Bush’s “October Surprise”: Will It Go Nuclear?

October 5th, 2006 - by admin

CNN & Dave Lindorff / The Nation & The Peoples Voice & Executive Intelligence Review – 2006-10-05 00:50:11


On CNN, Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner (Ret.) said, “We are conducting military operations inside Iran right now. The evidence is overwhelming.” Gardiner, who taught at the US Army’s National War College, has previously suggested that US forces were already on the ground in Iran.

Today he added several additional new points:

• 1) The House Committee on Emerging Threats recently called on State and Defense Department officials to testify on whether US forces were in Iran. The officials didn’t come to the hearing.

• 2) We have learned from Time magazine today that some US naval forces had been alerted for deployment. That is a major step.‚

• 3) The plan has gone to the White House. That’s not normal planning. When the plan goes to the White House, that means we’ve gone to a different state.

“We’ve Been Executing Military Operations in Iran for at least 18 Months.”
Col. Sam Gardiner / CNN

(September 18, 2006) —
BLITZER: How likely is the US strike against Iran? And would it lead to all-out war? Joining us now is retired US Air Force colonel Sam Gardiner. He has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, the Air War College, and the Naval War College.

Colonel thanks very much for coming in. He just prepared a paper for the Century Foundation entitled “Considering the US Military Option For Iran.” You speak to a lot of people plugged in. What is your bottom line? How close in your opinion is the Bush Administration to giving that go ahead.

GARDINER: It’s been given. In fact, we’ve probably been executing military operations inside Iran for at least 18 months. The evidence is overwhelming

BLITZER: Wait. Wait. Let me press you.


BLITZER: When you say it’s been given. The president says he wants diplomacy to work to convince the Iranian government to stop enriching uranium, not go forward. “I would tell the Iranian people that we have no desire for conflict.” He told David Ignatius of the Washington Post the other day. So what does that mean, the order has been given?

GARDINER: We are conducting military operations inside Iran right now. The evidence is overwhelming. From both the Iranians, Americans, and from congressional sources.

BLITZER: What is “military operation?” Define that.

GARDINER: Sure. They probably have had two objectives going back 18 months. The first was to gather intelligence. Where is the Iranian nuclear program? The second has been to prepare dissident groups for phase two which will be the strike, which will come as the next phase, I think.

BLITZER: Preparing intelligence, that’s understandable using all sorts of means. They want to know what the Iranians are up to in terms of their nuclear program. But are you suggesting that US military forces, special operations forces, or others are on the ground right now in Iran.

GARDINER: Yes, sir. Certainly. Absolutely clear the evidence is overwhelming from lots of sources, and, again, most of them you can read in the public. Seymore Hersch has done good work on it. There are lots of other people who have done that. I have talked to Iranians. I asked an Iranian ambassador to the IAEA, what’s this I hear about Americans being there? He said to me, well, we’ve captured some people who worked with them. We’ve confirmed that they’re there.

BLITZER: Yeah, but, you know, these guys — the Iranians, you can’t necessarily believe what they’re saying. They could arrest some dissidents in Iran and say these are American spies. They do that all the time.

GARDINER: Sure. Sure. The House Committee on Emerging Threats tried to have a hearing some weeks ago in which they asked the Department of State and Defense to come and answer this question because it’s serious enough to be answered without congressional approval, and they didn’t come to the hearing. There are sources that I have talked to on the Hill who believe that that’s true and that it’s being done without congressional oversight.

BLITZER: Look, I was once a Pentagon correspondent many years ago, and in those days and in these days, as Jamie McIntire just reported, and as you well know from your time in active duty in the Pentagon, in the US military, these guys are planning contingency operations for almost everything. If Canada goes to war against the United States, they have a contingency plan.

GARDINER: Okay, two differences. Number one, we have learned from TIME Magazine today that some US naval forces had been alerted for deployment. That is a major step. That’s first. Second thing is the sources suggest the plan that’s not in the Pentagon. The plan has gone to the White House. That’s not normal planning. When the plan goes to the White House, that means we’ve gone to a different state.

BLITZER: You think it’s possible there is a little psychological warfare being played on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to rattle him. To spread the word. To put out this kind of information. To get him nervous, perhaps a little bit more agreeable to the diplomatic option.

