NEW YORK (Reuters) - Despite the Bush administration's insistence it has no plans to go to war with Iran, a Pentagon panel has been created to plan a bombing attack that could be implemented within 24 hours of getting the go-ahead from President George W. Bush, The New Yorker magazine reported in its latest issue.But this is not new. The real news in Hersh's story -- titled "The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?" -- concerned a new and deeply unstable strategic realignment by the Bush administration, involving as it does ongoing covert action, the willingness to use force, the implementation of tactics developed secretly in the vice president's office, and a decisive tilt toward the Sunnis throughout the region, against the Shiites.
The special planning group was established within the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in recent months, according to an unidentified former U.S. intelligence official cited in the article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in the March 4 issue.
The panel initially focused on destroying Iran's nuclear facilities and on regime change but has more recently been directed to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq, according to an Air Force adviser and a Pentagon consultant, who were not identified.
In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.The penchant for secrecy, contempt for Congress and willingness to work with our nation's enemies -- after all, most U.S. casualties in Iraq are caused by Sunnis, not Shiites -- has a lot in common with the good old days of Iran-Contra, not surprisingly, as some of the players are even the same.
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
The Bush Administration’s reliance on clandestine operations that have not been reported to Congress and its dealings with intermediaries with questionable agendas have recalled, for some in Washington, an earlier chapter in history. Two decades ago, the Reagan Administration attempted to fund the Nicaraguan contras illegally, with the help of secret arms sales to Iran. Saudi money was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then—notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams—are involved in today’s dealings.No matter how the administration spins what's going on, it's a recipe for disaster -- especially if considered along with other breaking stories. Like The Sunday Times story that a number of senior U.S. military commanders are preparing to resign if Bush gives the order to attack Iran. Or the Haaretz story that three Arab Persian Gulf states have agreed to allow Israeli overflights in the event that they attack Iranian nuclear installations. (Via TPM)
Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal “lessons learned” discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: “One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office”—a reference to Cheney’s role, the former senior intelligence official said.
Is Bush trying to bluff and threaten the Iranians into submission? Maybe. Who knows? But as we saw in the buildup to the Iraq war, the threat of force by these guys has a way of turning into the use of force. We're rapidly approaching an apocalyptic future that has a screaming written all across the sky -- unless there's a real screaming right here, at home, on the ground.
UPDATE: Ever wonder what "a screaming comes across the sky" looks like? Check out this post about artist Zak Smith and his book that illustrates all 760 pages of Gravity's Rainbow.