War with Iran – On, Off or Undecided?

By Stephen Lendman – RINF |

There’s good news and bad, mostly the latter but don’t
discount the good. On May 22, (non-binding) HR 362 was
introduced in the House – with charges and proposals
so outlandish that if passed and implemented will be a
blockade and act of war. It accused Iran of:

— pursuing “nuclear weapons and regional hegemony”
that threatens international peace and America’s
national security interests;

— overtly sponsoring “several terrorist groups,
including Hamas and Hezbollah;”

— having close ties to Syria;

— possibly sharing “its nuclear materials and
technology with others;”

— developing “ballistic technology” and ICBMs
exclusively to deliver nuclear weapons;

— calling for the “destruction of Israel;”

— refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment program
despite its legality;

— using its banking system to support proliferation
and terrorist groups;

— supporting Hezbollah to dominate Lebanon and wage
war on its government (of which Hezbollah is part);

— helping Hamas “illegally seize control of Gaza”
(and) continuously bombard Israeli civilians with
rockets and mortars;”

— financing Iraqi “Shia militant groups (and) Afghan
warlords (to) attack American and allied forces;”

— destabilizing the Middle East “by underwriting a
massive rearmament campaign by Syria;” and

— seeking regional hegemony to undermine “vital
American national security interests.”

While stopping short of overtly declaring war, it
proposes Congress:

— prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons
“through all appropriate economic, political and
diplomatic means;”

— urges the President to impose sanctions on:

(1) Iran’s Central Bank and all others supporting
proliferation and terrorist groups;

(2) international banks that do business with
proscribed Iranian banks;

(3) energy companies with $20 million or more
investments in Iran’s oil or natural gas sectors since
the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act; and

(4) all companies doing business with Iran’s Islamic
Revolutionary Guard.

It further:

— demands that the President prohibit export of all
refined oil products to Iran; impose “stringent
inspection requirements” on everything entering and
departing the country, including international
movement of its officials;

— aims to deny foreign investors greater access to
Iran’s economy and give US companies preferential
treatment if and when sanctions are lifted; and

— enlists regional support against Iran and makes
clear that America will protect its “vital national
security interests in the Middle East,” implying by
war if necessary.

Sanctions As A Form of War

Under the UN Charter’s Article 41, the Security
Council (SC) may impose economic sanctions to deter
(as Article 39 states) “any threat to the peace,
breach of the peace, or act of aggression.” Specific
measures “may include complete or partial interruption
of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal,
telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication,
and the severance of diplomatic relations.” Prior to
imposition, however, the SC should determine if
they’re warranted, “call upon the parties concerned to
comply with such provisional measures,” make
appropriate recommendations, and decide which specific
ones, if any, to use short of armed force.

Under appropriate circumstances, and if imposed
responsibly, sanctions may be warranted and have
greater impact than diplomatic protests or posturing.
They’re also hugely less problematic and costly than
conflict. However, when irresponsibly used, for
imperial gain, or as acts of vengeance or political
punishment, they become siege warfare and should be
judged accordingly. Most often, US pressure is for
these purposes in violation of the UN Charter’s intent
and spirit. As a result, grievous harm is caused –
nowhere more horrifically than in Iraq from 1990 –
2003 when around 1.5 million Iraqis died and millions
more suffered tragically and needlessly.

In far less extreme form, a similar strategy is being
used against Iran – with no justification whatever.
Last March, after a year of deliberations, the
Security Council approved SC 1803 – a third set of
Iranian sanctions for refusing to suspend its legal
right to enrich uranium as the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty allows. It followed two
earlier rounds in July 2006 (SC 1696) demanding that
Iran suspend uranium enrichment by August 31. When it
refused, SC 1737 passed in December imposing limited
sanctions. SC 1747 then tightened them in March 2007.
It imposed a ban on arms sales and expanded a freeze
on Iranian assets.

