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Iran Fever (part 5)

This is a continuation of Iran Fever part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.

February 13, 2007

War with Iran? (part 1, part 2, part 3)—, responses to the question, “Is a military confrontation with Iran coming?”

    A. Richard Norton, Boston University: “A decision to go to war against Iran would arguably surpass the Iraq war as the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president.”
    Milt Bearden, former senior CIA officer: “Yes, I think Americans should be prepared to wake up one morning and find themselves at war with Iran.”
    Frank Anderson, former head of the CIA’s Near East Division: “This administration has, at least, a significant minority of officials who are determined to take on Iran…before they leave office. […] I think we’re ‘locked and loaded’ for an attack.”
    Anonymous Former CIA Official #2: “The administration is…trying to squeeze Iran…hoping that Iran commits some sort of military action that the Bush Administration can use as justification for a strike.”
    Steven Simon, Council on Foreign Relations: “The administration is undoubtedly planning some sort of action, but hasn’t decided whether to carry it out.”
    Anthony Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies: “We need to do everything possible to cool things down…. Whether or not you believe that dialogue will pay off, we should be pursuing it.”

February 14, 2007

Laura Rosen in War and Piece

    I went to the Nick Burns Iran talk at Brookings. [A full transcript of the talk by Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns is available online.] He was asked to clarify what would it take for the U.S. to sit down with Iran, and his answer…[was for Iran to] suspend uranium enrichment for the duration of negotations in exchange for suspension of international sanctions…. He also emphasized that there is a lot more time for diplomacy…. In other words, one interpretation of all this…is that it’s intended to work as coercive diplomacy…to get Iran to change its behavior…with an exit ramp available for a while, before the prospect of use of that naval air power amassing in the region. And yet, one can’t discount the administration’s recent…effort to deliberately publicly overplay Iran’s bad-acting in Iraq as a chief factor for violence there…. Elements of the administration seem to be making a case to the American public that Iran is more of a factor in Iraq violence than it actually is…[specifically by] killing U.S. soldiers. Construing this as a force protection argument…would conceivably be an effort by the administration to give itself lots of legal wiggle room in terms of authorizing action that would not require Congressional approval….

Bomb Attack on Iran’s Elite Force Kills 18—Aljazeera Magazine

    A car ripped through a bus carrying members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard in a south-eastern border city, killing at least 18 people and wounding several others, the official IRNA news agency reported. The bus was taking the Guards from their housing compound in the city of Zahedan to a military base when gunfire forced it to stop in front of the booby-trapped car, which then exploded…. “Rebels and those who create insecurity martyred these people in a terrorist act…” Qassim Rezai, a military commander, was quoted as saying by IRNA. […] Correspondents say an attack of this scale and nature—a bomb attack on an elite force in broad daylight in an open street—is unprecedented in Iran. […] Iranian officials have accused Britain and the United States of supporting ethnic minority rebels operating in Iran’s sensitive border areas.

February 15, 2007

Iran’s Elite and Mysterious Fighters—Los Angeles Times

    Among the myriad military and intelligence agencies that make up Iran’s security forces, none has the skill and reach of the Quds Force…. The Quds Force and its predecessors consisted of the [Revolutionary] Guard’s most skilled warriors. Experts said they were highly secretive commando units sent abroad to…gun down enemies and battle Israeli forces in southern Lebanon. […] The Quds Force also has been involved in Iraq. It assisted Kurdish rebels fighting Saddam Hussein in the 1980s and Shiites battling his regime in the 1990s. […] At most, the force numbers 2,000, said Mahan Abedin…[of] the Center for the Study of Terrorism, a London think tank. “It’s a remarkably efficient organization, quite possibly one of the best special forces units in the world,” he said. There has been evidence of rifts between Iran’s government and the Revolutionary Guard and Quds Force. […] Kenneth M. Pollack, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution…[said] “We do have evidence here and there…that the Quds Force guys and other people in the Revolutionary Guard like to push the edge of the envelope”….

February 18, 2007

Oh What a Malleable War—Frank Rich in the New York Times (subscription required)

    No sooner did unnamed military officials…[give a] briefing in Baghdad last Sunday than Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, blew the whole charade. General Pace said he…couldn’t endorse its contention that the Iranian government’s highest echelons were complicit in anti-American hostilities in Iraq. […] Yet for all the sloppy internal contradictions, the most incriminating indictment of the new White House disinformation campaign is…that the administration has twice sounded the same alarms…. In August 2005…officials [claimed], as CBS put it, that “U.S. forces intercepted a shipment from Iran containing professionally made explosive devices….” Then, as now, those devices…were thought to have been brought into Iraq by members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Then, as now, there was no evidence that the Iranian government was directly involved. In February 2006, administration officials delivered the same warning yet again…. So why would the White House pick this particular moment to mount such an extravagant rerun of old news…? […] Its reason for doing so is always the same: to distract the public from reality that runs counter to the White House’s political interests.

