This article is part of the series
The coming war against Iran.
Attack on Iran: the question is only when and in what form
By Daan de Wit
A military confrontation with Iran is being prepared on several fronts. This is a continuing and dynamic process on which DeepJournal has been reporting since September of 2005. Important recent developments in this primarily American process concern military planning, the manipulation of information and the adjustment of strategy.
Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh writes on the progress of these developments: '[...] there has been a significant increase in the tempo of attack planning. [...] And two former senior officials of the C.I.A. told me that, by late summer, the agency had increased the size and the authority of the Iranian Operations Group. [...] "They're moving everybody to the Iran desk," one recently retired C.I.A. official said. "They're dragging in a lot of analysts and ramping up everything. It's just like the fall of 2002"-the months before the invasion of Iraq, when the Iraqi Operations Group became the most important in the agency.'
New strategy for makers of propaganda and military plans
Now that the goal of the march towards Iran is becoming clearer all the time, the parallels with the lead-up to the Iraq war are also becoming clearer, in spite of the differences. I demonstrated this in my video on Iran in May of last year, but in his article investigative journalist Seymour Hersh also writes that the main difference is the rhetoric. '"They've changed their rhetoric, really. The name of the game used to be nuclear threat," Hersh said on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, adding a moment later, "They've come to the realization that it's not selling, it isn't working. The American people aren't worried about Iran as a nuclear threat certainly as they were about Iraq. So they've switched, really"', writes The Raw Story. The role that former Secretary of State Colin Powell had in the lead-up to the Iraq war to convince the public at large of the Iraqi danger is now being filled by an organization called Freedom's Watch: 'Next month, Freedom's Watch will sponsor a private forum of 20 experts on radical Islam that is expected to make the case that Iran poses a direct threat to the security of the United States, according to several benefactors of the group', reports The New York Times. 'Next week, the group is moving into a 10,000-square-foot office in the Chinatown section of Washington, with plans to employ as many as 50 people by early next year. One benefactor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the group was hoping to raise as much as $200 million by November 2008. Raising big money "will be easy," the benefactor said [...]'.
Non-military portion of American attack already begun
It looks like the campaign of Freedom's Watch is directed at preparing Western populations for what is coming: a military confrontation with Iran. Just as it was with the run-up to the Iraq war, this preparatory propanganda is the non-military beginning of the war. Then the physical war ignites, after which whitewash operations, such as was the case with Iraq, will attempt to cover up the spin. Because the original plan for an attack on Iran couldn't be 'sold', the strategy of the White House has changed, according to Hersh. He talks about this with Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former National Security Advisor for President Carter: 'The Bush Administration, by charging that Iran was interfering in Iraq, was aiming "to paint it as 'We're responding to what is an intolerable situation,' " 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."' Hersh, in his own words: 'The focus of the plans had been a broad bombing attack, with targets including Iran's known and suspected nuclear facilities and other military and infrastructure sites. Now the emphasis is on "surgical" strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq. What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism.'
In the meantime The Telegraph writes: 'The American air force is working with military leaders from the Gulf to train and prepare Arab air forces for a possible war with Iran, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal. [...] While it is unlikely that America's Gulf allies would join any US air strike against suspected nuclear targets in Iran, their co-operation might be required to allow passage of warplanes though their airspace. American defence officials are also keen that Iran's Arab neighbours prepare to deal with any Iranian attempt to target them in return.' 'The revised bombing plan for a possible attack, with its tightened focus on counterterrorism, is gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon. 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. "Cheney's option is now for a fast in and out - for surgical strikes," the former senior American intelligence official told me. [...] A Pentagon consultant on counterterrorism told me that, if the bombing campaign took place, it would be accompanied by a series of what he called "short, sharp incursions" by American Special Forces units into suspected Iranian training sites. He said, "Cheney is devoted to this, no question"', writes Seymour Hersh. 'The bombing plan has had its most positive reception from the newly elected government of Britain's Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.' But the question is entirely one of whether the difference between the two strategies will soon become clear in practice.
