Covert Ops in Iran — Back After 55 Years

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Washington is abuzz with Seymour Hersh’s recent investigative piece which describes how the administration has launched covert operations that could bleed into military operations and provoke wider conflict with Iran. These operations were approved just on the heels of the newly released December National Intelligence Estimate which concluded the Iranian nuclear weaponization threat to be less imminent than had previously been intimated.
The effective circumvention of Congress and continued expansion of Presidential powers is almost as worrisome as the myopic logic of the strategy. Despite the lessons of blowback from the Afghan jihad in the 1980s — the repercussions of which we are still grappling with today as New America Foundation Fellow Nicholas Schmidle discuss in his commentary on recent developments in Pakistan’s tribal belt — we’re ready to throw caution to the wind and arm a bevy of radical Salafist and fundamentalist Sunni groups.
Moreover, attacks by these scattered groups are more likely to consolidate the Iranian public behind Ahmadinejad and the mullahs, heighten their desire for an Iranian nuclear deterrent (as Jeffrey Lewis argues), and provoke them to turn up the temperature in Iraq and throughout the Middle East via the militias and terrorist networks they command. Worse still is what happens in the unlikely prospect they succeed in destabilizing the Iranian regime and we’re forced to again contend with the dangers of a power vacuum.
Both “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” tactics and Iranian regime-change efforts have been major strategic blunders in the past and will likely backfire again, especially if they artificially manufacture a flashpoint for a broader conflict with Iran. But then that is exactly what some might want.
— Sameer Lalwani

Comments

23 comments on “Covert Ops in Iran — Back After 55 Years

  1. JohnH says:

    Most Arab dogs don’t expect the occasional bone. For survival they have learned find their own…
    Sometimes people need to take things into their own hands, too, which is how Israel’s occupation of Lebanon spawned Hezbollah.

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  2. ... says:

    JohnH – that is like throwing a dog an occasional bone… it might appear to show some sort of fairness, but it is not treating the other equally…

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  3. JohnH says:

    Only one problem. It seems Hezbollah got deterrence. Word was that Israel was supposed to invade again during the latest dustup between Hezbollah and Siniora, but the operation got called off after US intelligence informed Israel that Tel Aviv would be hit by 600 missiles per day. I imagine Syria and Egypt each have the same deterrence capability. Even Hamas’ rockets will improve over time.
    The game is in fact up. Israel has yet to come to terms with the new order, which may explain in part all the huffing and puffing about Iran, which they certainly can’t mount a credible attack against by themselves. Warmongering habits die hard.

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  4. ... says:

    JohnH – the warlords are trying to make sure those countries don’t have deterrence… see all stories regarding the motion of iran toward having nuclear weapons…. they are not ‘allowed’ to have deterrence.. it would end the whole game..

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  5. David says:

    Excellent question, JohnH

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  6. JohnH says:

    Truly shameful. Borrowing money from China to provide earmarks to Israel. Most of the money flows back to the US in the form of corporate welfare for military contractors, a little extra gravy for the fattest of cats. Doubly shameful. And almost certainly a fraction of a percent gets syphoned off for political candidates to keep the racket going. It’s not a buiness, it’s a racket.
    When Israel runs out of space to store the weaponry (being a tiny country), the solution is simple. Just attack somebody and use up the stock, so they have a place to put all the new goodies. Only one problem: what do they do when the neighbors all have deterrence?

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  7. Carroll says:

    Posted by … Jul 03, 5:01PM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Yep..it is disgusting how much money we give Israel when it is sorely needed right here in the US by a lot of our own citizens.
    But actually the 3 billion we give them annualy in “official aid” is not the actual full amount of money they receieve from us.
    If you go thru Thomas.gov or Govtrac.com you will see more multi millions of extra money for Israel tucked into bills like defense spending, the energy bill that gave Israel an “energy grant”, educational funding bills that give grants to Israeli universities, grant to the American Heritage Agency which keeps up jewish graves overseas and repairs temples in other countries and on and on.
    It’s truely disgusting, our congress uses our money like a man who lets his own wife and chidren starve to keep his mistress in a Trump penthouse.