February 20, 2007

The Right’s Ward Churchill—Paul Campos in Rocky Mountain News

    Glenn Reynolds, the well-known University of Tennessee law professor who authors one of the Internet’s most popular blogs, recently advocated the murder of Iranian scientists and clerics. “We should be…killing radical mullahs and Iranian atomic scientists…to make them reconsider their not-so-covert war against us in Iraq,” Reynolds wrote. […] Even if Iran were at war with the United States, the intentional killing of civilian noncombatants is a war crime…. Furthermore, government-sponsored assassinations of the sort Reynolds is advocating are expressly and unambiguously prohibited by the laws of the United States. How does a law professor, of all people, justify advocating murder? […] It isn’t an exaggeration to point out that [Reynolds and his supporters] sound very much like fascists when they encourage the American government to murder people.

February 22, 2007—General Wesley Clark, former NATO commander, in collaboration with—launch of a new website including an online letter-writing campaign.

February 23, 2007

Iran Vows to Show No “Weakness” over Demands It Halt Nuclear Program—Reuters

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Friday that his country should not show weakness over its nuclear program, a day after Tehran ignored a United Nations deadline to stop nuclear work…. “If we show weakness in front of the enemy, the expectations will increase, but if we stand against them, because of this resistance they will retreat,” he said in a speech in northern Iran…. According to an International Atomic Energy Association report released on Thursday, Iran failed to suspend uranium enrichment activity by February 21, ignoring a U.N. Security Council deadline…. The U.N. watchdog also said…that Iran had installed two cascades, or networks, of 164 centrifuges in its underground Natanz enrichment plant, with another two cascades close to completion.

Emulating the Enemy—Glenn Greenwald in Salon

    President Ahmadinejad’s comments yesterday summed up the mentality which drives the Bush administration…. Neoconservatives have long been speaking quite openly about the need for the U.S. to shed all of the values and constraints of civilization…in order to match and copy the savagery of Islamic terrorists. […] Those consumed by feelings of their own weakness are always desperate to find ways to be perceived as strong. Seeking out and fighting wars…is an ideal way to accomplish that. Conversely…a willingness to negotiate…is nothing more than a pitiful sign of weakness to be avoided at all costs. Thus, when one reads any speech given by President Ahmadinejad, it becomes apparent that his views on…the need to show “strength”…are, at their core, indistinguishable from those who have been governing our country for the last six years.

Signals From Tehran—David Ignatius in the Washington Post

    What’s interesting [is] the fact that the Iranians are…signaling through various channels that they want to restart dialogue. […] “We’re getting pinged all over the world by Iranians wanting to talk to us,” Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said in an interview yesterday. […] U.S. and European officials think Iran’s new interest in negotiations is a sign that pressure on Tehran is working. The campaign includes the initial U.N. sanctions resolution…and calculated muscle-flexing by the Bush administration…. “We are hopeful that all these pressure points will influence the internal debate in Iran,” says Burns. […] The multipronged squeeze on Tehran surprised President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials…. “We knocked them off stride and put them on the defensive,” argues Burns. A British official who follows the issue closely agrees: “The Iranians have moved from cockiness to division and nervousness.” […] Meanwhile, the strategy of confrontation continues….

February 24, 2007

Cheney Hints at Iran Strike—The Australian

    U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has raised the possibility of military action to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. […] The visiting Vice President said that he had no doubt Iran was striving to enrich uranium to the point where they could make nuclear weapons. He accused Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of espousing an “apocalyptic philosophy” and making “threatening noises”…. He also said Iran was a sponsor of terrorism, especially through Hezbollah. […] “You get various estimates of where the point of no return is,” Mr. Cheney said, identifying nuclear terrorism as the greatest threat to the world. “Is it when they possess weapons or does it come sooner, when they have mastered the technology but perhaps not yet produced fissile material for weapons?”

President Bush Has the Authority—Randall DeSoto in The Conservative Voice

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated late last week that “there is no previous authority for the president, any president, to go into Iran.” [… But] Bush does have the authority…based on his position as Commander-in-Chief…. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad…thinks that the Twelfth Imam (an Islamic Messiah) is about to appear to aid the forces of Islam in a climatic end of the age battle…and that he, Ahmadinejad, has been chosen to start the fight…. Now any rational President of the United States…would need to sit up and take notice of someone like Ahmadinejad…feverously seeking nuclear weapons. If the President…should determine that the time for a strategic air strike…has come, it would be the height of irresponsibility to put the matter before the 535 members of Congress for their consideration. In an operation of this nature, secrecy and surprise would be of the essence…. President Bush has the authority.

