscape in its stead. These groups won't yield, and will bog the invasion down into a never ending counter-insurgency.

Stretched to its limit, the US and its remaining allies will not be able to stop the process of self-replication that will occur. Non-state global guerrillas, armed with the evolved capabilities analyzed on this blog, will begin a process of regional destabilization that will sweep many of the nearby autocracies into the dustbin of history. This process will in turn create more armed non-state groups and thereby more foes. Further, this war will quickly expand beyond the Middle East as these forces make attacks on global targets and other non-state groups take advantage of the resulting economic and social chaos.

Western nation-states, to bolster defenses against this chaos, will throw up barriers and enact measures in many ways akin to those of police states and totalitarian governments. This round of globalization will end, which will cause economic contraction, resource shortages, and chaos. [Emphasis added]

Strangely enough, our best hope for avoiding a catastrophe may lie with the military officer corps. The civilian leadership seems completely out of touch with the military realities, and they have shown that they don't much care what the public thinks. But if the military leadership can keep their wits about them, perhaps they can take the craziest options off the table. Let's hope they read John Robb.

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August 06, 2006

Peak Oil, Lebanon, and Iran Iran  Palestine/Middle East  Peak Oil

I have always thought that Peak Oil is the Rosetta Stone of Bush/Cheney foreign policy. As I wrote a year and a half ago:

They believe Peak Oil's coming, and they mean to control the world's oil-producing regions before oil shortages get underway in earnest. Examine it from a Peak Oil perspective, and suddenly everything they're doing looks like part of a coherent (if misguided) overall game plan.

Juan Cole has a long post up today making the case (or at least examining its plausibility) that Israel's destruction of Lebanon is part of that Peak Oil game plan. Having occupied Iraq, the big prize that remains is Iran. Excerpts:

The wholesale destruction of all of Lebanon by Israel and the US Pentagon does not make any sense. Why bomb roads, roads, bridges, ports, fuel depots in Sunni and Christian areas that have nothing to do with Shiite Hizbullah in the deep south? And, why was Hizbullah's rocket capability so crucial that it provoked Israel to this orgy of destruction? [...]

Moreover, the Lebanese government elected last year was pro-American! Why risk causing it to fall by hitting the whole country so hard?

And, why was Condi Rice's reaction to the capture of two Israeli soldiers and Israel's wholesale destruction of little Lebanon that these were the "birth pangs" of the "New Middle East"?

Cole quotes a European reader of his who wrote:

When I was in Portugal I also watched a presentation by a guy who works for the ministry of energy in that country, a certain [JFR].

He started his presentation with the growing need for oil in China and India. He stressed that China wants to become the 'workshop' of the world and India the 'office' of the world. both economies contributed combined some 44% to world economy growth during 2001-2004. He compared the USA, Japan, India and China to giant whales constantly eating fish. They had no fish near them so they started to move. He explained that the Persian Gulf is the 'fish ground', the 'gas station' of the world. [...]

JFR explained to the astonished audience that Iran was the most valuable country on the planet. They have one of the biggest holdings of gas and oil reserves in the world. second in gas, second in oil. On top of that they have direct access to the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Caspian Sea what makes them a potential platform for the distribution of oil and gas to South Asia, Europe and East Asia. JRF called Iran 'the prize'...

The disaster in Lebanon actually was also part of JFR's presentation. He explained that the US government is 100% convinced, fanatically and completely convinced, that both, Hamas and Hizballah are creatures of Iran and that Iran uses them to undermine US goals in the region...

The presentation got kind of freaky then. He said the US government wanted to stop state-controlled Iranian or Chinese (or Indian) companies from controlling the oil. JFR says the US Government is convinced that this battle will decide the future of the world. It sounded like he was talking about 'the one ring' in lord of the rings. he who controls Iran controls them all.' [Emphasis added]

It's often said that actually controlling the oil-producing countries is unnecessary since oil is a fungible commodity. Why do you need to control the oil fields if you can just buy oil on the open market? Cole:

[T]he "fungibility" (easy exchange) of oil is less important in the new environment than it used to be. US petroleum companies would like to go back to actually owning fields in the Middle East, since there are big profits to be made if you get to decide when you take it out of the ground. As Chinese and Indian competition for the increasingly scarce resource heats up, exclusive contracts will be struck. When I floated the fungibility of petroleum as a reason for which the Iraq War could not be only about oil, at a talk at Columbia's Earth Institute last year, Jeffrey Sachs surprised me by disagreeing with me. In our new environment, oil is becoming a commodity over which it really does make sense to fight for control. [...]

Jeffrey Sachs is right. Oil is fungible only after its out of the ground. The name of today's game is control of reserves, not markets. Example: china's deals in Latin America, US development of non-Nigerian African resource, etc." [Emphasis added]

I would add that the fungibility argument assumes orderly markets in a peaceful world. My guess is that Bush/Cheney et al have looked into their crystal ball and concluded that the oil-importing nations of the world are going to end up in a fight to the death for the oil that remains. When the world's at war, oil's fungibility doesn't count for much. (During WWII, for example, Germany couldn't just go out and buy the oil it needed. Lack of oil, as much as anything else, insured Germany's defeat.) Bush/Cheney may well have concluded that the US and China are on a collision course. Should it come to that, control of the world's oil will be decisive.

So Iran is the prize, and Lebanon is a preliminary bout. As I've noted before, Israel's pounding of Lebanon can be viewed as an effort to secure the Americans' flank in preparation for an attack on Iran. The threat on the flank was and is Hezbollah. Cole:

In the short term, Iran was protected by [an] ace in the hole. It had a client in the Levant, Lebanon's Hizbullah, and had given it a few silkworm rockets, which could theoretically hit Israeli nuclear and chemical facilities. Hizbullah increasingly organizes the Lebanese Shiites, and the Lebanese Shiites will in the next ten to twenty years emerge as a majority in Lebanon, giving Iran a commercial hub on the Mediterranean.

Cole doesn't seem to anticipate a US attack on Iran in the near term. Let's hope he's right, but the ferocity of Israel's assault certainly suggests that the US may already be starting to move. Cf. Condi's comments about "birth pangs" of a "New Middle East".

Some observers (see, for example, Xymphora) look at all this and say it's got nothing to do with oil: the Israelis, and their American neocon supporters, are pursuing their own agenda, trying to safeguard or enlarge Israeli power. But nothing is ever about just one thing. The Israelis have their own axe to grind; that doesn't mean it's only about Israel. Similarly, lots of private companies are making a fortune off of war; that doesn't mean it's only about profits. And so on.

