4 October 2007
Further steps in the lead-up to the war with Iran
By Daan de Wit
This article has been translated into English by Ben Kearney
The Bush Administration says it wants to solve the situation with Iran diplomatically. Meanwhile this series from DeepJournal is showing that behind the scenes there is little to no credibility being given to this route, and that preparations have been underway and continue to be made for a military conflict with Iran. Experts in the area of American foreign policy point to the possibility that the U.S. could provoke an incident in order to then be able to intervene militarily. From this perspective, they have their doubts about the American view of alleged Iranian interference in Iraq and even about the recent incident in which six nuclear weapons were flown over the U.S.
Earlier this month, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard - an element of the Iranian army - was declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. Congress; in response, Iran labeled the CIA and the U.S. Army terrorist organizations. The declaration by Congress is another step in the direction of an attack on Iran - this is the opinion of several experts, among them columnist Gwynne Dyer and retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner. This is the first time that a portion of a country's army as been branded as such. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard consists of 125,000 troops and 300,000 reserves.
New American stance on Iranian army increases chance of conflict
A possible scenario is that Bush now carries out a legal strike against the illegal Revolutionary Guard, which is followed by a response and which in turn can be seized upon to justify a large-scale attack. 'In a chilling scenario of how war might come, a senior intelligence officer warned that public denunciation of Iranian meddling in Iraq - arming and training militants - would lead to cross border raids on Iranian training camps and bomb factories. A prime target would be the Fajr base run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force in southern Iran, where Western intelligence agencies say armour-piercing projectiles used against British and US troops are manufactured. Under the theory - which is gaining credence in Washington security circles - US action would provoke a major Iranian response, perhaps in the form of moves to cut off Gulf oil supplies, providing a trigger for air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities and even its armed forces', writes The Telegraph.
In late August, former CIA agent Robert Baer wrote: 'Reports that the Bush Administration will put Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the terrorism list can be read in one of two ways: it's either more bluster or, ominously, a wind-up for a strike on Iran. Officials I talk to in Washington vote for a hit on the IRGC, maybe within the next six months'. Larisa Alexandrovna, managing editor of investigative news for The Raw Story writes: 'Experts and officials in the US military and intelligence communities read the administration's move to declare the Guard a terrorist organization as an indication that something ominous is looming over the horizon. One of the former CIA case officers interviewed for this article explained that the Office of the Vice President is making this drastic move in order to lay the groundwork for a possible incident. "They still need a trigger and I would not be surprised if we will see some event in Iraq which implicates the Iranians," said this source.' "They need a pretext."' The general who was interviewed by Seymour Hersh may well be in agreement with that: 'The revised bombing plan "could work-if it's in response to an Iranian attack," the retired four-star general said. "The British may want to do it to get even [for the arrest of the 15 sailors - DJ], but the more reasonable people are saying, 'Let's do it if the Iranians stage a cross-border attack inside Iraq.' It's got to be ten dead American soldiers and four burned trucks."' 'Bruce Reidel, a former CIA Middle East desk officer, said the neo-conservatives realised their influence would wane rapidly when Mr Bush left office in just over 15 months. "Whatever crazy idea they have to try to transform the Middle East, they have to push now. The real hardline neo-conservatives are getting desperate that the door of history is about to close on them with an epitaph of total failure", writes The Telegraph.
New strategy limits criticism on U.S. while pressure on Iran increases
Now that it appears difficult to make the case against Iran with the argument that the country wants to make nuclear weapons, the Bush Administration is coming up with new alternatives. Perhaps the case of the 15 sailors taken prisoner by Iran was an example of this. 'The Iranian seizure of 15 British naval personnel is an outrage--and an opportunity', writes neocon David Frum for the American Enterprise Institute. This time Frum got passed on his right by the Pentagon. It wanted even more than the tough sanctions that Frum was eyeing. 'Pentagon officials asked their British counterparts: what do you want us to do? They offered a series of military options, a list which remains top secret given the mounting risk of war between the US and Iran. But one of the options was for US combat aircraft to mount aggressive patrols over Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases in Iran, to underline the seriousness of the situation', writes The Guardian. Afterwards the British sailors admitted that they weren't as innocent as had originally been thought because they had been gathering intelligence in the Gulf. England was under pressure earlier to allow a border incident to escalate. In 2004 General Sanchez ordered the British troops to attack the Iranian Revolutionary Guard: 'An attack would almost certainly have provoked open conflict with Iran. But the British chose instead to resolve the matter through diplomatic channels', writes The Independent.
The fifteen British hostages are free, while the five Iranian diplomats who were taken hostage by the U.S. in April are still in custody. The Iraqi Premier Nouri al-Maliki has promised to release them soon. The charge directed at the Iranians with involvement in the war in Iraq was an overture to the strategy that the Bush Administration is persisting in, namely trying to produce evidence of Iranian interference in the Iraq war: 'In an effort to build congressional and Pentagon support for military options against Iran, the Bush administration has shifted from its earlier strategy of building a case based on an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program to one invoking improvised explosive devices (IEDs) purportedly manufactured in Iran that are killing US soldiers in Iraq [...] despite lacking any direct trail to Tehran', writes The Raw Story. Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix speaking to Seymour Hersh: 'My impression is that the United States has been trying to push up the accusations against Iran as a basis for a possible attack-as an excuse for jumping on them.' President Bush in a press conference: '[...] there will be consequences for people transporting, delivering EFPs, highly sophisticated IEDs that kill Americans in Iraq.' Here Bush is killing two birds with one stone: Iran comes under further pressure, and the blame for failure in Iraq gets shifted.
