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Iran Fever (part 4)

This is a continuation of previous posts. See part 1, part 2, part 3.

February 2, 2007

Where Congress Can Draw the Line: No War with Iran—James Fallows in The Atlantic

    War with Iran would be a catastrophe that would make us look back fondly on the minor inconvenience of being bogged down in Iraq. Congress…can do something useful, while it still matters, in making clear that it will authorize no money and provide no endorsement for military action against Iran. […] If we could trust the Administration’s ability to judge America’s rational self-interest, there would be no need to constrain its threatening gestures toward Iran. […] But no one can any longer trust the Administration…not when the President says he will carry out a policy even if opposed by everyone except his wife and dog…. What the Congress can do is draw the line. It can say that war with Iran is anathema to the interests of the United States and…its elected representatives. And it should do that now.

Odds of U.S.-Iran conflict?—UPI

    Addressing a group of about 300 Arab students in Qatar, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres ruled out an Israeli attack on Iran. […] “We don’t have any problems with Iran. The problem is Ahmadinejad.” […] Peres added: “Israel does not intend to use military action.” […] Nicholas Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs…said he does not believe that a military conflict with Iran is inevitable. “I think that if we’re patient and we’re skillful, we can have a diplomatic solution to these problems.” […] Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking on Iranian state television earlier this week said, “[…] They are not really in a position to carry out this action. I believe there are many wise people in the United States who would not let it happen.”

Iran Installs Equipment for Large-Scale Uranium Enrichment—New York Times

    International nuclear investigators have confirmed that Iran is beginning to install equipment in the large underground chamber in Natanz, the center where Iranian officials have said they will move to industrial-scale enrichment of uranium. Iran said last year that it planned to install 3,000 centrifuges by this spring at Natanz, as a first step toward putting more than 50,000 of the devices in operation to produce nuclear fuel. But the program has been behind schedule…. Nonetheless, the move signals a continued defiance of [UN Security Council demands] that Iran suspend all uranium enrichment. […] If Iran is preparing to take its enrichment program to the next level, it may be rushing. It has a pilot program…but so far that project is small and has run into numerous technical problems, according to foreign diplomats who have seen reports of its progress.

A “Perfect Storm” Is Rising To Oust Dick Cheney—Michele Steinberg in Executive Intelligence Review

    The only certain path to stopping the planned attack on Iran is the impeachment of Dick Cheney, who…is running the “team” and the policy for “regime change” in Iran. […] The Bush family may be the critical factor in getting rid of Cheney…. On Jan. 25, Keith Olbermann, the host of the popular “Countdown” show on MSNBC, did a five-minute spot called, “Should Cheney Go?” […] Olbermann said… “Craig Crawford reported today that Jim Baker not only led the Iraq Study Group, he was also leading a kind of a private attempt to wrench the President away from Mr. Cheney’s influence and ideology, and ultimately failed in that….” […] There are already four [Congressional] resolutions that have been introduced to block a war on Iran. […] However, there are serious concerns that these actions do not go far enough…. Many observers believe that only immediate steps to remove the Vice President by impeachment could protect the nation from the disaster of a war with Iran.

February 3, 2007

U.S. Can’t Prove Iran Link to Iraq Strife—Los Angeles Times

    Bush administration officials acknowledged Friday that they had yet to compile evidence strong enough to back up publicly their claims that Iran is fomenting violence against U.S. troops in Iraq. […] The acknowledgment comes amid shifting administration messages on Iran. After several weeks of saber rattling…the administration has insisted in recent days that it does not want to escalate tensions or to invade Iran. […] The administration sought to delay the release of evidence until after a key intelligence report on Iraq was unveiled…. That report, called a National Intelligence Estimate, was issued Friday…. However, the report tends to downplay the role of Iran and Syria…in fomenting sectarian violence…. “The involvement of these outside actors is not likely to be a major driver of violence,” says the report…. Few doubt that Iran is working to increase its influence inside Iraq, but many of its beneficiaries have been political groups that also are allied with the United States.

Gates: Gulf Buildup is Warning to Possible Foes—AFP

    U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates on Friday…firmly rejected talk of war plans aimed at Iran. […] “We are not planning for a war with Iran,” Gates said, amid fears…that the recent deployment of a second aircraft carrier group in the Gulf foreshadowed a U.S. strike. […] “But really the purpose of that is simply to underscore to our friends, as well as to our potential adversaries in the region, that the United States has considered…that area to be a vital American national interest,” he said. […] Asked whether there was evidence that the government in Tehran was behind any Iranian mischief in Iraq, Gates replied: “I don’t know that we know the answer to that question.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Says U.S. Not Planning on Attacking Iran—Associated Press

    U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said no option can be taken off the table when dealing with Iran. “U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons,” the Democrat told a crowd of Israel supporters. “In dealing with this threat…no option can be taken off the table.” Clinton spoke at a Manhattan dinner held by the largest pro-Israel lobbying group in the U.S., the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. […] “We need to use every tool at our disposal, including diplomatic and economic, in addition to the threat and use of military force,” she said.

Iran Shows Nuclear Facility to Diplomats—Associated Press

    Iran on Saturday opened the gates to a key uranium conversion facility to visiting diplomats and journalists in an effort to show that its disputed nuclear program is peaceful and not a cover for nuclear bomb making. […] The plant at Isfahan, 255 miles south of Tehran, is responsible for…turning yellowcake uranium into uranium hexaflouride gas, or UF-6, the feedstock for enrichment. International concerns have recently focused more on the facility in Natanz, where uranium can be enriched using cascades of centrifuges. […] Centrifuge hookup is expected to start at Natanz next week.