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  8. ... says:

    great discussion guys…PacificCoastRon on your comment about usa identifying with israel verses the arabs, this weeks article from the jewish forward..
    >>Congress Delivers Promised Israel Aid Bump Despite Budget Deadlock
    Move Bypasses Normal Appropriation Process
    By Nathan Guttman
    Wed. Jul 02, 2008
    Washington – While almost all federally financed programs were denied any funding increase for the coming year, aid to Israel from the United States will increase thanks to a legislative loophole and some deft maneuvering by pro-Israel lobbyists.
    Congress bypassed the normal appropriation process on June 26 when it approved a $170 million raise in military aid to Israel, as part of a larger supplemental spending bill. The increase contrasts with the standstill in budgeting for almost all other government programs.<<
    http://www.forward.com/articles/13709/

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  9. WigWag says:

    Speaking of covert operations, (not in the Middle East but in Latin American), I wonder if anyone noticed that a covert operation that resulted in the release of Ingrid Betancourt and three American contractors (among others)actually took place while John McCain was in Colombia. This was a huge defeat for a major terrorist organization, FARC, which does seem to be in its death throes anyway.
    Bettancourt (who has dual Colombian/French citizenship) was captured in 2002. President Sarkozy of France has campaigned for her release and even Hugo Chavez spoke on Bettancourt’s behalf.
    But everything changed when on July 2nd 2008, during John McCain’s Colombian stop on his US presidential campaign tour of Latin America, Columbian covert special ops teams disguised as FARC rebels rescued Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages, including 3 American aeronautical defense contractors kidnapped in 2003 – all in the same day. It is being widely reported in the Latino media that the Colombian army received assistance from US spy satellites that use infrared techology to peer through the dense Amazon canopy.
    So this is a covert operation that actually worked. But the politics are interesting. Senator’s Obama and McCain are fighting over the Latino vote. Of course, Florida is a key swing state and here is South Florida which has a large Latin American community both Univision and Telemundo are giving McCain alot of credit for pushing the NSA to assist the Colombian army with the operation.
    John McCain and Barack Obama will both be speaking to the League of United Latin American Citizens/LULAC Convention & Expo on July 8. (Hillary Clinton will be speaking to them on July 11th). As a result of this operation, it is widely expected that McCain will get a heros welcome.
    The timing of all of this just seems curious.

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  10. PacificCoastRon says:

    I’m on duty for my two most important jobs this weekend, just to quickly comment on JohnH’s request for narrative, google my posts over the last months, I am trying my best to make it about _imperialism_ … essentially, our little habit of dictating policies for others we would never accept for ourselves.
    As a guy with an honors degree in Modern History from a decent school, one could talk for hours on causes, I trace it to military imperatives from the 1945 post-WWII standoff vs. the Soviets. Basically the “land of the free and the home of the brave” lost its way and started demanding that foreign nations accept unfreedom because we had become cowardly about the needs of our empire in some situation in Guatemala (1954) or Peru (several times) or Iran (1953-4).
    We tried to hold the hypocrisy in check for several decades there, but Vietnam blew it pretty well open and the Reaganite consipiracy with Iran vs. the Carter Administration in 1980 opened the door to today’s insanity. The particulars of how we have come to be identified with Israel vs. Arabs in particular and Muslims in general since 1971 has also been particularly unhelpful to the national inability to separate our self-serving mythology from our actual actions in the world.
    Gotta run, I may not be commenting a lot the next few weeks but my heart is here on the blogs. Since we aren’t yet ready for mobs wielding pitchforks.

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  11. Carroll says:

    Posted by Mr.Murder Jul 02, 10:35PM
    “We don’t want anyone to establish some level of autonomy in terms of military leverage, all other sectors spring from that.”
    We want instead to remain supreme dicator thru wars and regime changes in all regions of the world?
    Tall order for a declining superpower. And that is how all” former’ superpowers lost their superpower.
    As for JohnH and PacficCoastRon..I totally agree. Make them (congress&DC) FEAR YOU more than they fear the special interest. That is the only thing that will clean up government.

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  12. JohnH says:

    When the New York Times prints an article about Iraq being for oil and Big Oil, you know that the elites have become comfortable revealing the administration’s true intentions:
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JG04Ak03.html
    Of course, they could be revealed only when gas is about to reach $5/gallon, and Americans are at the point where they might be convinced to do anything to get their daily fix (anything short of a non-military solution, of course).
    Even the administration’s true intentions in Afghanistan are starting to be revealed (a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan), though Afghanistan itself continues to unravel, showing the bankruptcy of Washington’s strategy.