How seriously you take the oil motivation ultimately depends on how seriously you take the implications of Peak Oil. Or, rather, it depends on how seriously you think Bush/Cheney (and the Pentagon, the CIA, etc.) take the implications of Peak Oil (and the likelihood of an eventual conflict with China). My guess is they take it very seriously indeed. Everything they've done, everything they're doing, points that way.

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July 30, 2006

Doubling Down Iran  Iraq  Palestine/Middle East  War and Peace

Josh Marshall links to an article in today's Jerusalem Post:

[Israeli] Defense officials told the Post last week that they were receiving indications from the United States that the US would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria. [Emphasis added]

He goes on to say:

[T]here do appear to be forces in Washington — seemingly the stronger ones, with Rice just a facade — who see this whole thing as an opportunity for a grand call of double or nothing to get out of the disaster they've created in the region. Go into Syria, maybe Iran. Try to roll the table once and for all. No failed war that a new war can't solve. [Emphasis added]

That's my fear as well, that the Bush/Cheney regime has painted itself into such a desperate corner that doubling down may seem, as Billmon put it a few months back, "like the only move left on the board." Billmon:

What we are witnessing...may be an example of what the Germans call the flucht nach vorne – the "flight forward." This refers to a situation in which an individual or institution seeks a way out of a crisis by becoming ever more daring and aggressive (or, as the White House propaganda department might put it: "bold") A familar analogy is the gambler in Vegas, who tries to get out of a hole by doubling down on each successive bet.

Classic historical examples of the flucht nach vornes include Napoleon's attempt to break the long stalemate with Britain by invading Russia, the decision of the Deep South slaveholding states to secede from the Union after Lincoln's election, and Milosevic's bid to create a "greater Serbia" after Yugoslavia fell apart.

As these examples suggest, flights forward usually don't end well — just as relatively few gamblers emerge from a doubling-down spree with their shirts still on their backs.

It's depressing to think how much human suffering is caused by a handful of men with big egos. Some guys would rather take us all down in flames than admit error or defeat. But there's something unbelievably archaic about issues like war and the fate of nations being held hostage to the pyschopathology of individual men (and maybe a few women) in leadership positions. It's like we think we're still a small band of primates living in the forest somewhere: the alpha males call the shots. Time to grow up.

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July 29, 2006

From Lebanon To Iran Iran  Iraq  Palestine/Middle East

As I wrote in an earlier post, if US forces are inserted into southern Lebanon, the inevitable Hezbollah attacks on those troops are sure to lead to a wider war pitting the US and Israel against Syria and/or Iran.

John Robb agrees, but believes the target will be Iran:

If the US sends troops to Lebanon as peacekeepers and/or as a force to disarm Hezbollah, we will see a quick escalation. Any attack (and it would be inevitable) on US forces by the Hez would be seen as a direct attack on the US by Syria and Iran. This would lead to an immediate expansion of hostilities (to include an EBO [effects based operation] against both countries as a means of punishment). From that point on, the situation would be beyond repair. [...]

I do not think I am overstating the danger here. Once momentum starts moving in that direction, we might soon find ourselves in another situation where stubborn pride, as much as anything else, would make it hard for us to modify our rhetoric and admit our inability and that of our Israeli allies to disarm and dismantle the military arm of Hizballah. It's a proxy war right now, but if our surrogates (the Israelis) fail to achieve their objectives, they will attempt very purposefully to broaden the conflict into a much larger one directly involving the United States and Iran. [Emphasis in the original]

Robb cites former CIA analyst Ray Close, who writes:

My source confirmed in detail the fact that intelligence being produced for the Bush Administration by the Pentagon strongly supports the thesis that Hizballah operations are directly controlled and closely managed from Teheran. My source considers this an exaggerated picture of the real situation. He believes that this assessment contributes to an unhealthy and even dangerous mindset in Washington, leading to potentially serious miscalculations and errors of judgment by President Bush and his closest advisors at this very critical time. [Emphasis added]

These people have their heads in a bubble, and they are going to get a lot of people killed. The idea that Hezbollah is being "directly controlled and closely managed" by Iran is as outmoded as the idea that the opposition in Iraq is just a bunch of foreign jihadists and Baathist dead-enders. And we know how that turned out. If the US allows itself to be drawn into a war with Iran, we will look back on our current difficulties with nostalgia.

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June 21, 2006

To See Ourselves As Others See Us Iran  Iraq  Palestine/Middle East

Who's the biggest threat to world peace? We are, according to a poll spanning 15 nations. Guardian, via CommonDreams:

George Bush's six years in office have so damaged the image of the US that people worldwide see Washington as a bigger threat to world peace than Tehran, according to a global poll.

The Washington-based Pew Research Centre, in a poll of 17,000 people in 15 countries between March and May, found more people concerned about the US presence in Iraq than about Iran's alleged nuclear weapons ambitions. [...]

The survey, carried out annually, shows a continued decline in support for the US since 1999. [...]

But even in the UK, Washington's closest ally, favourable ratings have slumped from 83% in 1999 to 56% this year. The pattern is similar in France, down from 62% to 39%, Germany 78% to 37%, and Spain 50% to 23%.

In Muslim countries with which the US has traditionally enjoyed a good relationship, such as Turkey - a member of Nato - and Indonesia, there have also been slumps. In Indonesia favourable ratings for the US have dropped from 75% to 30%, and in Turkey from 52% to 12%.

"It's all [because of] Iraq," Carroll Doherty, associate director of the Pew Centre, said. [...]

Favourable ratings of the US in India dropped over the year from 71% to 56%. [...]

Throughout the period the poll was conducted the crisis over Iran's nuclear programme, intensified by hardline comments from its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was repeatedly in the news. Iraq, too, has been in the news on an almost daily basis, with the formation of a new Iraqi government being accompanied by fears of a civil war.

Only in the US and Germany is Iran seen as a greater danger than the US in Iraq. Public opinion in 12 of the other countries - Britain, France, Spain, Russia, Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Nigeria, India and China - cite the US presence in Iraq as being the greater danger. Opinion in Japan was evenly divided.

As well as Iraq and Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also high on the list of issues that present a danger to world peace. Public opinion in about a third of the countries polled put it at the top of their list of threats. [...]

By contrast, concern about Iran has almost doubled in the US over the past two years. Some 46% of Americans view Mr Ahmadinejad's government as "a great danger" to stability in the Middle East and world peace, up from 26% in 2003. The concern in the US is shared in Germany, where 51% see Iran as a great danger to world peace, against 18% three years ago. [...]