New sanctions extend the earlier ones but not as
harshly as Washington wanted. Still they restrict
dual-use technologies and authorize cargo inspections
to and from the country suspected of carrying
prohibited equipment and materials. They also tighten
the monitoring of Iranian financial institutions and
extend travel bans and asset freezes against persons
and companies involved in Iran’s nuclear program.

On August 5, AP reported that Germany and the SC’s
five permanent members (the so-called P5 + 1) “agreed
yesterday to ‘seek’ new sanctions against Iran over
its nuclear program after the country failed to meet a
weekend deadline to respond to an offer” discussed
below. Its source is US State Department spokesman
Gonzalo Gallegos saying “we have no choice but to
pursue further measures against Iran.”

Now the good news. By mid to late June, HR 362 had 169
co-sponsors. More were being added, and by August 1,
252 were on board. For a time it looked sure to pass
quickly. Then anti-war groups reacted – with a tsunami
of emails, phone calls, letters and visits to
congressional members and their staffs. In spite of
heavy AIPAC pressure for the resolution it wrote, they
suspended action until the bill’s language is
softened, so for now it’s stalled in committee (but
not halted), and Congress is on recess until September
7 after both parties hold their conventions.

Talking Peace, Planning War

On July 16, the New York Times called Under Secretary
of State for Political Affairs William Burns’ presence
at the July 19 Geneva talks “the most significant
diplomatic contact with Iran since” the 1979
revolution. It followed a June meeting (attended by no
US representative) at which Germany and the Security
Council’s five permanent members presented a package
of “economic and diplomatic incentives” that failed to
impress the Iranians. Predictably, neither did the
July 19 meeting that ended in “deadlock” because
America doesn’t “negotiate.” It demands.

In this case, the proposal offered a so-called
“freeze-for-freeze” formula, with imprecise terms,
under which Iran would stop enriching uranium in
return for no additional sanctions for six weeks. At
that point, formal negotiations would begin with no
promises of concessions or compromise. Iran was given
two weeks to reply. The US delegation said that Burns’
appearance was a one-time event, and by so doing
revealed its deceit. For its part, Iran rejects
deadlines, and its IAEA representative, Ali Asghar
Soltanieh, expressed “grave concern” over America’s
double standards on nuclear policy.

For the Bush administration, Iran’s nuclear program
isn’t the issue. It’s mere subterfuge for what’s
really at stake, but first a little background. Under
Reza Shah Pahlevi, Iran undertook a nuclear program in
1957 and got a US research reactor in 1967. After the
1974 oil shock, and in spite of the country’s vast oil
reserves, he established the Atomic Energy
Organization of Iran to use nuclear power generation
for a modern energy infrastructure that would
transform the entire Middle East’s power needs. He
also wanted to reduce Iran’s dependence on oil, lessen
its pressure to recycle petrodollars, and ally more
closely with European companies through investments.

In the 1970s, W. Germany began Iran’s Bushehr civilian
reactor complex. In 1978, Iran had the world’s fourth
largest nuclear program, the largest in the developing
world, and planned to build 20 new reactors by 1995.
That year, it contracted with Russia to complete the
Bushehr project, supply it with nuclear fuel, and
transfer potentially dangerous technology, including a
centrifuge plant for fissile material. Washington
became alarmed. It got the Yeltsin government to back
out, but Iran’s efforts continued with Russia
supplying nuclear fuel, and it still does.

Earlier in 2002, the National Council of Resistance of
Iran (NCRI – the opposition parliament in exile)
claimed the country was pursuing a secret nuclear
weapons program – including a Natanz uranium
enrichment facility and an Arak heavy water one. US –
Iranian confrontation followed using Iran’s nuclear
program as pretext. Here’s what’s really at issue:

— Iranian sovereignty;

— its independence from US control;

— its immense proved oil reserves – third or fourth
largest in the world by most estimates; also its vast
proved natural gas reserves – ranked second largest in
the world after Russia;

— America’s resolve to control and have veto power
over them;

— Big Oil’s desire to profit from them;