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  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Congress’s ‘Virtual Iran War Resolution’
    by Rep. Ron Paul
    Statement on House Congressional Resolution 362 before the US House of Representatives, June 28, 2008
    Today the Dow Jones Average was down 350-some points, gold was up $32, and oil was up another $5. There is a lot of chaos out there and everyone is worried about $4 gasoline. But I don’t think there is a clear understanding [of] exactly why that has occurred.
    We do know that there is a supply and demand issue, but there are other reasons for the high cost of energy. One is inflation. In order to pay for the war that has been going on, and the domestic spending, we’ve been spending a lot more money than we have. So what do we do? We send the bills over to the Federal Reserve and they create new money, and in the last three years, our government, through the Federal Reserve and the banking system, has created $4 trillion of new money. That is one of the main reasons why we have this high cost of energy and $4 per gallon gasoline.
    But there is another factor that I want to talk about tonight, and that is not only the fear of inflation and future inflation, but the fear factor dealing with our foreign policy. In the last several weeks, if not for months, we have heard a lot of talk about the potential of Israel and/or the United States bombing Iran. And it is in the marketplace. Energy prices are being bid up because of this fear. It has been predicted that if bombs start dropping, that we will see energy prices double or triple. It is just the thought of it right now that is helping to push these energy prices up. And that is a very real thing going on right now.
    But to me it is almost like deja vu all over again. We listened to the rhetoric for years and years before we went into Iraq. We did not go in the correct manner, we did not declare war, we are there and it is an endless struggle. And I cannot believe it, that we may well be on the verge of initiating the bombing of Iran!
    Leaders on both sides of the aisle, and in the administration, have all said so often, “No options should be taken off the table – including a nuclear first strike on Iran.” The fear is, they say, maybe someday [Iran is] going to get a nuclear weapon, even though our own CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate has said that the Iranians have not been working on a nuclear weapon since 2003. They say they’re enriching uranium, but they have no evidence whatsoever that they’re enriching uranium for weapons purposes. They may well be enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, and that is perfectly legal. They have been a member of the non-proliferation treaties, and they are under the investigation of the IAEA, and El Baradei has verified that in the last year there have been nine unannounced investigations and examinations of the Iranian nuclear structure and they have never been found to be in violation. And yet, this country and Israel are talking about a preventive war – starting bombing for this reason, without negotiations, without talks.
    Now the one issue that I do want to mention tonight is a resolution that is about to come to this floor if our suspicions are correct, after the July 4th holiday. And this bill will probably be brought up under suspension. It will be expected to be passed easily. It probably will be. And it is just more war propaganda, just more preparation to go to war against Iran.
    This resolution, H.J. Res 362 [listed as H. Con. Res 362 online] is a virtual war resolution. It is the declaration of tremendous sanctions, and boycotts and embargoes on the Iranians. It is very, very severe. Let me just read what is involved if this bill passes and what we’re telling the President what he must do:
    “This demands that the President impose stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains and cargo entering or departing Iran, and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials.”
    This is unbelievable! This is closing down Iran. Where do we have this authority? Where do we get the moral authority? Where do we get the international legality for this? Where do we get the Constitutional authority for this? This is what we did for ten years before we went into Iraq. We starved children – 50,000 individuals it was admitted probably died because of the sanctions on the Iraqis. They were incapable at the time of attacking us. And all the propaganda that was given for our need to go into Iraq was not true.
    And it is not true today about the severity [of the need to attack Iran]. But they say, “Yeah, but Ahmadinejad – he’s a bad guy. He’s threatened violence.” But you know what? Us threatening violence is very, very similar. We must look at this carefully. We just can’t go to war again under these careless, frivolous conditions.

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  14. Paul Norheim says:

    PacificCoastRon and JohnH: best comments I`ve read for i while
    here.
    Something like Weimar Germany has been my fear since I first
    imagined a weak USA. And I have for ten years or so argued
    with my friends that I fear a weak and insecure USA much more
    than a strong and confident USA.
    Remain to be seen if Bush and Cheney will commit suicide on
    behalf of your great nation by attacking Iran (eventually a future
    President being “forced” to do so by circumstances), or if the
    economic crisis will transform the USA to something similar to
    the Weimar Republic of the 1920`s. It seems as if the US
    military currently oppose more wars: they are realists, compared
    to the politicians currently in charge. If you ever get into a
    situation where the military and the big companies even more
    than today control your nation, this may be crucial. I hope
    you`ll not get there.
    But I must confess that a weak, insecure and aggressive USA is
    one of my worst nightmares. I hope that you can make your
    voices heard.

