President Bush is moving ahead with plans to attack Iran, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh says in the October 8 issue of The New Yorker magazine.
“I was repeatedly cautioned, in interviews, 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,” Hersh writes. “But there has been a significant increase in the tempo of attack planning.”
Believing they cannot convince the American public “that Iran poses an imminent nuclear threat”, the contemplated attack would not be against Iran’s nuclear facilities but against Iranian military elements the White House believes are smuggling weapons into Iraq to aid the insurgency.
“The revised bombing plan for a possible attack, with its tightened focus on counterterrorism, is gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon,” Hersh writes. “The strategy calls for the use of sea-launched cruise missiles and more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps, supply depots, and command and control facilities.”
The article quoted an unnamed former senior U.S. intelligence official who stated the Joint Chiefs have turned to the Navy, which had been chafing over its role in the Air Force-dominated air war in Iraq, to carry the main burden. The official pointed out, “The Navy’s planes, ships, and cruise missiles are in place in the Gulf and operating daily. They’ve got everything they need --- even AWACS are in place and the targets in Iran have been programmed. The Navy is flying FA-18 missions every day in the Gulf.”
And a Pentagon counter-terrorism consultant told Hersh if the bombing campaign took place, it would be accompanied by a series of “short, sharp incursions” by U.S. Special Forces units into suspected Iranian training sites. “Cheney is devoted to this, no question,” the consultant added.
The New Yorker article quoted Hans Blix, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency as stating, “There are important cards that Washington could play; instead, they have three aircraft carriers sitting in the Persian Gulf.” Blix added, “My impression is that the United States has been trying to push up the accusations against Iran as a basis for a possible attack --- as an excuse for jumping them.”
And an unnamed former senior U.S. 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.”
In preparing for the possible strike, former senior CIA officials are quoted as saying that agency had increased the size and the authority of the Iranian Operations Group. “They’re moving everybody to the Iran desk,” a recently retired CIA official said. “They’re dragging in a lot of analysts and ramping up everything. It’s just like the fall of 2002---three months before the invasion of Iraq, when the Iraqi Operations Group became the most important in the agency.”
Hersh quotes Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security advisor under President Jimmy Carter, saying 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.”
Brzezinski said, “This time, unlike the attack in Iraq, we’re going to play the victim. The name of our game seems to be to get the Iranians to overplay their hand.”
A senior European official was quoted to the effect, “We know that the Iranians are strengthening their air-defense capabilities and we believe they will react asymmetrically---hitting targets in Europe and Latin America.” There is also intelligence suggesting that Iran will be aided in these attacks by Hezbollah. The diplomat explained, “Hezbollah is capable, and they can do it.”
Apprised of the possible strike, Israeli political and military leaders were “alarmed,” according to Hersh, on grounds the attack did not sufficiently target Iran’s nuclear facilities.
(Sherwood Ross is an American writer who covers political and military topics. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)