February 25, 2007

U.N. Calls U.S. Data on Iran’s Nuclear Aims Unreliable—Los Angeles Times

    Diplomats here say most U.S. intelligence shared with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has proved inaccurate and none has led to significant discoveries inside Iran. The officials said…none of the tips about supposed secret weapons sites provided clear evidence that the Islamic Republic was developing illicit weapons. “Since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that’s come to us has proved to be wrong,” a senior diplomat at the IAEA said. Another official here described the agency’s intelligence stream as “very cold now” because “so little panned out.” […] American officials privately acknowledge that much of their evidence on Iran’s nuclear plans and programs remains ambiguous…. The Bush administration also has tried to implicate Iran as a supplier of munitions and training for insurgent groups in neighboring Iraq. But the quality of its information has limited this effort too. […] Given the lack of clear evidence, Iran’s strategic goals in Iraq are a matter of debate…. Iran’s rulers view the U.S. as meddling in their backyard, or at least in their sphere of influence.

U.S. Funds Terror Groups to Sow Chaos in Iran—Sunday Telegraph

    America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime…. The operations are controversial because they involve dealing with movements that resort to terrorist methods…. In the past year there has been a wave of unrest in ethnic minority border areas of Iran, with bombing and assassination campaigns against soldiers and government officials. […] Funding…comes directly from the CIA’s classified budget but is now “no great secret,” according to one former high-ranking CIA official…. Last Monday, Iran publicly hanged a man, Nasrollah Shanbe Zehi, for his involvement in a bomb attack that killed 11 Revolutionary Guards in the city of Zahedan in Sistan-Baluchistan. An unnamed local official…[claimed] that weapons used in the attack were British and U.S.-made. […] The Baluchistan-based Brigade of God group, which last year kidnapped and killed eight Iranian soldiers, is a volatile Sunni organisation that many fear could easily turn against Washington after taking its money. A row has also broken out in Washington over whether to “unleash” the military wing of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an Iraq-based Iranian opposition group with a long and bloody history…. The group is currently listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organisation….

U.S. Generals “Will Quit” if Bush Orders Iran Attack—London Sunday Times

    “There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon….” A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran…. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.” […] A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. […] The threat of a wave of resignations coincided with a warning by Vice President Dick Cheney that all options, including military action, remained on the table. […] But General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said recently there was “zero chance” of a war with Iran. […] Hillary Mann, the National Security Council’s main Iran expert until 2004, said Pace’s…[objections were] a sign of grave discontent at the top. “He is a very serious and a very loyal soldier,” she said. “It is extraordinary for him to have made these comments publicly….”

Israel Seeks All Clear for Iran Air Strike—Daily Telegraph

    Israel is negotiating with the United States for permission to fly over Iraq as part of a plan to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities…. A senior Israeli defence official said…”We are planning for every eventuality, and sorting out issues such as these are crucially important. […] The only way to do this is to fly through U.S.-controlled air space. If we don’t sort these issues out now we could have a situation where American and Israeli war planes start shooting at each other.” […] The pace of military planning in Israel has accelerated markedly since the start of this year after Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, provided a stark intelligence assessment that Iran…could have enough fissile material for a nuclear warhead by 2009.

Sneh: Israel Not Planning to Attack Iran—Jerusalem Post

    [Israeli] Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh denied on Saturday a report in the British Daily Telegraph that Israel was negotiating with the United States for permission to use Iraqi air space in an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. […] According to Sneh, no such plan exists.

3 Gulf States Agree to IAF Overflights En Route to Iran—Haaretz

    Three Arab states in the Persian Gulf would be willing to allow the Israel Air force to enter their airspace in order to reach Iran…the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyasa reported on Sunday. According to the report…the three states, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, have told the United States that they would not object to Israel using their airspace, despite their fear of an Iranian response. Al-Siyasa further reported that NATO leaders are urging Turkey to…open its airports and borders in case of a ground attack.

Bill Kristol on “Fox News Sunday”

    Well, I think the pressure, the economic pressure, seems to be having some effect. […] And we’re putting some military pressure on Iran…. I myself would like a little more. Cheney repeated this week that the threat of force is not off the table. I think the administration is doing a decent job of pressuring Iran…. You can’t just suddenly use force, and the question is whether the president can build a predicate if he feels he has to use force over the next 1.5 years. […] If things have stabilized in Iraq, I think you could then easily build political support for being much tougher on Iran at the beginning of 2008.

Iraq Official Says Iran Has Stopped Meddling—CNN

    Iraq’s national security adviser said Sunday Iran has stopped interfering in Iraq. The comments by Mowaffak al-Rubaie contradict one of the top messages the Bush administration has been sending to the world in recent days. […] “They stopped a lot of their tactics and a lot of intervention or interference in the Iraqi internal affairs.” al-Rubaie told CNN’s “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer.” […] Al-Rubaie said there is evidence that the Quds Force was supporting “some militia group, a Shia group in Iraq.” But he said, “They recently—in the last few weeks, they have changed their position.” They have “advised some of their allies in the Iraqi political arena to change their position and [start] supporting the government to give the Baghdad security plan a good chance of success.”

