Suzanne Goldenberg / The Guardian & Associated Press – 2007-02-25 23:05:21
US Accused of Drawing Up Plan to Bomb Iran
Suzanne Goldenberg / The Guardian
WASHINGTON (February 26, 2007) — President George Bush has charged the Pentagon with devising an expanded bombing plan for Iran that can be carried out at 24 hours’ notice, it was reported yesterday.
An extensive article in the New Yorker magazine by the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh describes the contingency bombing plan as part of a general overhaul by the Bush administration of its policy towards Iran.
It said a special planning group at the highest levels of the US military had expanded its mission from selecting potential targets connected to Iranian nuclear facilities, and had been directed to add sites that may be involved in aiding Shia militant forces in Iraq to its list.
It Is the US that Is ‘Meddling’ in the Region
That new strategy, intended to reverse the rise in Iranian power that has been an unintended consequence of the war in Iraq, could bring the countries much closer to open confrontation and risks igniting a regional sectarian war between Shia and Sunni Muslims, the New Yorker says.
Elements of the tough new approach towards Tehran outlined by Hersh include:
• Clandestine operations against Iran and Syria, as well as the Hizbullah movement in Lebanon — even to the extent of bolstering Sunni extremist groups that are sympathetic to al-Qaida
• Sending US special forces into Iranian territory in pursuit of Iranian operatives, as well as to gather intelligence
• Secret operations are being funded by Saudi Arabia to avoid scrutiny by Congress. “There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many places and used all over the world on a variety of missions,” Hersh quotes a Pentagon consultant as saying.
As in the run-up to the Iraq war, the vice-president, Dick Cheney, has bypassed other administration officials to take charge of the aggressive new policy, working along with the deputy national security adviser, Elliott Abrams, and the former ambassador to Kabul and Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad.
Mr Cheney is also relying heavily on Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national security adviser, who spent 22 years as ambassador to the US, and who has been offering his advice on foreign policy to Mr Bush since he first contemplated running for president.
Cheney Says US Attack on Iran ‘An Option”
The New Yorker revelations, arriving soon after Mr Cheney reaffirmed that war with Iran remained an option if it did not dismantle its nuclear program, further ratcheted up fears of a military confrontation between Washington and Tehran.
Such concerns deepened further with the warning from the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that there could be no stopping or rolling back of his country’s nuclear programme. “The train of the Iranian nation is without brakes and a rear gear,” Iranian radio reported Mr Ahmadinejad as saying.
Hersh, who made his reputation by breaking the story of the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war, was among the first US journalists to report on the prison abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib. Although the most explosive material was supplied by unnamed sources, his status in US journalism made his latest report an immediate talking point on yesterday’s TV chatshows.
His assertion that the Bush administration was actively preparing for an attack on Iran was denied by the Pentagon. “The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran. To suggest anything to the contrary is simply wrong, misleading and mischievous,” the Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, told reporters.
Hersh was just as adamant. “This president is not going to leave office without doing something about Iran,” he told CNN. Hersh claims that the former director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, resigned his post to take a parallel job as the deputy director of the state department because of his discomfort with an approach that so closely echoed the Iran-contra scandal of the 1980s.
US, Isreal, Saudi Arabia v Iran
In seeking to contain Iranian influence — and that of its most powerful protege, the Hizbullah leader, Hassan Nasrallah — the US has worked with the governments of Saudi Arabia and Israel. Both countries see a powerful Iran as an existential threat, and the Saudis suspect Tehran’s hand behind rising sectarian tensions in its eastern province, as well as a spate of bombing attacks inside the kingdom.
One prime arena for the new strategy is Lebanon where the administration has been trying to prop up the government of Fouad Siniora, which faces a resurgent Hizbullah movement in the aftermath of last summer’s war with Israel.
Some of the billions of aid to the Beirut government has ended up in the hands of radical Sunnis in the Beka’a valley, Hersh writes. Syrian extremist groups have also benefited from the new policy. “These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hizbullah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with al-Qaida,” Hersh writes.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007
Rice Says Bush Will Not Abide by
Legislation to Limit Iraq War
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (February 25, 2007) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the Democratic-controlled US Congress not to interfere in the conduct of the Iraq war and suggested President George W. Bush would defy troop withdrawal legislation.
But Sen. Carl Levin, Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said lawmakers would step up efforts to force Bush to change course. “The president needs a check and a balance,” said Levin.
Rice said Sunday that proposals being drafted by Senate Democrats to limit the war amounted to “the worst of micromanagement of military affairs.” She said military leaders such as Gen. David Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, believe Bush’s plan to send more troops is necessary.
“I can’t imagine a circumstance in which it’s a good thing that their flexibility is constrained by people sitting here in Washington, sitting in the Congress,” Rice said. She was asked in a broadcast interview whether Bush would feel bound by legislation seeking to withdraw combat troops within 120 days.
“The president is going to, as commander in chief, need to do what the country needs done,” she said.
The Senate Democrats’ legislation would try to limit the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq by revoking Congress’ 2002 vote authorizing Bush’s use of force against Saddam Hussein.
One draft version supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, also a Democrat, would pull out combat forces by March of next year and restrict U.S. troops to fighting al-Qaida terrorists, training the Iraqi security forces and maintaining Iraq’s borders.
Democrats have acknowledged that the proposal does not yet have enough votes to overcome Republican procedural obstacles and a veto by Bush. But they are hoping the latest effort will draw enough Republican support to embarrass the president and keep the pressure on.
Levin said it was appropriate for lawmakers to limit the broad wording of the 2002 war resolution given how the situation in Iraq has deteriorated.
“This is not a surge so much as it is a plunge into Baghdad and into the middle of a civil war,” he said. “We’re trying to change the policy, and if someone wants to call that tying the hands instead of changing the policy, yeah the president needs a check and a balance.”
Sensitive to wavering Republicans, Rice made clear that Bush had no intention of backing away from plans to send 21,500 more combat troops to Iraq. While the U.S. role has changed since its overthrow of Saddam, the United States is obligated to see the mission through by working to build a stable and democratic Iraq, she said.
Rice said it is impossible to distinguish what is going on in Iraq from the larger fight against al-Qaida.
“Some of these car bombs may indeed be the work of an organization like al-Qaida,” she said of the violence that continues to rock Baghdad.
“I would hope that Congress would recognize that it’s very important for them to have the oversight role,” Rice said. “But when it comes to the execution of policy in the field, there has to be a clear relationship between the commander in chief and the commanders in the field.”
Senate Republicans recently thwarted two Democratic attempts to pass a nonbinding resolution critical of Bush’s troop plan.
In the House, a nonbinding anti-war measure was approved this month. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, has said she expects the next challenge might be to impose money restrictions and a requirement that the Pentagon adhere to strict readiness standards for troops heading to the war zone.
But that plan has drawn only lukewarm support from Democrats in the Senate and some in the House, who believe it is a politically risky strategy that could be seen as an unconstitutional micromanaging of a president’s power to wage war.
“We’re going to fund the troops as long as they’re there,” Levin said.
Rice appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and “This Week” on ABC. Levin was on “Meet the Press” on NBC.
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