Is Lebanon the Trigger for U.S. War With Iran?
By Larisa Alexandrovna, AlterNet
Posted on August 10, 2006, Printed on August 10, 2006
For over a year now I have been reporting on activities that appear to be leading the United States into direct confrontation with Iran. Aside from Sy Hersh and a few others, the majority of the U.S. media largely has ignored this march toward war, mainly because it helped disseminate the pre-war propaganda prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But failing to connect the dots on Iran is just as bad, if not worse, because Iran is by no means Iraq. A war with Persia will be a catastrophe of unimaginable consequences and the trigger for that action may have already begun.
Several months back, I reported that concern was rapidly rising that the United States was setting the table for its Iran engagement:
Speculation has been growing on a possible air strike against Iran. But with the failure of the Bush administration to present a convincing case to the U.N. Security Council and to secure political backing domestically, some experts say the march toward war with Iran is on pause barring an "immediate need."
An immediate need is also sometimes called "the trigger."
Military brass and intelligence experts have been watching Iran with concern since 2003, when the entire world was focused on Iraq. Hersh reported for The New Yorker: "Israeli intelligence assets in Iraq were reporting that the insurgents had the support of Iranian intelligence operatives and other foreign fighters, who were crossing the unprotected border between Iran and Iraq at will."
That Iranian intelligence assets are crossing the border into Iraq is of course true, but it is also true that Al Qaeda assets, which had not previously been in Iraq, made their way via Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. In fact, everyone who wanted to engage Americans simply crossed the border. Instead of containing this situation and securing the country, Hersh reported that the Bush administration chose the photo-op route to war tactics:
"The border stayed open, however. The administration wasn't ignoring the Israeli intelligence about Iran," explained Patrick Clawson, the deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who has close ties to the White House. "There's no question that we took no steps last summer to close the border, but our attitude was that it was more useful for Iraqis to have contacts with ordinary Iranians coming across the border, and thousands were coming across every day."
While the administration was busy doing nothing to secure Iraq's borders, I reported in January that they did find the time to propagate a bizarre story of an Iraq-Iran cross-border uranium operation:
The story that was peddled -- which detailed how an Iranian intelligence team infiltrated Iraq prior to the start of the war in March of 2003 and stole enriched uranium to use in their own nuclear weapons program -- was part of an attempt to implicate both countries in a WMD plot. It later emerged that the Iranian exile was trying to collect money for his tales, sources say.
Of course this conspiracy theory presented as credible by its spinners was false. That did not, however, stop Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from bypassing the intelligence community, which had already debunked this story, and sending an off-book team to investigate.
During that same summer, then Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was busy trying to convince the U.S. State Department to allow the use of Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a terrorist organization on the State Department's terror group list. Wolfowitz wanted to use MEK on the ground in Iran.
The following year, the civilian leadership at the Pentagon came up with a plan for how to use MEK as assets and still not come up against pushback from the State Department -- the members of MEK were simply told to resign from the organization en masse and swear an oath to "democracy." This was clever, to be sure, because even though MEK is listed as a terrorist organization, the DOD could argue that it was not using "that organization."
The allegations are that the DOD briefed no members of Congress on the use of MEK in Iran. In March of 2006, their slaughter of 22 Iranian officials, including a governor, would become news all over the world, except in the United States. But even more serious, some analysts hold the view that it was MEK that was responsible for the Samarra Mosque bombing in Iraq.
But in 2003, although the United States had just recently invaded Iraq and was still by all appearances in search of WMD, the military civilian leadership at the Pentagon, under the leadership of the vice president's office, would not secure Iraq's borders, is alleged to have actively promoted propaganda about Iranian WMDs and began planning covert ops for Iran.
The drums of war
Flash forward to late 2005, where a recently reelected Vice President Cheney, the undisputed policy "decider" is given an election "mandate." As Sy Hersh reported:
This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone," the former high-level intelligence official [said]. "Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign. We've declared war, and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah -- we've got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.
In the following months, pressure on the U.N. Security Council by the Bush administration became a major concern to military brass and intelligence experts, as they began to see an imperialistic executive branch continue to operate outside international and domestic law.
But engaging Iran in military action would not be as easily sellable to the American people, who were still grieving post-911 when the Bush administration presented a story of a nuclear Iraq working in conjunction with Al Qaeda -- now completely and fully debunked.