Iraq Rebel Cleric Reins In Militia; Motives at Issue—Damien Cave in the New York Times

    Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric and founder of the Mahdi Army militia…seems to be…cleaning house of fighters who could taint him by association with Iran or with death squad killings. […] In perhaps his boldest move yet, Mr. Sadr has assisted the joint Iraqi-American campaign against parts of his militia, signaling whom to arrest and telling others to flee…. [Sadr aides said] he wanted to show…that he was a strong leader who must be respected and feared. […] According to some Shiite officials, Iran has funneled support to his organization. What it receives, how much and how consistently, remain a mystery…. Iran generally supports many groups simultaneously…said Sami al-Askari, a Shiite member of Parliament…. “Iran intervenes in many ways, with many methods,” Mr. Askari said. In the case of the Mahdi Army, Iran has recognized its diffuse nature, sprinkling support at high and low levels. Some support comes through ties to Hezbollah…. Mahdi commanders say they have been sending fighters to Hezbollah at least since last summer, when Hezbollah battled Israel. […] According to Sadr aides and Mahdi commanders, Mr. Sadr’s recent purges aim to put Iran on notice that he is in charge and independent.

The Redirection: A Strategic Shift—Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker

    In the past few months…the Bush Administration…has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection”…[has] propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. […] In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. […] A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that…are sympathetic to Al Qaeda. […] In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East.” […] She pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.” […] Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis…. The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq…Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. […]
    The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis…have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations. […] “It seems there has been a debate inside the government over what’s the biggest danger—Iran or Sunni radicals,” Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations…told me. “[…] This is a victory for the Saudi line.” […] Flynt Leverett, a former Bush Administration National Security Council official, told me…”This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.” […] “The word went out last August for the military to snatch as many Iranians in Iraq as they can,” a former senior intelligence official said. […] American military and special-operations teams have escalated their activities in Iran to gather intelligence and…have also crossed the border in pursuit of Iranian operatives from Iraq. […]
    The Administration’s effort to diminish Iranian authority in the Middle East has relied heavily on Saudi Arabia and on Prince Bandar, the Saudi national-security adviser. […] “The last time Iran was a threat, the Saudis were able to mobilize the worst kinds of Islamic radicals,” [Vali Nasr explained]. […] Nasr compared the current situation to the period in which Al Qaeda first emerged. […] Then, as now, many of the operatives who were paid with Saudi money were Salafis. […] This time, [a] U.S. government consultant told me, Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. […] It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs, it’s who they throw them at….” In the past year, the Saudis, the Israelis, and the Bush Administration have developed a series of informal understandings about their new strategic direction. […] “We are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite influence, and we’re spreading the money around as much as we can,” the former senior intelligence official said. […] Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader…accused the Bush Administration of working with Israel to deliberately instigate fitna [meaning] “insurrection and fragmentation within Islam.” “In my opinion, there is a huge campaign…throughout the world to put each side up against the other,” he said. “I believe that all this is being run by American and Israeli intelligence.” […]
    The Bush Administration’s reliance on clandestine operations that have not been reported to Congress…[has] recalled, for some in Washington, an earlier chapter in history. […] Saudi money was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then—notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams—are involved in today’s dealings. Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal “lessons learned” discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. […] One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. […] I was subsequently told…that the echoes of Iran-Contra were a factor in [John] Negroponte’s decision to resign the National Intelligence directorship and accept a sub-Cabinet position of Deputy Secretary of State. […] Negroponte did not want a repeat of his experience in the Reagan Administration…. “Negroponte said, ‘No way. I’m not going down that road again, with the N.S.C. running operations off the books, and no finding.'”

Seymour Hersh Interviewed by Wolf Blitzer—”Late Edition” on CNN

    BLITZER: Already, some special operations forces…have crossed the line and have gone into Iran. Is that right?
    HERSH: There’s been a lot of very aggressive cross-border activity. It’s more than just casual. There has been a lot of jumping over the border, chasing bad guys, or people we think are bad guys. […] My own instinct is, Wolf, that this president is not going to leave office without doing something about Iran. […] He keeps on refusing to negotiate. He keeps on saying he will not. […] And I don’t know what can stop him because he is president.
    BLITZER: Near the end of your article, you have this explosive point in there about…”echoes of Iran-Contra”….
    HERSH: Yes, it’s probably the single most…depressing or distressing sort of thing I discovered in the last few months…. That we have been pumping money, a great deal of money…without any Congressional oversight—Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia is putting up some of this money—for covert operations in many areas of the Middle East where we…want to stop the Shiite spread or the Shiite influence. […] And a lot of this money…has gotten into the hands…[of] people connected to Al Qaida who want to take on Hezbollah. […] My government…is sitting back while the Lebanese government we support…is providing arms and sustenance to three jihadist groups whose sole function seems to me…to be there in case there is a real shoot-’em-up with Hezbollah…. My sources believe much of the money obviously came from Iraq, where there’s all kinds of piles of loose money, pools of cash that could be used for covert operations. All of this should be investigated by Congress, by the way, and I trust it will be. […] We are simply in a situation where this president is really taking his notion of executive privilege to the absolute limit….