Ex Military Commanders Warn Against Iran Attack—Reuters

    Three former senior U.S. military officials…urged Washington to hold immediate and unconditional talks with Tehran. […] In a letter to London’s Sunday Times newspaper, the three former U.S. military leaders said attacking Iran “would have disastrous consequences for security in the region, coalition forces in Iraq, and would further exacerbate regional and global tensions,” they wrote. […] They urged the U.S. government to “engage immediately in direct talks with the government of Iran without preconditions. There is time available to talk, we must ensure that we use it,” they said.

February 4, 2007

Muslim Sectarianism a Part of the U.S. Agenda—Zafar Bangash for Media Matters Network

    Let us consider two recent developments: Hizbullah’s successful resistance to Zionist aggression in Lebanon last summer and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s standing up to the U.S. […] These developments clearly alarmed other Muslim rulers and the U.S., who are struggling to neutralize them. [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice was in the region in mid-January to mobilize the Arab dinosaurs for a confrontation with the forces of Islam. […] “The reality of the current situation is that we are approaching an open Sunni-Shi’ite conflict in the region,” Emad Gad [of] the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo told the New York Times on January 17. “And Egypt will also be a part of it as a part of the Sunni axis.” […] Egypt is not alone in stoking sectarianism; the Saudis are even worse. They fear the growing power of Iran as a threat to their illegitimate rule. […] To undermine Iran, they are willing to resort to crude tactics: fan sectarian tensions by financing it on behalf of the U.S. All this is, unfortunately, nothing new….

February 5, 2007

Congress Must Stop an Attack on Iran—Leonard Weiss and Larry Diamond in the Los Angeles Times

    Recklessness, not prudence, has been the hallmark of this administration’s foreign policy. Beyond this, the president and vice president subscribe to what some call the “unitary executive,” which is a fancy way of saying they believe…the president [can do] almost anything he wants. […] Congress should not wait. It should hold hearings on Iran before the president orders a bombing attack…or supports a provocative act…. We need Senate and House hearings now to put the Bush administration on notice that in the absence of an imminent military attack…Congress will not support a U.S. military strike on that country. […] If he…then orders an attack on Iran without congressional authorization for it, Congress should file a lawsuit and begin impeachment proceedings. […] The history of this administration shows that if Congress does not constrain this president, he could well act recklessly again, in ways that would profoundly damage our national interest.

February 6, 2007

Iranian Diplomat Kidnapped in Baghdad by Iraqis With Official ID—New York Times

    An Iranian diplomat was abducted Sunday evening when his convoy was stopped by men with official Defense Ministry identification…. Iraqi security forces captured several suspects after pursuing their vehicles through the streets…. The vehicle with the diplomat was not caught…. If the kidnappers’ credentials turn out to be genuine, there will be enormous pressure on the Iraqi government to recover the diplomat and capture all of those involved. […] The Iraqi government has been critical of recent raids by American forces in which Iranians working with diplomatic offices in Iraq have been detained. […] In an indication of how high tensions between Iran and the United States have risen over the American raids, the [Iranian] embassy privately voiced suspicions that the kidnapping of its diplomat might have been done at the behest of American forces in Baghdad….

“Give Us the Proof”—interview with Hassan Qomi, Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Newsweek

    Iran is ready to help [Iraq]…with issues of training, equipment and transfer of intelligence. Iran has a lot of experience in this area. […] It was within these parameters that [our security officials] came and were arrested by the Americans. […] Whether the Americans were sending a signal…that they don’t want other parties working on the security portfolio outside of their supervision, is a point that has now come up. […] That we were helping terrorists and transfer of weapons…we say if there is proof they should show it. […] But we shouldn’t forget one point…that the root of the security crisis is the occupation. […] The solution to the security crisis in Iraq is to give the security portfolio back to the government of Iraq. […] If you look at Iraq’s security problems, the safest border Iraq has today is the border with Iran. […] We want a secure and stable Iraq. […] The role of Iran in reconstructing this country can be a serious role. […] We have signed good cooperation agreements. For example, extending credit of $1 billion with very good terms. […] We’ve started help in the electricity sector. […] Fuel needs like liquid gas, kerosene, gas-oil, petroleum, are being provided from Iran today. […] The government of America has 150,000 troops here. It has its security and intelligence services in Iraq. […] If Iran was involved in actions against Americans, they should have discovered the evidence.

February 8, 2007

How Not to Inflame Iraq—Jawad Zarif, Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, in the New York Times

    The United States administration is…reaping the bitter fruits of its ill-conceived adventurism…but rather than face these unpleasant facts, [it] is trying to sell an escalated version of the same failed policy. It does this by trying to make Iran its scapegoat and fabricating evidence of Iranian activities in Iraq. [It] also appears to be trying to forge a regional coalition to counter Iranian influence. But even if it succeeds in doing so, such a coalition will prove…dangerous to the region as a whole and internally destabilizing for Iraq. By promoting such a policy, the United States is fanning the flames of sectarianism just when they most need to be quelled. Coalitions of convenience…were a hallmark of American policy in the region in the 1980s and 1990s, and their effect then was to contribute to the creation of monsters like Saddam Hussein…. Short memories may be responsible for this ill-advised return to old habits. […] Only a reversal of the logic of force and occupation can dry up the hotbeds of insurgency.

