28 thoughts on “Cheney’s Halliburton’s nuclear sales, to Iran

  1. Seymour Hersh
    2006-12-22

    (from: Democracy Now!)

    Target Iran: White House Plans for Regime Change
    (interview with ex UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter)

    The Pentagon has announced plans to move additional warships and strike aircraft into the Persian Gulf region to be within striking range of Iran. We air an in-depth discussion between two of the leading critical voices on the Bush administration’s policy in Iran: former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, author of “Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change”, and Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist for The New Yorker magazine. [includes rush transcript]

    We turn now to the latest on Iran – the New York Times is reporting the United States and Britain will soon move additional warships and strike aircraft into the Persian Gulf region to be within striking range of Iran. Senior U.S. officers told the paper that the increase in naval power should not be viewed as preparations for any offensive strike against Iran. But they acknowledged that the ability to hit Iran would be increased.

    The aircraft carrier Eisenhower and its strike group entered the Persian Gulf on Dec. 11. Another aircraft carrier, the Stennis, is expected to depart for the Gulf within the next month. The military said it is also taking steps to prevent Iran from blocking oil shipments from the Gulf.

    Well today on Democracy Now we present an in-depth discussion between two figures who have critical of the Bush administration’s policy on Iran. Scott Ritter is a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq. He recently wrote the book “Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change.” Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist for The New Yorker magazine. In October, Scott Ritter and Seymour Hersh held a public conversation in New York about Scott Ritter’s new book.

    Scott Ritter. Former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq. His new book is “Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change.”

    Seymour Hersh. Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist for The New Yorker magazine.

    Amy Goodman: Today on a Democracy Now!, we present an in-depth discussion between two figures who have been very critical of the Bush administration’s policy on Iran. Scott Ritter is a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq. He recently wrote the book, Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change. Seymour Hersh is the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist for the New Yorker magazine. In October, Scott Ritter and Seymour Hersh held a public conversation in New York about Scott Ritter’s new book. Seymour Hersh began the conversation.

    Seymour Hersh: So, Scott, in your book you write at some point – you list a – you have an account of some of the things that are going on today inside Iran. You say Israel and the United States were carrying out – this is on page 147, etc. – were carrying out a full-court press to try and identify and locate secret nuclear facilities inside Iran. Israel made heavy use of its connections to the Iraqi Kurdistan and to Azerbaijan to set up covert intelligence cells inside Iran, whose work was allegedly supplemented with specially trained commandos entering Iran disguised as local villagers.

    The United States was conducting similar operations using Iranian opposition forces, in particular the MEK – that’s the Mujahideen cult, which is a terrorist group, defined by us as an at-one-time anti-Saddam, now anti-Iran group that works very closely still with us, despite its being listed as a terrorist group.

    And you describe using opposition forces inside Iran and the MEK to conduct cross-border operations under the supervision of the CIA. The US has also made use of its considerable technical intelligence-collection capabilities, focusing the attention of imagery and electronic eavesdropping satellites, etc., for operating along Iran’s periphery. The problem was that neither the Israelis nor the United States could detect any activity whatsoever that could point to a definitive location on the ground where secret nuclear weapons activity was taking place.

    A couple of questions. Says who? I haven’t read this in the New York Times. You don’t source it. What’s the source? And what do you know? And how do you know this?

    Scott Ritter: Well, as I mentioned in the back, where I talk about sources, most of that information is readily available in the press – not the American press. You’re not going to read about it in the New York Times, you’re not going to read about it in the Washington Post, you probably won’t read about it in most mainstream English-language newspapers. But, you know, we used to have an organization in the CIA called FBIS, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, that would translate the newspapers of the various nations around the world to give you literally a bird’s-eye view of what’s going on in that country.

    So if you read the Azeri press, for instance, you’ll find out that the Israeli Mossad has upped its efforts to build a station in Azerbaijan. And the Azeri press will delve into that more. Why does the Mossad want to build a station operating? There’s a couple reasons. One, the Mossad is working with the Azeri population. You know, there is a Jewish minority in Azerbaijan that has emigrated to Israel. And so, there’s a number of Azeri Israelis that the Israeli government now is bringing back to Azerbaijan to work on this issue. This is spelled out in the Azeri press, so if you want to get some good insights, read the Azeri press. Read the Turkish press. The Turkish press will also talk about what’s going on in Iran and Azerbaijan. This will give you the leads.

    And then, because I’m not an active in-service intelligence officer anymore, I will take these leads and call friends who are active serving intelligence officers. And while they’re not going to divulge classified information, I’ll say, “Hey, I read something, where certain activities are taking place. Can you comment on this news?” We’ll sit down over some beers, and they’ll comment. And then you dig even further. And I’ll tell you that I wrote the book before I went to Iran. But when I got to Iran and I talked to Revolutionary Guard commanders, what surprised me is that they knew all this. The Iranians were very cognizant of what was going on in the Azeri section of Iran, in the Kurdish section. They could quote, you know, chapter and verse about what the CIA is up to, what the Israelis are up to.

    But, you know, again, the bottom line is, why don’t I footnote this? For probably the same reason why a lot of people don’t footnote things, because if I commit to a specific piece of information coming from a specific written source, that means that another piece of information that I don’t commit to a specific written source, where did that come from? Well, maybe it came from a human source. Now, I’ve just made it easier in this day and age for those who don’t want factual information to get in the hands of the average American citizen, those who want to keep American foreign policy and national security policy secret from the Americans they are supposed to be protecting. They’ll go after these people, and you know they go after these people. And I’m going to do everything I can to ensure that I don’t facilitate harm coming to those who have the courage to assist me in trying to get facts out to people so they can know more about this problem we call Iran.

    Seymour Hersh: Why doesn’t my colleagues in the American press do better with this story?

    Scott Ritter: One of the big problems is – and here goes the grenade – Israel. The second you mention the word “Israel,” the nation Israel, the concept Israel, many in the American press become very defensive. We’re not allowed to be highly critical of the state of Israel. And the other thing we’re not allowed to do is discuss the notion that Israel and the notion of Israeli interests may in fact be dictating what America is doing, that what we’re doing in the Middle East may not be to the benefit of America’s national security, but to Israel’s national security. But, see, we don’t want to talk about that, because one of the great success stories out there is the pro-Israeli lobby that has successfully enabled themselves to blend the two together, so that when we speak of Israeli interests, they say, “No, we’re speaking of American interests.”

    It’s interesting that AIPAC and other elements of the Israeli lobby don’t have to register as agents of a foreign government. It would be nice if they did, because then we’d know when they’re advocating on behalf of Israel or they’re advocating on behalf of the United States of America.

