War Warning: the U.S. is stepping up military pressure on Iran.
U.S. military and special-operations teams "have escalated their activities in Iran to gather intelligence" and reportedly "have also crossed the border in pursuit of Iranian operatives from Iraq," according to investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in an article in the March 5 issue of "The New Yorker" magazine.
"The U.S. military also has arrested and interrogated hundreds or Iranians in Iraq," Hersh reported, including humanitarian aid workers mistakenly scooped up and released after interrogation. Hersh quotes a former senior intelligence aide stating: "The word went out last August for the military to snatch as many Iranians in Iraq as they can. They had five hundred locked up at one time. We're working these guys and getting information from them."
The intelligence source added, "The White House goal is to build a case that the Iranians have been fomenting the insurgency and they've been doing it all along--- that Iran is, in fact, supporting the killing of Americans." Hersh said a Pentagon consultant confirmed the intelligence aide's statement that hundreds of Iranians have been captured by American forces in recent months.
Although Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated last Feb. 2nd "We are not planning for a war with Iran," Hersh said "the atmosphere of confrontation has deepened." "According to current and former American intelligence and military officials, secret operations in Lebanon have been accompanied by clandestine operations targeting Iran," Hersh wrote.
The investigative reporter recalled Vice President Richard Cheney's remarks on Fox News Jan. 14th warning of the possibility, in a few years, "of a nuclear-armed Iran, astride the world's supply of oil, able to affect adversely the global economy, preparted to use terrorist organizations and/or their nuclear weapons to threaten their neighbors and others around the world."
Hersh reported, "The Pentagon is continuing intensive planning for a possible bombing attack on Iran, a process that began last year, at the direction of the President."
According to one former intelligence official who spoke with Hersh, a special planning group has been established in the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "charged with creating a contingency bombing plan for Iran that can be implemented, upon orders from the President, within 24 hours." That planning group, several sources told Hersh, has been handed a new assignment: to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq.
Additionally, Hersh said, the two carrier strike groups in the Arabian Sean, built around the carriers Eisenhower and Stennis, which had been considered to be relieved in the Spring, may be ordered to remain even after other carriers arrive.
Current U.S. contingency plans, Hersh was told, "allow for an attack order (on Iran) this spring" but senior officers on the Joint Chiefs were counting on the White House's not being "foolish enough to do this in the face of Iraq, and the problems it would give the Republicans in 2008."
Hersh said there has been a policy "redirection" or strategy shift, in the White House in the past few months that "has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims."
#(Sherwood Ross is an American reporter and columnist who covers military and political topics. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org )