Those are remarkable numbers: US approval cut more or less in half under Bush. Meanwhile, the media blitz here in the US has done its work: nearly half of Americans now view Iran as "a great danger". They didn't arrive at that conclusion on their own. It's disheartening to realize what sheep we are. Small wonder that media ownership and control is such a priority for elites here and elsewhere.

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June 19, 2006

US Rejected Iranian Proposal In 2003 Iran  Politics

The Washington Post reported yesterday that in 2003 Iran sought to open a dialogue with the US, but the administration rejected the proposal out of hand. Excerpt:

Just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by U.S. forces three years ago, an unusual two-page document spewed out of a fax machine at the Near East bureau of the State Department. It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table — including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.

But top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse, belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax with a cover letter certifying it as a genuine proposal supported by key power centers in Iran, former administration officials said.

Last month, the Bush administration abruptly shifted policy and agreed to join talks previously led by European countries over Iran's nuclear program. But several former administration officials say the United States missed an opportunity in 2003 at a time when American strength seemed at its height — and Iran did not have a functioning nuclear program or a gusher of oil revenue from soaring energy demand.

"At the time, the Iranians were not spinning centrifuges, they were not enriching uranium," said Flynt Leverett, who was a senior director on the National Security Council staff then and saw the Iranian proposal. He described it as "a serious effort, a respectable effort to lay out a comprehensive agenda for U.S.-Iranian rapprochement." [...]

Parsi said the U.S. victory in Iraq frightened the Iranians because U.S. forces had routed in three weeks an army that Iran had failed to defeat during a bloody eight-year war.

The document lists a series of Iranian aims for the talks, such as ending sanctions, full access to peaceful nuclear technology and a recognition of its "legitimate security interests." Iran agreed to put a series of U.S. aims on the agenda, including full cooperation on nuclear safeguards, "decisive action" against terrorists, coordination in Iraq, ending "material support" for Palestinian militias and accepting the Saudi initiative for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The document also laid out an agenda for negotiations, with possible steps to be achieved at a first meeting and the development of negotiating road maps on disarmament, terrorism and economic cooperation. [...]

Leverett said Guldimann included a cover letter that it was an authoritative initiative that had the support of then-President Mohammad Khatami and supreme religious leader Ali Khamenei. [...]

Paul R. Pillar, former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, said that it is true "there is less daylight between the United States and Europe, thanks in part to Rice's energetic diplomacy." But he said that only partially offsets the fact that the U.S. position is "inherently weaker now" because of Iraq. He described the Iranian approach as part of a series of efforts by Iran to engage with the Bush administration. "I think there have been a lot of lost opportunities," he said, citing as one example a failure to build on the useful cooperation Iran provided in Afghanistan. [...]

Parsi said that based on his conversations with the Iranian officials, he believes the failure of the United States to even respond to the offer had an impact on the government. Parsi, who is writing a book on Iran-Israeli relations, said he believes the Iranians were ready to dramatically soften their stance on Israel, essentially taking the position of other Islamic countries such as Malaysia. Instead, Iranian officials decided that the United States cared not about Iranian policies but about Iranian power.

The incident "strengthened the hands of those in Iran who believe the only way to compel the United States to talk or deal with Iran is not by sending peace offers but by being a nuisance," Parsi said. [Emphasis added]

The gang that couldn't think straight. Have they ever been right about anything?

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May 27, 2006

Making Us Safer Afghanistan  Iran  Iraq  War and Peace

The International Institute for Strategic Studies' annual global security assessment says Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and North Korea threaten a "perfect storm" of simultaneous crises. Guardian:

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the west's growing confrontation with Iran, and efforts to divest North Korea of its nuclear weapons are all approaching crucial turning points that could combine to create a perfect storm of simultaneous international crises, independent defence experts said yesterday.

Launching the International Institute for Strategic Studies' (IISS) annual assessment of global security threats, John Chipman, its director general, said: "Many parts of the world are engaged in brutal combat ... Overall, the dangerous triptych of Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran continues to dominate the security agenda as do the wider, iconic problems of terrorism and proliferation." [...]

Dr Chipman said the new Iraqi government faced "fundamental challenges" that could quickly overwhelm its attempts to hold the country together and invite regional intervention. "It is doubtful that a collective sense of Iraqi nationalism can survive in a context of increasing sectarian violence and the continuing security vacuum. Democracy has exacerbated Iraq's ethnic and religious tensions, with voters largely dividing along Sunni, Shia and Kurdish lines." [...]

Presenting the report, entitled The Military Balance, Dr Chipman warned of a rising Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan aimed at British and Nato troops who are replacing some US forces. "This year will be crucial for Afghanistan as well as for Nato as it expands its mission into the south," he said. "The Taliban are likely to increase their operational tempo - not least because they know that casualties among European Nato states may mobilise domestic opinion against the war." [...]

The IISS said North Korea had obtained enough plutonium to build between five and 11 nuclear weapons and long-running talks to induce Pyongyang to disarm were at an impasse.

In an implicit criticism of Washington's policy of ostracism and financial sanctions, Dr Chipman said North Korea had concluded that "the Bush administration is not serious about negotiations and [has] hostile intent". [...]

The report also highlighted growing US concerns about China's military build-up and intentions, quoting the findings of the recent US Quadrennial Defence Review. It said China was "a power at a strategic crossroads that is still pointing largely in the wrong direction and which has the greatest potential to emerge as a military rival to the US". [Emphasis added]

Everything they're doing is making us less safe, not safer. Swat hornets' nests with baseball bats and then wonder why all the stinging: not exactly a sign of intelligence.

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April 18, 2006

Clueless In DC Iran  Politics

American Prospect posted an extraordinary article yesterday on VP Cheney's enormously secretive and powerful staff. I hope to comment on it at some length, but in the meantime, check out this quote:

[O]fficials who have opposed Cheney believe that President Bush has "views" only about basic principles, and that in making dozens of complex decisions he relies on pre-determined staff papers. Says one insider deeply involved in U.S. policy toward North Korea: "The president is given only the most basic notions about the Korea issue. They tell him, 'Above South Korea is a country called North Korea. It is an evil regime.'...So that translates into a presidential decision: Why enter into any agreement with an evil regime?" [Emphasis added]

Bush says he's a decider and a delegator, but that's wishful thinking. He thinks he doesn't have to know anything, he can just listen to his "gut." He's a C-minus frat boy who never grew up, and he's in over his head like few people in history. Watch him take some new reckless course (think, Iran) to try to prove that he's a "decider" and a bold leader.