GARDINER: It’s possible. It’s also possible that this path was selected a long time ago. You recall that even before Gulf II that a time when the president said we have no plan. I have no plan on my desk. In the summer of 2002 we began bombing Iraq. Operation Southern Focus, without congressional approval, without the U.N. sanctions, we went ahead and began bombing.

BLITZER: The argument at that time is if there were violations of the no-fly zone, US war planes were flying in the north and the south and there were rockets or anti-aircraft fire going up, they could take those out.
GARDINER: Yes, but it was a campaign to begin the war before the war began. You know, I would suggest the evidence is there.

BLITZER: You see a similar pattern right now.

GARDINER: Exactly.

BLITZER: We’re going to follow this closely. Colonel Sam Gardener, thank you very much. We look forward to reading your report that the Century Foundation is putting out as well.

War Signals:
What is the White House Planning in Relation to Iran?

Dave Lindorff / The Nation Magazine

(September 28, 2006) — As reports circulate of a sharp debate within the White House over possible US military action against Iran and its nuclear enrichment facilities, The Nation has learned that the Bush Administration and the Pentagon have issued orders for a major “strike group” of ships, including the nuclear aircraft carrier Eisenhower as well as a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, submarine escort and supply ship, to head for the Persian Gulf, just off Iran’s western coast.

This information follows a report in the current issue of Time magazine, both online and in print, that a group of ships capable of mining harbors has received orders to be ready to sail for the Persian Gulf by October 1.

As Time writes in its cover story, “What Would War Look Like?,” evidence of the forward deployment of minesweepers and word that the chief of naval operations had asked for a reworking of old plans for mining Iranian harbors “suggest that a much discussed — but until now largely theoretical — prospect has become real: that the US may be preparing for war with Iran.”

According to Lieut. Mike Kafka, a spokesman at the headquarters of the Second Fleet, based in Norfolk, Virginia, the Eisenhower Strike Group, bristling with Tomahawk cruise missiles, has received recent orders to depart the United States in a little over a week. Other official sources in the public affairs office of the Navy Department at the Pentagon confirm that this powerful armada is scheduled to arrive off the coast of Iran on or around October 21.

The Eisenhower had been in port at the Naval Station Norfolk for several years for refurbishing and refueling of its nuclear reactor; it had not been scheduled to depart for a new duty station until at least a month later, and possibly not till next spring. Family members, before the orders, had moved into the area and had until then expected to be with their sailor-spouses and parents in Virginia for some time yet.

First word of the early dispatch of the “Ike Strike” group to the Persian Gulf region came from several angry officers on the ships involved, who contacted antiwar critics like retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner and complained that they were being sent to attack Iran without any order from the Congress.

“This is very serious,” said Ray McGovern, a former CIA threat-assessment analyst who got early word of the Navy officers’ complaints about the sudden deployment orders. (McGovern, a twenty-seven-year veteran of the CIA, resigned in 2002 in protest over what he said were Bush Administration pressures to exaggerate the threat posed by Iraq. He and other intelligence agency critics have formed a group called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.)

Colonel Gardiner, who has taught military strategy at the National War College, says that the carrier deployment and a scheduled Persian Gulf arrival date of October 21 is “very important evidence” of war planning. He says, “I know that some naval forces have already received ‘prepare to deploy orders’ [PTDOs], which have set the date for being ready to go as October 1.

Given that it would take about from October 2 to October 21 to get those forces to the Gulf region, that looks about like the date” of any possible military action against Iran. (A PTDO means that all crews should be at their stations, and ships and planes should be ready to go, by a certain date — in this case, reportedly, October 1.) Gardiner notes, “You cannot issue a PTDO and then stay ready for very long. It’s a very significant order, and it’s not done as a training exercise.” This point was also made in the Time article.

So what is the White House planning?

On Monday President Bush addressed the UN General Assembly at its opening session, and while studiously avoiding even physically meeting Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was also addressing the body, he offered a two-pronged message. Bush told the “people of Iran” that “we’re working toward a diplomatic solution to this crisis” and that he looked forward “to the day when you can live in freedom.” But he also warned that Iran’s leaders were using the nation’s resources “to fund terrorism and fuel extremism and pursue nuclear weapons.”

Given the President’s assertion that the nation is fighting a “global war on terror” and that he is Commander in Chief of that “war,” his prominent linking of the Iran regime with terror has to be seen as a deliberate effort to claim his right to carry the fight there.

Bush has repeatedly insisted that the 2001 Congressional Authorization for the Use of Force that preceded the invasion of Afghanistan was also an authorization for an unending “war on terror.”