Bush Administration going ahead with attack plans despite opposition
In a period of increasing criticism, the Bush Administration has to operate in an atmosphere of tension, above all because of Iraq. Seymour Hersh writes that 'The former 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."' 'The US president faces strong opposition to military action, however, within his own joint chiefs of staff. "None of them think it is a good idea, but they will do it if they are told to," said a senior defence source', reports The Sunday Times. The former commander of Centcom, the American command center that carries out attack plans, said recently: 'There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran [...] Let's face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we've lived with a nuclear China, and we're living with (other) nuclear powers as well.' In his opinion war should be avoided: 'War, in the state-to-state sense, in that part of the region would be devastating for everybody, and we should avoid it - in my mind - to every extent that we can," he said.' He's not alone in this view.
Richard Clarke, former anti-terrorism boss, said last year: 'We've thought about military options against Iran off and on for the last 20 years and they're just not good because you don't know what the end game is. You know what the first move is but not the last move'. In April of last year, Joseph Cirincione, at that time the director of the Nonproliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said: 'A military strike would be disastrous for the United States. It would rally the Iranian public around an otherwise unpopular regime, inflame anti-American anger in the Muslim world, and jeopardise the already fragile US position in Iraq. [...] It would accelerate, not delay, the Iranian nuclear programme'. Newsweek writing in 2004: 'the CIA and DIA have war-gamed the likely consequences of a U.S. pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. No one liked the outcome. As an Air Force source tells it, "The war games were unsuccessful at preventing the conflict from escalating."' 'I don't believe there is a consensus that a surgical strike could be used effectively to disable Iran's nuclear program, or that it would be wise to attempt such a strike', said Intelligence expert Steven Aftergood, Research Director for The Project on Government Secrecy of the Federation of American Scientists, last month.
Other sources close to the Bush Administration are also being critical of military conflict with Iran, as is apparent from a recent article in Newsweek: 'The Pentagon worries that another war will break America's already overstretched military, while the intelligence community believes Iran is not yet on the verge of a nuclear breakthrough. The latter assessment is expected to appear in a secret National Intelligence Estimate currently nearing completion, according to three intelligence officials who asked for anonymity when discussing nonpublic material. The report is expected to say Iran will not be able to build a nuclear bomb until at least 2010 and possibly 2015. One explanation for the lag: Iran is having trouble with its centrifuge-enrichment technology, according to U.S. and European officials.' '[...] Air Chief Marshal Sir Glen Torpy, the head of the RAF, voiced the fear of many British officials that America is too devoted to military solutions. He said: "In an environment like this, we always focus on the part that the military can play in solving security and foreign policy problems, but the military will rarely, if ever, be the solution"', writes The Telegraph. '"The Brits don't trust the Iranians," the retired general said, "but they also don't trust Bush and Cheney." [...] Vincent Cannistraro, a retired C.I.A. officer who has worked closely with his counterparts in Britain [...]: "The Brits told me that they were afraid at first to tell us about the incident-in fear that Cheney would use it as a reason to attack Iran." The intelligence subsequently was forwarded, he said', writes Seymour Hersh.
A critical view of the Iran issue could for that matter be the reason that Bush's top advisor Karl Rove left the Bush Administration, writes former CIA analyst Ray McGovern on the basis of a part of the column Deep Background by ex-CIA agent Phil Giraldi: 'In short, it seems possible that Rove, who is no one's dummy and would not want to be required to "spin" an unnecessary war on Iran, may have lost the battle with Cheney over the merits of a military strike on Iran, and only then decided -- or was urged -- to spend more time with his family. As for administration spokesperson Tony Snow, it seems equally possible that, before deciding he had to leave the White House to make more money, he concluded that his stomach could not withstand the challenge of conjuring up yet another Snow job to explain why Bush/Cheney needed to attack Iran.'
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