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April 17, 2006

Running Up To Iran Iran

I knew the ongoing run-up to war with Iran reminded me of something. Thanks to Glenn Greenwald, I now know what it was:

Fool me once, shame on you...

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NYT Hypes Iran Fears Iran

Talk about depressing. The New York Times cranks up the Fear Wurlitzer for an attack on Iran.

War with Iran is just a crazy, crazy idea. Could anything be more obvious?

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April 14, 2006

Bush And Rumsfeld's Secret War Iran  Politics

What's behind the generals' revolt?

Six retired generals, including three who commanded troops in Iraq under Rumsfeld's leadership, have publicly stated their criticism of Rumsfeld's leadership and called for his resignation.

And Bush's stubborn support?

"Secretary Rumsfeld's energetic and steady leadership is exactly what is needed at this critical period. He has my full support and deepest appreciation," Bush said in a statement.

Go read Digby. He quotes Colonel Sam Gardiner, retired, who taught at the National War College, the Air War College and the Naval Warfare College. Gardiner appeared on CNN today:

GARDINER: Actually,...I would say — and this may shock some — I think the decision has been made and military operations are under way [in Iran]. [...]

[T]he Iranians have been saying American military troops are in there, have been saying it for almost a year. I was in Berlin two weeks ago, sat next to the ambassador, the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA. And I said, "Hey, I hear you're accusing Americans of being in there operating with some of the units that have shot up revolution guard units."

He said, quite frankly, "Yes, we know they are. We've captured some of the units, and they've confessed to working with the Americans."

The evidence is mounting that that decision has already been made, and I don't know that the other part of that has been completed, that there has been any congressional approval to do this.

My view of the plan is, there is this period in which some kinds of ground troops will operate inside Iran, and then what we're talking about is the second part, which is this air strike. [...]

CNN: If they do decide on a military option...


CNN: ... what's the realistic chance of success? What's your — your prognosis for that kind of reaction here?

GARDINER: Yes. Let me give you two answers to that. First of all, the chance of getting the facilities and setting back the program, I think the chances go from maybe two years to actually accelerating the program. You know, we could cause them to redouble their efforts. That's on one side.

The other side is this sort of horizontal escalation by the Iranians.

My assessment is — and it's because of regime problems at home — that if we strike, they're likely to want to blame Israel. Now that's — because that sells well at home.

Blaming Israel means that there's a chance that we could see Hezbollah, Hamas targeting Israel. We could very easily see this thing escalate into a broader Middle East war, particularly when you add Muslim rage.

You know, if you take the cartoon problem and multiply it times a hundred — you know, the Danish cartoons, you could see how we could end up very quickly with a very serious problem in the Middle East. [Emphasis added]

As Digby points out, what it boils down to is this: Bush, Rumsfeld, et al are running a secret war in Iran. The operation's already underway, and has been for some time. They're doing it all on their own, without even a semblance of Congressional approval. It's treason. The generals are desperately throwing themselves in front of the runaway train. Meanwhile, not a peep from Congress.

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April 12, 2006

Going Nuclear Iran  War and Peace

[Originally posted 4/11, but re-posted to bring it back to the top.]

If the US uses nuclear weapons against Iran, as US planners are reportedly contemplating, the real purpose will almost certainly be to break the long-standing taboo against the use of nukes. Why? Because the US is pushing hard to establish a first-strike nuclear capability vis-a-vis Russia and China. Making that threat credible requires that Russia and China be made to believe that the US is prepared to go nuclear.

An article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs explains the US's new-found nuclear primacy. It would be hard to overstate the importance of this material. You may have thought that US nuclear weapons development has been on hold since the end of the Cold War. Far from it. Out of public view, tectonic shifts in US nuclear policy and capability are underway. I've excerpted the article at some length, but I urge you to read on:

For almost half a century, the world's most powerful nuclear states have been locked in a military stalemate known as mutual assured destruction (MAD). By the early 1960s, the nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union had grown so large and sophisticated that neither country could entirely destroy the other's retaliatory force by launching first, even with a surprise attack. Starting a nuclear war was therefore tantamount to committing suicide. [...]

[T]he age of MAD is nearing an end. Today, for the first time in almost 50 years, the United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy. It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike. This dramatic shift in the nuclear balance of power stems from a series of improvements in the United States' nuclear systems, the precipitous decline of Russia's arsenal, and the glacial pace of modernization of China's nuclear forces. Unless Washington's policies change or Moscow and Beijing take steps to increase the size and readiness of their forces, Russia and China — and the rest of the world — will live in the shadow of U.S. nuclear primacy for many years to come. [...]

Since the Cold War's end, the U.S. nuclear arsenal has significantly improved. The United States has replaced the ballistic missiles on its submarines with the substantially more accurate Trident II D-5 missiles, many of which carry new, larger-yield warheads. The U.S. Navy has shifted a greater proportion of its SSBNs to the Pacific so that they can patrol near the Chinese coast or in the blind spot of Russia's early warning radar network. The U.S. Air Force has finished equipping its B-52 bombers with nuclear-armed cruise missiles, which are probably invisible to Russian and Chinese air-defense radar. And the air force has also enhanced the avionics on its B-2 stealth bombers to permit them to fly at extremely low altitudes in order to avoid even the most sophisticated radar. Finally, although the air force finished dismantling its highly lethal MX missiles in 2005 to comply with arms control agreements, it is significantly improving its remaining ICBMs by installing the MX's high-yield warheads and advanced reentry vehicles on Minuteman ICBMs, and it has upgraded the Minuteman's guidance systems to match the MX's accuracy.

Even as the United States' nuclear forces have grown stronger since the end of the Cold War, Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal has sharply deteriorated. Russia has 39 percent fewer long-range bombers, 58 percent fewer ICBMs, and 80 percent fewer SSBNs than the Soviet Union fielded during its last days. The true extent of the Russian arsenal's decay, however, is much greater than these cuts suggest. [...]

Compounding these problems, Russia's early warning system is a mess...If U.S. submarines were to fire missiles from areas in the Pacific, Russian leaders probably would not know of the attack until the warheads detonated. [...]

