not “No,” but “Hell No!” …

Posted on Monday 30 June 2008

Seymour Hersh: Preparing the Battlefield:
    Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.

A friend comments:
    The Seymour Hersh article is actually really interesting, good, and not overblown – as long as you read out anything coming from Gardiner. There is much in it, but this is sure to provoke a big blowup:
    A Democratic senator told me that, late last year, in an off-the-record lunch meeting, Secretary of Defense Gates met with the Democratic caucus in the Senate. (Such meetings are held regularly.) Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preëmptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, "We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America." Gates’s comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch, and another senator asked whether Gates was speaking for Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Gates’s answer, the senator told me, was "Let’s just say that I’m here speaking for myself." (A spokesman for Gates confirmed that he discussed the consequences of a strike at the meeting, but would not address what he said, other than to dispute the senator’s characterization.)
This bit strikes me as among the most important issues raised by the Hersh piece:
    There is a growing realization among some legislators that the Bush Administration, in recent years, has conflated what is an intelligence operation and what is a military one in order to avoid fully informing Congress about what it is doing.

[I’m heavily quoting on this story because it strikes me as the most important thing going on right now. Laura Rosen is a major informed voice and deserves the wisest possible readership]. While I suppose that all politicians think they’re right, and try to get their own policies through with the least reseistance, the Bush Administration takes this tendency and turns it into a modus operandi. They are hiding their activities and avoiding oversight as a matter of policy, not expediency. Essentially, Congress ius playing with a short deck.
I am also pretty skeptical about the CIA-supporting-PJAK/Baluch to destabilize the Iranian regime stuff that Gardiner, discredited former ABC news consultant and phony Obama interviewer Alexis Debat, and the Islamic Republic of Iran have been saying. Skeptical in large part because people out front saying it like Debat have shown an inclination to make things up, while well meaning and sincere people like Gardiner saying it don’t offer much in the way of evidence beyond their own conviction…
But mostly I’m skeptical because of the fact that former US intelligence sources I consider highly credible tell me the CIA is not working with the Baluch/Rigi, certainly not to destabilize the Iranian regime, and those like British reporter James Brandon who have been up in the Qandil mountains with the PKK/PJAK say the groups have no good weapons, are extremely modestly supplied, and no sign of serious US or western support to be found… As well as because of the fact I talk to several Iranian diaspora oppositionists and hawks some of whom would love the US to support these groups and act more aggressively to destabilize the Iranian regime, who are pretty unhappy with the Bush administration for not doing very much on this issue…

In the end, I just don’t think the Bush administration is trying to seriously destabilize the Iranian regime or change it, while no doubt it would be thrilled if the Iranian Thomas Jefferson suddenly came to power or Ahmadinejad stepped on a poison viper. I think the thrust of the policy is overwhelmingly geared towards the fairly unsexy effort to cobble and keep together however imperfectly an international coalition to try to pressure and isolate this Iranian regime diplomatically, economically, etc. while preparing to turn over that multilateral diplomatic framework to its successor… The policy and expectation are basically to tread water on Iraq for the next six months, barring a major change. And treading water requires a degree of projecting power so that such a major change or provocation from Iran is, at least most in the administration hope (OVP excepting perhaps), averted…

Unless this reported breakup between Bush and Cheney over North Korea is real, I would never be as dismissive of the OVP as Rosen is being here. It’s like a physician seeing a suspicious shadow on an X-Ray that might be cancer saying, "let’s just wait and see what happens." When Dick Cheney is involved, early detection and aggressive treatment is always the right decision. Cheney is like a roach. When you see one in your kitchen, you can count on there being a hundred in the walls.

Update: US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker to Candy Crowley on CNN Late Edition: "I can tell you flatly that US forces are not crossing the border into Iran. … US forces are not operating across the Iran-Iraq border." (Does it depend how you define "US forces?" )

I do think Hersh makes an important larger case that administration and CIA are increasingly going to the defense appropriations subcommittee for authorization for covert budget items … rather than to Congressional intellience oversight committees, which haven’t passed an intelligence authorization bill for a few years; and that the administration, by defining something as military force protection and preparing the battlefield and running it out of the Pentagon rather than the CIA, is legally excusing itself from reporting covert actions to the intelligence oversight committees…
I don’t have any real idea about the Iranians, or their intentions. But I do know that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the Zionists at the American Enterprise Institute are not the people to formulate our policy and response to Iran. Their history with the Iraq War, their monomaniacal rhetoric on Iran, and their general level of deceit and secrecy dictate that they are out of the running for making rational policy decisions about that country. Not "No," but "Hell No!"

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