Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is at her mushroom-cloud
hyperbolic best, and this time Iran is the target.
By Ray McGovern
-- -- Her claim last week that “the policies of Iran
constitute perhaps the single greatest challenge to American
security interests in the Middle East and around the world” is
simply too much of a stretch.
gauge someone’s reliability, one depends largely on prior
experience. Sadly, Rice’s credibility suffers in comparison with
that of the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),
Mohammed ElBaradei, who insists there is no evidence of an
active nuclear weapons program in Iran.
this sounds familiar, ElBaradei said the same thing about Iraq
before it was attacked. But three days before the invasion,
American nuclear expert Dick Cheney told NBC’s Tim Russert, “I
think Mr. ElBaradei is, frankly, wrong.”
we go again. As in the case of Iraq, U.S. intelligence has been
assiduously looking for evidence of a nuclear weapons program in
Iran; but, alas, in vain.
by the bogus “proof” adduced for Iraq—the uranium from Africa,
the aluminum tubes—the administration has shied away from
fabricating nuclear-related “evidence.”
Bush and Cheney again relying on the Rumsfeld dictum, that “the
absence of evidence is not evidence of absence?” There is a
Cat Out of the Bag
Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Sallai Meridor, let the cat out
of the bag while speaking at the American Jewish Committee
luncheon on Oct. 22. In remarks paralleling those of Rice,
Meridor said Iran is the chief threat to Israel.
on the chutzpah, he served gratuitous notice on
Washington that effectively countering Iran’s nuclear ambitions
will take a “united United States in this matter,” lest the
Iranians conclude, “come January ’09, they have it their own
Meridor stressed that “very little time” remained to keep Iran
from obtaining nuclear weapons. How so?
were there to be a nuclear program hidden from the IAEA, no
serious observer expects Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon much
sooner than five years from now.
be told, every other year since 1995 U.S. intelligence has been
predicting that Iran could have a nuclear weapon in about five
become downright embarrassing — like a broken record, punctuated
only by so-called “neo-conservatives” like James Woolsey, who
last summer publicly warned that the U.S. may have no choice but
to bomb Iran in order to halt its nuclear weapons program.
Woolsey, self-described “anchor of the Presbyterian wing of the
Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs,” put it this
way: “I’m afraid that within, well, at worst, a few months; at
best, a few years; they [the Iranians] could have the bomb.”
day before Meridor’s unintentionally revealing remark, Vice
President Dick Cheney reiterated, “We will not allow Iran to
have a nuclear weapon.”
remark followed closely on President George W. Bush’s
apocalyptic warning of World War III, should Tehran acquire the
knowledge to produce a nuclear weapon.
Israelis appear convinced they have extracted a promise from
Bush and Cheney that they will help Israel nip Iran’s nuclear
program in the bud before they leave office.
mind that there is no evidence that the Iranian nuclear program
is any more weapons-related than the one Cheney and Donald
Rumsfeld persuaded President Gerald Ford to approve in 1976 for
Westinghouse and General Electric to install for the Shah (price
tag $6.4 billion).
200-300 nuclear weapons in its arsenal, the Israelis enjoy a
nuclear monopoly in the Middle East. They mean to keep that
monopoly and are pressing for the U.S. to obliterate Iran’s
fledgling nuclear program.
aware of Iran’s ability to retaliate realizes this would bring
disaster to the whole region and beyond. But this has not
stopped Cheney and Bush before.
rationale is similar to that revealed by Philip Zelikow,
confidant of Condoleezza Rice, former member of the President’s
Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and later executive
director of the 9/11 Commission. On Oct. 10, 2002, Zelikow told
a crowd at the University of Virginia:
would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us?
I’ll tell you what I think the real threat is—it’s the threat to
Israel. And this is the threat that dare not speak its
name...the American government doesn’t want to lean too hard on
it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell.”
political offensive against Iran coalesced as George W. Bush
began his second term, with Cheney out in front pressing for an
attack on its nuclear-related facilities.
a Jan. 20, 2005, interview with MSNBC, just hours before Bush’s
second inauguration, Cheney put Iran “right at the top of the
list of trouble spots,” and noted that negotiations and UN
sanctions might fail to stop Iran’s nuclear program.
then added with remarkable nonchalance:
the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is
the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might decide to act
first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the
diplomatic mess afterwards.”
this not sound like the so-called “Cheney plan” being widely
discussed in the media today? An Israeli air attack; Iranian
retaliation; Washington springing to the defense of its “ally”
fan of preemption, Cheney has done little to disguise his
attraction to Israel’s penchant to preempt, such as Israel's air
strike against the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981.
years after the Osirak attack, then-Defense Secretary Cheney
reportedly gave Israeli Maj. Gen. David Ivri, commander of the
Israeli Air Force, a satellite photo of the Iraqi nuclear
reactor destroyed by U.S.-built Israeli aircraft. On the photo
Cheney penned, “Thanks for the outstanding job on the Iraqi
nuclear program in 1981.”
Nothing is known of Ivri’s response, but it is a safe bet it was
along the lines of “we could not have done it without U.S.