To determine how much the nuclear balance has changed since the Cold War, we ran a computer model of a hypothetical U.S. attack on Russia's nuclear arsenal using the standard unclassified formulas that defense analysts have used for decades. We assigned U.S. nuclear warheads to Russian targets on the basis of two criteria: the most accurate weapons were aimed at the hardest targets, and the fastest-arriving weapons at the Russian forces that can react most quickly. Because Russia is essentially blind to a submarine attack from the Pacific and would have great difficulty detecting the approach of low-flying stealthy nuclear-armed cruise missiles, we targeted each Russian weapon system with at least one submarine-based warhead or cruise missile. An attack organized in this manner would give Russian leaders virtually no warning.

This simple plan is presumably less effective than Washington's actual strategy, which the U.S. government has spent decades perfecting. The real U.S. war plan may call for first targeting Russia's command and control, sabotaging Russia's radar stations, or taking other preemptive measures — all of which would make the actual U.S. force far more lethal than our model assumes.

According to our model, such a simplified surprise attack would have a good chance of destroying every Russian bomber base, submarine, and ICBM. This finding is not based on best-case assumptions or an unrealistic scenario in which U.S. missiles perform perfectly and the warheads hit their targets without fail. Rather, we used standard assumptions to estimate the likely inaccuracy and unreliability of U.S. weapons systems. Moreover, our model indicates that all of Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal would still be destroyed even if U.S. weapons were 20 percent less accurate than we assumed, or if U.S. weapons were only 70 percent reliable, or if Russian ICBM silos were 50 percent "harder" (more reinforced, and hence more resistant to attack) than we expected. (Of course, the unclassified estimates we used may understate the capabilities of U.S. forces, making an attack even more likely to succeed.)

To be clear, this does not mean that a first strike by the United States would be guaranteed to work in reality; such an attack would entail many uncertainties. Nor, of course, does it mean that such a first strike is likely. But what our analysis suggests is profound: Russia's leaders can no longer count on a survivable nuclear deterrent. And unless they reverse course rapidly, Russia's vulnerability will only increase over time.

China's nuclear arsenal is even more vulnerable to a U.S. attack. A U.S. first strike could succeed whether it was launched as a surprise or in the midst of a crisis during a Chinese alert. China has a limited strategic nuclear arsenal. The People's Liberation Army currently possesses no modern SSBNs or long-range bombers. Its naval arm used to have two ballistic missile submarines, but one sank, and the other, which had such poor capabilities that it never left Chinese waters, is no longer operational. China's medium-range bomber force is similarly unimpressive: the bombers are obsolete and vulnerable to attack. According to unclassified U.S. government assessments, China's entire intercontinental nuclear arsenal consists of 18 stationary single-warhead ICBMs. These are not ready to launch on warning: their warheads are kept in storage and the missiles themselves are unfueled. (China's ICBMs use liquid fuel, which corrodes the missiles after 24 hours. Fueling them is estimated to take two hours.) The lack of an advanced early warning system adds to the vulnerability of the ICBMs. It appears that China would have no warning at all of a U.S. submarine-launched missile attack or a strike using hundreds of stealthy nuclear-armed cruise missiles. [...]

Given the history of China's slow-motion nuclear modernization, it is doubtful that a Chinese second-strike force will materialize anytime soon. The United States has a first-strike capability against China today and should be able to maintain it for a decade or more.

Is the United States intentionally pursuing nuclear primacy? Or is primacy an unintended byproduct of intra-Pentagon competition for budget share or of programs designed to counter new threats from terrorists and so-called rogue states? Motivations are always hard to pin down, but the weight of the evidence suggests that Washington is, in fact, deliberately seeking nuclear primacy. For one thing, U.S. leaders have always aspired to this goal. And the nature of the changes to the current arsenal and official rhetoric and policies support this conclusion. [...]

Some may wonder whether U.S. nuclear modernization efforts are actually designed with terrorists or rogue states in mind. Given the United States' ongoing war on terror, and the continuing U.S. interest in destroying deeply buried bunkers (reflected in the Bush administration's efforts to develop new nuclear weapons to destroy underground targets), one might assume that the W-76 upgrades are designed to be used against targets such as rogue states' arsenals of weapons of mass destruction or terrorists holed up in caves. But this explanation does not add up. The United States already has more than a thousand nuclear warheads capable of attacking bunkers or caves. If the United States' nuclear modernization were really aimed at rogue states or terrorists, the country's nuclear force would not need the additional thousand ground-burst warheads it will gain from the W-76 modernization program. The current and future U.S. nuclear force, in other words, seems designed to carry out a preemptive disarming strike against Russia or China.

The intentional pursuit of nuclear primacy is, moreover, entirely consistent with the United States' declared policy of expanding its global dominance. The Bush administration's 2002 National Security Strategy explicitly states that the United States aims to establish military primacy: "Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States." To this end, the United States is openly seeking primacy in every dimension of modern military technology, both in its conventional arsenal and in its nuclear forces.

Washington's pursuit of nuclear primacy helps explain its missile-defense strategy, for example. Critics of missile defense argue that a national missile shield, such as the prototype the United States has deployed in Alaska and California, would be easily overwhelmed by a cloud of warheads and decoys launched by Russia or China. They are right: even a multilayered system with land-, air-, sea-, and space-based elements, is highly unlikely to protect the United States from a major nuclear attack. But they are wrong to conclude that such a missile-defense system is therefore worthless — as are the supporters of missile defense who argue that, for similar reasons, such a system could be of concern only to rogue states and terrorists and not to other major nuclear powers.

What both of these camps overlook is that the sort of missile defenses that the United States might plausibly deploy would be valuable primarily in an offensive context, not a defensive one — as an adjunct to a U.S. first-strike capability, not as a standalone shield. If the United States launched a nuclear attack against Russia (or China), the targeted country would be left with a tiny surviving arsenal — if any at all. At that point, even a relatively modest or inefficient missile-defense system might well be enough to protect against any retaliatory strikes, because the devastated enemy would have so few warheads and decoys left. [Emphasis added]

While we're worrying about Iraq, and maybe Iran, they're playing many moves ahead. One is reminded of Ron Susskind's quote:

[A senior administration aide told me] that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." [Emphasis added]

These people are preparing to take us down a very dark path indeed. As Bill Hicks used to ask, "How does it feel to find out we are the Evil Empire?"

Update: [11:14 PM] Consider for a moment how utterly devoid all this is of any form of democratic input. We can only discern our own country's policy with respect to something as momentous and horrific as a nuclear first-strike (and we're talking here about attacks that would, in the case of a country like Russia, have to involve many hundreds or thousands of nuclear weapons) by doing what we would do to discern another country's policy: we have to look at what kind of weapons are being developed and reverse-engineer their intended purpose.

