S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Middle East Developments Unsettling

Middle East a Dangerous Place -

There are a number of developments happening in several countries in the Middle East. Israel is making lethal attacks by shelling in Gaza, there are continuing severe cuts in aid to Palestine, and Egypt's President Mubarek declares that Iraq in in a civil war.
Meanwhile there is no permanent government in Iraq, months after the election of a permanent parliament. President Jaafari still refused to step aside even after it is apparent that he has little support. Perhaps this three-member committee can break the impasse. From Yahoo! News,

BAGHDAD-Iraq's Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the largest bloc in parliament, has formed a three-member committee to deliver a "final opinion" on Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari's bid to keep his job.
Sy Hersh investigates - Seymour Hersh wrote an important article in the most recent New Yorker Magazine about "The Iran Plans." The article is extremely unsettling, thus I have quoted extensively from it. According to Hersh,
The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities insideIran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish
contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups. The officials say that
President Bush is determined to deny the Iranian regime the opportunity to begin
a pilot program, planned for this spring, to enrich uranium. . .
(More tidbits from the Hersh article:)
  • There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change. . . A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was “absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb” if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.” . . .
  • One military planner told me that White House criticisms of Iran and the high tempo of planning and clandestine activities amount to a campaign of “coercion” aimed at Iran. . . He added, “People think Bush has been focussed on Saddam Hussein since 9/11,” but, “in my view, if you had to name one nation that was his focus all the way along, it was Iran.”
  • “This is much more than a nuclear issue,” one high-ranking diplomat told me in Vienna. . . The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years.”
  • . . . Colonel Sam Gardiner, a military analyst . . . estimated that at least four hundred targets would have to be hit. . . One of the military’s initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites
  • . . . according to the former senior intelligence official, . . . The attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he added, and some officers have talked about resigning. . . The matter may soon reach a decisive point, (a Pentagon adviser on the war on terror) said, because the Joint Chiefs had agreed to give President Bush a formal recommendation stating that they are strongly opposed to considering the nuclear option for Iran. “The internal debate on this has hardened in recent weeks,” the adviser said. “And, if senior Pentagon officers express their opposition to the use of offensive nuclear weapons, then it will never happen.”
  • The adviser added, however, that the idea of using tactical nuclear weapons in such situations has gained support from the Defense Science Board, an advisory panel whose members are selected by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “They’re telling the Pentagon that we can build the B61 with more blast and less radiation,” he said. . .
  • The Pentagon adviser said that, in the event of an attack, the Air Force intended to strike many hundreds of targets in Iran but that “ninety-nine per cent of them have nothing to do with proliferation. There are people who believe it’s the way to operate”—that the Administration can achieve its policy goals in Iran with a bombing campaign, an idea that has been supported by neoconservatives.
  • If the order were to be given for an attack, the American combat troops now operating in Iran would be in position to mark the critical targets with laser beams, to insure bombing accuracy and to minimize civilian casualties. As of early winter, I was told by the government consultant with close ties to civilians in the Pentagon, the units were also working with minority groups in Iran, including the Azeris, in the north, the Baluchis, in the southeast, and the Kurds, in the northeast. . . . The new mission for the combat troops is a product of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s long-standing interest in expanding the role of the military in covert operations, which was made official policy in the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, published in February. Such activities, if conducted by C.I.A. operatives, would need a Presidential Finding and would have to be reported to key members of Congress.
Summarizing - The remainder of Hersh's lengthy and very important story covers the Iranian president and his Revolutionary Guards, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's influence, how soon Iran will get the bomb, the false intelligence parallels with the run-up to the Iraq war, reactions within I.A.E.A. and with European nations and Israel, and the possibility of an Iranian attack in southern Iraq.
Iranian reply - The Iranians have reacted to the Hersh article, labeling it "psychological war," according to Reuters. I just hope that is all it is. To quote,
"This is a psychological war launched by Americans because they feel angry and desperate regarding Iran's nuclear dossier," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid
Reza Asefi told a weekly news conference.
"We will stand by our right to nuclear technology. It is our red line. We are ready to deal with any possible scenario. Iran is not afraid of threatening language," he added.

WaPo in Iran - The Washington Post also carried a lengthy article today on the Iran options, from which I quote,
The Bush administration is studying options for military strikes against Iran as part of a broader strategy of coercive diplomacy to pressure Tehran to abandon its alleged nuclear development program, according to U.S. officials and independent analysts.
No attack appears likely in the short term, and many specialists inside and outside the U.S. government harbor serious doubts about whether an armed response would be effective. But administration officials are preparing for it as a possible option and using the threat "to convince them this is more and more serious," as a senior official put it.
Sunday unsettled - Scanning the news today it looks as if this is all part of the tapestry of investigative news/administration information campaign/straight MSM news/propaganda/and "softening up" the public for the next phase of U.S. aggression. I am not any more "softened," nor prepared or nor accepting of any of these developments. I remain very unsettled. Sorry for jarring your Sunday, too.
My "creative post" today at Southwest Blogger is about the colors of Easter.

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