Indeed, though the U.S. officially condemned the attack (the
Reagan administration was supporting Saddam Hussein’s Iraq at
that point), the intelligence shared by the Pentagon with the
Israelis made a major contribution to the success of the Israeli
Vice President Cheney calling the shots now, similar help may be
forthcoming prior to any Israeli air attack on Iran.
no secret that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon began
to press for an early preemptive strike on Iran in 2003,
claiming that Iran was likely to obtain a nuclear weapon much
earlier than what U.S. intelligence estimated.
made a habit of bringing his own military adviser to brief Bush
with aerial photos of Iranian nuclear-related installations.
troubling still, in the fall of 2004, retired Gen. Brent
Scowcroft, who served as national security adviser to President
George H.W. Bush and as Chair of the younger Bush’s Foreign
Intelligence Advisory Board, made some startling comments to the
master of discretion with the media, Scowcroft nonetheless saw
fit to make public his conclusion that Sharon had Bush
“mesmerized;” that he had our president “wrapped around his
Needless to say, Scowcroft was immediately removed from the
An Unstable Infatuation
W. Bush first met Sharon in 1998, when the Texas governor was
taken on a tour of the Middle East by Matthew Brooks, then
executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Sharon
was foreign minister and took Bush on a helicopter tour over the
Israeli occupied territories.
Aug. 3, 2006, McClatchy wire story by Ron Hutcheson quotes
there’s a starting point for George W. Bush’s attachment to
Israel, it’s the day in late 1998, when he stood on a hilltop
where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and, with eyes
brimming with tears, read aloud from his favorite hymn, ‘Amazing
Grace.’ He was very emotional. It was a tear-filled experience.
He brought Israel back home with him in his heart. I think he
came away profoundly moved.”
made gratuitous but revealing reference to that trip at the
first meeting of his National Security Council on Jan. 30, 2001.
announcing he would abandon the decades-long role of “honest
broker” between Israelis and Palestinians and would tilt
pronouncedly toward Israel, Bush said he would let Sharon
resolve the dispute however he saw fit.
that point he brought up his trip to Israel with the Republican
Jewish Coalition and the flight over Palestinian camps, but
there was no sense of concern for the lot of the Palestinians.
Suskind’s Price of Loyalty, then-Treasury Secretary
Paul O’Neill, who was at the NSC meeting, quotes Bush: “Looked
real bad down there,” the president said with a frown. Then Bush
said it was time to end America’s efforts in the region. “I
don’t see much we can do over there at this point,” he said.
O’Neill also reported that Colin Powell, the newly minted but
nominal secretary of state, was taken completely by surprise at
this nonchalant jettisoning of longstanding policy.
demurred, warning that this would unleash Sharon and “the
consequences could be dire, especially for the Palestinians.”
But according to O’Neill, Bush just shrugged, saying, “Sometimes
a show of strength by one side can really clarify things.”
O’Neill says that Powell seemed “startled.”
a safe bet that the vice president was in no way startled.
only thing that seems to be standing in the way of a preemptive
attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is foot-dragging by the U.S.
seems likely that the senior military have told the president
and Cheney: This time let us brief you on what to expect on Day
2, on Week 4, on Month 6—and on the many serious things Iran can
do to Israel, and to us in Iraq and elsewhere.
CENTCOM commander Admiral William Fallon is reliably reported to
have said, “We are not going to do Iran on my watch.” And in
an online Q-and-A, award-winning Washington Post
reporter Dana Priest recently spoke of a possible “revolt” if
pilots were ordered to fly missions against Iran. She added:
is a little bit of hyperbole, but not much. Just look at what
Gen. [George] Casey, the Army chief, has said...that the tempo
of operations in Iraq would make it very hard for the military
to respond to a major crisis elsewhere. Beside, it's not the
‘war’ or ‘bombing’ part that's difficult; it's the morning after
and all the days after that. Haven't we learned that (again)
about Congress? Could it act as a brake on Bush and Cheney?
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) with its
overflowing coffers supports an attack on Iran, so will most of
our spineless lawmakers. Already, AIPAC has succeeded in
preventing legislation that would have required the president to
obtain advance authorization for an attack on Iran.
for every Admiral Fallon, there is someone like the inimitable,
retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, a close associate
of James Woolsey and other “neo-cons.”
air campaign “will be easy,” says McInerney, a Fox News pundit
who was a rabid advocate of shock and awe over Iraq.
“Ahmadinejad has nothing in Iran that we can’t penetrate,” he
adds, and several hundred bombers, including stealth bombers,
will be enough to do the trick:
“Forty-eight hours duration, hitting 2,500 aim points to take
out their nuclear facilities, their air defense facilities,
their air force, their navy, their Shahab-3 retaliatory
missiles, and finally their command and control. And then let
the Iranian people take their country back.”
the rationale? Since it will be a hard sell to promote the idea,
against all evidence, of an imminent threat that Iran is about
to have a nuclear weapon, the White House PR machine is likely
to focus on other evidence showing that Iran is supporting those
“killing our troops in Iraq.”
scary thing is that Cheney is more likely to use the McInerneys
and Woolseys than the Fallons and Caseys in showing the
president how easily it can be done.
not as though we have not had statesmen wise enough to warn us
against foreign entanglements, and about those who have
difficulty distinguishing between the strategic interests of the
United States and those of other nations, even allies:
passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a
variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation facilitates
the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no
real common interest exists, infuses into one the enmities of
the other, and betrays the former into participation in the
quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or
justification.” - (George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796)
McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the
ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C. He was a
CIA analyst for 27 years and is now on the Steering Group of
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
This article was first published by Consortiumnews.com
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