All of this is happening far from public view, with exactly zero public input. No doubt it's entirely obvious to the Russians and Chinese what's going on. It's no secret to them. It's a secret only to the American public, and it is completely out of our control. So much for democracy.

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April 04, 2006

Hans Blix: Iran At Least 5 Years From Bomb Energy  Iran

Hans Blix, former UN chief weapons inspector and former head of the IAEA, says Iran is at least five years from developing a nuclear bomb. AP:

Former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said Monday that Iran is a least five years away from developing a nuclear bomb, leaving time to peacefully negotiate a settlement.

Blix, attending an energy conference in western Norway, said he doubted the U.S. would resort to invading Iran.

"But there is a chance that the U.S. will use bombs or missiles against several sites in Iran," he was saying. "Then, the reactions would be strong, and would contribute to increased terrorism."

Blix said there is still time for dialogue over Iran's nuclear enrichment program, which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes but the West fears is part of a secret nuclear weapons program.

"We have time on our side in this case. Iran can't have a bomb ready in the next five years," Blix was quoted as saying.

Blix, also a former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, urged the United States to take its time, as it is doing in a similar nuclear standoff with North Korea.

"The U.S. has given itself time and is negotiating with North Korea, while Iran got a very short deadline," he was quoted as saying. [Emphasis added]

It cannot be stated often enough: Iran (unlike US friends India, Pakistan, and Israel, which actually have nuclear weapons) is a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and is acting in accordance with its provisions.

Meanwhile, the US is patient with North Korea (which claims to already have the bomb), but not with Iran, which is years away. But then Iran is sitting on 10% of the world's proven oil reserves, according to Wikipedia, and the world's second largest natural gas reserves. Energy policy, à la Bush.

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February 10, 2006

Report: Russia Selling Missile Defence To Iran Iran

The Times of India (via FTW) reports that Russia is selling a missile defence system to Iran:

Amid the escalating crisis around Iran's nuclear programme, Russia said on Thursday that it will still arm Tehran with missiles that can secure nuclear facilities from attacks.

"We concluded a contract for the supply of air-defence systems to Iran and there is no reason not to fulfil it," Mikhail Dmitriyev, the head of Russia's military-technical cooperation agency, said.

Worth an estimated $700 million, the deal for up to 30 Tor M-1 surface-to-air missiles is the largest since Russia in 2000 withdrew from an agreement with the US restricting the supply of military hardware to Iran.

Dmitriyev rejected media reports that talks were underway for the additional supply of heavier S-300 air-defence missiles. [Emphasis added]

It's a free-for-all out there.

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February 07, 2006

"I've Talked To Bolton's Speechwriter" Iran

Scott Ritter, former Marine intelligence officer and chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq, who told everyone who would listen — before the war — that Iraq had no WMD, is a man with a track record. Here's what he said the other day on US plans vis-a-vis Iran. Santa Fe New Mexican (via ICH):

The former U.N. weapons inspector who said Iraq disarmed long before the U.S. invasion in 2003 is warning Americans to prepare for a war with Iran.

"We just don't know when, but it's going to happen," Scott Ritter said...Sunday night.

Ritter described how the U.S. government might justify war with Iran in a scenario similar to the buildup to the Iraq invasion. He also argued that Iran wants a nuclear energy program, and not nuclear weapons. But the Bush administration, he said, refuses to believe Iran is telling the truth.

He predicted the matter will wind up before the U.N. Security Council, which will determine there is no evidence of a weapons program. Then, he said, John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, "will deliver a speech that has already been written. It says America cannot allow Iran to threaten the United States and we must unilaterally defend ourselves."

"How do I know this? I've talked to Bolton's speechwriter," Ritter said.

Ritter also predicted the military strategy for war with Iran. First, American forces will bomb Iran. If Iranians don't overthrow the current government, as Bush hopes they will, Iran will probably attack Israel. Then, Ritter said, the United States will drop a nuclear bomb on Iran.

The only way to prevent a war with Iran is to elect a Democratically controlled Congress in November, said Ritter, a lifelong Republican. He later said he wasn't worried his advice would be seen as partisan because, "It's a partisan issue." He said the problem is one party government and if Democrats controlled the presidency and Congress, he would advise people to elect Republicans. [...]

Throughout the 1990s, Ritter said, America's real policy for Iraq was regime change — not forcing Iraq to disarm and destroy chemical-, biological- and nuclear-weapons programs. The U.S. insisted on regime change, he said, because it believes transforming the Middle East countries into democracies will help ensure American access to oil.

The policy, he said, was borne from a political problem, not a threat to national security.

Ritter said the CIA knew Iraq had no ballistic, nuclear, chemical and biological weapons by 1995. "We knew there were no WMDs in Iraq," he said.

Ritter blamed Americans' apathy for allowing Bush to claim there was an intelligence failure. Presidents can lie to the public too easily about national security issues because Americans aren't paying attention, he said.

Ritter has a habit of being right. Unfortunately.

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January 29, 2006

UK On Iran: No Military Option Iran

It's hard to believe that even the Bush administration would be so reckless as to attack Iran. The world's just barely producing enough oil and natural gas as it is. An attack on Iran would disrupt supply, send prices through the roof, shock the world economy, and piss off every other nation on Earth.

Not even the UK would support us this time around. Today's Guardian (via John Robb):

Though world leaders agreed that strong measures were necessary to prevent Iran gaining nuclear weapon capacity, there was little consensus this weekend [at Davos] as to what those measures should be. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, yesterday conceded that Britain and the US were divided over using military force.

Responding to comments by US politicians stressing the 'leverage' the military option allowed, Straw said such action was not under discussion. 'I understand that's the American position. Our position is different ... There isn't a military option. And no one is talking about it.'

Britain, along with most EU states, has been pursuing a policy of 'engagement' with the Iranians. Straw was speaking ahead of talks with Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. [Emphasis added]

If the US (or Israel, acting as US proxy) attacks, we will know we truly are being led by self-destructive lunatics.

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January 15, 2006

Iranian Nukes: No Need For Panic Iran

Military historian Gwynne Dyer is a realist with a talent for the long view. He knows what he's talking about. He counsels that there's no reason to hit the panic button over Iran's nuclear program or Iran's president's recent statements about Israel. Dyer:

When the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed last Tuesday that Iran had broken the seals on its nuclear research facility at Natanz, many people reacted as if the very next step was the testing of an Iranian nuclear weapon.

In the ensuing media panic, we were repeatedly reminded that Iran's radical new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, declared just months ago that Israel should be "wiped off the map." [...]