It is during this time that discussion of a "needed trigger" -- an event that would force the United States into conflict with Iran, despite public objection -- would have to occur. Most experts I consulted with from late 2005 to early 2006 believed that the WMD argument would continue to be pressed and that, coupled with our own threats of a nuclear, chemical and biological preemption policy, would be enough to force Iran into having to beef up its security. In other words, many experts believed that by posing enough of a threat, the United States would force Iran to seek some form of WMD, and then the United States could justify a preemptive strike.
But the United States failed in making a case for an operational Iranian home-grown WMD program. Attempts to revive the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 2003 findings on Iran's centrifuges and blueprints only proved to be another embarrassment for the United States.
So it was after all a U.S. ally who had been providing Iran with parts for weapons, and that investigation had already shown that Iran had made no significant progress toward a fully operational nuclear program.
Even now, most estimates range that such a program would not be ready for seven to 10 years, at minimum, while others speculate even longer. But again, this is of course the case if Pakistan continues to provide black-market support for Iran.
Whatever the trigger event would be, however, most experts believed that no military action would be undertaken by the United States until the spring of 2007.
Sometime around mid-spring of this year, that calculation changed. Experts I consulted at this time, still working in this administration and others already gone, began speaking of a summer or fall strike. And then, as though on cue, things began to move more quickly.
We find out, for example, that in March of this year, the Department of Defense replaced its already disbanded and notorious Office of Special Plans with what they call the Iranian Directorate. As with the OSP, the ID is run out of the policy side and contained largely the same cast of characters, minus Larry Franklin, who has already pleaded guilty to passing classified information to Israel and Iran, and Doug Feith, former undersecretary of defense policy. Feith's shoes were filled by another neoconservative hawk, Eric Edelman.
In describing OSP and by extension, ID, one expert I talked with did not hold back his feelings on what has come to be known as the "cabal":
"It was created to, as Dean Acheson urged Harry Truman, to scare the hell out of the American people by making things a little bit clearer than the truth," John Pike of Global Security told me. But OSP did more than scare people; it created a war that the vice president's office could sell. And if ID was created for the same reason, then there is no doubt a war is already being "cooked up," as some say.
But what would be the trigger?
When aircraft carriers began movements that experts found troubling, and other covert operations began in earnest, the trigger was believed to be provocation. That is, placing a ship where it could be targeted by Iranian forces believing it to be a threat.
I spoke with retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner in May about this then, and he too was troubled by the ships and their movement.
I would expect two or three aircraft carriers would be moved into the area," Gardner said, describing what he thinks is the best way air strikes could be carried out without disengaging assets from U.S. fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Two aircraft carriers are already en route to the region, Raw Story has found. The USS Abraham Lincoln, which recently made a port call in Singapore, and the USS Enterprise which left Norfolk, Va., earlier this month, are headed for the western Pacific Ocean and the Middle East. The USS Ronald Reagan is already operating in the Gulf.
In addition to aircraft carrier activity, Gardiner says, B-2 bombers would be critical.
But at that time, he and I did not speak of our theories on triggers. I had, however, long claimed that any trigger would have to involve Israel, either as a defensive measure or a measure of provocation. An attack on Israel would be the easiest way to shore up domestic support.
When I was told that Israel had begun a military strike on Lebanon, for me there was no question: This was the trigger. Just prior to Israel's bombing of Lebanon, I got a call from a friend in the military who told me about two Israeli troops being kidnapped across the border into Lebanon. My first question was, "Do they say it is Hezbollah?" and of course we know now that it was. But when my friend answered that it was indeed Hezbollah, I knew that Israel -- for whatever reason -- had become a proxy U.S. war machine for Dick Cheney's madness of regime change in Iran.
My friend said not to worry, that the soldiers would be exchanged for Hezbollah prisoners in Israel. I knew this not to be the case, and I said that this will be full military action, full war, with many casualties. My friend thought I was overreacting.
Yet there is a full war and full military action, and it is not by accident. It is also exactly on time to be the trigger. But this will not be the worst of it, because Syria will be drawn in; it has to be, and then Iran. This is the strategy that was feared and that is now being played out across the Middle East.
This is a strategy long wanted by the far right and people like Dick Cheney, and this is a strategy that was long in the planning. Even as we began military operations in Iraq, Iran was the subject of all major military discussions. And yet when Israel became engaged in military operations against Lebanon, the entire world failed to understand the true nature of this conflict and the real issues behind it. Israel is a client-state of the United States and, as such, it will do as it is told.
For Israel to act so harshly and so carelessly, putting its entire nation in jeopardy and with world support failing, one can only imagine the pressure that the Cheney "cabal" used to push for such an event.