    I would challenge the New York Times to sit down and do a critical story on Israel, on the role of Israel’s influence, the role that Israel plays in influencing American foreign policy. There’s nothing wrong with Israel trying to influence American foreign policy. Let me make that clear. The British seek to influence our foreign policy. The French seek to influence our foreign policy. The Saudis seek to influence our foreign policy. The difference is, when they do this and they bring American citizens into play, these Americans, once they take the money of a foreign government and they advocate on behalf of that foreign government, they register themselves as an agent of that government, so we know where they’re coming from. That’s all I ask the Israelis to do. Let us know where you’re coming from, because stop confusing the American public that Israel’s interests are necessarily America’s interests.

    I have to tell you right now, Israel has a viable, valid concern about Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. If I were an Israeli, I would be extremely concerned about Hezbollah, and I would want to do everything possible to nullify that organization. As an American, I will tell you, Hezbollah does not threaten the national security of the United States of America one iota. So we should not be talking about using American military forces to deal with the Hezbollah issue. That is an Israeli problem. And yet, you’ll see the New York Times, the Washington Post and other media outlets confusing the issue. They want us to believe that Hezbollah is an American problem. It isn’t, ladies and gentleman. Hezbollah was created three years after Israel invaded Lebanon, not three years after the United States invaded Lebanon. And Hezbollah’s sole purpose was to liberate southern Lebanon from Israeli occupation. I’m not here to condone or sing high praises in virtue for Hezbollah. But I’m here to tell you right now, Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization that threatens the security of the United States of America.

    Amy Goodman: Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, in conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh. We’ll be back with them in a minute.

    [break]

    Amy Goodman: We return to the conversation at the Ethical Culture Society between Scott Ritter and Seymour Hersh. Scott Ritter is author of the book, Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change. Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist with the New Yorker magazine. This is Seymour Hersh.

    Seymour Hersh: So, in your book, speaking of Israel, it’s sort of interesting reading through it. Let’s see. Essentially, you describe Israel as viewing Iran – the notion of an Iranian nuclear weapon as an existential threat. You describe how Israel collects intelligence – we could also call it “spies” – on the International Atomic Energy Agency. This is all sort of revelatory stuff, in a way – not the first part, but certainly this, that Israel has penetrated and worked very closely with people inside the IAEA, has apartments, safe houses in Vienna, where it does business and basically operates politically inside the IAEA.

    Three, you describe in great detail – again, I think in more detail than has ever been made public – how much the Israelis have worked very closely with the MEK, the cult, this terrorist group that’s now pretty much in play again – we’ll get to that in a minute – in not only in terms of supporting it and urging us, the United States, to support it, but also much of the intelligence, most of the main things that were learned in this administration about the Iranian nuclear weapons programs, were announced by MEK officials over the years, particularly in August of 2002. There was a major announcement of the underground facilities, a place that many of you now know, Natans. And the extent of digging inside Iran was made public by the MEK. And you write in your book repeatedly how Israel was the source for that intelligence and basically was using the MEK to proselytize and propagandize in America. You also describe, as we said earlier, extremely active operations by Israel inside Iran, running agents, etc., collecting intelligence.

    So, tell us about you and Israel. Are you anti-Semitic? Are you anti-Israel? I know you served there. Tell us about it.

    Scott Ritter: Well, first of all, I am not anti-Semitic, and I’m definitely not anti-Israeli.

    Seymour Hersh: You’re certainly not a self-hating Jew, let’s make that clear.

    Scott Ritter: No, I could be a self-hating goyim, but… Unless there’s something in my past we haven’t uncovered yet.

    Seymour Hersh: Like some senators, right?

    Scott Ritter: But it’s irrelevant. The bottom line is I consider myself to be a friend of the state of Israel. I consider myself to be a true friend of the Israeli people. But I define friendship as someone who takes care of a friend, who just doesn’t use or exploit a friend. And, you know, there’s that old adage: friends don’t let friends drive drunk. We used to use that in the anti-drug campaign, the anti-alcohol campaign. That’s how I view my friendship with Israel. And when I see a friend preparing to drive drunk or doing something that’s going to be harmful to them, or to me, I’ll say, “No,” I’ll say, “Stop.” So my criticism of Israel is not from some, you know, Jewish-hating anti-Semitic foundation of myself. No.

    As I point out to people, I spent a couple weeks in 1991 working with people to stop Iraqi ballistic missiles from landing on Israeli soil. A lot of good Americans lost their lives in that effort, and we took it seriously. I spent four years in Israel working with the Israeli government on the issue of Iraq. I was very close with Israeli intelligence, very close with the Israeli government, and I have a lot of sympathies for them. I know how they work. I know who the players are.

    And I will say this: if I were Israeli, I’d be doing exactly what they’re doing. Alright? They have a legitimate concern here. Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s a small little country. And if a nuclear device goes off inside that small little country, Israel ceases to exist as a viable nation-state. They can’t afford any room for error. There is no margin of error here.

    That’s why Israel has taken the position that not only will they not tolerate an Iranian nuclear weapons program, they will not tolerate nuclear technology that is usable in a nuclear weapons program, in this case, enrichment technology that Iran is permitted to have under Article 4 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel says no. If Iran can enrich to levels that are usable in a nuclear reactor, that same technology can be used to enrich to levels usable in a nuclear device. Therefore, the Israeli position is “not one spinning rotor,” meaning not one centrifuge allowed to operate inside Iran. That’s a zero-tolerance policy.

    Now, Iran’s a big country that carried out a covert program. You know, let’s mention this, too. When the MEK gave the briefing in August of 2002 using what many people have said is Israeli information, guess what? They were right. Let’s not forget that. They didn’t come out and spew garbage. This was not Ahmed Chalabi making stuff up. This is the MEK representative saying there is a facility in Natans involved in the enrichment of uranium, that is being kept secret from the world. And they were right. So let’s give a little tip of the hat to the Israeli intelligence community for getting it right.

    But there’s a difference between getting the intelligence right and getting the policy right. And I will tell you right now that the Israelis have the policy wrong, because they have created a system of analysis that deviates from the lessons learned from the Yom Kippur War. At the end of the Yom Kippur War, they basically said there will be no more “konseptsia,” meaning we’re going to have a concept of what the enemy thinks. We’re going to conceive what the enemy thinks, project what the enemy thinks.

    And they got it wrong. They projected that the Egyptians would never attack on the dates that people talked about. Next thing you know, you’ve got the Third Egyptian Army rolling across the Sinai, and the Israelis got serious problems. They said, “It will be fact-based analysis from now on, and we will double-check and we will triple-check.” One of the more interesting Israelis I’ve met was the Doubting Thomas. He’s the guy – he’s a colonel. All information that went to the director of military intelligence came through him, all assessments. He sat down and picked them apart. And basically, if you made an assertion, he said, “How do you know this?” If you said x, he said, “Why isn’t it y?” And you had to answer him. You had to come back and explain this, and only then did the analysis get to the director of military intelligence, who is the head of national assessments in Israel. He then takes it to the prime minister. So, imagine that, being the head of state, getting quality intelligence from your intelligence community that’s been double-checked, triple-checked, questioned, so there’s no room for error.