February 26, 2007

Josh Marshall in Talking Points Memo

    There’s been a flurry of articles over the last week about Vice President Cheney, possible plans for war against Iran, and murmurs from within the upper echelons of the U.S. armed forces of possible resignations…. But beyond all the scary predications and wild tales…Cheney and the rest of the crew at the White House can’t even seem to get clear on…what war it is they’re fighting. […] In the Hersh piece in The New Yorker we learn that the U.S. has essentially decided…to side with the Saudis, who will in turn enlist a bunch of Al Qaeda type groups to work on our behalf against Iran. […] But wait. Only a short time ago we were told that Cheney and his crew at the White House wanted to take the side of the Shi’as in Iraq’s burgeoning civil war. […] There’s no real strategy here…more like a rather panicked set of improvisations aimed at finding a way to retrospectively justify the mistakes that got us here in the first place.

The Hersh Piece—Andrew Sullivan in The Daily Dish

    If Cheney decides to bomb Iran without Congressional approval, then we’re not just headed for a massive increase in violence in the Middle East…we’re also facing a constitutional crisis and a military revolt.

Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh My!—Scarecrow in Firedoglake

    The Bush/Cheney Administration…is too dishonest for us to trust their statements; too reckless for us to believe they will make wise choices; too radical to obey the law; and too incompetent for us to rely on their assessments…. The greatest problem we face is…the radical regime of George Bush and Dick Cheney and the extremist zealots that advise them. […] It’s time to let this regime know that all constutitional options are on the table. The media and Congress need to shine a lot more light…under all those rocks, and let the American people know the danger we’re in. […] The country’s number one priority should be to remove the current Administration from power, and failing that, to do everything we lawfully can to limit their ability to do even more harm than they have already done.

Iran: Atomic Program Has No Brake—CNN

    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday…”Iran has obtained the technology to produce nuclear fuel, and Iran’s move is like a train…which has no brake and no reverse gear.” […] “They don’t need a reverse gear. They need a stop button,” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Fox News. […] U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said on Saturday Iran’s atomic ambitions must be curbed and said “all options” were on the table. […] “We have prepared ourselves for any situation, even for war,” [said] Manouchehr Mohammadi, one of the [Iranian] foreign minister’s deputies…. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said, “The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran. To suggest anything to the contrary is simply wrong, misleading and mischievous.”

U.S. Forces in Iraq Say Found More Iran-Made Weapons—Reuters

    The U.S. military showed on Monday what it said was further evidence of Iranian-made weapons being used by Iraqi militants…. Military officials showed reporters in Baghdad 14 large rockets, 19 mortars and several bags of C4 plastic explosive they said were made in Iran since 2004. But they said there was no way to know if the Iranian government was involved in supplying them. […] Captain Clayton Combs, whose unit found the cache…said he could not say where the components for making the explosively-formed projectiles came from. “That’s the million dollar question. Originally it was thought they were made out of country, now we just don’t know.”

Army Officers Say Iran Made Bomb Components—Los Angeles Times

    U.S. Army officers today displayed plastic explosives they said were made in Iran and recovered during a raid Saturday in violence-racked Diyala province. […] The explosives were found alongside enough bomb-making materials to build 150 EFPs [explosively formed projectiles] capable of penetrating heavily armored vehicles, according to [explosives] expert Maj. Martin Weber. Mortars and rockets found in the same cache also were manufactured in Iran, Weber said. […] The cache was believed to be the first EFP manufacturing site found inside Iraq, officers said. They had previously assumed that most EFPs were assembled outside the country and brought in nearly whole. […] The briefing was the third [of its kind] in two weeks…. By contrast with previous sessions, officers at today’s display were careful not to accuse the Iranian government of involvement.

February 27, 2007

Bush Faces Opposition on Iran Attack—Robert Parry in

    A number of U.S. military leaders, reportedly including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have waged an extraordinary behind-the-scenes resistance to what they fear is a secret plan by George W. Bush to wage war against Iran. One intelligence source told me that Joint Chiefs chairman, Gen. Peter Pace, has explored the possibility of resigning if Bush presses forward with air attacks against Iran…. Though Pace has given no public signal on resigning, he has undercut Bush’s case…[by] telling Congress that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have eroded American military capability to confront another crisis. In a classified report to Congress, Pace warned that there is a significant risk that the U.S. military would be unable to respond quickly and fully to a new threat…. One source told me that the resistance…appears to be having an effect on Bush’s decision-making. This source said he believed Bush had planned to launch an attack on Iran, possibly as early as this week, but was getting “weak knees.” In January and early February, my own military and intelligence sources [told me an air campaign against Iran] might involve the Israelis as the initiators of the attack to make the U.S. bombing appear more defensive and to ensure more Democratic and media support. […] A daring Israeli air strike against Iran could salvage [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert’s reputation…. But Bush and the neocons may have been taken aback by the intensity of opposition from an unexpected front, the U.S. military.

