As the smoke and dust of the Lebanese battlefield hopefully begin to settle let us turn, in the spirit of Dicken’s ghost of Christmas future, to the battlefield that may yet be, Iran. News from that front has overshadowed by the fighting in Lebanon and the daily carnage in Iraq- what Bush administration flaks call “sectarian violence” and what those in the real world call civil war.
But the past week or so has seen some noteworthy events that should give us pause. For example, consider Seymour Hersh’s recent New Yorker article on how the United States was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s attack on Lebanon. He writes that, President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could also serve as a prelude to a potential American preemptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations. This particular passage is noteworthy:
The United States and Israel have shared intelligence and enjoyed close military cooperation for decades, but early this spring, according to a former senior intelligence official, high-level planners from the U.S. Air Force—under pressure from the White House to develop a war plan for a decisive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities—began consulting with their counterparts in the Israeli Air Force.
“The big question for our Air Force was how to hit a series of hard targets in Iran successfully,” the former senior intelligence official said. “Who is the closest ally of the U.S. Air Force in its planning? It’s not Congo—it’s Israel. Everybody knows that Iranian engineers have been advising Hezbollah on tunnels and underground gun emplacements. And so the Air Force went to the Israelis with some new tactics and said to them, ‘Let’s concentrate on the bombing and share what we have on Iran and what you have on Lebanon.’ ” The discussions reached the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he said.
“The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. “Why oppose it? We’ll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran.”
Then there was the alleged “news” in a Sunday-Times article during the first week of August that Iran was seeking to import large consignments of bomb-making U-238 uranium from the Lubumbashi mines in the Congo. This was subsequently denied by the DRC government, which noted all its mines are under the control of the IAEA. Left unexplained was why Iran would need to import uranium considering it has its own uranium mines and a plant to reprocess the ore. Furthermore, the size of the reported container was far too small to contain any significant quantities of bomb making uranium, considering how much is lost during the conversion and enrichment process.
And a UN report, cited in the article does not even mention Iran This fact, which flatly contradicts the headline (“Iran’s plot to mine uranium in Africa”), is safely buried in the seventh paragraph. All together it had all the earmarks of a classic disinformation plot, a la uranium from Niger, prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq
Then there was the recent interview of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with once upon a time famously fearless and independent newsman Mike Wallace of CBS’s 60 Minutes. Wallace’s interview was both aggressive and shallow. Consider this excerpt:
WALLACE: Israel, you have said time and again, Israel must be wiped off the
map. Please explain why, and what is Iran doing about that?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, allow me to finish with the nuclear
WALLACE: Oh, you finished with that. You finished with that. Tell me.
That is not the sort of exchange one has when trying to get the truth. That is the exchange of someone desperate to boost his ratings and avoid being sent off the media knackering plant. The bright side for Iran was that Wallace was so clumsy that Ahmadinejad handled him with ease and gained sympathy around the world; not to mention boost his own personal standing.
Plus now we know, thanks to documents posted by the Arms Control Association on its website that contrary to the usual rightwing propaganda, that Iran has no serious intent of negotiating over its nuclear program, that since the 2003 exposure of its nuclear program, Iran has devised at least five proposals which included provisions designed to assure the international community that its nuclear activities are exclusively for peaceful purposes, rather than nuclear weapons.
In fact, the charge of a lack of serious intent can just as easily be laid against the United States. Secretary of State Rice spins the issue this way, saying that if Iran insists on negotiating revisions to the proposal given to Iran in June that should that be viewed as the end the diplomatic process. But very few commentators are familiar with the actual content of the proposal, which was not released to the public when it was given to Iran. A careful reading of the proposal, now available on the French foreign ministry website, reveals that it fails to offer Iran even the potential for the kind of security benefits that might be expected to accompany the demands that the same proposal makes on Iran.
While there are occasional moments of sanity such as the 21 former generals, diplomats and national security officials who released an open letter yesterday calling on the Bush administration to engage immediately in direct talks with the government of Iran without preconditions to resolve the Iranian nuclear program they are rare.
All together the above actions constitute what the Pentagon refers to as IPB, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield. They also serve notice, per Mark Twain’s famous saying, that the news of the death of U.S. neocon influence is premature.