    But an interesting thing happened in the aftermath of the Gulf War. Some personalities took over. One, in particular, I write about in the book: Amos Gilad, then a brigadier general. I think he left as a major general. But Amos Gilad brought back into fruition the notion of konseptsia. You see, he conceived the notion of a nexus combining Iran with Hezbollah with Hamas. And he said Israel is at threat. This whole thing is lumped together, and we have to deal with it all. And the head that has to be cut off, if we’re going to succeed, is Iran. Iran is the threat. Iran is the problem. Iran must be dealt with. And he started slanting the intelligence assessments that were being presented to the director of military intelligence, this time on what I’ll call faith-based analysis, his gut feeling, his belief, but not the facts. This isn’t sound factually based analysis. This is a deviation. And unfortunately, the politicians bought off on it.

    And again, because we have yet, today, to be able to separate in the American policy formulation that involves Israel, separate Israeli interests from American interests, the Israeli government has been very successful in using the pro-Israeli lobby to make sure that the Israeli concerns, the Israeli point of view, becomes the American point of view. And that’s what’s happening here.

    But, yes, Israel has agents operating inside Iran. They better have agents operating inside Iran. I wish we had more agents operating inside Iran, so we knew more what’s going on. Can you blame Israel, because they care about nuclear weapons, for trying to get close to the International Atomic Energy Agency? We do it. Why is the world surprised that Israel is going to do it? When you have inspectors that go into a nation that you have deemed hostile, you want to know what they know. You also want to help guide them. Israel did this in Iraq. And I have to say it was very honorable, what they did. They didn’t go in to corrupt the inspection process. They went in to improve, to enhance the inspection process.

    But with Iraq, it was fact-based analysis. That’s why, at the end of the day, the Israeli government was willing to accept that Iran had been virtually disarmed, that almost all the WMD had been accounted for. In 1998, that was the assessment. Thanks to Amos Gilad, by 2003 Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction had been reborn, and he didn’t have to explain how they had been reborn. It was konseptsia. It was a gut feeling. They were there because Saddam’s bad.

    The same thing is happening with Iran today, because all of this intelligence that’s being done has uncovered a nuclear enrichment program, not a nuclear weapons program. But the Israelis have already concluded, thanks to Amos Gilad and his konseptsia, that a nuclear weapons program exists. Therefore, if you’re not finding evidence of it, it means you’re not looking in the right places. So then you begin to speculate. How many people here remember underground facilities in Iraq, Saddam’s tunnels, everything buried? Well, there weren’t, were there?

    Well, guess what. The Israelis talk about tunnels in Iran. And there are tunnels in Iran. The Iranians have been working with the North Koreans for the last couple decades to perfect deep tunneling techniques, and they are boring in the ground. You saw all those little Hezbollah tunnels in South Lebanon that were so effective against the Israelis? They were dug by the Iranians with North Korean assistance. That comes from the Iranians themselves. And they’re doing the same thing in Iran today. And the Israelis are detecting this deep tunneling activity, and they’re sending elements in to do reconnaissance on that, but they’re not finding any evidence of nuclear-related activity, because there isn’t any going on.

    But again, thanks to konseptsia, Gilad, and the way the Israelis now do their assessments, they immediately equate deep tunneling and a nuclear enrichment program to mean that there’s a secret underground nuclear weapons program. Faith-based analysis has trumped fact-based analysis, and because of the pressure put on American policymakers by the Israeli lobby, our own government has now embraced this point of view. And this is very dangerous, ladies and gentleman, because if we accept at face-value, without question, the notion of a nuclear weapons program in Iran, that means the debate’s over. It’s over, because if Iran has a nuclear weapons program that operates in violation of international law, it’s very easy for American policymakers to talk about the imperative to confront this.

    And if you can’t confront it successfully diplomatically, that leaves only the military option on the table. And right now, that’s the direction we’re heading, because the debate’s over, apparently, about whether or not Iran has a nuclear weapons program, even though the IAEA has come out and said there’s no evidence whatsoever to sustain the Bush administration’s allegations that such a weapons program exists. Note, I didn’t say that the IAEA said there is no such weapons program – they can’t prove that.

    But note that the Bush administration has taken this and now changed course, like they did with Iraq. Saddam said, “We don’t have any weapons. The inspectors aren’t finding any weapons. Keep looking.” Why? Because the onus isn’t on the inspectors to find the weapons. The onus is on Iraq to prove that none exist. But how can you prove a negative? The same thing is in play today with Iran. We have told the Iranians it is their responsibility to prove to the international community beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no nuclear weapons program in Iran. How can you prove a negative?

    But that’s not the point, because it’s not about a nuclear weapons program. It’s about regime change and the Bush administration using the perception of threat from a nuclear weapons program to achieve their ultimate objective of regional transformation, which is, again, a policy born more in Tel Aviv than Washington, D.C.

    Seymour Hersh: OK. Digression. One of the things you and I used to talk about was, when Scott was an inspector from ’91 to ’98, he got in a lot of trouble, an awful lot of trouble, with his government, because he would take highly classified information to Israel to be analyzed first, remember? Particularly some of the overhead stuff, U-2 stuff. And that caused you a lot of investigations, a lot of problems in terms of – just of loyalty issues. But still, the fact is you thought so highly of Israel. I remember you telling me years ago that they could understand what was going on from satellite photographs in six or seven hours. If you gave it to the American system, we were dealing in a week, and you would get a bad analysis. No, that’s just – you had a lot of faith in their intelligence capability.

    So, what the hell is going on there? Is it as simple as that? Is it just as simple as a few people at the top playing Ahmed Chalabi? Or is it – what happened? Why aren’t they calling it the way, if you’re right, they should?

    Scott Ritter: Well, again, I think it comes down to – you know, the Bush administration likes to talk a lot about the nexus, the nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.

    I’ll talk about the nexus between the neoconservatives in Washington, D.C., and the right wing of the Likud Party in Israel. These elements, these political elements have been working hand-in-glove for many, many years. And now that the neoconservatives in Washington, D.C., have seized power, have gained power, attained power, now that they’re in power, the right wing in Israel has to play this game. They have to deal with the cards that they’ve been dealt. And so, they’re not going to stand up to the United States. You’re not going to sit there and try and encourage the United States to make a move on Iran using fact-based information.

