The very respected journalist Seymour Hersh has written an article in the New Yorker in which he claims that the Bush administration have drawn up plans to attack Iran within 24 hours of the President giving an order to do so.
Indeed, the entire administration is said to be realigning itself to deal with the "unintended" empowerment of Iran that happened as a consequence of the Iraq war.
Such an empowerment may have been "unintended" but it surely cannot have been unforeseen? There could have been no other outcome to the removal of Saddam than a newly empowered regionally dominant Iran. Readers of first year history could have told them that would be the outcome.
Nor apparently did they foresee that a Shi'ite Iraqi government would form an alliance with their Shi'ite neighbours, Iran.
Before the invasion of Iraq, in 2003, Administration officials, influenced by neoconservative ideologues, assumed that a Shiite government there could provide a pro-American balance to Sunni extremists, since Iraq’s Shiite majority had been oppressed under Saddam Hussein. They ignored warnings from the intelligence community about the ties between Iraqi Shiite leaders and Iran, where some had lived in exile for years. Now, to the distress of the White House, Iran has forged a close relationship with the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. These people are as thick as posts and now - their answer to the terrible mess their last war had created - is to plan to launch another war.
This new American policy has been made in public by Condaleezza Rice:
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.”She says this whilst American soldiers are being killed by a Sunni insurgency in Iraq. This can hardly be described as joined up thinking. Indeed, it is so removed from the reality that confronts the US in Iraq that it can be taken as nothing other than an announcement of an intention to attack Iran. All logic is being turned on it's head in order to facilitate that policy.
So who is behind such a rash realignment of US policy?
The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. Wouldn't you know it? Cheney is once again itching to go to war. And, once again, he appears to be doing so without fully understanding the size of the gamble he is taking. Is a man who was puzzled that the outcome of toppling Saddam was a regionally empowered Iran really the best person suited to take another huge gamble in the region?
Martin Indyk, a senior State Department official in the Clinton Administration who also served as Ambassador to Israel, said that “the Middle East is heading into a serious Sunni-Shiite Cold War.” Indyk, who is the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, added that, in his opinion, it was not clear whether the White House was fully aware of the strategic implications of its new policy. “The White House is not just doubling the bet in Iraq,” he said. “It’s doubling the bet across the region. This could get very complicated. Everything is upside down.”Indeed, Mr Indyk, everything is upside down. The facts are, once again, being fitted around the policy. Only the most insane optimist could look at this "realignment" and not see it as a blatant policy shift to justify attacking Iran.
Flynt Leverett, a former Bush Administration National Security Council official, told me that “there is nothing coincidental or ironic” about the new strategy with regard to Iraq. “The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq, when—if you look at the actual casualty numbers—the punishment inflicted on America by the Sunnis is greater by an order of magnitude,” Leverett said. “This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.”I agree totally with Leverett's assessment. There can be no other reason for such an about turn other than an attempt to goad the Iranians into doing something, anything, that can be used as a justification to attack.
Indeed, Hersh took to the airwaves yesterday and spelled out just how sure he was that this is what, despite all it's denials, that the administration are planning to do.
Hersh was just as adamant. "This president is not going to leave office without doing something about Iran," he told CNN. Hersh claims that the former director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, resigned his post to take a parallel job as the deputy director of the state department because of his discomfort with an approach that so closely echoed the Iran-contra scandal of the 1980s.Nor, in their frantic attempts to hold back Shi'ite influence in the region, are they being too fussy over who they are funnelling money to.
Some of the billions of aid to the Beirut government has ended up in the hands of radical Sunnis in the Beka'a valley, Hersh writes. Syrian extremist groups have also benefited from the new policy. "These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hizbullah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with al-Qaida," Hersh writes.
There's nothing more to say. That is simply insane. And these are the people currently in charge of American foreign policy. I know that many on the right love to accuse others of treason and treachery, but when you find yourself arming and financing groups affiliated to the people who attacked your country on 9-11, you really have lost the plot.