Thursday, February 07, 2008

more on Iran (and Syria and Israel and the U.S.)


















Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in a new piece in the New Yorker,A Strike in the Dark: What did Israel bomb in Syria? covers two issues that I've been writing about:U.S-Israe-Syria relationship and U.S.-Israel-Iran relationship. He speculates that last year's mysterious Israeli attack on a Syria installation was an Israeli rehearsal for a strike against Israel which, he implies, will probably receive a "yellow light" from the Bush Administration:
There is evidence that the preĆ«mptive raid on Syria was also meant as a warning about—and a model for—a preĆ«mptive attack on Iran. When I visited Israel this winter, Iran was the overriding concern among political and defense officials I spoke to—not Syria. There was palpable anger toward Washington, in the wake of a National Intelligence Estimate that concluded, on behalf of the American intelligence community, that Iran is not now constructing a nuclear weapon. Many in Israel view Iran’s nuclear ambitions as an existential threat; they believe that military action against Iran may be inevitable, and worry that America may not be there when needed. The N.I.E. was published in November, after a yearlong standoff involving Cheney’s office, which resisted the report’s findings. At the time of the raid, reports about the forthcoming N.I.E. and its general conclusion had already appeared.

Retired Major General Giora Eiland, who served as the national-security adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told me, “The Israeli military takes it as an assumption that one day we will need to have a military campaign against Iran, to slow and eliminate the nuclear option.” He added, “Whether the political situation will allow this is another question.”

In the weeks after the N.I.E.’s release, Bush insisted that the Iranian nuclear-weapons threat was as acute as ever, a theme he amplified during his nine-day Middle East trip after the New Year. “A lot of people heard that N.I.E. out here and said that George Bush and the Americans don’t take the Iranian threat seriously,” he told Greta Van Susteren, of Fox News. “And so this trip has been successful from the perspective of saying . . . we will keep the pressure on.”

Shortly after the bombing, a Chinese envoy and one of the Bush Administration’s senior national-security officials met in Washington. The Chinese envoy had just returned from a visit to Tehran, a person familiar with the discussion told me, and he wanted the White House to know that there were moderates there who were interested in talks. The national-security official rejected that possibility and told the envoy, as the person familiar with the discussion recalled, “‘You are aware of the recent Israeli statements about Syria. The Israelis are extremely serious about Iran and its nuclear program, and I believe that, if the United States government is unsuccessful in its diplomatic dealings with Iran, the Israelis will take it out militarily.’ He then told the envoy that he wanted him to convey this to his government—that the Israelis were serious.

“He was telling the Chinese leadership that they’d better warn Iran that we can’t hold back Israel, and that the Iranians should look at Syria and see what’s coming next if diplomacy fails,” the person familiar with the discussion said. “His message was that the Syrian attack was in part aimed at Iran.”

It's possible that the Israelis and the Americans are conducting psychological warfare against the Iranians or, as I suspect, are planning something. As I noted in earlier articles and posts, McCain's selection as the Republican presidential nominee could help create a political enviroment in which an Israeli and/or U.S. military confrontation with Iran could help make it almost impossible for the Democratic presidential nominee to oppose such an action. If she or he decide to challenge such a move they will be bashed as "appeasers" and "anti-Israeli" and they'll lose. And if (as more likely) they decide to back an action against Iran, the political momentum would favor MCcain the hawk and the Republican (while providing a "legacy" for Bush), and they (the Democrats) will lose.

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