But talk is cheap and not to be confused with actions or even intentions. Ahmadinejad was quoting directly from the founder of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini. But neither during Khomeini's life nor in the 16 years since his death has Iran made any effort to wipe Israel off the map, because to do so could mean the virtual extermination of the Iranian people.

Israel has held a monopoly on nuclear weapons in the Middle East since shortly after Ahmadinejad was born and now possesses enough of them to strike every Iranian and every Arab city of more than 100,000 people simultaneously. [...]

Ahmadinejad was not joking about wanting Israel to vanish, but he was expressing a wish, not an intention, because Iran has been thoroughly deterred for all of his adult life by the knowledge of those hundreds of Israeli nuclear warheads.

And Iran would still be deterred if it had a few nuclear weapons of its own, just as [President] Reagan was deterred from striking the Soviet Union even though the United States had thousands of the things. [...]

For Iran, nuclear weapons fall into the class of "nice to have" rather than life-or-death necessity. Israel cannot invade it, and even the United States would be reluctant to do so: It is a very big, mountainous and nationalistic country.

So, the Iranians have chipped away at the task of building the scientific and technological basis for a nuclear-weapons program in a desultory way for several decades, without ever getting really serious about it.

That is still the pattern. When the IAEA demanded that Iran explain certain irregularities in its nuclear power research program three years ago, the regime did not respond like North Korea, which immediately abrogated its membership in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and went all out to build nuclear weapons as soon as possible.

Instead, Iran voluntarily allowed the IAEA to put seals on its nuclear research facilities.

Now it has removed those seals and plans to resume its research on nuclear power. This will also enhance its capacity to work on nuclear weapons eventually, but that can't be helped. [Emphasis added]

As Dyer points out, Iran has every legal right to remove the seals and resume nuclear power development. Of course, legality won't impress the Bush administration — but that's not the point. Where legality will matter is in the White House's attempts to once again use the United Nations as cover. Dyer:

The current American campaign to impose United Nations sanctions on Iran is doomed to fail, because it is not breaking the law.

As a signatory of the NPT, it is fully entitled to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes, including the technology for enriching uranium, even though that also takes it much of the way to a nuclear-weapons capability. In any case, it is practically unimaginable that all the veto-holding powers on the UN Security Council would agree to impose sanctions on a major oil-producer on the mere suspicion that it ultimately intends to break the law.

And there is no need for such a dramatic confrontation. Iran has never been in a great rush to get nuclear weapons.

Even if the CIA is unduly optimistic in assuming that Tehran is still 10 years away from a bomb, there is still plenty of time and room for patient negotiation. And no need for the current histrionics. [Emphasis added]

The hype about Iran's nuclear program is as disonest as the hype about Iraq's nonexistent WMD. It's about manipulating public opinion. It's about pumping up our fear to make us fall in line. It's about distracting us from the many failures plaguing the White House and GOP here at home. But even this White House isn't crazy enough to actually attack Iran, are they?

If they do, we'll know we're truly in the hands of madmen.

[More from Dyer in this post.]

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January 14, 2006

Iraqn Iran

Shame to waste all those all perfectly good Iraq speeches collecting dust in the White House files. Recycle! Using Bush's UN speech from 2002, DeepBlade shows how it's done:

Today, Iraqn continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program — weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraqn employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraqn has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraqn acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year.

I keep thinking of the Dylan verse:

Now the rovin' gambler he was very bored
He was tryin' to create a next world war
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
He said I never engaged in this kind of thing before
But yes I think it can be very easily done
We'll just put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it on Highway 61.

Middle East War, Revisited.

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January 02, 2006

Living In A Pre-War Era Energy  Iran  Iraq  Peak Oil

A chilling note from diarist Stirling Newberry at dKos:

On this, the first working day of the New Year, we are already getting a good stiff taste of the running theme of 2006. If 2004 and 2005 saw resource inflation, 2006 is the year when resource rich countries begin using those resources as weapons, and resource poor countries begin taking aggressive steps to secure resources. The current world market approach to energy is going to break down, as more and more nations are forced to jostle for position.

Somewhere in the next two years it will dawn on the American public that we live in the pre-war, not post-war, era, and that Iraq was a foreshock. [Emphasis added]

With Iran in the crosshairs, Russia withholding natural gas shipments to the Ukraine, and Iraq facing an oil supply crisis, 2006 is off to an ominous start. Horrifying to contemplate: Iraq may be just the beginning.

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January 01, 2006

Rumors Of War Iran

Global Guerrilla's John Robb on rumors of an impending US attack on Iran:

My two cents on how this attack would occur: it would rely on a combination of hard target destruction (facilities that don't contain nuclear material) and an EBO directed against Iranian cities. What this means is that there is no way to take out 300 dispersed facilities with airpower with any degree of confidence. Destruction of Iranian infrastructure through an effects-based attack (EBO) would be made to force them to allow inspectors in to supervise the dismantling of their program. It would de-modernize them until they complied.

This is a bold strategy for the mid-term elections. It would totally reverse public sentiment and provide new justification for the "Bush Doctrine."

Unfortunately, this system perturbation will only accelerate the instability already underway and drive oil prices through the roof... Anyone know of a good LEAP-like product for oil that I could buy? For global guerrillas in Iraq, this will be mana from heaven since it will allow Sunni guerrillas to make common cause with Shiite guerrillas against the US. In larger geopolitical terms, we would soon find ourselves in a fight with a global guerrilla virtual state factory that stretches from Israel to China. [Emphasis added]

Personally, I find it hard to believe that even this White House would be so reckless as to attack Iran, but as their political situation continues to deteriorate (with Jack Abramoff about to flip, for example) and as the 2006 elections draw near, who knows?

It would be a desperate gamble, for sure. The disruption of international oil markets could leave the US economy reeling, or worse. The US Army, already close to broken, could be reduced to a smoking ruin with the inevitable intensification of fighting in Iraq. Air power alone can only do so much.

It would be dumb beyond belief. But when has that stopped them before?

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August 02, 2005

Iran At Least A Decade Away From Nukes Iran

The Washington Post reports today that a major new review by US intelligence agencies projects that Iran is at least a decade away from being able to manufacture nuclear weapons. This appraisal contrasts sharply with administration claims that Iran is on the brink of going nuclear. WaPo:

A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis.

The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the White House. Administration officials have asserted, but have not offered proof, that Tehran is moving determinedly toward a nuclear arsenal. The new estimate could provide more time for diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. President Bush has said that he wants the crisis resolved diplomatically but that "all options are on the table."

