Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Seymour Hersh on Iran

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

In case you’ve missed it, Seymour Hersh’s latest article ”The Redirection” on Iran in The New Yorker really is one of those “must-reads,” central to our current precipitous situation. As if there was any doubt, the Bush administration is engaging in a very dangerous game in the Middle East, and they really don’t know what they’re doing. Also, the Iran-Contra gang in back in the saddle, and the lessons of Iran-Contra for them are essentially 1) do whatever the hell you want to 2) don’t tell anybody 3) don’t get caught. Nothing like an unrepentant criminal (Elliott Abrams) and a bunch of like-minded buddies in the Cheney cabal to elevate the level of ethics at the White House!

Here’s how Hersh’s article starts:

In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, ha significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the Unite States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran. Its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made defiant pronouncements about the destruction of Israel and his country’s right to pursue its nuclear program, and last week its supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on state television that “realities in the region show that the arrogant front, headed by the U.S. and its allies, will be the principal loser in the region.”

After the revolution of 1979 brought a religious government to power, the United States broke with Iran and cultivated closer relations with the leaders of Sunni Arab states such as Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. That calculation became more complex after the September 11th attacks, especially with regard to the Saudis. Al Qaeda is Sunni, and many of its operatives came from extremist religious circles inside Saudi Arabia. Before the invasion of Iraq, in 2003, Administration officials, influenced by neoconservative ideologues, assumed that a Shiite government there could provide a pro-American balance to Sunni extremists, since Iraq’s Shiite majority had been oppressed under Saddam Hussein. They ignored warnings from the intelligence community about the ties between Iraqi Shiite leaders and Iran, where some had lived in exile for years. Now, to the distress of the White House, Iran has forged a close relationship with the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

So, as Jesus’ General illustrates, conceivably we are now shipping money from our Iraq funds, to support Sunni extremists in Lebanon, so they can fund the Sunni insurgency fighting us in Iraq — so we don’t have to fight the “terrorists” in America. Brilliant!

Hersh speaks about his findings on CNN here, and discusses them with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air here.

Finally, Digby has a great post, ”Rube Goldberg Policy Contraption,” on the article. Digby considers the Iran-Contra angle, but also offers several other great comments:

Think about this for a moment. The crackerjack Bush administration --- which failed to anticipate the rise of Iran once they removed its dangerous enemy from the scene --- is supposed to be able to recognize who's who among these various Muslim players and deftly play all the factions against one another in a very discrete and high stakes game in which they finesse a final outcome that brings about peace and security.

Oh. My God.


In case anyone forgot, Al Qaeda are Sunni radicals. And most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. But let's assume they weren't. Can anyone believe that this administration is capable of playing such a delicate geopolitical chess game? Dear God, these are people whose idea of playing checkers is to up-end the board and do a victory dance. Let's just say that subtlety isn't their stong suit.

This is what Bush and Cheney are talking about when they say that history will vindicate them. The believe that by tearing the middle east to pieces, when it finally settles down after years of carnage and bloodshed, they will get credit for the clever plan that set it in motion.


It is amateur hour and these zombies must be stopped. Until the Democrats, and the country, recognize this undemocratic and criminal element in our politics it is going to continue every time the Republicans take power. When they have a congressional majority with a Republican president they steal the country blind and when it's a Democrat they harass him so badly that its a miracle he is able to function. When they have the presidency they become despotic criminals. This has been true for the last 30 years.

And now the Bush administration has spawned untold numbers of future war criminals who will claw their way back into power so they can "prove" they were right the first time. This pattern is repeating itself over and over again and we simply have to figure out a way to put an end to it.

Today we have the DOD equivalent of Brownie running around with boatload of cash making deals with Muslim extremists and Saudi princes, whom the administration has divided up into completely useless designations of "reformer" and extremist." Nobody knows who's talking to who or what agenda they really have. Liberals think up complex plots like this and make them into movies. Republicans steal billions from the taxpayers and actually try to implement their hare-brained schemes.

Meanwhile, in case you've been away from the media for a while, Anna Nicole Smith is still dead and Chris Matthews and Cokie Roberts are desperate to find out if Bill Clinton is "being a good boy." We're in trouble.

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