    You’ve got to understand there are certain buttons you need to push in Washington, D.C., to get American politicians to move in a certain direction. And you’ve got to keep it simple. And the simplest thing is to say that there is a nuclear weapons program in Iran. And then, you’ve got to push some more buttons, because you don’t want to treat that in isolation. You want complicate it further: that nuclear weapons program is in the hands of a nation that is a state-sponsor of terror – Iran. And the terrorist organizations that they sponsor are inclusive of Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinian Liberation Organization Fatah wing. This is all part of the same problem, you see.

    And in doing so, Israel now complicates America’s overall policy posture vis-a-vis the Middle East, because now it becomes very difficult to treat the Palestinian situation in isolation. It becomes very difficult to treat the Hezbollah situation in isolation or to treat Iran in isolation. Israel has lumped it all together, because they know how to play the American political game, I think, better than we know how to play the American political game. So this is about domestic politics trumping intelligence and sound analytical processes.

    Amy Goodman: Scott Ritter is the author of Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change. Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist with the New Yorker magazine. His book is called Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. They’re speaking at the Ethical Culture Society in New York. […] We’ll come back to Ritter and Hersh in a minute.

    [break]

    Amy Goodman: We return to our conversation between Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh and Scott Ritter. This is Seymour Hersh.

    Seymour Hersh: I think a lot about the neocons, and what’s interesting about the neocons and their influence, as you say, is that if you look at it, in the last few years, they’ve really lost a lot of the intellectual leadership from direct policy input. Wolfowitz is gone. Richard Perle certainly was no longer head of the Defense Policy Board. He’s on the outside. Douglas Feith, who was an undersecretary of defense and very important to Rumsfeld, is gone. So with some of their more important acolytes out of the way, why are we still talking about the neocons? What is it about us that enables them to keep on going, even though many of their leaders – nobody would define either Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld as neocons before 2001. They were just realist conservatives. How have we gotten to – what’s your guess about it? I mean, I don’t have an answer. Do you have an answer?

    Scott Ritter: I don’t have a definitive answer, but I would say this. If you want to attribute anything to the empowerment of the neoconservatives, attribute eight years of Clinton presidency. You see, the neoconservatives had thrived under the presidency of Ronal Reagan, because we had an evil empire back then, you see? You had an enemy, a focal point. And so, they could sit there and talk about global hegemony, talk about global domination, and no one would hold them to task, because it was widely recognized that we were engaged in a global struggle with another global superpower.

    When the Soviet Union collapsed, the neoconservative thinkers, these global hegemonists, said, “We can’t allow any power or group of powers to step into that vacuum.” This is 1991, 1992. In fact, in 1992, under the direction of Dick Cheney, who was at that time the Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby helped author a vision statement, a policy statement for the Defense Department, that talked about how we divide the world into spheres of strategic influence and how we will intervene unilaterally, prevent preemptively, militarily, if required, to dominate these regions, and that’s what we need to do with the fall of the Soviet Union.

    There was a little hiccup along the way of that becoming policy, called an election, where George Herbert Walker Bush, the heir to Ronald Reagan, got defeated, and Bill Clinton came in. And when Clinton came in, all these neoconservative ideologues, who had been shaping and influencing policy for 12 years, were no longer in power. And what they did is they all went off to roost in various neoconservative or conservative or right-leaning think tanks, and they festered for eight years, perfecting this poison that became their policy. And then, when George Bush – George Walker Bush – got elected, they came in and assumed power, but they had eight years to basically put a spit shine on their vision of how the world would look.

    And they didn’t have an easy time early on. There was a lot of hiccups. If you remember, in the summer of 2001, how critical people were of the Bush administration, of Donald Rumsfeld, of these neoconservative thinkers, because their ideology wasn’t melding with the post-Clinton reality.

    Thanks to September 11, 2001, 19 criminals who hijacked four airplanes and flew them into three buildings and a farm field, all that changed. The neoconservatives were successfully able to exploit the ignorance-based fear of the American public to sell them a bill of goods about the world we live in. And as a result, they had a seamless transition from an ideology that America should reject at face value, and it now has become the official policy of the United States of America, the national security policy or strategy of the United States of America, first promulgated in September 2002, most recently updated in June 2006. This policy is almost word for word the same doctrine that Wolfowitz penned in 1992, that the Project for a New American Centry put out in 1997. And it is now that which defines how America interfaces with the rest of the world.

    Seymour Hersh: But, Scott, answer the question. If they fester, why are they festering? Why do they continue to have this influence? You’ve mentioned another one that’s gone: Libby – when so many of the intellectual gurus of that group – I mean, certainly Wolfowitz, Libby was very important, too. Why, given the collapse of policy in Iraq, which is becoming increasingly obvious to everyone, why are we still there? Why is this country still basically – the policies of the country still neoconservative? What has been festered? What has been inculcated in us? What’s going on?

    Scott Ritter: Well, again, the reason why I talked about the festering is to point out that they had 12 years of being in power, followed by eight years of being able to take their policy to think tanks and work on it. So that’s 20 years that the neoconservatives were able to develop and perfect its ideology.

    Seymour Hersh: Yeah, but we’ve got a constitution. We’ve got a congress. We’ve got a press. We’ve got a bureaucracy. What’s going on?

    Scott Ritter: Because on September 11th, the United States of America suffered its worst defeat, not at the hands of terrorists, but at the hands of the neoconservatives, who basically allowed the terrorists to win by turning America on itself. We have a congress, but Congress only counts when it functions. And when Congress refuses to carry out appropriate oversight, when Congress refuses to hold the President accountable for policy decisions, when Congress stands by idly while we violate international law and indeed the Constitution of the United States, invading a sovereign state without just cause, allowing the torturing of individuals to occur by American service members, when Congress sits by and tolerates warrantless wiretappings, they don’t function as a legitimate branch of government.

    Seymour Hersh: OK, but let’s just go back. We all agree on Congress. But the fact is that when Olmert was here in May, the prime minister of Israel, and gave a speech about Iran to a joint session of Congress, the big applause lines, the standing o’s came when he criticized Iran and raised the specter – the same language you were talking about – this existential language, this threat, and that was a standing ovation. The fact of the matter is that no matter how you describe it, no matter how we perceive it, if the President orders a military attack on Iran, Congress will rubberstamp it. There’s no question about that, in my view. I don’t know what you think. And I guess, heuristically, if you will, what’s your guess? We want to do a lot of questions, because there may be somebody here who disagrees with what Scott’s saying. It takes an awful lot of courage, but anyway.

    Scott Ritter: I try not to be controversial.

    Seymour Hersh: But, so, what’s your guess? What happens? October surprise next year? What do you think? What do you think? What’s in line for us?