Theaters of the Absurd—Arnaud de Borchgrave, UPI

    Iran’s man at the United Nations since 2002, Jawad Zarif, spoke with Washington think tankers and pundits for two hours. It was a virtuoso diplomatic performance…which won him sustained applause…. Iran is ready to dialogue with the United States on any subject…Zarif assured his audience. Almost at the same time, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was telling the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “We’re ready to talk to them, but they don’t want to talk to us.” […] Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abulgeit…told a clutch of pundits it was essential to eradicate the two principal Shiite militias—the Mahdi Army and the Badr brigades—”with brute force if necessary,” irrespective of casualties. When told this was not in the cards, the Egyptian statesman responded, “Then you might as well go home.” […] At a farewell reception…the president shook hands with Washington Life Magazine’s Soroush Shehabi. A grandson of one of the late Shah’s ministers, Soroush said, “Mr. President, I simply want to say one U.S. bomb on Iran, and the regime will remain in power for another 20 or 30 years….” “I know,” President Bush answered. “But does Vice President Cheney know?” asked Soroush. The president chuckled and walked away.

The Iran Option That Isn’t on the Table—Vali Nasr and Ray Takeyh in the Washington Post

    Iran’s political landscape is changing once again. As America became reconciled to [an Iran] represented by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his brand of rambunctious politics, the results from December’s local elections suggest Iranians were doing otherwise. […] Voters favored pragmatic conservatives and reformers who oppose their president’s policies…. Iranian society may be ready to embrace democracy, but Iranian politics is not ready to accommodate it. […] Economic isolation, supported by international sanctions, has kept the private sector weak…. The problem facing democracy is not so much the state’s theocratic nature as it is the enormous domination it enjoys over the economy, society and politics. For democracy to succeed, the state’s domination of the economy and society must be reduced. […] Iran’s integration into the global economy would impose standards and discipline on the recalcitrant theocracy. International investors and institutions…would demand…transparency, the rule of law and decentralization as a price for their commerce.

From the Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Iraq—Craig Unger in Vanity Fair

    The neoconservatives have had Iran in their sights for more than a decade. On July 8, 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s newly elected prime minister…paid a visit to the neoconservative luminary Richard Perle in Washington, D.C. The subject of their meeting was a policy paper that Perle and other analysts had written for an Israeli-American think tank…. Titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” the paper contained the kernel of a breathtakingly radical vision for a new Middle East. By waging wars against Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, the paper asserted, Israel and the U.S. could stabilize the region. […] “It was the beginning of thought,” says Meyrav Wurmser…who co-signed the paper…. “It was the seeds of a new vision.” Netanyahu certainly seemed to think so. Two days after meeting with Perle, the prime minister addressed a joint session of Congress with a speech that borrowed from “A Clean Break.” He called for the “democratization” of terrorist states in the Middle East and warned that peaceful means might not be sufficient. […] Netanyahu also made one significant addition to “A Clean Break.” […] “The most dangerous of these regimes is Iran,” he said. […]
    In one sense, the neoconservative hawks…have been kept aloft by their failures. The strategic fiasco created by the Iraq war has actually increased the danger posed by Iran to Israel…. But waging war against Iran could be the most catastrophic choice of all. […] Still, it would be naive to think that…the possibility of dire consequences would necessarily deter this president. Even before his January 10 speech, many inside the military had concluded that the decision to bomb Iran has already been made. […] The U.S. Strategic Command (StratCom)…oversees nuclear weapons, missile defense, and protection against weapons of mass destruction. Bush has directed StratCom to draw up plans for a massive strike against Iran…. “If they write a plan like that and the president issues an execute order, the forces will execute it,” [says former DIA analyst Pat Lang]. “It may, after the fact, be considered illegal, or an impeachable offense, but if he orders them to do it, they will do it.” […] That, in the words of former national-security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, would be “an act of political folly” so severe that “the era of American preponderance could come to a premature end.”

Over the Cliff with George and Dick?—Tom Engelhardt in TomDispatch.com

    Is there anybody in official Washington…who isn’t sweating blood, popping pills, and wondering what in the world to do about our delusional leaders? […] Former officials are now crawling out of the Washington woodwork to denounce Bush/Cheney policy in Iraq and Iran with the fervor…of an exorcism. […] To anyone not delusional…a massive air assault on Iran…would seem to be an act of madness. [Many people are] convinced that the Bush administration is headed for the Iranian cliff before its time in office ends…. But it took more than [the exposés of a few journalists for] official Washington to panic. It took…the administration’s ongoing catastrophe in Iraq…; it took the President’s insistence on victory in a situation where loss was so obviously on the agenda…; it took…the realization that this administration…believed it already had authorization aplenty to attack Iran. It took…a systemic nervous breakdown in Washington, a feeling that a thoroughly avoidable disaster loomed…. It took all of the above and more to bring home the possibility that our leaders might one day…indeed gun the car and head directly for the cliff with something between sneers and smiles on their faces.

Sunni Arab View of US–Iran Tensions—Helena Cobban in the Christian Science Monitor

    Some advocates of an attack…have argued that a U.S. strike on Iran would be welcomed in Sunni-dominated nations…. My current tour in Egypt contradicts that. The Egyptians I’ve talked to so far—including retired diplomats, experienced political analysts, and journalists—have expressed unanimous opposition to any U.S. attack against Iran. […] A former Egyptian ambassador rebutted [the] claim that Arab countries feel deeply threatened by Iran’s nuclear program. “We have lived beneath Israel’s nuclear weapons for many years, so even if Iran gets nuclear weapons it wouldn’t be anything new.” […] One very high-level Saudi executive told me he thought a U.S. attack on Iran would be “disastrous for the whole region”…. Even in U.S.-friendly Kuwait, the government-sponsored Al-Rai newspaper has begun to publish stridently anti-U.S. editorials. […] Bottom line for Americans: …they need to be very skeptical indeed of the rosy scenarios being conjured up by the advocates of war.

