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Steve Weissman: Target Iran. War with No End

Target Iran. War with No End

By Steve Weissman
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Thursday 20 January

Iraq is just one campaign. Next we're going to have the Iranian campaign.
- Unnamed source quoted in Seymour M. Hersh | "The Coming Wars: What the Pentagon Can Now Do in Secret."

For months before taking his second oath of office, the resolute Mr. Bush has done exactly what he promised he would. He has raced full-throttle to expand his Middle East Crusade, this time against Iran, number two on his Axis of Evil.

As many of us in the chattering classes have long warned, and as Sy Hersh reports in this week's New Yorker, the president is already marching to war.

"The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer," Hersh writes. "Much of the focus is on the accumulation of intelligence and targeting information on Iranian nuclear, chemical, and missile sites, both declared and suspected."

"The goal is to identify and isolate three dozen, and perhaps more, such targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and short-term commando raids."

As one of his sources told Hersh, "The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible."

Perhaps as early as his State of the Union address, Mr. Bush will promote this pre-emptive attack as the cutting edge of his "War on Terror." In fact, he knows that Iran and its Ayatollahs had nothing to do with 9/11. But neither did Saddam Hussein.

One indicator of Iran's stance - and of the Administration's - came in the summer of 2003, as I described in an earlier column. The Ayatollahs offered to give Mr. Bush five terrorists they had captured, including bin-Laden's son Saad and the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who now heads al-Qaeda's terror franchise in Iraq. In return, the Iranians wanted Washington to hand over members of the Mujihadeen Khalq, who were attacking Iran from their safe haven in occupied Iraq. The U.S. State Department had officially labeled the M.K. as terrorists, but Team Bush declined to make the exchange. According to the well-placed Jerusalem Post, a group of Neo-Conservatives headed by Michael Ledeen intervened to undermine the negotiations.

Ledeen is now cheerleading Mr. Bush's move into Iran, and you can bet serious money that Donald Rumsfeld and the Neo-Cons at the Pentagon are using the Mujihadden Khalq in the commando missions currently "preparing the battlefield" inside Iran.

Mr. Bush will sell the attack as the only way to pre-empt Iran's Weapons of Mass Destruction, especially the atomic warheads he will claim Iran is building. Strange as it might seem, his argument will have a semblance of reality, but no more than that.

Going back to the time of the Shah, the Iranians have looked to build nuclear power facilities to generate electricity, freeing more of their oil for export. Washington backed the Shah's idea, hoping to spur the sale of American nuclear reactors.

The problem, then as now, is that a well-rounded civilian nuclear energy program gives a country most of what it needs to build nuclear weapons. At best, the International Atomic Energy Agency can monitor the situation and warn if the country has diverted any civilian nuclear materials. But the IAEA cannot stop the diversion from happening, even with the new safeguards that the Europeans are now trying to get Tehran to accept.

Worse, Mr. Bush has given the Ayatollahs every reason to believe that they need nuclear weapons to deter him from attacking. Until he stops threatening Iran, and finds a way to restrain the Israeli nuclear program as well, no one should expect Iran to forego its own nuclear option.

All that said, the big scare about the Ayatollah's Bomb is just that - BS. The threat, though real, is not immediate. Hersh, who has top-notch sources, puts it this way:

"Many Western intelligence agencies, including those of the United States, believe that Iran is at least three to five years away from a capability to independently produce nuclear warheads - although its work on a missile-delivery system is far more advanced. Iran is also widely believed by Western intelligence agencies and the IAEA to have serious technical problems with its weapons system, most notably in the production of the hexafluoride gas needed to fabricate nuclear warheads."

But, other than a handful of journalists, who will call the president's bluff?

He has emasculated the C.I.A., tamed the State Department, and given the Pentagon control of the intelligence he will use to justify the military campaign he has already started.

No doubt, he will tell the country that he is using diplomacy and needs the threat of force to make the Iranians negotiate in good faith. And too many "reasonable" and "responsible" Democrats will likely go along, as John Kerry and others did in the build-up to the war in Iraq. Perhaps some have learned their lesson. Then and now, Mr. Bush is the one most lacking in good faith.

So, the big question is this: Will a significant number of Democrats quickly step up and loudly stake out their opposition to this madness? Or, will they once again find themselves sucked up in the president's slipstream, as he leads us into another faith-based adventure that will make Iraq look like a peaceful prelude?

As always, I'd love to know what you think.

For background, see Steve Weissman - Nukes, Neo-Cons, and the Bush Who Cried Wolf Again


A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he writes for t r u t h o u t.

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