    Scott Ritter: Well, first of all, let’s start with what you’re talking about: the standing ovation that Olmert gets. Why? Why would he get this standing ovation? Because the United States of America has been preconditioned since 1979 to accept at face value anything negative said about the Islamic Republic of Iran. Now, there’s a lot of negative things that can be said about the Islamic Republic of Iran. But unfortunately, by allowing ourselves to create this filter that says we don’t recognize anything positive, only the negative, we create the conditions where we don’t question negative date. And therefore, when people say Iran is a threat, we agree. And this has been going on since 1979. So the American public, and indeed the American Congress, is preconditioned for war, for confrontation with Iran. That’s why we can have a policy that transitions from dual containment under the Clinton administration to regime change under the Bush administration, without any significant debate taking place whatsoever.

    And because this condition exists, there will be war with Iran, unless a little miracle occurs, called the Democrats winning Congress, creating enough friction to stop the war, in the November elections. But even if that occurs, as you pointed out, there is no separation between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party on the issue of Iran. Everybody sits there and says. “Wait a minute, we’re losing the war in Iraq, and there’s 65% of the population that’s turned against this war. Certainly we’re not going to go to war with Iran.”

    Again, I mean to correct the American public here. 65% of the American public aren’t antiwar. They’re just anti-losing. You see, if we were winning the war in Iraq, they’d all be for it. If we had brought democracy, they’d be cheering the President. It wouldn’t matter that we violated international law. It wouldn’t even matter that we lied about weapons of mass destruction. We’d be winning. God bless America. Ain’t we good? USA, USA! But we’re losing, so they’re against Iraq.

    But what happens when you get your butt kicked in one game? You’re looking for the next game, where you can win. And right now, we’re looking for Iran for a victory. We’re going to go to war with Iran. When? Not in October, I’ll tell you that.

    There’s a couple things that have to happen before we go to war with Iran. There has to be a serious diplomatic offensive to secure the military basing required to support the aerial forces necessary for sustained bombardment and the logistic apparatus that goes along with that – the fuel, the bombs, the support personnel, the maintenance. We haven’t done that. We’re doing it. There has to be political preparation here at home. The Bush administration is not a dictatorship yet. They still have to go to Congress, and they still have to get a degree of congressional approval for military operations against Iran. Not that much, though. I mean, everybody is aware that after 9/11, Congress pretty much gave the Bush administration a blank check to wage war anyway they saw fit, so long as it dealt with the global war on terror. And the President –

    Seymour Hersh: Be specific. The October 2002 resolution was not just limited to Iraq, you’re exactly right.

    Scott Ritter: No, it’s a global war on terror.

    Seymour Hersh: It gave him the right to – he’s got a blank check. He does have that.

    Scott Ritter: A blank check to do it.

    Seymour Hersh: That’s literally correct.

    Scott Ritter: Now, he has to be smart about this. Yes, he can wage war, but he needs to ensure that Congress continues to fund the war. So that’s why he will go to Congress. He will make the case for Iran. But, as I said, Congress is already preprogrammed to nod their head yes and stamp anything he signs.

    The most important thing is the American military, getting the American military positioned. The easy thing is getting the air forces positioned, the naval force and air forces that will do the bombardment. The hard thing is getting the American military leadership to go along with that, and that might be the one little glimmer of hope that’s out there, because if we can get a Democratic-controlled congress that is not afraid to exercise its oversight responsibility and holds hearings, where it brings in military professionals and liberates them to speak critically of bad policy, which is the duty and responsibility of every general officer.

    There’s a gross dereliction of duty taking place today in the United States, where our general officers remain mute while they are on active duty. Suddenly, when they retire, they get great courage. They can speak out. But you know what? It’s too late. Too many of your men have died. You should have spoke out sooner. And hopefully with a Democratic congress, the generals will speak out. Look at the standards set by the British military. The British chief of staff has come out and finally spoke truth to power by saying, “Mr. Blair, your war is not only not winnable, but it’s destroying the British army. And if we want to have an army in five to ten years, we have to change our policy.” Maybe American general’s will follow that precedent.

    Seymour Hersh: I’ve had some smart Arabs I know, who are not anti-American, per se, but increasingly, of course, getting that way, say to me that one other – there’s another – they had another vestige of hope, which was that after the disaster in Lebanon – and the Israelis are sort of now, their position is we suffered a technical knockout, it wasn’t a complete knockout. They’re finding a little grace in it. But some of the bright Arabs I know said maybe the Israelis will move to the center. Maybe that’ll, one way, will save us. “Save us,” being the world, in their view. Certainly the oil world in the Middle East, from continued war. And they said, perhaps – giving up on the notion that America would move, but maybe the Israeli population would move to the center. No sign yet of it. I don’t see it.

    Scott Ritter: Well, there is a significant – I mean, that’s one of the things that strikes me when I travel to Israel. It’s like anything, traveling to Iran, you suddenly have this veil lifted, because, of course, you’re not going to get a true picture from the American media about what Iran is, and most Americans, I don’t think, have a genuine picture of what Israel is, unless you’ve gone to Israel, traveled to Israel, met the Israelis. It’s a very diverse society. It’s not homogeneous at all, especially politically. You know, you sit three Israelis around a table, you get seven different opinions. And that’s the truth. These people love politics. They’re concerned. They’re engaged. And there is a viable powerful moderate and progressive element within Israel.

    The battle with Hezbollah this past summer, this conflict in South Lebanon that bled over into northern Israel, could go either way. On the one hand, there are elements that are seeking to exploit the fear factor, the fact that thousands of Hezbollah rockets landed on Israel, to say, “Never again, never again. We must redouble our efforts to confront.” But taking a look at how enfeebled the Israeli military was in its response, how Hezbollah was actually empowered, the Israelis might actually come to realize the lesson we’re learning in Iraq, which is you cannot militarily defeat an organization that has as its roots the legitimate concerns of an indigenous population. And I’m not here to condone Hezbollah or sing its virtues, but I will tell you this, Hezbollah is an organization of Southern Lebanese Shia. That belong in South Lebanon. They’re in South Lebanon. And Israel may have learned a hard lesson, that you just can’t bomb these people into submission, so they might move to the center.

    Seymour Hersh: [inaudible] is standing. We want to do one more question. Let me ask him one more question. One last question, which is, OK, briefly, we go to war. We begin a massive bombing campaign. Take your pick. Odds are it’s going to be systematic, at least three days of intense bombing, decapitation probably, which – that is one of the things you do when you begin a bombing attack, like we did against Saddam twice and like the Israelis did against Hezbollah when they targeted Nasrallah. And I think we and the Israelis are now 0-for-8, almost as bad as Shrummy and his elections. But anyway, so the question then is – we go to war – tell us what happens next, in your view.