Senator Jim Webb interviewed by Chris Matthews—”Hardball” on MSNBC

    MATTHEWS: Does the president have the constitutional authority to go to war with Iran without checking with your branch of government?
    SEN. WEBB: I asked Secretary of State Rice…to clarify that. I have not received a clarification and I’m considering putting a resolution in that basically says that…no previous law empowers this administration to unilaterally go into Iran. […] If you look at the framers of the constitution, they wanted to give the president as commander in chief the authority to repel sudden attacks. That is totally different than conducting a preemptive war. […] With the tensions as high as they are, I’m very worried that we might accidentally set something off and we need, as a Congress, to get ahead of the ball game here.

February 9, 2007

Leading Experts Say Congress Must Stop An Attack on Iran: Is That Constitutionally Possible?—John W. Dean, former White House Counsel, in FindLaw

    The question of whether Congress can, in fact, prevent a president from taking the nation to war…was the subject of a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing chaired by Senator Russ Feingold, where he sought to explore “not what Congress should do, but what can Congress do.” […] The conclusion [was] that Congress does indeed have power to significantly restrict the Administration…. Even experts who have worked for Republican administrations have come to this conclusion. Professor David Barron [stated] “Congress possesses substantial constitutional authority to regulate ongoing military operations, and even to bring them to an end.” […] Professor Robert Turner…concluded that “Congress does indeed possess the power to limit the broad outlines of hostilities through legislation.” […] Bradford Berenson…[former] Associate Counsel to President George W. Bush…conceded, “I think the constitutional scheme does give Congress broad authority to terminate a war.” […] In short, all the experts on this politically diverse but balanced panel agreed…that Congress has the power to prevent a president from going to war. The only question…is whether the members of Congress…dare to use it.

Iran Would Hit U.S. Targets Worldwide if Attacked, Supreme Leader Says—International Herald Tribune

    Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned the United States on Thursday that Iran would retaliate against American interests worldwide if it was attacked…. Speaking to a group of air force commanders…Ayatollah Khamenei said…”Our enemies know very well that any aggression will have a response from all sides by Iranian people on their interests all over the world.” He added, “No one would commit such a blunder and jeopardize the interests of his country and people.” Separately, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said that…they had successfully test fired a land-to-sea missile capable of sinking large warships. “These missiles…can hit different kinds of big warships throughout the Persian Gulf…” Ali Fadavi, a senior Revolutionary Guards naval commander, said on state television.

February 10, 2007

Deadliest Bomb in Iraq is Made by Iran, U.S. Says—Michael R. Gordon in the New York Times

    The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran. […] In the last three months of 2006, attacks using the weapons accounted for a significant portion of Americans killed and wounded in Iraq…. The link that American intelligence has drawn to Iran is based on…an analysis of captured devices, examination of debris after attacks, and intelligence on training of Shiite militants in Iran and in Iraq by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard…. According to American intelligence, Iran…has provided similar technology to Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon. The manufacture of the key metal components required sophisticated machinery, raw material and expertise that intelligence agencies do not believe can be found in Iraq. […] An American intelligence assessment described to the New York Times said that “as part of its strategy in Iraq, Iran is implementing a deliberate, calibrated policy—approved by Supreme Leader Khamenei and carried out by the Quds Force—to provide explosives support and training to select Iraqi Shia militant groups to conduct attacks against coalition targets.”

“NYT” Reporter Who Got Iraqi WMDs Wrong Now Highlights Iran Claims—Greg Mitchell in Editor and Publisher

    Saturday’s New York Times features an article…that suggests very strongly that Iran is supplying the “deadliest weapon aimed at American troops” in Iraq. […] What is the source of this volatile information? Nothing less than “civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies.” Sound pretty convincing? Well, almost all the sources in the story are unnamed. It also may be worth noting that the author is…the same Times reporter who…wrote some of the key, badly misleading or downright inaccurate articles about Iraqi WMDs in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.

Target Iran: U.S. Able to Strike in the Spring—The Guardian

    U.S. preparations for an air strike against Iran are at an advanced stage, in spite of repeated public denials by the Bush administration, according to informed sources…. The present military build-up in the Gulf would allow the U.S. to mount an attack by the spring. But the sources said that if there was an attack, it was more likely next year, just before Mr. Bush leaves office. Neo-conservatives…are urging Mr. Bush to open a new front against Iran. So too is the vice-president, Dick Cheney. The state department and the Pentagon are opposed…. The sources said Mr. Bush had not yet made a decision. […] Mr. Bush…leaves office in January 2009 and has said repeatedly that he does not want a legacy in which Iran has…close to acquiring a nuclear weapon capability. The logic of this is that if diplomatic efforts fail…then the only alternative left is to turn to the military.

Al-Qaeda Suspects Color White House Debate Over Iran—Dafna Linzer in the Washington Post

    Last week, the CIA sent an urgent report to President Bush’s National Security Council: Iranian authorities had arrested two al-Qaeda operatives traveling through Iran…. The arrests were presented to Bush’s senior policy advisers as evidence that Iran appears committed to stopping al-Qaeda foot traffic across its borders…. That assessment comes at a time when the Bush administration…is preparing to publicly accuse Tehran of cooperating with and harboring al-Qaeda suspects. […] The administration’s planned diplomatic offensive is part of an effort to pressure Tehran from multiple directions. […] Bush also approved last fall secret operations to target Iranian influence in southern Lebanon, in western Afghanistan, in the Palestinian territories and inside Iran. The new strategy…aims to portray Iran as a “terror-producing country”…with links to al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and death squads in Iraq. U.S. officials have asserted for years that several dozen al-Qaeda fighters [are held in Iran] under house arrest as bargaining chips for potential deals with Washington.