— Iran’s size and location in the strategically
important Middle East; its chokehold over the Strait
of Hormuz through which millions of barrels of oil
flow daily – about 20% of world production of around
88 million barrels;

— its strategic ties to Russia and China on energy,
other commercial, and weapons deals; both countries
are Iran’s largest foreign investors; Iran has vital
security ties with them as well;

— these relationships’ spillover for control of
Eurasia and the Caspian region’s vast oil and gas
reserves through two organizations – the Asian
Security Grid and more important Shanghai Cooperation
Organization (SCO) as a counterweight to an
encroaching US-dominated NATO;

— its power and influence in a region the US and
Israel want to dominate; and

— the immense power of the Israeli Lobby to influence
US policy, including a possible war on Iran or
minimally the harshest measures just short of one.

Congress On Board with the Israeli Lobby

At AIPAC’s June 2008 annual conference, most
congressional members (over 300 attended), the
leadership, and both parties’ presidential candidates
expressed uncompromising support for Israel. They also
backed harsh sanctions against Iran and even war if
they prove ineffective.

For its part, AIPAC’s action agenda urged:

— stopping Iran’s nuclear program; getting Congress
to pass HR 362 and the Senate’s equivalent SR 580;
“calling on the administration to focus on the urgency
of the Iranian threat and to impose tougher sanctions
on Tehran;”

— urging the Senate to pass the Iran
Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007 (S.970) – “to
enhance United States diplomatic efforts with respect
to Iran by imposing additional economic sanctions
against Iran, and for other purposes;” on September
25, 2007, it passed the House overwhelmingly; the
Senate Finance and Banking Committees passed key
provisions of the Senate version in two Iran sanctions
bills;

— supporting the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2007
(HR 2347) that “authorize(s) State and local
governments to direct divestiture from, and prevent
investment in, companies with investments of
$20,000,000 or more in Iran’s energy sector;” and

— urging additional aid for Israel as the president
requested, “support(ing) Israel’s quest for peace,
(and) press(ing) the Arab states to do more to support
Israeli-Palestinian talks.”

An earlier August 14, 2007 AIPAC “Issue Brief” is
titled “Iran’s Support for Terrorism.” It claims that:

— “the radical regime in Iran has sponsored terrorism
against the United States, Israel and the West for
decades;”

— the State Department designates Iran “the world’s
leading state sponsor of terror, noting its support
for groups such as Hamas, ‘Hizballah’ and Islamic
Jihad;”

— Tehran also sponsors the “insurgency in Iraq,
supplied arms to the Taliban and hosted al-Qaeda
terrorists;”

— it also “relentlessly pursu(es) nuclear weapons
(and thus is) a particularly implacable and lethal
regime;” and

— “only a sustained, unified international effort to
isolate and sanction Iran is likely to convince it to
give up these dangerous activities.”

The Bush administration agrees. So do most members of
Congress, the leadership, and both parties’
presumptive presidential candidates in speeches at the
June AIPAC conference. Obama oozed obeisance –
“speaking from the heart as a true friend of
Israel….when I visit with AIPAC, I am among friends.
Good friends….who share my strong commitment (that)
the bond between the United States and Israel is
unbreakable today, tomorrow, and forever.” Though far
less eloquent, McCain was equally supportive.

Obama assured attendees that he stands “by Israel in
the face of all threats..speak(s) up when Israel’s
security is at risk (and voices concern that)
America’s recent foreign policy (hasn’t) made Israel
more secure. Hamas now controls Gaza. Hizbollah has
tightened its grip on southern Lebanon, and is flexing
its muscles in Beirut. Because of the war in Iraq,
Iran – which always posed a greater threat to Israel
than Iraq – is emboldened and poses the greatest
strategic challenge to the US and Israel in the Middle
East in a generation….We must isolate Hamas….Syria
continues its support for terror and meddling in
Lebanon (and) pursu(es) weapons of mass
destruction….There is no greater threat to Israel –
or to the peace and stability of the region – than
Iran. (It) supports violent extremists….pursues a
nuclear capability….and threatens to wipe Israel off
the map….my goal will be to eliminate this threat.”