Even as Bush was making not-so-veiled threats at the UN, his former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, a sharp critic of any unilateral US attack on Iran, was in Norfolk, not far from the Eisenhower, advocating further diplomatic efforts to deal with Iran’s nuclear program — itself tantalizing evidence of the policy struggle over whether to go to war, and that those favoring an attack may be winning that struggle.

“I think the plan’s been picked: bomb the nuclear sites in Iran,” says Gardiner. “It’s a terrible idea, it’s against US law and it’s against international law, but I think they’ve decided to do it.”

Gardiner says that while the United States has the capability to hit those sites with its cruise missiles, “the Iranians have many more options than we do: They can activate Hezbollah; they can organize riots all over the Islamic world, including Pakistan, which could bring down the Musharraf government, putting nuclear weapons into terrorist hands; they can encourage the Shia militias in Iraq to attack US troops; they can blow up oil pipelines and shut the Persian Gulf.”

Most of the major oil-producing states in the Middle East have substantial Shiite populations, which has long been a concern of their own Sunni leaders and of Washington policy-makers, given the sometimes close connection of Shiite populations to Iran’s religious rulers.
Of course, Gardiner agrees, recent ship movements and other signs of military preparedness could be simply a bluff designed to show toughness in the bargaining with Iran over its nuclear program.

But with the Iranian coast reportedly armed to the teeth with Chinese Silkworm antiship missiles, and possibly even more sophisticated Russian antiship weapons, against which the Navy has little reliable defenses, it seems unlikely the Navy would risk high-value assets like aircraft carriers or cruisers with such a tactic. Nor has bluffing been a Bush MO to date.

Commentators and analysts across the political spectrum are focusing on Bush’s talk about dialogue, with many claiming that he is climbing down from confrontation. On the right, David Frum, writing on September 20 in his National Review blog, argues that the lack of any attempt to win a UN resolution supporting military action, and rumors of “hushed back doors” being opened in Washington, lead him to expect a diplomatic deal, not a unilateral attack. Writing in the center, Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler saw in Bush’s UN speech evidence that “war is no longer a viable option” in Iran.

Even on the left, where confidence in the Bush Administration’s judgment is abysmally low, commentators like Noam Chomsky and Nation contributor Robert Dreyfuss are skeptical that an attack is being planned.

Chomsky has long argued that Washington’s leaders aren’t crazy, and would not take such a step — though more recently, he has seemed less sanguine about Administration sanity and has suggested that leaks about war plans may be an effort by military leaders — who are almost universally opposed to widening the Mideast war — to arouse opposition to such a move by Bush and war advocates like Cheney.

Dreyfuss, meanwhile, in an article for the online journal TomPaine.com, focuses on the talk of diplomacy in Bush’s Monday UN speech, not on his threats, and concludes that it means “the realists have won” and that there will be no Iran attack.

But all these war skeptics may be whistling past the graveyard. After all, it must be recalled that Bush also talked about seeking diplomatic solutions the whole time he was dead-set on invading Iraq, and the current situation is increasingly looking like a cheap Hollywood sequel.

The United States, according to Gardiner and others, already reportedly has special forces operating in Iran, and now major ship movements are looking ominous.

Representative Maurice Hinchey, a leading Democratic critic of the Iraq War, informed about the Navy PTDOs and about the orders for the full Eisenhower Strike Group to head out to sea, said, “For some time there has been speculation that there could be an attack on Iran prior to November 7, in order to exacerbate the culture of fear that the Administration has cultivated now for over five or six years.

But if they attack Iran it will be a very bad mistake, for the Middle East and for the US. It would only make worse the antagonism and fear people feel towards our country. I hope this Administration is not so foolish and irresponsible.” He adds, “Military people are deeply concerned about the overtaxing of the military already.”

Calls for comment from the White House on Iran war plans and on the order for the Eisenhower Strike Group to deploy were referred to the National Security Council press office, which declined to return this reporter’s phone calls.

McGovern, who had first told a group of anti-Iraq War activists Sunday on the National Mall in Washington, DC, during an ongoing action called “Camp Democracy,” about his being alerted to the strike group deployment, warned, “We have about seven weeks to try and stop this next war from happening.”

