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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Seymour Hersh, in his latest article for the New Yorker gives us much to think about. Here, in no particular order, are the things that I feel are most important:

1.) Pakistan is being given a free pass to pursue its nuclear weapons program. This has been so for a number of years, but especially during Republican presidencies. It is, in my view, the most important of the issues raised by Hersh's article. We've discussed somewhat the history of Pakistan and its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons in this space before. Now, however, I can see how the dots connect with respect to the U.S. giving them a pass -- the U.S. wants intelligence on Iran. While that partly resolves (in my mind) the very glaring and obvious political ploy of not prosecuting A. Q. Kahn, it doesn't entirely resolve the questions I have about U.S. motives. The thing that still sticks out is the insistance by the U.S. that new IAEA inspection standards are "too intrusive". Perhaps the U.S. is doing this on behalf of Pakistan. Whatever the reason, it raises numerous red flags and indicates that there's something else at stake. Is it Israel and Pakistan the U.S. is trying to protect? Or is it the U.S. itself? I lean more towards the Israel-Pakistan theory but can't help believing that there are some Pentagon planners who think future operations require the use of theatre nuclear weapons. I'll explain why I believe this in point two.

2.) The U.S. is conducting operations in Iran and has done so for at least a year. Hersh explains that most of this is reconnisance and evidence-gathering. As the article states, Iran's targets are harder to hit than Iraq's (and that's not just because Iraq didn't have much in the way of targets) -- things are more spread out in remote areas and they're in hardened facilities. It's the existance of those facilities that makes me think U.S. war planners would like to use theatre nuclear weapons in Iran. Hersh stipulates that when the U.S. attacks Iran, it will do so using mostly covert operations. This mostly means targeted air strikes. Nuclear weapons have some advantages in this situation -- for facilities that are buried deep underground, a nuke may be the only way to destroy it. I don't think it's the first option, but I also believe that it's not off the table.

3.) Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon are now running things. The importance of this cannot be overstated -- it is a dramatic shift in how U.S. presidential administrations have conducted business over the last fifty-odd years. It means that a.) new intelligence will be gathered to support a political goal, b.) fewer restraints exist to limit Rumsfeld's powers as Secretary of Defense, and c.) there will be more covert operations, off the books and out of sight of Congress. I believe that now is the time for Congress to regain some of its oversight power (which is constitutionally guaranteed) and fight this in the courts. I don't think the Republicans in Congress realize just how subservient they are to the executive branch in this administration. Hopefully, this naked power grab will shoot up some red flags.

4.) Israel is concerned about Israel's interests, and will go against the U.S. if it needs to on the subject of Iran. In combination with an earlier Hersh article on the Israelis training Kurds to conduct commando operations, the bits from this article indicate that Israel is ready and willing to take care of what it sees as the threat posed by Iran if either Europe (through negotiations) or the U.S. (through covert/overt military action) fail. I don't even want to contemplate what would happen if Israel were to strike inside Iran either via airstrikes or by sending in strike teams -- in today's political climate such a move could spark all sorts of violence. Some in the U.S. view Israel as following the U.S. line on Iran, and I think that view is erroneous. Its interests will trump its relations with the U.S., and my guess is the U.S. would tacitly support any military action taken by Israel even if in public it pursues diplomacy.

As we noted a few posts down, now is the time to go on Iran watch. This time the game will be somewhat different -- more covert actions, etc. However, the stakes are higher than they were with Iraq and Iran possesses a much greater ability to strike back. Or, as Khatami himself put it:

'. . . Khatami said Iran would in any case defend itself against any attack by the United States, which he described as not "wise enough" to understand the implications of its own actions.'

'Khatami was asked about an article in the New Yorker magazine that reported the United States had conducted secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify potential nuclear, chemical and missile targets.'

'"If any country tries to invade our country, we are strong enough to defend ourselves," Khatami told a news conference. . . .'

We will therefore continue to be on Iran watch.

Andrew 11:20 PM : |


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