Blowup? America’s Hidden War with Iran—Michael Hirsh and Maziar Bahari in Newsweek

    Jalal Sharafi…had driven himself to the commercial district of Arasat Hindi to check out the site for a new Iranian bank. […] Four armored cars roared up and disgorged at least 20 gunmen wearing bulletproof vests and Iraqi National Guard uniforms. They flashed official IDs, and manhandled Sharafi into one car. […] At the [Iranian] embassy, the diplomat’s colleagues were furious. […] Abdul Karim Inizi, a former Iraqi Security minister close to the Iranians, pointed the finger at an Iraqi black-ops unit based out at the Baghdad airport, who answer to American Special Forces officers. […] The unit does exist—and does specialize in snatch operations. […] The Iranians have reason to feel paranoid. […] At least one former White House official contends that some Bush advisers secretly want an excuse to attack Iran. “They intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something [America] would be forced to retaliate for,” says Hillary Mann, the administration’s former National Security Council director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs. […] As the raids and skirmishes in Iraq underscore, a hidden war is already unfolding.
    The secret history of the Bush administration’s dealings with Iran is one of arrogance, mistrust and failure. […] Iran was included…in the “Axis of Evil”…[because] Bush was already making plans to topple Saddam Hussein, but he wasn’t ready to say so. […] It was Condoleezza Rice, then national-security adviser, who told him which two countries to include along with Iraq. […] [In] low-level meetings between the two sides…[Iranian UN ambassador Jawad] Zarif raised the question of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a rabidly anti-Iranian militant group based in Iraq. […] Zarif floated the possibility of “reciprocity”—your terrorists for ours. The idea was brought up at a mid-May [2003] meeting between Bush and his chief advisers…. Bush seemed to like the idea of a swap…. The vice president, silent through most of the meeting…muttered something about “preserving all our options.” […] Around this time…an even more dramatic offer arrived in Washington—a faxed two-page proposal for comprehensive bilateral talks. […] The Iranians seemed willing to discuss, at least, cracking down on Hizbullah and Hamas…and “full transparency” on Iran’s nuclear program. In return, the Iranian “aims” in the document called for a “halt in U.S. hostile behavior…and abolishing sanctions,” as well as pursuit of the MEK. [Nothing came of it.]

February 11, 2007

U.S. Keeps Pressure on Iran But Decreases Saber Rattling—Karen DeYoung in the Washington Post

    Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates insisted…that despite persistent reports to the contrary…the United States is not planning military action against Iran. “I don’t know how many times the president, Secretary Rice and I have had to repeat that we have no intention of attacking Iran”, an exasperated Gates told reporters. In fact, he said, the administration has consciously tried to “tone down” its rhetoric…. A high-level policy assessment in January [indicated that] pressure on Tehran, to the surprise of many in the administration, might be showing signs of progress. […] The changed rhetoric also stems from…the realization that military action against Iran would…possibly explode into a regional conflagration. […] “It’s very important that we proceed carefully, patiently and with some skill,” said Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns…. “We believe that diplomacy can succeed. We’re focused on that.” […] Some senior administration officials still relish the notion of a direct confrontation. […] John Hannah, Vice President Cheney’s national security adviser, said during a recent meeting that the administration considers 2007 “the year of Iran” and indicated that a U.S. attack was a real possibility.

“Preserving All Our Options”—digby in Hullabaloo

    We watch as our democratic institutions seem to be incapable of hitting the brakes and I’m not sure I understand why. It was one thing after 9/11 for everyone to be caught up in the emotion of the moment. There is no such excuse now. […] We see once again a picture of an extremely powerful Vice President who believes he can do anything. He does not even believe he answers to the president. Considering recent history, it is far more significant that John Hannah is telling people that an attack was a real possibility than [that efforts are being made] to tamp down the rhetoric in public. Everything we have seen for the last six years shows that in these administration battles Cheney always wins.

Wider Conflict Threatens—R.K. Ramazani in the Daily Progress

    President Bush’s pledge to “seek out and destroy” the Iranian networks…and to “kill or capture” Iranian operatives suspected of killing American soldiers could spark a proxy war between Iran and the United States on the chaotic battlefield of Iraq. Furthermore, the Bush administration’s campaign to create a regional alignment of Sunni states against Shia Iran promises to stoke the fire of ancient enmities…enhancing the prospects of armed conflict throughout the Middle East. […] The Bush administration’s bullying tactics are backfiring and driving the Iranian government to accelerate the pace of its nuclear activities. These in turn may induce other Middle Eastern countries to develop their own nuclear programs. […] Iran’s support of such radical groups as Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, also aims at countering a perceived American or Israeli threat to its security. […] Tehran also has diplomatic relations with the Iraqi government in Baghdad and influential ties with the two most powerful Shia parties…in Iraq. […] Given these…realities, the Bush administration would be well advised to find a constructive way to engage Iran.

February 12, 2007

No News From Iran’s Leader on Nuclear Program—New York Times

    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed in a speech marking the 28th anniversary of the Islamic revolution…that Iran would not stop its nuclear program despite a United Nations deadline next week. […] But the news of major success that he repeatedly promised last week did not appear in his presentation…. It was unclear whether Mr. Ahmadinejad’s conspicuous silence reflected technical problems or political caution or some combination of the two. […] One outstanding question is whether…Tehran has really mastered the centrifuge basics or is involved in a political show to strengthen its bargaining position in the global standoff over its nuclear program. […] Last week, reformist members of Parliament said they were ready to hold talks with their American counterparts…. “It is time for the Parliaments of the two countries to use their legal power and authority to help bring understanding and cooperation between the two governments,” said Akbar Alami, a reformist member of Parliament….

