Taking The Back Door?

Norman Podhoretz may still be publicly peddling the bomb Iran’s nukes line (to “prevent another holocaust”) as a clever way to promote his new book, but, according to Sy Hersh (and as Kyle has contended for quite some time now), the Bush admin has adopted a new marketing strategy.

In a series of public statements in recent months, President Bush and members of his Administration have redefined the war in Iraq, to an increasing degree, as a strategic battle between the United States and Iran. “Shia extremists, backed by Iran, are training Iraqis to carry out attacks on our forces and the Iraqi people,” Bush told the national convention of the American Legion in August. “The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased. . . . The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And, until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops.” He then concluded, to applause, “I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities.” The President’s position, and its corollary—that, if many of America’s problems in Iraq are the responsibility of Tehran, then the solution to them is to confront the Iranians—have taken firm hold in the Administration.

This summer, the White House, pushed by the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney, requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on Iran, according to former officials and government consultants. The focus of the plans had been a broad bombing attack, with targets including Iran’s known and suspected nuclear facilities and other military and infrastructure sites. Now the emphasis is on “surgical” strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq. What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism.

Hersh writes that the move from apocalyptic rhetoric is due to administration officials coming to terms with *gasp* reality. The public isn’t buying the ‘imminent danger’ crap again and thus doesn’t support a large scale bombing campaign; that Iran really IS at least 5 years away from developing nukes; and that Iraq has turned out to be a geopolitical boon for Tehran.


At a White House meeting with Cheney this summer, according to a former senior intelligence official, it was agreed that, if limited strikes on Iran were carried out, the Administration could fend off criticism by arguing that they were a defensive action to save soldiers in Iraq. If Democrats objected, the Administration could say, “Bill Clinton did the same thing; he conducted limited strikes in Afghanistan, the Sudan, and in Baghdad to protect American lives.” The former intelligence official added, “There is a desperate effort by Cheney et al. to bring military action to Iran as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the politicians are saying, ‘You can’t do it, because every Republican is going to be defeated, and we’re only one fact from going over the cliff in Iraq.’ But Cheney doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Republican worries, and neither does the President.

Ah, yes, the court of public opinion. The one that Congressional Republicans still have to face; the one that Bush (and Cheney) are no longer under the jurisdiction of. Hersh notes that he was told by different sources “that the President has yet to issue the “execute order” that would be required for a military operation inside Iran, and such an order may never be issued.”


“They’re moving everybody to the Iran desk,” one recently retired C.I.A. official said. “They’re dragging in a lot of analysts and ramping up everything. It’s just like the fall of 2002”—the months before the invasion of Iraq, when the Iraqi Operations Group became the most important in the agency. He added, “The guys now running the Iranian program have limited direct experience with Iran. In the event of an attack, how will the Iranians react? They will react, and the Administration has not thought it all the way through.

That theme was echoed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national-security adviser, who said that he had heard discussions of the White House’s more limited bombing plans for Iran. Brzezinski said that Iran would likely react to an American attack “by intensifying the conflict in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, their neighbors, and that could draw in Pakistan. We will be stuck in a regional war for twenty years.

Both Kyle and Cernig noted the other day that, by declaring the Revolutionary Guards to be a ‘terrorist organization’, Congress has once again blank-chequed the War Party. A terrorist organization, it should be noted, that the Bushies claim has “been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq.” Of course, I would contend the inflammatory ‘mushroom cloud’ rhetoric hasn’t entirely been abandoned, but outsourced to France.

As Financial Times chief foreign affairs columnist Gideon Rachman pointed out in a recent blog post:

The rhetoric from Paris clearly makes an attack on Iran more likely. Until Kouchner and Sarkozy weighed into the debate, it was possible to argue (not entirely inaccurately) that the only real “war party” in western governments, was confined to a coterie of unrepentant neo-cons, grouped around Vice-President Cheney. But now that even France is talking of war, the international calculations will surely shift.

Regardless, it seems all too clear that military action against Iran is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’–8-10 months, if one is to believe Fox News. To once again quote the Newshog, “[t]he war with Iran will go ahead purely because “its what we neocons would do if we were in charge” – and they are.” Just so; Podhoretz made it clear in his interview with the Times of London (and as detailed earlier this week by The Politico) that neconservative ideologues are the ones who still have the ear of the president.

I recently observed in comments to this post by Kyle that “[s]elf-described Neoconservatives such as [Podhoretz] and Joshua Muravchik…have staked the rehabilitation of their discredited ideology on turning Tehran to rubble.” Bush, Cheney, and the architects of the Ideological-Industrial Complex are determined to build themselves one hell of a lasting legacy. They really haven’t learned a goddamn thing.

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