February 28, 2007

U.S. Set to Join Iran and Syria in Talks on Iraq—New York Times

    American officials said Tuesday that they had agreed to hold the highest-level contact with the Iranian authorities in more than two years as part of an international meeting on Iraq. The discussions…are expected to include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Iranian and Syrian counterparts. The announcement…is a shift in President Bush’s avoidance of high-level contacts with the [two] governments…. The Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, called America’s anticipated face-to-face contact with Iran and Syria…”very significant.” […] “Iraq can be helpful to its neighbors also. It can provide a platform for them to work out their differences.” […] The new United States intelligence chief, Mike McConnell, told a Senate committee on Tuesday…it was “probable” that top Iranian leaders, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, were aware that weapons had been supplied by Iran. A State Department spokesman…said the Iranian-made weapons would be “certainly at the top of our list” in the meetings. […] Administration officials characterized the conflicting signals as part of a larger diplomatic strategy for dealing with Iran that verges on a high-level game of chicken. […] “We became convinced that the Iranians were not taking us seriously,” said Philip D. Zelikow, who until December was the top aide to Ms. Rice. “So we’ve done some things to get them to take us seriously….”

March 2, 2007

Gen. Wesley Clark Weighs Presidential Bid: “I Think About It Everyday”—General Wesley Clark, former NATO commander, interviewed by Amy Goodman for Democracy Now!

    GEN. CLARK: About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw…some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. […] He says, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.” […] I said, “We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?” He said, “I don’t know.” […] So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, “Are we still going to war with Iraq?” And he said, “Oh, it’s worse than that.” He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, “I just got this down from upstairs”—meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office—”today.” And he said, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.”
    Here’s the truth—that Iran, from the beginning, has seen that the presence of the United States in Iraq was a threat…because they knew they were next on the hit list. And so, of course…it was in their vital interest to be deeply involved inside Iraq. […] They’re building up their own network of influence, and to cement it, they occasionally give some military assistance and training…to both the insurgents and to the militias. […] And the administration has stubbornly refused to talk with Iran…because they don’t want to legitimate a government that they’ve been trying to overthrow. If you were Iran, you’d probably believe that you were mostly already at war with the United States anyway, since…we are supporting terrorist groups, apparently, who are infiltrating and blowing up things inside Iran.
    GOODMAN: I wanted to get your response to Seymour Hersh’s piece in The New Yorker…[reporting that] the Bush administration and Saudi Arabia are pumping money for covert operations into many areas of the Middle East….
    GEN. CLARK: The Saudis have basically recognized that they have an enormous stake in the outcome in Iraq, and they don’t particularly trust the judgment of the United States in this area. We haven’t exactly proved our competence in Iraq. So they’re trying to take matters into their own hands.

March 4, 2007

Saudi-Iran Meeting Yields Little Substance—Hassan M. Fattah in the New York Times

    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia concluded an extraordinary meeting early Sunday promising a thaw in relations between the two regional powers. […] Mr. Ahmadinejad’s first official visit to Saudi Arabia…was marked by decidedly public shows of warmth and friendship between the leaders…. To some, it promised to break the spiraling cycle of brinkmanship in the region…. Skeptics, however, said…the meeting was more a public relations offensive meant to help Iran improve its image at home and in the Arab world…. The Saudi Press Agency reported that Mr. Ahmadinejad had expressed support for a Saudi-led land-for-peace initiative that would have Arab states recognize Israel in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state…. An Iranian official…reportedly denied the initiative was discussed during the summit meeting. […] Mr. Ahmadinejad has come under increased pressure in recent weeks to tone down his comments. In Tehran on Saturday, Akbar Alami, a member of Parliament, said members intended to ask him to appear before them to answer questions about his… “provocative speeches, positions that are against diplomatic norms and against the country’s national interests”…. “Saudi Arabia did what people have been asking the U.S. to do for so long, which is to extend a hand out to the Iranians,” said Abdel Monem Said Aly, director of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “The Saudis seized on the right time to give the Iranians a window of opportunity to get out of their mess.”

Mid-East Agrees on Curbing Sectarianism—Aljazeera Magazine

    Saudi and Iranian leaders agreed to stand together against “enemy plots” seeking to divide the Muslim world. The announcement came following a meeting between the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Saudi King Abdullah yesterday, during which both leaders discussed ways to end the sectarian bloodshed in Iraq, the crisis in Lebanon and the international standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme. […] According to an account of the talks issued by the official Saudi Press Agency early on Sunday: “The two leaders asserted that the greatest danger threatening the Muslim nation at the present time is the attempt to spread strife between Sunni and Shia Muslims and that efforts should be exerted to stop such attempts and close ranks.” […] Saudi commentators described the Iranian leader’s visit to the kingdom as a positive sign…at a time when…Riyadh is trying hard to avert a possible U.S.-Iran war that would destabilize the entire region.