AIPAC attendees loved it and his receptivity to
attacking Iran. McCain’s comments no less plus his bad
humor earlier in singing “bomb, bomb Iran” to the tune
of a popular song on a May campaign stop. At AIPAC, he
was just as supportive as Obama, wants increased
military aid for Israel in FY 2009, and “foremost in
(his mind) is the threat posed by the regime in
Tehran….The Iranian President calls Israel a
stinking corpse….it uses violence to undermine
Israel in the Middle East peace process….(it
supports) extremists in Iraq (killing) American
soldiers….remains the world’s chief sponsor of
terrorism….(and its) pursuit of nuclear weapons
poses an unacceptable risk, a danger we cannot allow”
with clear implications of what he means and what he
may do as president.

Christians United for Israel (CUFI) on the “Iranian
Threat”

Along with the Israeli Lobby, Bush neocons, and most
Washington officials, Christian extremists from
organizations like CUFI cite the “Iranian threat” as a
recurrent theme, the country’s hostility to Israel and
desire to “eliminate” the Jewish state, the danger it
may do so if it acquires nuclear weapons, and the need
to confront Iran preemptively – through sanctions,
isolation and war if other measures fail.

Controversial Pastor and John McCain supporter John
Hagee is its founder and national chairman, and his
influence is considerable. He has 18,000 supporters in
his San Antonio Cornerstone Church and far more
through CUFI and his global television ministry. His
ideology is chilling, and as the most powerful and
influential American Christian Zionist, he’s a man to
be reckoned with. He calls Muslims “Islamic fascists,”
claims they’re at war with western civilization, and
believes preemptive countermeasures, including
belligerent ones against Iran, are a proper defense.

As keynote speaker at AIPAC’s 2007 conference, he
called Iran “the most dangerous regime in the Middle
East (characterized by its) cruel despotism (and)
fanatic militancy. If this regime (acquires) nuclear
weapons this would presage catastrophic consequences
not only for my country, not only for the Middle East,
but for all of mankind….The fact that Iran is
building nuclear weapons is beyond question….and
they may be the world’s first ‘un-deterable’ nuclear
power….So the danger is clear and the question is
what do we do about it…My message to you
is….divest Iran,” impose sanctions, isolate the
country, and if these measures fail choose a “second
course,” the other two being “nothing” or
“non-military action.” From his rhetoric at AIPAC and
fundamentalist preaching to his followers, it’s clear
which one Hagee prefers and may get if enough others
in high places share his views.

Israeli Defense Minister and former Labor Prime
Minister Ehud Barak may one of them. On July 30, he
told top US officials that Israel won’t rule out a
military strike against Iraq, but there’s still time
to pursue diplomacy. Like other Israeli officials
(past and present), he stressed Iran’s global threat
so that for Israel “no option would be removed from
the table.”

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister (and possible next
Prime Minister) Shaul Mofaz stated similar views. In
an August 1 speech to the Washington Institute for
Near East Policy (a pro-Israeli think tank), he called
Iran an existential threat, recommended diplomacy
first, then added “all options are on the table” to
prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons – “as
soon as 2010” as some in Israel claim.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (and Mofaz rival
for Prime Minister) may be one of them. On CNN August
3, she called for a fourth round of sanctions against
Iran and urged the world community to support them.
“Iran doesn’t pay attention to talks,” she said, and
“time is of the essence.” On the same day, US
spokesperson for the US’s UN mission, Richard Grenell,
(in a Reuters report) voiced the same view in saying
“Iran has not complied with the international
community’s demand to stop enriching uranium (so) the
Security Council (has) no choice but to increase the
sanctions….”

High Level US Opposition to War on Iran

Key Obama foreign policy advisor and former Carter
administration National Security Advisor, Zbigniew
Brzezinski, is one of them. In a Washington Post March
2008 op-ed, he called the Iraq war a “national
tragedy, (demagogically justified), an economic
catastrophe, a regional disaster, and a global
boomerang for the United States.” Earlier in February
2007, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, he said it was “a historic, strategic, and
moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it
is undermining America’s global
legitimacy….tarnishing (our) moral credentials (and)
intensifying regional instability.”