Is War with Iran Inevitable?—General Wes Clark, former NATO commander and 2004 presidential candidate, in Daily Kos

    [The Iranians] see themselves as a nation that gained considerable strength from a war with Iraq that cost a million casualties…. They no doubt believe that…a U.S. strike against Iran would bring outpourings of sympathy, public support, and waves of impassioned volunteers from throughout the Islamic world. […] The Iranians may believe this reaction would enforce on the United States a rapid, humiliating withdrawal from the Persian Gulf…. In this they might very likely be proven wrong. […] Leaders on both sides should recognize that war is the most unpredictable of human endeavors, and that unanticipated consequences almost always follow. I believe some in the Administration have seen this confrontation as inevitable…since late 2001. […] But, cannot the world’s most powerful nation…work to establish a sustained dialogue, and seek to benefit the people of Iran and the region? […] And isn’t it easier to undertake such a dialogue now, before…more martyrs are created to feed extremist passions?

U.S. Says Arms Link Iranians to Iraqi Shiites—James Glanz in the New York Times

    After weeks of internal debate, senior United States military officials on Sunday literally put on the table their first public evidence of the contentious assertion that Iran supplies Shiite extremist groups in Iraq with some of the most lethal weapons in the war. […] Never before displayed in public, the weapons included squat canisters designed to explode and spit out molten balls of copper that cut through armor. […] The officials also asserted, without providing direct evidence, that Iranian leaders had authorized smuggling those weapons into Iraq for use against the Americans. […] The Americans…left many questions unanswered, including proof that the Iranian government was directing the delivery of weapons. […] Without specific evidence [they asserted] that the Iranian security apparatus, called the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps–Quds Force, controlled delivery of the materials to Iraq. […] That, [an] analyst said, meant direction for the operation was “coming from the highest levels of the Iranian government.”

Military Ties Iran to Arms in Iraq—Joshua Partlow in the Washington Post

    Senior U.S. military officials in Iraq…displayed mortar shells, rocket-propelled grenades and a powerful cylindrical bomb…that they said were manufactured in Iran and supplied to Shiite militias in Iraq…. The officials said they would speak only on the condition of anonymity [and they] did not allow media representatives to record, photograph or videotape the briefing or the materials on display. […] Iraq’s deputy foreign minister, Labeed M. Abbawi, said in an interview Sunday… “It is difficult for us…just to accept whatever the American forces say is evidence. […] The method or the way it’s being done should be changed, to have more cooperation with us.” […] The officials provided further details on the case of…five Iranians seized in the raid of a liason office in…Irbil in January. […] U.S. officials said they were Quds Force operatives who carried no passports and had fake identification cards. At the time of the raid they were trying to alter their appearance by shaving their heads…and they were flushing documents down a toilet, the officials said. Explosive residue was found on the hands of at least one of the Iranians, they said.

A Shaky Briefing on Iran?—Dan Froomkin on washingtonpost.com

    For a long time now, Bush administration officials have been promising reporters proof that the Iranian government is supplying deadly weaponry to Iraqi militants. The administration finally unveiled its case this weekend…in an extraordinarily secretive military briefing at which no one would speak on the record…and nothing even remotely like proof of direct Iranian government involvement was presented. […] Looking at the big picture, one can’t help but wonder: […] Is the Bush admininistration once again building a faulty case for war, this time against Iran? And is the press going along for the ride?

Stop This Now: Nameless Accusers, Sourcing—Eason Jordan in IraqSlogger

    Why are U.S. officials hiding behind the cloak of anonymity when presenting the most detailed evidence yet that Iran is supplying weaponry to anti-U.S. forces in Iraq? After weeks, if not months, of U.S. official planning to present a damning “dossier” of incriminating evidence against Iran…the best the U.S. government can give us today is incendiary evidence presented at a Baghdad news conference by three U.S. officials who refuse to be quoted by name?

Target Tehran: Washington Sets Stage for a New Confrontation—Patrick Cockburn in The Independent

    The United States is moving closer to war with Iran by accusing the “highest levels” of the Iranian government of supplying sophisticated roadside bombs that have killed 170 U.S. troops…. This is the first time the United States has openly accused the Iranian government of being involved in sending weapons that kill Americans to Iraq. The allegations…are bizarre. The U.S. has been fighting a Sunni insurgency…that is deeply hostile to Iran. The insurgent groups have repeatedly denounced the democratically elected Iraqi government as pawns of Iran. […] The U.S. stance on the military capabilities of Iraqis today is the exact opposite of its position four years ago. Then, [they] claimed Iraqis were technically advanced enough to produce long-range missiles…. Now [they are] saying Iraqis are too backward to produce an effective roadside bomb and must seek Iranian help. […] The evidence against Iran is even more insubstantial than the faked or mistaken evidence for Iraqi WMDs…in 2003. The allegations [imply that] the Shiites have been at war with the U.S., when in fact they are controlled by parties which make up the Iraqi government.

Josh Marshall in Talking Points Memo

    No one believes that whatever small flow of Iranian roadside bomb parts there might be has caused the chaos in Iraq. It might have upped the kill rate…by, say, 10%, thus throwing a bit more gas on the fire. But the fire is already raging out of control. […] Assume the best possible outcome to the sort of action that the Vice President and his clique appear to be angling for. We attack Iran…. The Iranians are duly chastened and stop all assistance, financial and military, to paramilitaries in Iraq. And this accomplishes? […] We go from the IEDs of early 2007 back to the old style IEDs of 2006. In other words, for [a] marginal degradation of the quality of the IEDs used in Iraq, we run all the risks of digging ourselves deeper into the current quagmire…. Iran is a distraction. More specifically, [it] is an effort to…find a scapegoat for the administration’s failure in Iraq.