March 5, 2007

Webb Introduces Bill Barring Funding For Military Action Against Iran—FOX News

    A Democratic senator on Monday introduced legislation that…would deny funding for the Bush administration to take military action against Iran without first getting congressional approval. […] [Senator Jim] Webb told reporters Monday…”We need Congress to be involved in any decision to commence military activities, absent an attack from the other side or a direct threat.” If enacted, Webb’s bill would ensure that “no funds…may be obligated or expended for military operations or activities within or above the territory of Iran…except pursuant to a specific authorization of Congress.” The bill has a number of exceptions, however. The proposal would allow military action…aimed at repelling an attack launched or about to be launched from inside Iran;…in “hot pursuit” of enemy forces fleeing into Iran;…[or in support of] intelligence gathering.

Webb Introduces Bill Restricting War with Iran—Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, speech to the U.S. Senate

    This Administration has used force recklessly, choosing the military option again and again…. Furthermore…this Administration believes it possesses the broadest imaginable authority to commence military action without the consent of the Congress. In signing the 2002 Iraq resolution, the President denied that the Congress has the power to affect his decisions when it comes to the use of our military. […] This is a sweeping assertion of powers that leaves out virtually nothing. […] During our recent hearings on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I asked both the Secretary of State and the Deputy Secretary of State for clarification…. Both wrote me lengthy letters in reply, but neither could give me a clear response. The situation that we now face is that the Administration repeatedly states that it seeks no war with Iran, at the same time it claims the authority to begin one, and at the same time it continues a military buildup in the region. The legislation I introduce today is intended to clarify this ambiguity. In so doing, the Congress will be…reassuring the American people that there will be no more shooting from the hip when it comes to…[sending] our military people into harm’s way.

Iran’s Atomic Defiance Sets It Apart: IAEA Chief—Reuters

    Iran’s failure to clear up concerns about its nuclear activities after concealing them for almost 20 years sets it apart from all other nations, the U.N. atomic watchdog chief said on Monday. […] Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, [said] “Unlike other verification cases, the IAEA’s confidence about the nature of Iran’s program has been shaken because of two decades of undeclared activities…. This confidence will only be restored when Iran takes the long overdue decision to explain and answer all the agency’s questions and concerns…. We have not seen concrete proof of diversion of nuclear material, nor the industrial capacity to produce weapons-usable nuclear material…. But quite a few uncertainties remain about experiments, procurements and other activities…. This renders the agency unable to provide the required assurance about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”

March 6, 2007

IAEA Thinks Iran Is Holding Off on Centrifuges—Associated Press

    Iran seems to have at least temporarily halted the uranium-enrichment program at the heart of its standoff with the U.N. Security Council, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said yesterday. The pause could represent an attempt to de-escalate Iran’s conflict with the Security Council…. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been expected to announce last month that Iran had started installing 3,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges…outside the central city of Natanz…but the announcement never materialized, an apparent step back that IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei appeared to confirm yesterday. “I do not believe that the number of centrifuges has increased, nor do I believe that [new] nuclear material has been introduced to the centrifuges at Natanz,” he said.

March 7, 2007

U.S. Ally Musharraf in a Tangle over Iran—M. K. Bhadrakumar in the Asia Times

    The Pakistan-Iran relationship, which has never been easy, has nosedived to a low point in recent weeks…. [General Pervez] Musharraf…may endear himself to Washington as a brave leader in the Muslim world, but Pakistani public opinion is averse to serving the U.S. agenda over Iran. […] Washington could be miscalculating that only the Shi’ites in Sunni-dominated Pakistan will feel alienated by Musharraf’s unfriendly attitude toward Tehran. The fact is…the average Pakistani citizen is bound to view U.S. hostility toward Iran as yet another instance of Washington’s “crusade” against the Islamic world. […] The main point is that U.S. covert operations from Pakistani soil directed against eastern Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province have burst into public view.
    The administration of President George W. Bush has earmarked $100 million for bringing about “regime change” in Iran. […] Persians dominate [Iran], but there are many smaller ethnic groups with their own agendas. Edward Luttwak, consultant to the U.S. National Security Council…recently wrote…”The natural outcome of…widening ethnic divisions is…the breakup of Iran. […] As with the Soviet Union, there is a better alternative to detente with a repulsive regime—and that is…by encouraging and helping the forces of national liberation”…. The Balochs (who form roughly 2% of the population) offer themselves as the obvious choice for Washington to train its terrorism weapon against the Iranian regime. […] Last month, [Balochi] terrorists killed 13 officials of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Zahedan. Last week, in another incident…four Iranian policemen were killed, one abducted and another wounded. The perpetrators fled across the border into Pakistan. […] The depth of the Iranian sense of hurt…came out in remarks made by Ahmad Khatami, who led last Friday’s prayer meeting in Tehran. […] “Pakistan is becoming a terrorist state, and even though it is our neighbor, little by little it is losing its neighborly manners as it has become a sanctuary for terrorists who kill people in Zahedan.”

