Friday, July 04, 2008

Iran Intrigue

By Carol Gee

Seymour Hersh has weighed in at The New Yorker with a long investigative piece regarding whether the Bush administration will invade or attack Iran. It has been widely covered elsewhere so I will merely introduce it again. Thanks to tlees2 at Forum:Lucidity for the original link to this story. An interesting discussion follows on the Forum. For those interested in an alternative Middle East perspective, here is Aljazeera's take on the Seymour Hersh New Yorker story. Hersh's story begins with intrigue:

Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.

The plot thickens -- It is not clear who might do the attack. Some speculate that Israel might either do our bidding or become will impatient. Others are not so sure that Israel is in much of a position to do anything right now, given the weak position of the Israeli PM. The Financial Times of London discussed the likelihood (or not) of an Israeli strike on Iran. To quote:

Tehran has accelerated its uranium enrichment programme instead of suspending it, speculation has mounted that Israel is preparing to do the job itself, possibly even before the US presidential elections in November.

Suspicions were fuelled by recent Israeli military manoeuvres over the Mediterranean, which some US officials described as target practice for an Iran strike.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, flew to Israel over the weekend for meetings with defence officials. Although the Pentagon said little, some analysts interpreted the trip as a show of American concern over Israel’s plans for Iran.

. . . As Iran ponders its response to the diplomatic offer – made by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – some Israeli experts worry that the US and Israel are engaging in a dangerous game.

And the plot thickens again. Sy Hersh's sources are scattered all across the Bush administration and the military. His story discusses the CIA's position as an adversary in the internicene war regarding Iran within the administration. In another twist, there is a report in Aljazeera that the CIA attempted to suppress a report by one of its agents that Iran had actually halted its nulear program. To quote:

A former CIA agent has alleged that the US intelligence agency ignored evidence Iran had suspended work on a nuclear bomb, a US newspaper has said.

The man's lawyer told the Washington Post that the ex-agent was told on "five occasions" to either falsify his reporting on weapons of mass destruction in the Near East, or "not to file his reports at all".

Details of the claims emerged after the ex-agent filed a motion in a US federal court last week asking the US government to declassify legal documents which he said described a deliberate suppression of findings on Iran's nuclear programmes that ran against the CIA's view.

Meanwhile Iran is not showing its hand very much, but might be willing to make a deal. We are somewhat tied, however, to what might happen as a result of whatever the Europeans would be able to do.

Looking to 2009 -- McClatchy's "Nukes and Spooks" blog reports that Iran is carefully not endorsing either presidential candidate.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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