One solid indication that the dispatch of the Eisenhower is part of a force buildup would be if the carrier Enterprise — currently in the Arabian Sea, where it has been launching bombing runs against the Taliban in Afghanistan, and which is at the end of its normal six-month sea tour — is kept on station instead of sent back to the United States.

Arguing against simple rotation of tours is the fact that the Eisenhower’s refurbishing and its dispatch were rushed forward by at least a month. A report from the Enterprise on the Navy’s official website referred to its ongoing role in the Afghanistan fighting, and gave no indication of plans to head back to port. The Navy itself has no comment on the ship’s future orders.

Jim Webb, Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration and currently a Democratic candidate for Senate in Virginia, expressed some caution about reports of the carrier deployment, saying, “Remember, carrier groups regularly rotate in and out of that region.”

But he added, “I do not believe that there should be any elective military action taken against Iran without a separate authorization vote by the Congress. In my view, the 2002 authorization which was used for the invasion of Iraq should not extend to Iran.”


Is Desperate Cheney Scheming Nuclear Sneak Attack on Iran?
Jeffrey Steinberg / The Peoples Voice & Executive Intelligence Review

Senior US military and intelligence sources canvassed by EIR do not rule out the possibility of a White House-ordered “Global Strike” unprovoked sneak attack against sites inside Iran before the Nov. 7 midterm US elections. In fact, a number of particularly well-placed military and intelligence professionals identified the period from Oct. 4-18 as a possible window for just such a pre-election “preventive strike.”

Operational plans for such an attack have been recently updated, and could be activated with virtually no lead time, utilizing long-range strategic bombers and missiles, and carrier-based fighter jets, already in or near the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf region, according to one senior US diplomat. “The military did the planning, but they hated it. Expect mass resignations at the flag level, if the orders come down to launch,” the source warned.

What’s more, in the aftermath of Israel’s failed “shock and awe” bombing campaign in the recent Lebanon war, do not rule out the US use of nuclear “bunker busters” in an attack on hardened sites inside Iran, according to several of the sources.

Hezbollah fighters waited out the initial weeks-long Israeli bombing campaign, inside air-conditioned reinforced underground bunkers, and then emerged to launch a barrage of over 4,000 rocket and missile attacks against Israeli targets.

The psychological impact of the rain of missiles on the northern half of Israel eventually drove the government of Ehud Olmert to deploy “boots on the ground” inside Lebanon’s treacherous southern region, leading to a second disastrous Israeli military debacle, at the hands of trained and seasoned Hezbollah partisan fighters.

While military professionals noted the Hezbollah victory as a turning point in the politico-military situation in the extended Southwest Asian and Persian Gulf region, fanatics in the Bush-Cheney White House have been reportedly driven into an even more desperate flight-forward commitment to near-term military action against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

So-called Iranian “nuclear weapons sites” are far more heavily reinforced and could withstand any conventional bombing attacks, according to military specialists. Therefore, the nuclear bunker-buster option cannot be ruled out, despite an intensive “generals revolt” last Spring, which temporarily forced the White House to remove the use of tactical nuclear weapons from the contingency plans.

Public Warnings
While the establishment mass media has conducted a top-down coverup of the White House plans for a sneak attack on Iran, a number of think-tank journals and Internet-based news services have sounded the warning:

• On Sept. 23, former US Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.), who headed a late-1990s Congressionally sponsored commission on the US vulnerability to a terrorist attack, warned that the Bush White House was planning “The October Surprise,” in the form of a bombing of Iran. Writing on Huffington Blog, Senator Hart bluntly warned, “It should come as no surprise if the Bush Administration undertakes a preemptive war against Iran sometime before the November election.

Were these more normal times, this would be a stunning possibility, quickly dismissed by thoughtful people as dangerous, unprovoked, and out of keeping with our national character. But we do not live in normal times. And we do not have a government much concerned with our national character. If anything, our current Administration is out to remake our national character into something it has never been.”

Senator Hart summarized the “Global Strike” war plan: “Air Force tankers will be deployed to fuel B-2 bombers, Navy cruise missile ships will be positioned at strategic points in the northern Indian Ocean and perhaps the Persian Gulf, unmanned drones will collect target data, and commando teams will refine those data. The latter two steps are already being taken.”

Indeed, US military sources have confirmed that special reconnaissance units have been on the ground inside Iran since the Summer of 2004, planting sensors and recruiting intelligence assets, to prepare the battle field for a US air campaign.