U.S. Denies Defection of Iran’s Deputy Defense Minister—Ya Libnan

    Iran’s former deputy defense minister secretly defected to the United States last month…it was reported yesterday. Ali Reza Asghari was not abducted—a claim that Iran is making—but instead sought asylum in America, senior Iranian sources told an influential Arab-language paper. […] If he did defect, Asghari, 63, could provide a treasure trove of secrets about Iran’s…ties to Shiite militants in Iraq and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. The retired general in the elite Revolutionary Guards vanished shortly after arriving in Istanbul on a private visit Feb. 7. […] Yesterday…the London-based newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat quoted senior Iranian sources as saying Asghari is headed for the United States “along with the secrets he carried.” But Iran claimed that Asghari didn’t leave voluntarily. “It is likely that Asghari has been abducted by the Western intelligence services,” Iranian Gen. Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghaddam said. […] Menashe Amir, an Israeli analyst of Iranian affairs, said it appeared Asghari’s “wife and children managed to leave Iran before his disappearance.” But a U.S. intelligence official insisted Asghari was not in the United States or headed here. “We don’t have him,” the source told The Post.

March 8, 2007

Former Iranian Defense Official Talks to Western Intelligence—Dafna Linzer in the Washington Post

    A former Iranian deputy defense minister…has left his country and is cooperating with Western intelligence agencies…according to a senior U.S. official. […] The U.S. official did not divulge [Ali Rez] Asgari’s whereabouts…but made clear that the information Asgari is offering is fully available to U.S. intelligence. […] Asgari’s background suggests that he would have deep knowledge of Iran’s national security infrastructure, conventional weapons arsenal and ties to Hezbollah in south Lebanon. Iranian officials said he was not involved in the country’s nuclear program, and the senior U.S. official said Asgari is not being questioned about it. Former officers with Israel’s Mossad spy agency said yesterday that Asgari had been instrumental in the founding of Hezbollah in the 1980s…. “He is very high-caliber,” [former Mossad director Danny] Yatom said. “He held a very, very senior position for many long years in Lebanon. He was in effect commander of the Revolutionary Guards” there. Ram Igra, a former Mossad officer, said Asgari spent much of the 1980s and 1990s overseeing Iran’s efforts to support, finance, arm and train Hezbollah. […] “If he has something to give the West, it is in this context of terrorism and Hezbollah’s network in Lebanon.”

March 9, 2007

U.S. and Iran Have Been Talking, Quietly—Los Angeles Times

    The White House insists that the United States won’t talk directly with Iran until Tehran suspends its nuclear program. But U.S. officials have been discreetly meeting their Iranian counterparts one-on-one for more than a decade…. The little-known history of these contacts between the two nations…is one of misunderstandings and missed opportunities. […] Despite decades of tension, the continuing conversations reveal a slender swath of common ground upon which Washington and Tehran have built a delicate bridge: an interest in the region’s security and resources. “The point is that we think the Iranians can do a lot that will be conducive to peace in the region…” White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said last week. […] “And if they want to have bilateral relations, it is up to them.” [Contacts between the two nations began in 1998, and have continued sporadically from there.] In January 2006, the U.S. asked Iran for talks on Iraq, said [Javad] Zarif, the Iranian [U.N.] ambassador…but then there was a change of heart in the White House. “The U.S. sends out these trial balloons, [but] as soon as Iran responds positively…the results are always negative,” Zarif said….

March 10, 2007

Iraq’s Leader Asks for Aid in Curbing Strife—New York Times

    Among the most closely watched participants [at a security conference in Baghdad] were the representatives of the United States [and] Iran…. The delegations traded language back and forth on a bland joint statement issued at the end of the conference…. They did not, as the Iraqis had hoped, split off for any one-on-one talks…. United States Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad echoed [Iraqi Prime Minister Jawad al-]Maliki’s call for help from Iraq’s neighbors, saying they should “halt the flow of fighters, weapons and other lethal support….” After the conference, his assessment of the Iranians pledge to help make Iraq secure was cautious. “We will wait and see”…. The Iranians denied the American allegation that Iran has supplied arms to Iraqi militias. […] [Abbas] Araghchi [leader of the Iranian delegation] said…”I think the Americans are unfortunately suffering from intelligence failure. They have made so many mistakes and policies in Iraq because of the false information and intelligence they had at the beginning.”

The story continues in part 6.


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