He then laid out a “plausible scenario for a military
collision with Iran (based on) Iraqi failure to meet
the benchmarks, followed by accusations of Iranian
responsibility for the failure, then by some
provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the US
blamed on Iran, culminating in a ‘defensive’ US
military action” in response. This would plunge “a
lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire
eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and
Pakistan.” Brzezinski’s remarks were an unmistakable
warning that the Bush administration may try to
stampede the country into a calamitous conflict it
must avoid, and it’s up to Congress to stop it. He
also practically called Bush neocons a cabal and
warned Congress to be alert.

Later last September, Brzezinski repeated the same
warning on CNN – that the Bush administration (Bush
and Cheney mainly) is “hyp(ing) the atmosphere (and)
“stampeding” the country to war with Iran. “When the
president flatly asserts (Iran is) seeking nuclear
weapons, he’s overstating the facts….we have very
scant (supportive) evidence (and after the Iraq
calamity he) should be very careful about the veracity
of his public assertions.” Based on his own experience
in Afghanistan in the 1980s, he’s also very leery
about “running the (same) risk of unintentionally”
falling into Russia’s trap – overreaching, paying
“little regard for civilian casualties,” turning
Afghans against us, and being defeated and forced out
of the country.

Brzezinski supports a less confrontational occupation
and had this to say about a McCain administration: “if
his Secretary of State is Joe Lieberman and his
Secretary of Defense is (Rudy) Giuliani, we will be
moving towards the WW IV (counting the Cold War as WW
III) that they have been both favoring and
predicting….an appalling concept” he says must be
avoided.

It will be if global intelligence company Stratfor
founder and head George Friedman is right. In an
August 4 Barrons interview (reported on Iran’s Press
TV), he called Israeli war games and tough US talk
geopolitical head-fake leading to an “amicable endgame
in Iran.” Why? Because given today’s global economy,
the alternative risks far outweigh potential benefits.
Besides, Iran poses at most a “negligible nuclear
threat” and nowhere near reason enough to go to war
over.

Further, Iran has helped reduce sectarian violence in
Iraq by reigning in Shia militias, and that’s a key
reason for lower US casualties. Barrons noted that
Stratfor has a record of making accurate assessments
and gained a large client base as a result. Friedman
believes the US and Israel are using psychological
warfare to intimidate Iran to make it more
accommodative to their policies. He also says a major
attack would have grave repercussions for the global
economy at a time when it’s most vulnerable. Iran’s
potential retaliatory strength might cripple a sizable
amount of world oil trade, cause prices to skyrocket,
and exacerbate an already shaky situation at the worst
time.

He says the Pentagon has war-gamed an attack, and
believes it can make short work of Iran’s shore-based
missile batteries and attack ships. De-mining
operations would take much longer. In the meantime,
oil prices could hit $300 a barrel, shipping insurance
and tanker lease rates would soar, and economic
stability would collapse. In the near-term, it would
be “cataclysmic to the global economy and stock
market.”

Up to now, two years of talks on Iran’s nuclear
program have been more “Kabuki theater” than a real
effort at serious negotiation. In addition, Friedman
says Iran is “decades away” from developing a credible
nuclear weapons capacity even if it intends to pursue
one. At best, in his judgment, it may be able to come
up with a crude device like the North Koreans managed
and apparently tested in 2006. No reason to go to war
over if he’s right and one among many more vital
issues that influential American figures cite to
oppose one.