    Scott Ritter: Well, it’s, you know – it’s almost impossible to be 100% correct, but I’ll give you my best analysis. The Iranians will use the weapon that is the most effective weapon, because the key for Iran – you know, Iran can’t afford, if this – remember, the regime wants to stay in power, so they can’t afford a strategy that gets the American people to recognize three years in that, oops, we made a mistake. I mean, if that was Saddam’s strategy, it failed for him, because he’s out of power. Yeah, we realize we made a mistake now in Iraq, but the regime is gone. So the Iranians realize that they have to inflict pain upfront. The pain is not going to be inflicted militarily, because we’re not going to commit numbers of ground forces on the ground that can cause that pain. The pain will come economically.

    Our oil-based economy is operating on the margins, as we speak. We only have 1.0% to 1.5% excess production capacity. If you take the Iranian oil off the market, which is the first thing the Iranians will do, we automatically drop to around minus-4%, which means there ain’t enough oil out there to support the globe’s thirst for oil, especially America’s thirst for oil. And we’re not the only ones drinking it? You think for a second the Chinese and the Indians, the world’s two largest developing economies, are going to say, “Hey, Uncle Sam, we’ll put everything on hold, so we can divert oil resources, so you can feed your oil addiction, because you attacked Iran”?

    And it’s not just Iranian oil that will go off the market. Why do you think we sent minesweepers up there? We’ve got to keep the Straits of Hormuz open. The Iranians will shut it down that quick. They’ll also shut down oil production in the western oil fields of Saudi Arabia. They’ll shut down Kuwaiti oil production. They’ll shut down oil production in the United Arab Emirates. They’ll shut down whatever remaining oil production there is in Iraq. They’ll launch a massive attack using their Shia proxies in Iraq against American forces. That will cause bloodshed.

    The bottom line is, within two days of our decision to initiate an attack on Iran, every single one of you is going to be feeling the consequences of that in your pocketbook. And it’s only going to get worse. This is not something that only I recognize. Ask Dick Lugar what information he’s getting from big business, who are saying, “We can’t afford to go to war with Iran.”

    Seymour Hersh: Final question: given all this, are we going to do it?

    Scott Ritter: Yes, we’re going to do it.

    Amy Goodman: Scott Ritter and Seymour Hersh. Ritter’s latest book is called Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change. Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist with the New Yorker magazine. His latest book is called a Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. They were speaking at the New York Society for Ethical Culture at an event sponsored by the Nation Institute. Again, the latest news, the Pentagon has disclosed plans to send more warships and aircraft into the Persian Gulf within striking distance of Iran.

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  2. Tell Bush and Congress: Hands Off Iran!

    We must act now to stop another war.

    As the war in Iraq drags on into a fourth brutal year, the same politicians who led the U.S. to war in 2003 are preparing for a new war –this time against the people of Iran.

    Once again using the pretext of “weapons of mass destruction,” the U.S. is moving the forces into place in preparation for a possible attack. The USS Eisenhower strike force, with some 800 Tomahawk cruise missiles and a fleet of bombers, has moved into the Persian Gulf. A second carrier group, led by the USS Stennis, is now steaming toward the region. The London Telegraph reported this spring that “a major American attack on Iran’s nuclear sites would kill up to 10,000 people and lead to war in the Middle East.”

    In addition to moving military forces into place, the U.S. pushed through UN Sanctions on December 23 intended to cut off vital technology and funds to the people of Iran. Donate

    History teaches us that we cannot trust politicians in Washington to stop this new war. In 2002, both Democrats and Republicans rushed to vote for war against Iraq and they have voted every year to fund that war. Now, politicians of both major parties are calling for aggressive action against Iran, at the same time they are discussing sending more troops to Iraq.

    The only force that will stop this war is a grass roots movement, and we need your help now to help stop a new brutal war in the Middle East.

    Over the next few months, the Stop War on Iran campaign will be organizing meetings, speak outs, and teach-ins to help build a movement to stop the drive to war. We will also be preparing “Stop War on Iran” placards, banners, and leaflets to bring to antiwar and progressive activities, including the national antiwar marches on January 27 and March 17, the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

    What we do over the next few weeks and months can be decisive. Please join us in helping to build a movement to stop Bush’s new war.

    Sign the petition – Sign the online petition — flood Bush, Cheney, Halliburton, and Congress with the message – No War on Iran!

    Donate to help with organizing expenses

    Tell a friend help get the word out!

    Volunteer – we need thousands of activists across the country to help build a movement to stop a new war

    * Hands Off Iran!
    * No Sanctions! No War!
    * Money for Jobs, Education, and Healthcare, Not War!
    * U.S. Troops OUT of the Middle East!

    for updates, see the Stop War on Iran blog http://stopwaroniran.blogspot.com/

    Stop War On Iran – 55 West 17th St, 5C, New York, NY 10011

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  3. The U.S.-Iran-Iraq-Israeli-Syrian War
    Posted by: “G. Myrick” garymyrick@sbcglobal.net garymyrick
    Sat Jan 13, 2007 11:48 am (PST)

    This is what it appears that Bush is dragging us into…
    ———————————————————-

    The U.S.-Iran-Iraq-Israeli-Syrian War
    By Robert Parry
    Consortium News
    January 12, 2007

    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.”

    U.S. weapons inspectors concluded in 2004 that Hussein had long ago abandoned his nuclear weapons program. Many experts agreed that continued international sanctions would have prevented its resumption for the foreseeable future.

    Indeed, some observers believe Bush’s invasion of Iraq has proved counterproductive by spurring Iran and other countries to speed up their development of nuclear and other unconventional weapons in hopes of keeping the United States at bay.

    The countries on Bush’s “axis of evil” hit list saw that Iraq’s WMD disarmament and acceptance of United Nations inspections didn’t stop the U.S.-led invasion.

    Not only have possibly hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died as a result, but U.S. forces killed Hussein’s two sons and turned the deposed dictator over to his enemies so he could hanged like a common criminal on Dec. 30.

    So there can be little incentive for Iranian or North Korean leaders to follow the Iraq model of disarmament and inspections. Further, the explosion of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world has increased risks to the pro-U.S. dictatorship in nuclear-armed Pakistan, where Islamic militants with close ties to al-Qaeda are reported to be gaining strength.

    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.”

    MSNBC’s Chris Matthews then interjected, “And it could be the rationale for going into Iran at some point.”

    Russert paused for a few seconds before responding, “It’s going to be very interesting to watch that issue and we have to cover it very, very carefully and very exhaustively.”

    Reasons for Alarm

    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.

    Iran has a relatively sophisticated arsenal of short- and medium-range missiles. Those short-range missiles could be fired at U.S. bases in Iraq or elsewhere in the Persian Gulf. The medium-range missiles could conceivably hit Tel Aviv.

