Monday, January 17, 2005

Oh, dear! It's Iran next, says Seymour Hersh

The President and his national-security advisers have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War national-security state—and President Bush has an aggressive and ambitious agenda for using that control against Iran and against targets in the ongoing war on terrorism, Seymour M. Hersh reports in “The Coming Wars” (p. 40), in the January 24 & 31, 2005, issue of The New Yorker. One former high-level intelligence official tells Hersh, “This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.”

The Administration “has been conducting secret reconaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer,” Hersh reports, with the goal of identifying target information for three dozen or more suspected nuclear, chemical, and missile sites. One government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon tells Hersh, “The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible.” Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz think that like the former Communist regimes in Romania, East Germany, and the Soviet Union, “the minute the aura of invincibility the mullahs enjoy is shattered, and with it the ability to hoodwink the West, the Iranian regime will collapse,” the consultant says. The former intelligence official tells Hersh that an American commando task force in South Asia is now working closely with a group of Pakistani scientists who had dealt with Iranian counterparts; the American task force, aided by information from Pakistan, has been penetrating into eastern Iran in a hunt for underground nuclear-weapons installations. In exchange for his coöperation, the official says, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has received assurances that his government will not have to turn over A. Q. Khan to face questioning about his role in the nuclear black market.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly after the election and told them, in essence, that the naysayers had been heard and the American people did not accept their message. The C.I.A. will “continue to be downgraded,” Hersh reports, and the war on terrorism will be “expanded” and “effectively placed under the Pentagon’s control.” The President has already “signed a series of top-secret findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia.” Defining these as military rather than intelligence operations, Hersh notes, will enable the Administration to evade legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A.’s covert activities overseas. “It’s a finesse to give power to Rumsfeld—giving him the right to act swiftly, decisively, and lethally,” a Pentagon adviser tells Hersh. “It’s a global free-fire zone.”

The former high-level intelligence official says, “Everyone is saying, ‘You can’t be serious about targeting Iran. Look at Iraq.’ But they say, ‘We’ve got some lessons learned—not militarily, but how we did it politically.’” The official adds, “We’re not dealing with a set of National Security Council option papers here. They’ve already passed that wicket. It’s not if we’re going to do anything against Iran. They’re doing it.”... More


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