Pentagon Crosscurrents on Iran

In late June, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Michael
Mullen, visited Israel – his second trip there since
his October 1 appointment, but this time with a clear
(official US) message according to defense analyst and
former Pentagon official Anthony Cordesman of the
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
It was that “the US did not give the green light for
an Israeli attack on Iran….George Bush made it clear
to all parties that the first option is diplomacy,”
and no attack should be undertaken without White House
approval. Mullen further suggested that US policy
likely will remain unchanged under George Bush, and
that future plans will be up to the next incumbent – a
strong hint that cooler high-level Washington figures
know the folly of a wider Middle East war and want no
part of one.

Nonetheless, there’s no assurance they’ll win out, and
analyst Michael Oren of the Shalem Centre told CBS
News that Bush administration officials assured
Israelis that Iran wouldn’t be allowed to develop a
nuclear weapons capacity with strong hints of an
attack if one continues. Then on March 11, CENTCOM
commander William Fallon was sacked following reports
that he sharply disagreed with Bush administration
Middle East policy. On April 24 Iraq commander, and
noted super-hawk, David Petraeus was named to replace
him, and following an easy Senate confirmation will
take over in September.

In June 2007, another change of command occurred when
George Bush replaced Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace
because of his public disagreement over policy. On
February 17, 2006 at a National Press Club luncheon,
he responded to a question: “It is the absolute
responsibility of everybody in uniform to disobey an
order that is either illegal or immoral.” He later
added that commanders should “not obey illegal and
immoral orders to use weapons of mass
destruction….They cannot commit crimes against
humanity.” Nor should they go along with wrong-headed
illegal schemes of remaking the Middle East and other
regions militarily, but until Admiral Mullen’s
comments to Israelis it looked like a compliant
Pentagon team was in place to pursue it.

Whatever’s ahead, it appears high-level opposition
figures have surfaced with practical (past and
present) trilateralists among them. Figures like
Brzezinski, Jim Baker, Henry Kissinger, George Tenet,
Paul Volker, Jimmy Carter, George Soros, David
Rockefeller, many other top business executives, and
even GHW Bush. Their concern over present policy is
having an effect, but there’s no certainty about which
side will prevail. However, with Congress out until
September, things are on hold, and time is fast
running out on a lamer-than-lame duck administration,
according to some.

Even The New York Times is sending mixed messages it
will have to clarify in coming weeks. In a June 10
editorial, it said: “If sanctions and incentives
cannot be made to work, the voices for military action
will only get louder. No matter what aides may be
telling Mr. Bush and Mr. Olmert – or what they may be
telling each other – an attack on Iran would be a
disaster,” implying it’s wrong, won’t work and will
devastate the economy. Then on July 18, it then gave
Israeli historian and apologist Benny Morris op-ed
space for a vicious and Orwellian headlined diatribe:
“Using Bombs to Stave Off War.”

In it, he states “Israel will almost surely attack
Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months
(conventionally).” Should that “assault fail to
significantly harm or stall the Iranian program….a
nuclear (attack) will most likely follow.” The world
has “only one option if it wishes to halt Iran’s march
toward nuclear weaponry: the military” one by “either
the United States or Israel.” But America is bogged
down in two wars, and “the American public has little
enthusiasm” for more.

“Which leaves only Israel – the country threatened
almost daily with destruction by Iran’s
leaders….Iran’s leaders would do well to rethink
their gamble and suspend their nuclear program.”
Otherwise, an Israeli attack “will destroy their
nuclear facilities (even though) this would mean
thousands of Iranian casualties and international
humiliation.”

It’s high time The New York Times (and other major
media voices) took a stand. Is it opposed to further
regional conflict, or in James Petras’ words: is it
for “the nuclear incineration of 70 million Iranians
and the contamination of the better part of a billion
people in the Middle East, Asia and Europe” plus an
unimaginable amount of retaliatory fallout with the
entire Muslim world against the West and Israel.

Yet a June 2008 Presidential Task Force on the Future
of US-Israeli Relations statement calls for
“Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge” and to
consider “coercive options” against it, including
embargoing Iranian oil and “preventive military
action.” It was at the time Haaretz reported that
Israel conducted large-scale exercises (focusing on
long-range strikes) “that appeared to be a rehearsal
for a potential bombing attack” on Iran. Statfor’s
George Friedman downplayed them, called them
“psychological warfare” saber-rattling, not
preparations for war, and why would Israel telegraph
plans if that’s what it has in mind. In 1981, it gave
no hint it intended to bomb Iraq’s Osirak reactor, and
when it came it was a surprise.