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  15. JohnH says:

    PacificCoastRon: Agree with what you say. What interests me most is the alternative narrative. The media monopoly does not allow any perspective but that of corrupt Washington, an omnipresent myth (mushroom clouds, Islamo-fascist invasions, etc., etc.) intended to stifle all other perspectives. Many people can find something to disagree with, but they’re left working from inside the frame that the corrupt establishment has set up and can’t see the totality of the myth or articulate a coherent attack on it.
    Without an alternative narrative, people have nowhere to turn. An alternative narrative allows people to question basic assumptions that Washington has foisted on us. The Occupation of Iraq should have done us all a huge favor in that people should by now be questioning everything that Washington says, because most of it has been proven false. The country should be ripe for a narrative that explains Washington in terms of its actions, not its words. But apparently times haven’t gotten bad enough yet, so people aren’t asking, “what the f*ck are they really up to?”
    When it finally gets that bad, the alternative narrative needs to be in place to explain it. And it starts with identifying Washington’s obsessive need to control oil and everything associated with it: forcing countries to produce more of it for us, securing the nations that produce it, and securing the distribution routes.
    While that control would seem to many to make great sense in the conventional, militarized Washington frame, it also masks a total failure of imagination. Can you really hold a gun to oil producers’ heads and expect them to produce? It hasn’t worked very well in Iraq, which was about controlling oil at the spiggot, and it probably won’t work in Iran, either. Saudi Arabia is already talking about leaving more in the ground for future generations. Norway, a democracy, has already done it. Bush should get down on his knees and thank Hugo Chavez for being a reliable supplier, for without him Venezuela might well look like Nigeria or Colombia in terms of disruptions.
    So Washington’s strategy of controlling everything relating to oil is simply untenable over the medium term. There are just too many nationalists in too many places, and Washington simply cannot fight them all. It’s hands are full in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Without the alternative narrative, people can complain about the war, high gas prices, OPEC, oil companies, speculators, etc., etc. But people can’t really deal with the crux of the problem, because the current myth/frame obfuscates it.
    Once the real problem starts to appear from behind all the smoke and mirrors that the corrupt Washington establishment has thrown up, we can start to deal with it. For example, we might look at how Europe, almost totally dependent on Russia for natural gas, deals with it without trying to occupy Siberia. And there is plenty to talk about–Germany’s drive to be a leader in solar energy, France and nuclear power, compact urbanization, mass transit, high speed rail, long standing taxes on gasoline to discourage consumption.
    But as long as we let Washington get away with the phony narrative that drives the war machine, we can’t get to the underlying problems.
    So, yes, call our Senators and Congressmen. Call BS for what it is. And encourage them to call it that, too. But above all, let them know that money spent on the military is money that cannot be spent on conservation, new technology, or fighting global warming.

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  16. PacificCoastRon says:

    what is captcha doing to me, that previous coment was PacificCoastRon, thank you.

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  17. Pacific says:

    For years now, I have had a running joke/serious question going as a political conversation starter & radicalizer: “Which branch of government do you think is Most corrupt, executive, legislative or judicial?”
    It’s a head-scratcher, and the corruption of the system is so deep that we cannot sit here like good Germans and talk about “decisions being made” by the bureaucracy and/or the Congress, it won’t happen like that.
    The corruption of the system is so deep that the Cheneyites & their control over both the Pentagon and the Intel world, could easily provoke/botch some incident into a shooting war, or allow an ostensibly-Israeli action (“not supported by us, no how, no way they’ll say”) to provide the spark to the fireworks of their pre-planned attack, and all without any participation by State Dept., Congress, the rational members of the Intel community, or the mainstream media — except for them all to act like pearl-clutching dowagers screaming on top of their chairs at the sight of a mouse, now in favor of war, war, war.
    Public participation? you must be thinking of the mythical “land of the free and the home of the brave,” not this corrupt police-state SPYING ON US ALL SINCE BEFORE 9-11 where the Constitution can be shredded in full view of the once-proud media.
    We have all got to become our own version of Pissed Off American, be-sieging our elected officials by phone and fax if not in person, letting them know that an ultra-new dimension of disastrousness in Imperial Decline awaits us if we are so stupid as to start a major attack on Iran. Already we can’t pay for gas, every war threat jacks the price up further, this is insanity.
    Empires simply do not survive huge debts to their likely rivals. We can hope and pray that Barack can back us out of empire as painlessly as possible — i.e., not painless at all — and build a citizen movement against imperialism in American foreign policy to support him in that goal while opposing him in any further imperialism on our part; or we play games with rural property and means of self-defense & self-sufficiency against the coming train wreck. Depression ?? Dollar assets valueless ?? I’ve got teenage kids, I could become a grandfather with five minutes and nine months notice, I’ve got business and family to protect, i don’t want to see it at all, but the train wreck (think Weimar Germany, or maybe Yugoslavia falling apart) has a probability somewhere between zero and say, 50%. It’s not yet the most likely outcome, but a nice dollar collapse and we’d be there.

