Thursday, July 3, 2008

IRAN COUNTDOWN

Think Progress On MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell asked [Seymour] Hersh if the U.S. was "planning military action" against Iran or "planning to support Israeli military action?"

"Oh, you know, how the hell do I know," replied Hersh. "What I can tell you is we're loaded for bear. And we've been looking at it for three years." He then said that Vice President Dick Cheney "privately" is against an Israeli attack because the U.S. will "be blamed anyway". . .

On Jan. 20, 2005, Cheney went on the "Imus in the Morning" show and discussed another Hersh article about U.S. war posture towards Iran. "Why don't we make Israel do it?" asked Imus. "We don't want a war in the Middle East, if we can avoid it," replied Cheney. But, he said, "Israel might do it without being asked," leaving the world to clean up "the diplomatic mess afterwards". . .

Asked by Mitchell if it was "possible this would happen before the election," Hersh said he didn't think so, but that what he thinks "means nothing" because "this could happen tomorrow, the president could have a bad hair day and say, ‘to hell with it, let's go.'"

Peter Spiegel, LA Times Despite Iran's official public positions, the country's leadership fears both a possible military attack and heightened sanctions and isolation, many analysts say. In recent days, Iran has rolled out a diplomatic initiative meant to ease U.S. pressure by currying favor with other world powers. Iran is considering a package of economic and political incentives being offered by Western diplomats to pave the way for wide-ranging talks if it halts its uranium enrichment program. Diplomats have also suggested a less formal "freeze-for-freeze" package, a six-week period of preliminary talks during which Iran would stop adding new uranium-enrichment capability while the West stops pushing for sanctions.

Many Iranian political heavyweights have sought to change the popular Western view that the country is run by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose remarks calling for the destruction of Israel have been cited as evidence of Iran's ultimate intentions.

In an unusual article published Wednesday in the French daily Liberation, a powerful Iranian foreign policy official emphasized the role of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not Ahmadinejad, as the ultimate authority in Iran.

"In key strategic issues, it's the supreme leader that the Constitution, approved by universal suffrage, [says] has the final decision," wrote Ali Akbar Velayati, a highly placed advisor to Khamenei and a former foreign minister who appears on Iran's political scene during peak crisis moments.

He urged readers to look at Khamenei's track record to "predict the future course" of Iran's diplomacy.

"A compromise could be made using concerns common to Iran and other states," Velayati said.

Paul Reynolds BBC The warning by the senior US military commander Adm Mike Mullen that an attack on Iran would be "extremely stressful" for US forces must lessen the chances of the US taking part in any strike against Iran. But the admiral, who is chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and who has just visited Israel, spoke of Israel's vulnerability to "very real threats".

So the possibility remains that Israel might undertake an operation against Iran by itself. Recent large-scale Israeli air force exercises have strengthened this possibility, according to military observers.

Nor does Adm Mullen's intervention resolve the ambiguity of the Bush administration's position that "all options" are on the table. But his views do indicate that the body of US military opinion is that they have their hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Adm Mullen's opinion echoes what the then head of Central Command, Adm William Fallon, said last November, that an attack on Iran was not "in the offing". . .

While Adm Mullen did not diverge from the Bush administration's line that the military option remains for the US and also said that in his view Iran was working to develop nuclear weapons, he stressed that "the solution still lies in using... diplomatic, financial and international pressure". . .

An Israeli cabinet minister and former chief of staff, Shaul Mofaz, has said that an attack on Iran is "unavoidable" if it "continues with its nuclear program".

Washington Post Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said insurgent Taliban and extremist forces in Afghanistan have become "a very complex problem," one that is tied to the extensive drug trade, a faltering economy and the porous border with Pakistan. Violence in Afghanistan has increased markedly over recent weeks, with June the deadliest month for U.S. troops since the war began in 2001. "I don't have troops I can reach for, brigades I can reach, to send into Afghanistan until I have a reduced requirement in Iraq," Mullen told reporters at the Pentagon. "Afghanistan has been and remains an economy-of-force campaign, which by definition means we need more forces there.". . .

Mullen and President Bush also addressed the possibility of a conflict with Iran in separate appearances yesterday, with both saying they favor diplomacy over the use of military force. Asked directly about the possibility of an Israeli strike against Iran, Bush, in an appearance in the White House Rose Garden, said: "I have made it very clear to all parties that the first option ought to be solve this problem diplomatically." But he refused to rule out the use of force in the standoff over Iran's effort to develop nuclear weapons.

Washington Post - [A] onetime undercover agent, who has been barred by the CIA from using his real name, filed a motion in federal court asking the government to declassify legal documents describing what he says was a deliberate suppression of findings on Iran that were contrary to agency views at the time.

The former operative alleged in a 2004 lawsuit that the CIA fired him after he repeatedly clashed with senior managers over his attempts to file reports that challenged the conventional wisdom about weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Key details of his claim have not been made public because they describe events the CIA deems secret.

The consensus view on Iran's nuclear program shifted dramatically last December with the release of a landmark intelligence report that concluded that Iran halted work on nuclear weapons design in 2003. The publication of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran undermined the CIA's rationale for censoring the former officer's lawsuit, said his attorney, Roy Krieger. "On five occasions he was ordered to either falsify his reporting on WMD in the Near East, or not to file his reports at all," Krieger said in an interview.

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