Other Crosscurrents

For brief moments earlier, positive developments
surfaced, only to be swept aside by a torrent of
anti-Iranian hostility. The Baker Commission December
2006 report recommended engaging Iran and Syria
“constructively” and called for a “New Diplomatic
Offensive without preconditions,” all for naught. Then
last December the National Intelligence Assessment
(representing the consensus of all 16 US spy agencies)
concluded that Iran “halted” its nuclear weapons
program in 2003, and it remains frozen, again without
effect.

At the same time, battle plans are in place under code
name TIRRANT for Theater Iran Near Term. And under a
top secret “Interim Global Strike Alert Order” and
CONPLAN (contingency/concept plan) 8022, Washington
may preemptively strike targets anywhere in the world
using so-called low-yield extremely powerful nuclear
bunker buster weapons. Iran is the apparent first
target of choice, and US Naval carrier strike groups
are strategically positioned in the Persian Gulf and
Mediterranean to proceed on command.

A recent May World Tribune report cited a second
carrier group in the Gulf and secret (approved but not
implemented) US naval and air plans for an Iran
“counterstrike” in response to “escalating tensions
that would peak with an Iranian-inspired insurgency
strike against US” forces – that might easily be
another Gulf of Tonkin-type incident. So the question
remains, are we heading for war or is it just
“head-fake” as George Friedman believes?

Sy Hersh On “Preparing the Battlefield”

On June 29 in the New Yorker magazine, Hersh reported
more crosscurrents and added to what’s covered above.
On the one hand, Congress will fund “a major
escalation of covert operations against Iran,”
according to his high-level sources. As much as $400
million will go to minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi
dissident groups, to “destabilize the country’s
religious leadership,” aim for regime change, and gain
intelligence on Iran’s “suspected nuclear-weapons
program.”

The plan apparently involves stepped up covert CIA and
Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) operations
authorized by a highly classified Presidential Finding
about which some congressional leaders have little
knowledge and have voiced concern. By law, party
leaders and ranking intelligence committee members
must be briefed, but apparently it’s been done
selectively.

On the other hand, Hersh says Pentagon military and
civilian leaders are concerned about “Iran’s nuclear
ambitions,” but disagree “whether a military strike is
the right solution.” Some oppose one, want diplomacy
instead, and apparently Robert Gates is one of them –
a former Iraq Study Group member until he became
Secretary of Defense in December 2006. In late 2007,
he apparently warned the Democrat Senate caucus of
grave consequences if the Bush administration
preemptively attacked Iran – saying it would create
“generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will
be battling (them) in America.”

Admiral Mullen also is “pushing back very hard”
against an attack along with “at least ten senior flag
and general officers, including combatant commanders”
in charge of military operations around the world. One
of them is Admiral Fallon who lost his CENTCOM job for
opposing an attack even though he agrees on Iran’s
possible threat.

Looking Ahead

More good news for what it’s worth. On August 2, tens
of thousands across the US and Canada protested
against a possible attack on Iran. On the bad side,
unprecedented numbers, in vain, did as well ahead of
the Iraq war, but this time influential Washington
figures support them.

With Congress on recess, it’s too soon to know what’s
ahead, but one thing’s for sure. Neocons still run
things. Dick Cheney leads them, and he claims Iran
intends to destroy Israel, is developing nuclear
weapons, and is a “darkening cloud….right at the top
of the list” of world trouble spots and needs to be
addressed (along with Syria) as the next phase of “the
road map to war.” With five months to go and heavy
firepower to call on, he and George Bush have plenty
of time left (as this writer said earlier) to
incinerate Iran and end the republic if that’s what
they have in mind. Better hope they don’t or that
cooler heads win out for a different way.