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  18. Mr.Murder says:

    Iran is going to dominate the countries on the other side of the equation.
    The same way Cuba has its role in Central/South America.
    We don’t want anyone to establish some level of autonomy in terms of military leverage, all other sectors spring from that.

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  19. ... says:

    JohnH – thanks… now i understand you much better and am of the same mind with regard to why things are unfolding as they are… i doubt any ‘discussion’ is going to happen…as i see it, most consummate politicians are gamblers at heart..

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  20. Zathras says:

    This is how foreign policy gets made in George Bush’s Washington.
    We don’t have an American policy toward Iran. We have part of Vice President Cheney’s policy, part of Secretary Gates and Rice’s policy, part of what Gen. Petraeus thinks is required for the army in Iraq, a rhetorical spin that is all George W. Bush. No one gets all of what they want. No decision is ever final. Policy directions taken in one forum can always be undermined by steps taken in another. Congress can be enlisted on anyone’s side.
    The unworthy thought occurs that rather than bringing American ideas of government to Iran, the Bush administration is adopting Iranian ideas of government itself: outward message discipline and resolve masking a perpetual battle among contending power centers, under an executive too weak to impose final decisions about anything.

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  21. JohnH says:

    What Iranian nuclear weaponization program? Yes, Iran is enriching uranium, everyone agrees on that. But no one has evidence that it goes beyond that. Mohammed El-Baradei is closer to the situation than anyone. He has examined their facilities and has found no weaponization. The NIE concurs.
    But “uranium enrichment” provides Bush and the neocons an opportunity for subterfuge. They are using it to create fear and make Iran into a bogeyman, just like they did with Saddam’s phony mushroom cloud.
    This fear, amplified by the neocons and the corporate media, gives him the cover to do what he wants to do: force Iran into becoming a vassal state.
    Most likely Bush and the foreign policy mafia feel that if they don’t bring Iran to heel, that America risks losing its dominance over the whole Persian Gulf, which could go it’s own way, following Iran’s example. They could decide to lock their oil into long-term contracts with China, providing both seller and buyer with energy security.
    Of course, there are three problems with their strategy. 1) There is considerable doubt that it will work. 2) The collateral damage from an attack could be considerable, causing great harm to the Persian Gulf oil infrastructure specifically and to the world economy in general. To take such a gamble, when the odds of success are not great and the impact of failure is potentially severe, means that the Bushies and the neocons are getting desperate. They see American control slipping away…
    Which brings us to the third problem: when the stakes are so high and America’s future is at risk, shouldn’t the American people at least have a say. Given the choice between putting it all at risk (potential control of Persian Gulf oil if Bush wins, an economic depression if he loses) on the one hand versus allowing the Persian Gulf to become independent, implying less long term Western energy security on the other hand, what would you do?
    A good, honest, public discussion is highly preferable to being lied into another war, particularly one with potentially catastrophic consequences.

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  22. ... says:

    JohnH, i don’t understand your logic… are you in disagreement with the conclusion the Iranian nuclear weaponization threat to be less imminent than had previously been intimated? or is it that the usa as colonial power needs to maintain its control of the area in order to assert usa dominance as expressed via the position of the us$ moving forward?
    onca again captcha is making posting a pain in the ass… 3rd time lucky???

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  23. JohnH says:

    It’s desperation time for Bush/Cheney and the neocons. And desperate people do desperate things.
    If Washington doesn’t bring Tehran to heel soon, the entire Persian Gulf could develop an independent streak, jeopardizing the US’ liberalized oil trading system and the dollar. And who would finance the US military if the Persian Gulf states no longer sold their oil in dollars? Bush’s legacy then? “Honey, I shrunk the hegemony.”
    But no, this is not about domination of oil, it’s about Tehran’s nuclear weapons ambitions and its support for insurgents in Iraq, both arguments that Bush cannot substantiate. And the tragedy is that the bobble head Congress and the eternally gullible American people believe Bush despite his proven record as a monumental liar.
    It’s time for Bush/Cheney, the neocons, and the rest of the beltway/corporate media complex to come clean with the American people about Washington’s real intentions before it dooms us all.

    Reply

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