The new National Intelligence Estimate includes what the intelligence community views as credible indicators that Iran's military is conducting clandestine work. But the sources said there is no information linking those projects directly to a nuclear weapons program. What is clear is that Iran, mostly through its energy program, is acquiring and mastering technologies that could be diverted to bombmaking.

The estimate expresses uncertainty about whether Iran's ruling clerics have made a decision to build a nuclear arsenal, three U.S. sources said. Still, a senior intelligence official familiar with the findings said that "it is the judgment of the intelligence community that, left to its own devices, Iran is determined to build nuclear weapons." [...]

In January, before the review, Vice President Cheney suggested Iranian nuclear advances were so pressing that Israel may be forced to attack facilities, as it had done 23 years earlier in Iraq.

In an April 2004 speech, John R. Bolton — then the administration's point man on weapons of mass destruction and now Bush's temporarily appointed U.N. ambassador — said: "If we permit Iran's deception to go on much longer, it will be too late. Iran will have nuclear weapons." [My emphasis]

It's the WMD all over again, as the administration builds a case for war with Iran. The fact that this NIE is being reported on now, though, is a hopeful sign. It would appear that at least some people in the intelligence community want to forestall what would surely be an utterly disastrous war.

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May 05, 2005

Today's Bush Joke Iran

NASA just released their new report on global warming or, as President Bush, calls it — Spring. — Jay Leno

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April 19, 2005

Rumsfeld's Hush-Hush Mission Iran  Peak Oil  Politics

When Donald Rumsfeld visited Iraq briefly last week, he made an unpublicized side-trip to Baku, capital of Azerbaijan. The Baku trip went almost entirely unreported in the US media. The Pentagon and US Azerbaijan embassy web sites carried no mention of it.

The Village Voice, however, did provide coverage online. As the Voice notes:

Azerbaijan is not only a major oil producer and port but also sits in a strategic and volatile place on the Caspian, bordered not only by its bitter enemy Armenia but also by Russia, Iran, and Georgia.

Hardly any country on the planet sits in a more crucial spot than the harsh dictatorship of Azerbaijan...

Azerbaijan is at the very heart of the Central Asia oil "grand chessboard." The capital, Baku, is to be the terminus for an important oil pipeline servicing the Caspian Sea region; it is the port where the oil can be loaded onto tankers. In addition, Azerbaijan is to be the site of US "rapid response" military bases, and, to cap it all off, it borders Iran.

According to EurasiaNet [link via Deep Blade Journal]:

Recent statements from Pentagon officials about strategic needs in the Caspian Sea region appear grounded in [a] "rapid reaction" strategy. General James Jones, commander of US troops in Europe, confirmed in recent congressional testimony the Pentagon's interest in creating a special "Caspian guard" that would protect the Caspian Sea's oil infrastructure as well as the nearly finished Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. The Wall Street Journal on April 11 reported that the US plans to spend $100 million on such a "Caspian guard" capable of responding to crisis situations in the Caspian Sea region, home to one of the world’s largest reservoirs of oil. This would include the development of a command center in Baku, responsible for monitoring ships in the Caspian Sea. [My emphasis]

The Village Voice piece situates Rumsfeld's visit in a larger perspective. It cites a mid-January report by Seymour Hersh, whose sources say Rumsfeld and others in the administration see the whole region, from Iraq east through Central Asia, as one big war zone. Hersh:

According to a former high-level intelligence official, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly after the election and told them, in essence, that the naysayers had been heard and the American people did not accept their message. Rumsfeld added that America was committed to staying in Iraq and that there would be no second-guessing.

"This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone," the former high-level intelligence official told me. "Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign. We've declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy."

The Oil Wars have begun. They are not going to end anytime soon.

Deep Blade Journal has more.

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April 18, 2005

Bolton Often Blocked Info To Powell, Rice Iran

The Washington Post reports that John Bolton frequently kept information on Iran from being passed on to the Secretary of State. WaPo:

John R. Bolton — who is seeking confirmation as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations — often blocked then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and, on one occasion, his successor, Condoleezza Rice, from receiving information vital to U.S. strategies on Iran, according to current and former officials who have worked with Bolton.

In some cases, career officials found back channels to Powell or his deputy, Richard L. Armitage, who encouraged assistant secretaries to bring information directly to him. In other cases, the information was delayed for weeks or simply did not get through. The officials, who would discuss the incidents only on the condition of anonymity because some continue to deal with Bolton on other issues, cited a dozen examples of memos or information that Bolton refused to forward during his four years as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

The good news is that a lot of people who worked with Bolton are raising red flags in public. The bad news is he may get confirmed anyway. Argh.

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October 19, 2004

Axis Of Evil: Give Us Bush Iran  Politics

Various Republicans have been saying — without any evidence — that "the terrorists" (as if they are all one amorphous mass) want John Kerry elected President.

Well, what about the "Axis of Evil"? Today, Iran endorsed Bush.

See, "Democrats," as one Iranian analyst put it, "usually insist on human rights," and they're tougher on nuclear proliferation. Bush, however, is their kind of guy.

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September 07, 2004

Second Bush Term: More Preemption Iran  Politics  War and Peace

Time Magazine reports:

Some democrats on the Hill claim that they are worried a second Bush Administration may prove more militarily aggressive than the first. One reason: a Democratic official tells TIME that a leading Pentagon hawk recently hinted that the doctrine of pre-emptive war could soon apply to potential new targets. During a private Aug. 19 conference call with Capitol Hill aides from both parties, sources say, senior Pentagon policy official William Luti said there are at least five or six foreign countries with traits that "no responsible leader can allow." [My emphasis]

At least five or six more countries? These people are insane.

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August 25, 2004

Iran: The Doomsday Scenario Iran

Something that's worried me since the Bush regime started beating the Iranian nuclear weapons drum is that it all might eventually lead to Israel being given the green light to preemptively bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, just as they bombed Iraq's nuclear facilities in 1981. With US forces stretched as thin as they are, there may be a temptation to call on the Israelis. Then all Hell would break loose. For real.

Apparently, I'm not alone. The Dreyfuss Report excerpts an analysis by CIA Middle East veteran Raymond Close, who argues that the Bush administration's escalating confrontation with Iran, which he says is based in part on their desire to use alleged Iranian backing of Iraqi Shi'ite insurgents as an excuse for US failure in Iraq, might lead to what Close calls "a doomsday scenario" involving an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Read about it here.

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