    Not only could Patriot missiles be used to knock down Iranian missiles while they’re heading toward their targets, but the fearsome firepower of two aircraft carrier strike forces could deter any Iranian retaliatory strike following a U.S. or Israeli attack.

    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.

    The Surge Purge

    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.

    Though not considered a Middle East expert, Fallon has moved in neoconservative circles, for instance, attending a 2001 awards ceremony at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, a think tank dedicated to explaining “the link between American defense policy and the security of Israel.”

    Bush also shifted Negroponte from his Cabinet-level position as DNI to a sub-Cabinet post as deputy to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. To replace Negroponte, Bush nominated Navy retired Vice Admiral John “Mike” McConnell, who is viewed by intelligence professionals as a low-profile technocrat, not a strong independent figure.

    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.

    “Our assessment is that the prospects of an Iranian weapon are still a number of years off, and probably into the next decade,” Negroponte said in an interview with NBC News in April 2006. Expressing a similarly tempered view in a speech at the National Press Club, Negroponte said, “I think it’s important that this issue be kept in perspective.”

    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.

    A former senior intelligence official told Hersh that the White House refused to remove the nuclear option from the plans despite objections from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Whenever anybody tries to get it out, they’re shouted down,” the ex-official said. [New Yorker, April 17, 2006]

    By late April 2006, however, the Joint Chiefs finally got the White House to agree that using nuclear weapons to destroy Iran’s uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, less than 200 miles south of Tehran, was politically unacceptable, Hersh reported.

    “Bush and [Vice President Dick] Cheney were dead serious about the nuclear planning,” one former senior intelligence official said. [New Yorker, July 10, 2006]

    Delegating to Israel

    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.

    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also has called the possibility of an Iranian nuclear bomb an “existential threat” to Israel that cannot be tolerated.

    Bush’s tough talk about Iran also comes as Israel is reported stepping up preparations for air strikes against Iran, possibly including the use of tactical nuclear bombs, to destroy Natanz and other Iranian nuclear facilities.

    The Sunday Times of London reported on Jan. 7 that two Israeli air squadrons are training for the mission and “if things go according to plan, a pilot will first launch a conventional laser-guided bomb to blow a shaft down through the layers of hardened concrete [at Natanz]. Other pilots will then be ready to drop low-yield one kiloton nuclear weapons into the hole.”

    The Sunday Times wrote that Israel also would hit two other facilities – at Isfahan and Arak – with conventional bombs. But the possible use of a nuclear bomb at Natanz would represent the first nuclear attack since the United States destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan at the end of World War II six decades ago.

    After the Sunday Times article appeared, an Israeli government spokesman denied that Israel has drawn up secret plans to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. For its part, Iran claims it only wants a nuclear program for producing energy.

    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.

    Without doubt, Bush’s actions in the past two months – reaffirming his determination to succeed in Iraq and warning about a possible regional explosion if he fails – suggest that his future course is an escalation of the conflict, not some “graceful exit.”

    ///

    Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It’s also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth.’

    http://www.consortiumnews.com/2007/011107.html

    ———————————————————-

    “…There has also been close, and largely unacknowledged, coöperation with Israel. The government consultant with ties to the Pentagon said that the Defense Department civilians, under the leadership of Douglas Feith, have been working with Israeli planners and consultants to develop and refine potential nuclear, chemical-weapons, and missile targets inside Iran.

    – Seymour Hersh, Jan. 24, 2005 http://www.newyorker.com/printables/fact/050124fa_fact?fact/050124fa_fact

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  4. Iran and Reality: A Flickering Light on the Edge of Disaster
    Posted by: “G. Myrick” garymyrick@sbcglobal.net garymyrick

    Mon Jan 15, 2007 10:50 pm (PST)

    As writer Chris Floyd states, “This is an extremely IMPORTANT article at a very DANGEROUS moment in our nation’s history. …

    …Here we have a prominent, American-based Iranian dissident peeling away the pernicious myths and lies that encrust the American understanding of the situation in Iran. This deliberately manufactured crud is so thick that it is almost impossible to have any kind of genuine debate about what is happening before our eyes: the slow, methodical, step-by-step, relentless, implacable march of the Bush Administration toward war with Iran. They want that war, they are planning for that war – and they will have that war, sooner rather than later, if they are not stopped somehow.

    The very best outcome of a war with Iran – the most benign result possible to imagine – will be deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and a floodtide of terror and carnage set loose on a world in overwhelming economic crisis. That is the best possible outcome. The worst is the slaughter of tens of millions of innocent people from the nuclear attacks that we know George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have advocated in their maniacal war planning: tens of millions dead, hundreds of millions poisoned, whole nations brought to ruin and a planet mortally sickened. Between these two poles of ungodly mass slaughter and unfathomable genocide lie the only possible realistic outcome of a war with Iran. And we stand on the very brink….”

    ———————————————————-

    “LEAVE US ALONE”, IRANIAN REFORMERS SAY
    By Muhammad Sahimi
    The Progressive
    December 2006 Issue

    Back in March, the Bush Administration released its new “National Security Strategy of the United States,” and regime change in Iran leaps out of it as a goal. “We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran,” the document baldly states in a grand exaggeration. And for all the recent talk about Iran’s nuclear threat, the document does not confine its discussion of Iran to the nuclear issue. “The United States has broader concerns,” it says. “The Iranian regime sponsors terrorism, threatens Israel, seeks to thwart Middle East peace, disrupts democracy in Iraq, and denies the aspirations of its people for freedom.”

    All of these issues, along with the nuclear one, “can ultimately be resolved only if the Iranian regime makes the strategic decision to change these policies, open up its political system, and afford freedom to its people,” the document states. “This is the ultimate goal of U.S. policy.” President Bush and Condoleezza Rice may stress in public that they are giving diplomacy a try, but this document makes clear that they have something else in mind.

    If the Bush Administration attacks Iran, it would be violating the U.N. Charter. And it would also be violating the Algiers Accord that the United States signed with Iran in 1981 to end the hostage crisis. Point I, paragraph 1, of that accord states, “The United States pledges that it is and from now on will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran’s internal affairs.”

    Not only is the goal of regime change illegal, it is also unachievable.

    “Democracy cannot be imported, nor can it be given to a people by invading their nation, nor by bombing them with cluster bombs. It must be indigenous,” says Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian human rights advocate who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.

    The Administration has refused to rule out the possibility of military strikes, and even the use of nuclear weapons, on Iran’s nuclear facilities and beyond, as if the Iraq quagmire has not taught it anything. And Iran is not Iraq. Iraq was formed only in 1932 with artificial boundaries that have no historical roots. Iran, on the other hand, has existed for thousands of years as an independent nation. Hence, Iranian nationalism is extremely fierce. Military strikes on Iran would create a potent mixture that combines fierce Iranian nationalism with the Shiites’ long tradition of martyrdom in defense of their homeland and religion. The attacks would engulf the entire region in flames.

