The Bush administration has authorized the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranian operatives inside Iraq as part of an aggressive new strategy to weaken Tehran’s influence across the Middle East and compel it to give up its nuclear program, according to government and counterterrorism officials with direct knowledge of the effort.
For over a year we’ve been harrassing Iranian officials – not a few weeks, over a year – by detaining them for days at a time, finger-printing them, even taking samples of their DNA (???) without their knowledge. It was a pure intimidation tactic, but the Bush Administration wasn’t happy with the way it worked out – or didn’t – so:
Last summer…senior administration officials decided that a more confrontational approach was necessary, as Iran’s regional influence grew and U.S. efforts to isolate Tehran appeared to be failing. The country’s nuclear work was advancing, U.S. allies were resisting robust sanctions against the Tehran government, and Iran was aggravating sectarian violence in Iraq.
“There were no costs for the Iranians,” said one senior administration official. “They are hurting our mission in Iraq, and we were bending over backwards not to fight back.”
As if the Bush Gang weren’t mired in enough irony, the new CIA Director, Michael Hayden, a key drum-beater for the Iraq war, actually had the unmitigated gall to say this to a Senate committee with a straight face:
“Iran seems to be conducting a foreign policy with a sense of dangerous triumphalism,” Hayden said.
As though we weren’t.
Eric sees a problem or two with this ramping-up.
It’s hard to predict how this will play out on the ground, but this is a very dangerous game to be playing. For instance, would the two recent raids that resulted in the capture and detention of Iranians (one on a SCIRI compound in the south and one on a quasi-consular outpost in Erbil in the north) have been conducted differently under the auspices of this new policy? Would our forces have barged in guns blazing, without restraint, resulting in a body count?
Regardless, such an aggressive mandate serves to greatly increase the odds that tensions between the US and Iran escalate to critical mass through some bloody confrontation – or a series thereof. This would be one way to provoke a war with Iraq without the need to engage Congress or the American people on the merits.
One of several that have been ordered by Bush since he got done “thinking” about his “new way forward”: two carrier groups ordered into the Gulf, an Admiral suddenly in charge of a land war, the raid on an Iranian Embassy and the arrest and detention of diplomats there, Cheney on CNN making the most jaw-dropping, reality-challenged statement we’ve heard yet (and that’s saying something considering we’re talking about the Bushies):
BLITZER: The current situation there is very unstable. The president himself speaks about a nightmare scenario right now. He was contained, as you repeatedly said throughout the ’90s, after the first Gulf War, in a box, Saddam Hussein.
CHENEY: He was — after the first Gulf War, had managed to kick out all of the inspectors. He was provided payments to families of suicide bombers. He was a safe haven for terrorism, one of the prime state sponsors of terrorism, designated by our State Department for a long time. He’d started two wars. He had violated 16 U.N. Security Council resolutions.
If he were still there today, we’d have a terrible situation.
BLITZER: But there is —
CHENEY: No, there is not. There is not. There’s problems — ongoing problems — but we have in fact accomplished our objectives of getting rid of the old regime, and there is a new regime in place that’s been there for less than a year, far too soon for you guys to write them off. They have got a democratically-written constitution — first ever in that part of the world. They’ve had three national elections. So there’s been a lot of success.
There is not one actual fact in anything Cheney said, and his “analysis” is so far removed from the true state of the war as to force one to wonder about his sanity.
The interview has been taken primarily as an indication of just how far gone into fantasyland this administration is, but it’s actually much more than that. If you assume that it’s the first official salvo in a Rovian PR war and that its purpose is to justify another war by insisting, in the face of all ration and reason, that the first one is a rousing success, then suddenly Cheney’s appearance with Blitzer and his insistence that everything’s fine, just fine, makes perfect sense. To justify yet another invasion means that the present chaos in Iraq has to be minimized and the supposed threat from Iran maximized. So Cheney goes on tv to do the first in his own inimitable, dictatorial, “shut up and take orders” style, and Bush activates a kill order. Eric again:
Along those lines, there is an unsettling parallel between the current approach and the run-up to the Iraq war (and the Bush administration’s policy apparatus more generally speaking). As insiders and those with access to the White House have observed repeatedly, the Bush adminsitration doesn’t work like its predecessors in that the policy process does not operate through a legitimate debate about options, with the strongest emerging from the rigors of the dialectic. Instead, a policy is chosen a priori, and then the arguments are “fixed” around that policy.
It is the marketplace of ideas turned on its head – and the results have been consistently disastrous.
And will continue to be.
Frequent TIA commenter jonnybutter writes:
It’s hard for me to believe that the predominant view in the WH is to actually believe in a theory this mind-bogglingly, patently stupid. It just can’t be.
Not stupid. Mind-bogglingly arrogant, stubborn, blind. Especially stubborn.
Usually I love to say “I told you so”, but this time it gives me no great pleasure. I’ve been saying the real target was Iran for almost 4 years, since an “unnamed White House source” was quoted as saying “The real men want to be in Tehran” immediately after the invasion – immediately after the invasion – of Iraq, and in the context of a WH whoopin’ and hollerin’ and high-fivin’ itself. There was something chillingly genuine about that remark that made my skin crawl. Put together with another remark that Rumsfeld let slip in March of 2001 at a press conference (scarcely a month after Bush was sworn in) – a list of “enemies” on which Iran was at the top, it included Iraq, Syria, and the Phillippines – I was cynical enough to think even then that the neocons were going to push Bush into the war with Iran that they’d been advocating every chance they got since the dissatisfactory – to them – end of the First Gulf War.
It was the inclusion of the Phillipines that caught my ear. It seemed so out of place on that list: three Middle Eastern countries and a Pacific archipelago? What could they have in common?
So I did a little research and here’s what they had in common: Muslims. There hadn’t been much in the US press about it at the time (and there still hasn’t) but there was a Muslim revolt going on in the Phillipines to which Bush sent 3000 troops in April of 2001 – facts which were reported not in the States but in Europe by the BBC and Agence France Press.
My immediate response was that born-again Bush, a secret Xtian fundamentalist who believes that God has put him in the presidency to accomplish Great Things, had decided that his mission was to start Armageddon in the Middle East, which fundies believe will the the first sign of the Second Coming and the precurser of The Rapture.
But then 9/11 intervened and Afghanistan beckoned as the excuse to begin the neocon plan to control the second-largest oil fields in the Gulf. Iraq was the low-hanging fruit, so Afghanistan – which has no oil and thus no interest for neocons – was quickly dumped in favor of it. The US had no sooner entered Baghdad than construction began on some 27 permanent bases all over Iraq – a sure sign that whatever Bush said publicly, he had no intention of leaving. We were going to start a Holy War, wipe out the Muslim resistance wherever we found it, and incidentally put ourselves in control (in tandem with the Saudis, our allies and Poppy’s clients through the Carlyle Group) of virtually all the oil in the Middle East. If that meant igniting a region-wide war – Armageddon – so much the better. Christ would come back sooner.
Fortunately – or so I thought – Iraq turned into a predictably chaotic nightmare and I foolishly assumed that meant the end of Bush’s dream of being God’s Righteous Sword and the spark for Christ’s return to Earth.
It now appears, as cynical and pessimistic as I am, that I was too optimistic after all. They haven’t given up. They’re plunging ahead with it. It’s Bush’s Sacred Mission and the neocons’ wet dream. Nothing is going to stop him, or them.
Unless we do it.