Scary Movie 2—Paul Krugman in the New York Times [subscription required]

    Attacking Iran would be a catastrophic mistake…but it wouldn’t be the first catastrophic mistake this administration has made, and there are indications that…a powerful faction in the administration is spoiling for a fight. […] If you were determined to start a war with Iran, how would you do it? […] You’d go for a repeat of the highly successful strategy by which scare stories about the Iraqi threat were disseminated to the public. […] This time, however…there’s no way Congress will approve another war resolution. But if you can claim that Iran is doing evil in Iraq, you can assert…that Congress has already empowered the administration to do whatever is necessary to stabilize Iraq. And by the time the lawyers are finished arguing—well, the war would be in full swing. […] It’s still hard to believe that they’re really planning to attack Iran…but remember who’s calling the shots: Dick Cheney thinks we’ve had “enormous successes” in Iraq.

Iran’s President Dismisses U.S. Charges on Iraq—New York Times

    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday dismissed American accusations that Iran was arming Shiite militants in Iraq…. “I think that Americans have made a mistake in Iraq and unfortunately are losing, and this is a shame for Americans of course, and that’s why they are trying to point their fingers to other people….” A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, was more direct…. “The United States has a long history of fabricating evidence. Such charges are unacceptable.” […] In the ABC interview, Mr. Ahmadinejad said it was the Americans, not the Iranians, who were destabilizing Iraq…. [He] brushed off the possibility of a military strike by the Untied States against Iran. “There are wise people in the U.S. that would stop such illegal actions, but our position is clear. […] Anyone who wants to attack our country will be severely punished.”

Top American General Disputes US Military Claim on Iran—VOA

    The top American military officer, General Peter Pace, declined Monday to endorse the conclusions of U.S. military officers in Baghdad, who told reporters on Sunday that the Iranian government is providing high-powered roadside bombs to insurgents in Iraq. […] General Pace said he was not aware of the Baghdad briefing, and that he could not, from his own knowledge, repeat the assertion made there that the elite Quds brigade…is providing bomb-making kits to Iraqi Shiite insurgents. […] “I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit.”

February 13, 2007

U.S. General: No Evidence Iran Is Arming Iraqis—Associated Press

    A top U.S. general said Tuesday there was no evidence the Iranian government was supplying Iraqi insurgents with highly lethal roadside bombs…. Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said U.S. forces hunting down militant networks that produced roadside bombs had arrested Iranians and that some of the materials used in the devices were made in Iran. “That does not translate that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this,” Pace told reporters…. “What it does say is that things made in Iran are being used in Iraq to kill coalition soldiers.”

General Throws Wrench at Bush’s Iran Propaganda Machine—tristero on Hullabaloo

    Now, this didn’t just happen. Something’s afoot and it sounds like the generals are doing everything they possibly can to avoid Bush starting an utterly catastrophic war with Iran. […] The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs may be marching with the rest of us…at the next protest rally.

Clean Break—digby on Hullabaloo

    We don’t know what this really means. […] It could be a real revolt of the generals. […] But we do know that as much as a year ago, the administration has been actively planning to attack Iran and the generals have been resisting. […] I have believed for some time that the Bush administration is intent upon attacking Iran because they believe that their unpopularity will be redeemed by history for having taken great, bold steps to transform the Middle East. […] And so they rely more and more on the “big” thinkers who set us on this path many years ago: the neoconservatives who…took us first into Iraq, and now maybe Iran. […] I believe that we are at a point where the only things standing between us and the order to attack Iran are the generals. […] And that is the scariest thing, out of many scary things, I’ve contemplated since the beginning of the Bush administration.

Disputes Emerge on Iran and Roadside Bombs—New York Times

    American intelligence analysts have concluded that a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps known as the Quds Force is supplying Shiite groups with Iranian-designed weapons…. Because the Quds Force…has historically fallen under the command of Iran’s senior religious leaders, intelligence agencies have concluded that top leaders in Tehran are directing the attacks. […] But some senior American officials are hesitant to make this deductive leap. Twice during his recent trip through Asia, Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff…said he was not ready to conclude that Iran’s top leaders were behind the attacks. […] Still, American intelligence agencies have concluded that…the Iranian government had adopted a new policy of…raising the cost of American involvement in the Middle East, teaching the Bush administration a lesson about the cost of regime change and putting pressure on American forces to leave.

Iran Seen as Key to Untangling Iraq—Los Angeles Times

    It is an open secret [in Tehran] that Iran is operating a quiet network of influence in Iraq that it can use either to help settle the conflict or to prevent the U.S. from reaching its goals there. […] [Iran’s] image of an ideal settlement in Iraq looks remarkably like America’s: a strong, democratically elected government in Baghdad…an end to the violence, and preservation of territorial integrity. But with one important exception. “The difference is Iran doesn’t want to see the U.S. claim victory…” Tehran political scientist Nasser Hadian said. […] “Iran has developed an important infrastructure in Iraq. Intelligence, security, organization, people, weapons…. In case of a U.S. attack, these are there. And in fact they would like very much for the U.S. to know…the infrastructure is there, [or] it’s not going to play the role it’s supposed to play.” At the same time, Hadian said, it is not credible to believe that Iran has engaged in large-scale weapons deliveries [to insurgents] when Iran’s primary goal is to…protect the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad. […] Iran has frequently said it is willing to be part of a regional effort to end the conflict…. “Iran can persuade the Kurds and Shias to accept a deal with the Sunnis…. That’s what Iran can do,” Hadian said.