    “Iranians will not allow a single U.S. soldier to set foot in Iran,” declares Ebadi, and this is a woman who has been imprisoned by Iran’s hardliners and is constantly harassed for her work on behalf of political prisoners.

    Armchair warriors, such as William Kristol, have been claiming that intense bombing of Iran will lead to an uprising by Iranians. The absurd argument is that, “We will destroy Iran, but Iranians will love us for bombing them, and hate the hardliners.” Although a large majority of Iranians despise the hardliners, anyone who has the slightest familiarity with Iran’s history knows that intense bombing of Iran will not lead to their downfall. Rather, it will help them consolidate power.

    “The conservatives need an external enemy in order to preserve their power,” says Mohammad Reza Khatami, a leading reformist and younger brother of the former president. By creating an unnecessary crisis over Iran’s nuclear program, the Administration has played right into the hands of Iran’s hardliners.

    After Saddam Hussein and his regime were swiftly overthrown in 2003, the government of reformist President Mohammad Khatami suspended the uranium enrichment program and began negotiating with Britain, France, and Germany. The negotiations could have led to tangible results, but because they did not involve regime change in Iran, they were scuttled by the U.S. The Iranian hardliners now point to those good-faith negotiations with the EU troika and say, with much credibility, that it was the United States that prevented an agreement. The result is that the generally pro-U.S. Iranian people are now behind the hardliners when it comes to the issue of Iran’s right to the complete nuclear fuel cycle.

    During Iran’s presidential elections of 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ran on a platform of “bringing the oil wealth to people’s homes,” promising a robust economy, elimination of corruption, and ample employment opportunities for Iran’s young and educated people. It has now become clear that Ahmadinejad could not deliver on those promises. Knowing this, he has used the U.S.-created nuclear crisis not only for inciting Iranian nationalism, but also for distracting people’s attention from Iran’s vast economic, social, and political problems, as well as attempting to suppress Iran’s democratic movement.

    “The best the U.S. government can do for democracy in Iran is to leave us alone,” Akbar Gangi, an Iranian investigative journalist who spent six years in prison for reporting on the murder of dissidents by Iran’s intelligence agents, said on a recent trip to the United States.

    Iran has a wide spectrum of reformist and democratic groups that are all against U.S. intervention in Iran’s internal affairs and its goal of regime change. They favor political evolution and have made it clear that, for many reasons, they will not work with the United States. Many wonder aloud why the U.S. did nothing when the reformist Khatami was elected in 1997. Washington could have lifted its economic sanctions against Iran that hurt only ordinary Iranians, but it did not. After Khatami’s government helped the U.S. defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, President Bush responded by listing Iran as a charter member of the “axis of evil.”

    The Bush Administration is hard-pressed to find any Iran-based political group to work with. So, it can only work with groups in exile. One is the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq Organization (MKO), a cult that is listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization but supported by the neoconservatives. Iranians despise the MKO for acting as a spying outfit for Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War. The second group consists of Iranian monarchists, who are a spent force, a relic of a dark past.

    As with Iraq, the Administration has also been trying to manufacture intelligence to incriminate Iran. There is now an “Office of Iranian Affairs” at the State Department that is a duplicate of the Pentagon’s “Office of Special Plans” for the invasion of Iraq.

    Just as the Pentagon used unreliable Iraqi exiles to hype the case for that war, so, too, the neoconservatives are enlisting such Iranian curveballs as Manouchehr Ghorbanifar, Alireza Jafarzadeh, Ali Safavi, and Mohammad Mohaddesin. Ghorbanifar is an arms dealer who played a key role in the Iran-Contra affair, and has ties with the neoconservatives-in particular, Michael Ledeen. The others have connections with the MKO. Similar to their Iraqi counterparts, they have been making outlandish claims about Iran’s nuclear program, almost all of which have been proven by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to be false.

    In their search for Iranian Ahmad Chalabis, the neoconservatives have been looking to Abbas Fakhravar, who falsely presents himself as a leader of Iranian students; Akbar Atri, an Iranian member of the Committee on the Present Danger; and Rob Sobhani, who has connections to Iran’s monarchists. None has any credibility in Iran. Fakhravar and Sobhani are not even known there.

    “The Chalabis do not bring democracy to their homelands,” Gangi said in October when he received the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

    The propaganda offensive already has begun, fueled by the $56 million that Congress has appropriated ostensibly to bring democracy to Iran. U.S.-funded radio and satellite TV networks are beaming programs into the country. But Iranian monarchists have, for years, been broadcasting into Iran, with no impact. Similarly, the Persian programs broadcast into Iran by the U.S.-funded Radio Farda, Voice of America, and Radio Free Europe, while listened to, are widely discounted, simply because Iranians do not believe that foreign-funded broadcasts are objective.

    Then there are the exaggerated news, outright lies, and unsubstantiated claims that Iran’s enemies plant in newspapers around the world. A recent story in the New York Post by Amir Taheri, an Iranian monarchist and neoconservative, about Iran’s parliament debating a law for regulating a special dress code for Iranian Jews turned out to be completely false.

    With his deplorable statements regarding Israel and the Holocaust, President Ahmadinejad has not helped the situation any. But within Iran’s political power structure, important decisions regarding its foreign policy and national security are not made by its president. Iran’s official policy is to recognize the two-state solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict, if the Palestinians also accept it.

    Much has been made of Iran enriching a minuscule amount of uranium at 4.8 percent that is far from serviceable in the making of nuclear weapons. By contrast, Brazil enriched uranium to a 20 percent level and limited IAEA’s visits to its enrichment facilities. South Korea, Taiwan, and Egypt have all been caught by the IAEA trying to secretly enrich uranium or design a nuclear bomb or engage in experiments without declaring them to the IAEA. But where is the U.S. outrage at such violations? And Israel, of course, already has about 200 nuclear weapons, and Pakistan, Iran’s neighbor to the east, is also armed with nuclear weapons.

    Such hypocrisy has angered Iranian reformists and human rights advocates. “In fighting nuclear proliferation, all countries must be treated equally,” Gangi said in The Washington Post. “The Iranian people do not accept double standards in this matter.”

    Nor will they accept aggression.

    Muhammad Sahimi is a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Southern California who has written about Iran’s nuclear program and its political developments. He has also worked with Nobel Peace Prize-winner Shirin Ebadi in helping to communicate to U.S. audiences what is going on in Iran.

    ///

    ARTICLE at http://www.progressive.org/node/4253

    Read Chris Floyd’s full comments WITH LINKS at http://www.chris-floyd.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=999&Itemid=135

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