Belaboring the Obvious

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sy Hersh and the Iran Plans...

... While George Bush says it's all "wild speculation," Hersh's current story in the New Yorker is saying a couple of important things. One, Bush is on a messianic tear again, asserting, according to Hersh's sources, that he's the only person capable of "saving Iran" and that doing so will be his "legacy" and that plans to attack Iran, to that end, are in progress and are past the contingency phase.

Two, someone in the White House wants the use of nuclear weapons kept in the operational plans.

After the invasion of Iraq, and the bald-faced lies that preceded that invasion, including the red herring from El Presidente that war was a last resort, someone would have to whack me on the head with a 3 lb. ball peen hammer for a couple of weeks straight before I'd believe him now.

A number of Hersh's sources make it clear that the real purpose of any plan to attack Iran is regime change, rather than to simply inhibit their uranium enrichment program. This is consistent with the Bushes, père et fils, and their approach to international diplomacy. In 1989, Bush the Elder bombed and invaded Panama, a country in which we already had military bases (Johnson AFB was, at the time, the headquarters for Southern Command, and the Canal Zone was a virtual Army and Marine base). Bush bombed Panama with the intention of effecting Noriega's assassination from the air (had Noriega not sought refuge in the Vatican embassy building, that attempt might have eventually succeeded). In 1991, at the beginning of the Gulf War (even though the UN mandate was to remove Iraqi troops from Kuwait and restore the Kuwaiti government), the most intensive bombing occurred in the Baghdad area--a mere 550 kilometers away from Kuwait City--and involved several (six, possibly eight) attempts to assassinate Hussein from the air. In 2003, in the initial "shock and awe" phase of the invasion, the very first bombing strike (along with several others) was intended to kill Hussein from the air.

Given that track record, it seems likely that any large-scale attack on Iran (one Hersh source suggests 400 targets or more) would be used as a smokescreen to mask attempts to assassinate the Iranian leadership, rather than to halt or debilitate Iran's uranium enrichment program.

Which brings me to the second matter, that of nuclear weapons in the operational plan. The pilot program at Natanz is reportedly being pursued in a facility buried under many dozens of feet of dirt and solid rock. Conventional weapons will not destroy that facility and other buried facilities. If these facilities can only be destroyed by nuclear weapons and the intention of a US attack would be to halt Iran's enrichment program, then, first, a conventional attack of any dimension is irrelevant, and would unnecessarily endanger many pilots and aircraft. Second, for a nuclear attack to be justified, ethically and in accordance to international law, Iran would have to be an imminent threat, and have shown clear intention to attack the United States and/or its allies with nuclear weapons and made obvious preparations to launch such an attack. And yet, Iran has no nuclear weapons. By most reasonable estimates, Iran is, at best, years away from having them. That negates the imminent threat argument for the use of nuclear weapons (and is likely the reason why some in the Pentagon are very antsy about nuclear weapons remaining in the plans).

That assessment inevitably leads to the conclusion that retaining nuclear weapons in the plan is also part of an ultimate intention to effect regime change in Iran, perhaps by convincing the Iranian populace to do as one of Hersh's sources suggested the White House believes: "a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government."

The current Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was elected by the Iranians because George W. Bush singled out Iran, Iraq and North Korea as the "axis of evil" in his 2002 state of the union address. Open threats to Iranian sovereignty have prompted a hardening of the official line of Iran. US demands will only produce a further entrenchment by Iranian leaders and lead to an escalation which can only convince the Bush administration that war with Iran is necessary.

A final point: as with Iraq, the Bush administration has refused any direct contact with Iran. They will not negotiate with any country they deem lessers of the US (witness John Bolton's intentional irritations of North Korean negotiators), or any country which demands its rights to sovereignty if those rights are seen to interfere with Bush's aims. Continued cheap oil for US multinationals is part of this equation (unfettered access to the Cheney energy task force papers would likely prove that statement to be true), but it is not the only part. Looming large in any US action against Iran is the belief on the part of George W. Bush that he alone is the arbiter of Iran's future, not Iran's leaders.

If Sy Hersh is right about plans for Iran (and he has been mostly right about the Bushies in past years--about revelations regarding Abu Ghraib and about increased US reliance on air bombardment in Iraq, for example), America's Caesar is about to pronounce judgment on Iran, that US client state which escaped the grip of the empire twenty-seven years ago.


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