Several months back, I reported that concern was rapidly rising that the United States was setting the table for its Iran engagement:
Speculation has been growing on a possible air strike against Iran. But with the failure of the Bush administration to present a convincing case to the U.N. Security Council and to secure political backing domestically, some experts say the march toward war with Iran is on pause barring an "immediate need."
An immediate need is also sometimes called "the trigger."
Military brass and intelligence experts have been watching Iran with concern since 2003, when the entire world was focused on Iraq. Hersh reported for The New Yorker: "Israeli intelligence assets in Iraq were reporting that the insurgents had the support of Iranian intelligence operatives and other foreign fighters, who were crossing the unprotected border between Iran and Iraq at will."
That Iranian intelligence assets are crossing the border into Iraq is of course true, but it is also true that Al Qaeda assets, which had not previously been in Iraq, made their way via Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. In fact, everyone who wanted to engage Americans simply crossed the border. Instead of containing this situation and securing the country, Hersh reported that the Bush administration chose the photo-op route to war tactics:
"The border stayed open, however. The administration wasn't ignoring the Israeli intelligence about Iran," explained Patrick Clawson, the deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who has close ties to the White House. "There's no question that we took no steps last summer to close the border, but our attitude was that it was more useful for Iraqis to have contacts with ordinary Iranians coming across the border, and thousands were coming across every day."
While the administration was busy doing nothing to secure Iraq's borders, I reported in January that they did find the time to propagate a bizarre story of an Iraq-Iran cross-border uranium operation:
The story that was peddled -- which detailed how an Iranian intelligence team infiltrated Iraq prior to the start of the war in March of 2003 and stole enriched uranium to use in their own nuclear weapons program -- was part of an attempt to implicate both countries in a WMD plot. It later emerged that the Iranian exile was trying to collect money for his tales, sources say.
Of course this conspiracy theory presented as credible by its spinners was false. That did not, however, stop Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from bypassing the intelligence community, which had already debunked this story, and sending an off-book team to investigate.
During that same summer, then Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was busy trying to convince the U.S. State Department to allow the use of Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a terrorist organization on the State Department's terror group list. Wolfowitz wanted to use MEK on the ground in Iran.
The following year, the civilian leadership at the Pentagon came up with a plan for how to use MEK as assets and still not come up against pushback from the State Department -- the members of MEK were simply told to resign from the organization en masse and swear an oath to "democracy." This was clever, to be sure, because even though MEK is listed as a terrorist organization, the DOD could argue that it was not using "that organization."
The allegations are that the DOD briefed no members of Congress on the use of MEK in Iran. In March of 2006, their slaughter of 22 Iranian officials, including a governor, would become news all over the world, except in the United States. But even more serious, some analysts hold the view that it was MEK that was responsible for the Samarra Mosque bombing in Iraq.
But in 2003, although the United States had just recently invaded Iraq and was still by all appearances in search of WMD, the military civilian leadership at the Pentagon, under the leadership of the vice president's office, would not secure Iraq's borders, is alleged to have actively promoted propaganda about Iranian WMDs and began planning covert ops for Iran.
The drums of war