• On Sept. 26, conservative syndicated columnist Paul Craig Roberts wrote “Why Bush Will Nuke Iran,” declaring that “the neoconservative Bush administration will attack Iran with tactical nuclear weapons, because it is the only way the neocons believe they can rescue their goal of US (and Israel) hegemony in the Middle East.”

• Several weeks before the Hart and Roberts warnings, The Century Foundation posted a 28-page analysis, “The End of the ‘Summer of Diplomacy’: Assessing US Military Options on Iran,” by Col. Sam Gardiner (USAF-ret.), a respected retired Air Force strategist and war-planner.

The document detailed the Bush White House’s fractured logic, leading to a military assault on Iran, aimed at regime change, not the delay or destruction of the Islamic Republic’s purported secret nuclear weapons program. In plain language, Colonel Gardiner spelled out why an attack by the United States on Iran would occur sooner, not later:

“Waiting makes it harder. The history of warfare is dominated by attackers who concluded that it was better to attack early than to wait. One source of the momentum in Washington for a strike on Iran’s nuclear program is the strategic observation that if such an attack is in fact inevitable, then it is better done sooner than later.”

Colonel Gardiner documented that the order of battle for Phase I of war on Iran would require virtually no lead time to put military assets in place. Rather, he spelled out a propaganda buildup as the key indicator of imminent attack: “The most significant indications will come from strategic influence efforts to establish domestic political support. The round of presidential speeches on terrorism is a beginning, but I expect more.

An emerging theme for the final marketing push seems to be that Iran threatens Israel’s existence. We can expect the number of administration references to Iran to significantly increase, and will see three themes — the nuclear program, terrorism, and the threat to Israel’s existence.” Gardiner added the warning that the Bush Administration would likely strike without seeking Congressional approval, concluding, ominously: “The window for a strike on Iran stands open.”

• Months before the Gardiner report, The National Interest, the journal of the Nixon Center, published a detailed analysis by Col. W. Patrick Lang (USA-ret.) and Larry C. Johnson — two Middle East specialists with decades of military and intelligence experience — “Contemplating the Ifs,” debunking the notion that the United States or Israel has any viable military option for confronting Iran.

Taking a very dispassioned approach, the two reported: “Friends in the intelligence community tell us that civilian officials at the Department of Defense have been pushing aggressively for almost two years to ‘do something violent’ in Iran. but before we embark on another military operation, we must reckon the costs; we must ensure that we are willing to pay those costs; and we should ensure that neoconservative enthusiasts would not be tempted to say — if venturing into Iran becomes a misadventure — that it was impossible to foresee negative consequences. There are a lot of bad things that could happen if we launch a pre-emptive war with Iran. Before we act, we must thoroughly consider what our viable military options are.”

Lang and Johnson dismissed, out of hand, a conventional ground invasion; disputed the viability of commando and air raids; blew off any “mirage” of a possible Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear sites; and then detailed Iran’s asymmetrical counter-capabilities, concluding, “In the end, it may become necessary to confront Iran militarily over its emergent nuclear power status, but the costs would be so high that all diplomatic resources should be exhausted before such measures are adopted.”

Voices in the Congressional Wilderness
The pathetic bipartisan surrender to the Bush-Cheney White House over the status of “enemy combatants,” will only serve to send Dick Cheney and the ever-more-mad President George W. Bush into a flight forward into sneak attack war on Iran (see Editorial). A relative handful of Members of Congress from both parties have stood up against the tide of capitulation by both the Democratic and Republican leadership.

On Sept. 29, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) filed a resolution in the House, giving the Bush White House 14 days to turn over policy documents relating to Iran, including intelligence on Iran’s nuclear energy program and “Iran’s capability to threaten the United States with nuclear weapons”; any decision documents “to remove the ruling regime from power in Iran”; details of any “covert action being conducted by any United States Armed Forces in Iran”; details concerning “creation of a new office in the Department of Defense similar in scope, function, or mandate to the former Office of Special Plans”; any “Prepare to Deploy” orders by the United States Navy on the waters near Iran; and any National Intelligence Estimates or any other intelligence documents on the consequences, including economic consequences, of a US attack on Iran.

The same day, Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (R-Md.) and 19 other House Republicans and Democrats wrote to President Bush, urging him to open direct dialogue with Iran “as soon as possible,” noting that “more than 25 years of isolating Iran has moved us farther from, not closer to, achieving these goals.”

EIR is a publication of the Lundon LaRouch organization.

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