This tactic runs parallel to an amendement [PDF] that with a slight change passed the Senate with a clear majority. It's not a law - the important thing is that it shows what the mindset in Washington is right now. The amendement 'endorses a set of "findings" that are fundamentally false and which are being used by the administration to lay the groundwork for a more aggressive policy toward Iran', writes the Huffington Post in an article entitled Debunking the Neocons' Iran War Measure. In paragraph three of the amendment it states that 'it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and [stop] the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran [...]'. The following paragraph states that support must be given to 'all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies.' The Huffington Post article demonstrates point-by-point that the amendment manipulates information, and in so doing shows that Bush's tactic is misleading. Speaking of tactics, it recently came to light that President George Bush told the press in the lead-up to the Iraq war that he was looking for a diplomatic solution, while in reality he already knew that he was going to solve the dispute militarily.
'IED's are a casus belli for this Administration. There will be an attack on Iran', according to a member of the Bush Administration, as quoted by former CIA agent Robert Baer. 'Over the next few weeks and months the US will build tensions and evidence around Iranian activities in Iraq', says an American intelligence officer this month to The Telegraph. Robert Baer in an interview with Fox's America's Newsroom: 'Interviewer: 'So you're saying today [21 August] that an attack will happen on Iran within six months.' Robert Baer: 'That is the conventional wisdom of people who follow Iran in Washington. [...] I'm writing a book on Iran and they say: 'You'd better hurry up because this attack is coming quickly'.'
Has Iran escaped a nuclear attack?
The error in which six nuclear warheads were mistakenly flown over the U.S. in a B-52 bomber might not be an error, as reported by the well-informed Wayne Madsen - the airplane was supposed to fly to the Middle East, but remained on the ground at Barksdale Air Force Base. According to Madsen this was 'the result of a revolt and push back by various echelons within the Air Force and intelligence agencies against a planned U.S. attack on Iran using nuclear and conventional weapons'. The revolt would have prevented Vice President Cheney from being able to carry out an attack on Iran with the B-52's nuclear contents in unison with the attack recently carried out by Israel on Syria (read more on Operation Orchard in part 18 of this series).
Former CIA agent Larry Johnson wanted to know what was going on with this, so he called up a friend of his, an ex-B-52 pilot: 'My buddy [...] reminded me that the only times you put weapons on a plane is when they are on alert or if you are tasked to move the weapons to a specific site.' The former pilot also explains that Barksdale Air Force Base is a jumping-off point for flights to the Middle East. Johnson: 'Gee, why would we want cruise missile nukes at Barksdale Air Force Base. Can't imagine we would need to use them in Iraq. Why would we want to preposition nuclear weapons at a base conducting Middle East operations? His final point was to observe that someone on the inside obviously leaked the info that the planes were carrying nukes. A B-52 landing at Barksdale is a non-event. A B-52 landing with nukes. That is something else. Now maybe there is an innocent explanation for this? I can't think of one.' In a subsequent reply the pilot writes: 'This leads us to two possible scenarios. 1. Whoever leaked the information would have been someone in a position of authority knowing what was going on and concerned the U.S. was actually attempting to use nuclear weapons somewhere in the world and wanting to stop it by exposing it. [...] 2. The other possibility would be the information on the flight was leaked on purpose in an attempt to influence a foreign government, group or situation to move in a particular direction. [...]'.
In the meantime there are also other military reports being published on the U.S. and Iran: 'An air warfare conference in Washington last week was told how American air chiefs have helped to co-ordinate intelligence-sharing with Gulf Arab nations and organise combined exercises designed to make it easier to fight together. [...] While it is unlikely that America's Gulf allies would join any US air strike against suspected nuclear targets in Iran, their co-operation might be required to allow passage of warplanes though their airspace. American defence officials are also keen that Iran's Arab neighbours prepare to deal with any Iranian attempt to target them in return.'
Another view of Iran by those directly involved
On either side of the Iranian border, there is a different view of Iran than the one held in Washington. The BBC writes: 'Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said this week Iran had always played a constructive role in helping Baghdad to restore security and stability.' The Iraqi premier, Nouri al-Maliki, expressed himself in similar terms: 'Al-Maliki was also quoted by Iranian state media as praising Iran's "constructive" role in "fighting terrorism" in Iraq - a statement that Bush moved swiftly to publicly contradict.' Bush in response: 'Now if the signal is that Iran is constructive, I will have to have a heart-to-heart with my friend, the Prime Minister, because I don't believe they are constructive. I don't think he, in his heart of heart, thinks they're constructive, either.' President Karzai of Afghanistan 'characterized Iran as "a helper and a solution" in a CNN television interview broadcast Sunday', reports the New York Times under the headline Bush and Karzai differ over Iran. In the interview with CNN, Karzai goes on to say with regard to Iran: 'We have had very, very good, very, very close relations [...]. We will continue to have good relations with Iran. We will continue to resolve issues, if there are any, to arise.' '[Our] relationships with these countries has improved to the point that they are not interfering in our internal affairs', said Premier Maliki to the influential Council on Foreign Relations with regard to Iran and Syria.
In the U.S. there are other sounds to be heard: 'Britsh MPs visiting the Pentagon to discuss America's stance on Iran and Iraq were shocked to be told by one of President Bush's senior women officials: "I hate all Iranians."' The Guardian writes: 'John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, told Tory delegates today that efforts by the UK and the EU to negotiate with Iran had failed and that he saw no alternative to a pre-emptive strike on suspected nuclear facilities in the country.'
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