Sunday, August 13, 2006

Does Lebanon foretell World War III as Spain did World War II? New Seymour Hersh report suggests it might.

Is it a dress rehearsal where the future combatants can test their tactics and try to intimidate each other? The perfect neocon wet dream? Seymour Hersh’s latest story in the New Yorker suggests that may be the case. It’s pretty spooky.
The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preemptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.
There was plenty of hubris to go around on all sides.
The United States and Israel have shared intelligence and enjoyed close military cooperation for decades, but early this spring, according to a former senior intelligence official, high-level planners from the U.S. Air Force—under pressure from the White House to develop a war plan for a decisive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities—began consulting with their counterparts in the Israeli Air Force.

“The big question for our Air Force was how to hit a series of hard targets in Iran successfully,” the former senior intelligence official said. “Who is the closest ally of the U.S. Air Force in its planning? It’s not Congo—it’s Israel. Everybody knows that Iranian engineers have been advising Hezbollah on tunnels and underground gun emplacements. And so the Air Force went to the Israelis with some new tactics and said to them, ‘Let’s concentrate on the bombing and share what we have on Iran and what you have on Lebanon.’ ” The discussions reached the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he said.

“The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. “Why oppose it? We’ll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran.”
That really worked well, didn’t it? While you might think that the bloody results in Lebanon, and the fact that the campaign was by no means a clear-cut victory for Israel, might curb some of the martial enthusiasm of the Mideast hawks. You would be wrong.
The surprising strength of Hezbollah’s resistance, and its continuing ability to fire rockets into northern Israel in the face of the constant Israeli bombing, the Middle East expert told me, "is a massive setback for those in the White House who want to use force in Iran. And those who argue that the bombing will create internal dissent and revolt in Iran are also set back."

Nonetheless, some officers serving with the Joint Chiefs of Staff remain deeply concerned that the Administration will have a far more positive assessment of the air campaign than they should, the former senior intelligence official said. "There is no way that Rumsfeld and Cheney will draw the right conclusion about this," he said. "When the smoke clears, they’ll say it was a success, and they’ll draw reinforcement for their plan to attack Iran."
Billmon has a terrific analysis of Hersh’s report and what it means in his Whiskey Bar blog. His conclusion is sobering, to say the least.
Yes, a difficult and delicate situation [Billmon writes, quoting Rumsfeld’s August 3 congressional testimony]. Which is why I wouldn't be surprised if we see the nuclear option put back on table very shortly.


degustibus said...

The nuclear option has never been off the table

Emphyrio said...

Your link to Hersh at Digby's doesn't work, unfortunately. Glad it's here.