As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Coming Attack On Iran

I noted that yesterday, Tim Russert kind of came out of nowhere by basically announcing to Barack Obama that we're about to drop multiple bombs on Iran. I'm guessing that Russert, who talks to all sorts of foreign policy elite members and figures inside the Bush Administration and presumes those conversations to be off the record unless specified, knows a lot more about this than he's letting on. And over the last week, we've paradoxically seen Administration rhetoric over Iran grow more heated, with the head of the CIA claiming that Iranian policy is "to help kill Americans in Iraq," while the US has joined major powers in offering a package of incentives to Iran to get them to curtail the nuclear program that the latest NIE says they've already stopped.

This looks like the classic Bush Administration conception of "diplomacy"; offer a woefully inadequate package to the adversary, and when it falls short, say to the world that "we tried to achieve our goal through diplomatic means" and we now have no choice but to use our military power. Indeed, the negotiators are already managing expectations:

The incentives are based on an offer first made to Iran in June 2006, which diplomats say has been "refreshed" to include enhanced nuclear cooperation but do not differ substantially from the first one.

"It is not a major step forward, frankly, because we think it was a very good offer in the first place. We simply don't understand why the Iranians have not put more interest in it," the senior U.S. official told Reuters.

"It doesn't augur well for a reaction, given what they have said already," he added, anticipating Iran's formal response.

In other words, we're going to offer exactly what has already been turned down, and when Iran turns it down again, it'll be proof that they're hiding something and must be stopped at all costs.

This is also taking shape in the way that Iranian involvement in Iraq continues to be presented to the public. Today's Michael Gordon article claiming Hezbollah training facilities inside Iran that are helping Iraqi Shiite militias, is a White House press release masquerading as a NYT article. The presence of training camps in Iran would justify American belligerence and provide a target for airstrikes outside of the nuclear question. But this article doesn't provide evidence corroborated by anyone outside of government sources. The Iraqi government, presumably under American pressure, is investigating these claims of nefarious Iranian involvement, and has yet to find any hard evidence, although after making that statement, the Iraqi government spokesman hurriedly called reporters and changed his tune, which outlets like the Washington Post reported:

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh called reporters late Sunday night to clarify remarks he made at a news conference earlier in the day, when he appeared to say that there was no hard evidence that Iran was allowing weapons to come into Iraq. Dabbagh said his comments had been misinterpreted.

"There is an interference and evidence that they have interfered in Iraqi affairs," Dabbagh said in an interview arranged by a U.S. official. When asked how he would characterize the proof that Iranian weapons are flowing into Iraq, he said: "It is a concrete evidence."

As Juan Cole notes, the Post is deliberately misinterpreting al-Dabbagh's words, so they could write a headline asserting "concrete evidence" of Iranian involvement.

CSM reports on the way the Iraqi government is in between the US and Iran and says it lacks hard proof of Iranian interference. It is forming a commission to look into the matter. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said at his first Sunday news conference that there is no hard evidence that the Iranian government is sending in arms to destabilize Iraq.

The headline writer of the Washington Post took the low road. Dabbagh met a second time on Sunday with reporters to clarify the issue of Iranian arms in Iraq. He said that there were certainly Iranian weapons in Iraq, but the question was where they came from. The Post headline tries to make it look as though Dabbagh was accusing the Iranian government; he was simply leaving open the possibility. Check into who wrote the headline. It will be revealing.

After all, Iran has a well developed criminal black market in arms (Ronald Reagan once got involved in it). So the presence of Iran-made weapons proves nothing about Iranian government intentions. The ayatollahs in Tehran have been openly siding with the al-Maliki government against the Mahdi Army militia.

The combination of Bush-friendly reports in the media, along with Russert's blithe suggestion asserting that we're moments from an attack, is very suggestive that there's going to be a strike. Iran has suspended proposed talks with the US about security in Iraq. Andrew Cockburn is reporting that covert operations have already begun, including full support for the Iranian opposition group the Mujahedin-e Khalq (listed as a terrorist group by the State Department) and allows for the targeted assassination of Iranian officials. Scott Ritter thinks an Iranian strike is imminent.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think the US does plan to attack Iran?

SCOTT RITTER: There’s no doubt in my mind that the United States is planning right now, as we speak, a military strike against Iran. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and almost every senior US military official has pretty much acknowledged the same. They speak of the need to punish Iran and deter Iran from continuing to provide material assistance to Iraqi groups, these so-called “special groups” that operate, according to the United States, outside of the umbrella of the Mahdi Army. And they speak of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command as being a rogue organization within the Iranian government that provides this support. The United States Senate, through the Kyl-Lieberman resolution, has pretty much given a target list blessing to the US military by passing a resolution that labels the Revolutionary Guard Command as a terrorist organization. And the Bush administration, of course, is engaged in a global war on terror backed by two congressional war powers resolutions.

We take a look at the military buildup, we take a look at the rhetoric, we take a look at the diplomatic posturing, and I would say that it’s a virtual guarantee that there will be a limited aerial strike against Iran in the not-so-near future—or not-so-distant future, that focuses on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command. And if this situation spins further out of control, you would see these aerial strikes expanding to include Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and some significant command and control targets.

Many breathed a sigh of relief when the NIE showed that Iran has suspended their nuclear program, but the warhawks just went to Plan B. They are seasoned at shifting rationales for war, after all.

The plans are full-speed ahead from my vantage point and nobody is doing a whole lot to stop them. We know that Cheney/Bush isn't going to be deterred by public opinion polls. Leading Democrats might have to stop thinking about the next election for a few minutes and mobilize to put a halt to this.

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