Extremist Bush Supporter Calls for Murder of Scientists—Glenn Greenwald in Salon

    Whenever you think that Bush followers cannot get any more depraved…they always prove you wrong. This is what…right-wing blogger Glenn Reynolds said today about claims by the administration that Iran is supplying weapons to Iraqi insurgents…: “We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and Iranian atomic scientists…. Basically, stepping on the Iranians’ toes hard enough to make them reconsider….” Just think about how extremist and deranged that is. We are not even at war with Iran. […] Yet Reynolds thinks that the Bush administration…should send people to murder Iranian scientists and religious leaders…. Every U.S. President since Gerald Ford…has either issued or left standing an Executive Order which expressly provides: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” […] If we are to be a country that now sends death squads into nations with whom we are not at war to slaughter civilians…what don’t we do?

2003 Memo Says Iranian Leaders Backed Talks—Washington Post

    The Swiss ambassador to Iran informed U.S. officials in 2003 that an Iranian proposal for comprehensive talks…had been reviewed and approved by Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; then-President Mohammad Khatami; and then-Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi…. “I got the clear impression that there is a strong will of the regime to tackle the problem with the U.S. now and to try it with this initiative,” Tim Guldimann, the ambassador, wrote in a cover letter that was faxed to the State Department on May 4, 2003. Guldimann attached a one-page Iranian document labeled “Roadmap” that [put] on the table such issues as an end to Iran’s support for anti-Israeli militants, action against terrorist groups on Iranian soil and acceptance of Israel’s right to exist. […] Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was questioned about the document on Capitol Hill last week. […] “I just don’t remember ever seeing any such thing,” she said. […] According to Guldimann, Sadegh Kharrazi [then Iran’s ambassador to France] reported [that] the supreme leader had reservations on some points but agreed with 85 to 90 percent of the road map, and “everything can be negotiated”….

More on the Provenance of the Spring 2003 Iran Proposal for Comprehensive Negotiations with the U.S.—Steve Clemons in The Washington Note

    Imagine the kind of “Nixon Goes to China” move that would have “possibly” taken America’s engagement in the Middle East in a new, constructive direction…. There may have been a radically different future with Iran…. What is intriguing is the date of the two-page fax that [Swiss ambassador Tim] Guldimann faxed on May 4, 2003. Look what Glenn Kessler wrote on May 7, 2003 in a seemingly unrelated Washington Post article…: “The Bush administration plans to adjust its policy toward North Korea…. Administration officials have sought to resolve their policy differences, which pit those pushing for confrontation…against those advocating further talks….” The timing is uncanny [suggesting that Secretary of State Colin] Powell essentially “traded” progress in North Korea for a regressive stance on Iran….

February 14, 2007

Ex-Aide Says Rice Misled Congress on Iran—Reuters

    Controversy over a possible missed U.S. opportunity…with Iran grew on Wednesday as a former aide accused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of misleading Congress on the issue. Flynt Leverett, who worked on the National Security Council when it was headed by Rice, said a proposal vetted by Tehran’s most senior leaders…was seen by Rice and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell but “the administration rejected the overture.” […] “The Bush administration up to and including Secretary Rice is misleading Congress and the American public about the Iran proposal,” he said. Testifying before a U.S. Congress committee last week, Rice…faulted him for not telling her, “We have a proposal from Iran and we really ought to take it.” […] Leverett said Rice should apologize for calling his competence into question. He said he had left the National Security Council…in March 2003 [and] was not in a position to make this case directly to Rice….

Bush Declares Iran’s Arms Role in Iraq Is Certain—New York Times

    President Bush said Wednesday that he was certain that factions within the Iranian government had supplied Shiite militants in Iraq with deadly roadside bombs…. But he said he did not know whether Iran’s highest officials had directed the attacks. […] Speaking at a news conference…Mr. Bush…publicly endorsed assertions that…an elite branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps known as the Quds Force has provided Shiite militias in Iraq with the sophisticated weapons…. “I can say with certainty that the Quds Force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated I.E.D.’s that have harmed our troops,” Mr. Bush said…. “I do not know whether or not the Quds Force was ordered from the top echelons of the government. But my point is, what’s worse, them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and its happening?” […] Asked about a possible American response to Iranian interference, he said, “We will continue to protect our troops.”

Josh Marshall in Talking Points Memo

    Let me state what I take to be one of the most important lessons of the lead-up to the Iraq War…. One reason there was too little scrutiny of even the least controversial of the White House’s claims is that…it was viewed as…irrational or simply naive to critically pick apart the details of these claims…. With that lesson in mind, carefully consider what we’re hearing from the White House on this issue of Iranian arms. […] President Bush says “with certainty” that Qods forces are giving these weapons to fighters for use against American troops. The only question…is whether the leaders of the Iranian government at the highest level directly told them to do so. [But] there’s a logical disconnect in these claims since the Iranians are supporting their Iraqi Shi’a coreligionists and most of our casualties are from the Sunni insurgents they oppose. […] President Bush is intentionally giving Americans the impression that we know something we don’t—that the Qods force is providing weapons for use against U.S. forces. […] [He’s] trying to fool Americans into believing something that we not only can’t prove, but that is more than likely false.

Pace: Iran Complicit in IED Attacks on Coalition—American Forces Information Service

    The Iranian government is complicit in improvised-explosive-device attacks on coalition and Iraqi forces, Marine Gen. Peter Pace said today in Jakarta, Indonesia. However, he said, officials are unsure what level of Iranian government is part of this complicity. […] “The Iranian government must know that we have discovered their weapons,” Pace said. “And they certainly do know—because they asked for them back—that we have found Iranian citizens involved in this. […] What I said was, that I do not know the level inside the Iranian government that knows about or is complicit in it,” he said. […] Pace said earlier in his trip to Australia and Indonesia that there is “zero chance” of the United States going to war with Iran.

The story continues in part 5 and part 6.

Comments

Comment from kladofora
Time: August 24, 2007, 13:27

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have a great day

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