Friday, February 16, 2007

War With Iran, A Very Bad Idea!!!

War with Iran?
By Ken Silverstein.

02/14/07 "Harper's" -- - Is war with Iran on the way?

We hear from four former CIA officials.
Milt Bearden

Milt Bearden is an author and film consultant. A former senior CIA officer, he served as station chief in Pakistan from 1986 until the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989.

As insane as the prospect for war might seem to those of us who have spent parts of our lives in the shadow of a mosque, it is impossible to ignore the drumbeats for war with Iran. Yes, I think Americans should be prepared to wake up one morning and find themselves at war with Iran.

I am seeing constant trumpeting by the administration of “evidence” of Iranian weapons, equipment, or technology, linked with American casualties in Iraq. I don't know why anyone would be surprised by Iranian gambling in our Iraqi casino—especially as there are time-honored rules, at least a half-century old, for proxy wars. The Soviets and Chinese armed our adversaries in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, where we suffered about 100,000 killed in action. Nevertheless, successive American administrations never gave serious thought to attacking either China or the U.S.S.R. in response to their arming of our enemies. And I personally funneled much of the ordnance to the Afghan resistance fighters that killed 15,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Here again, the U.S.S.R. never seriously considered striking at the source of their torment in Afghanistan.

If the administration uses Iran's involvement in the Iraq misadventure as a casus belli, the American people should at least know the historical realities before we're piped off to yet another folly. Going to war with Iran will have no good outcome for anyone except Iran. We have neither the forces nor the money for such a war, and those who think they can get by with “shock and awe” need to be shouted down now.

It is entirely possible that we've already lost the Iraq enterprise; it is also possible that as we turn up the heat in Afghanistan—there is much talk about an American “Spring offensive”—we will create a generalized resistance to our occupation and lose that war as well. Our planned tactics for the new “fighting season” in Afghanistan are hauntingly reminiscent of the failed tactics of the U.S.S.R. in their Afghan misadventure. I watched with amazement as the U.S.S.R. did everything wrong in Afghanistan, finally pulled out, and ended up losing their “empire.”

Take note.

Anonymous Former CIA Official #1:

A former CIA official, who asked to remain unnamed. He was stationed in the Persian Gulf during the first Gulf War and served in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

I don't think the administration is about to carry out military action. The military does not want to do this. We will lose planes if there is a massive air strike over Iran, we'll have pilots killed and captured. Iran has a lot of ways to hurt us. If they decide to come after uniformed personnel in Iraq, or more easily, civilians and contractors, things could quickly get out of hand. You could have kidnappings or a mass casualty attack—they drove us out of Lebanon in the 1980s; a mass casualty attack like the Marine barracks bombing would likely be the end in Iraq.

But the administration's actions are increasing the chances for an accidental confrontation. People don't realize how small and narrow the Gulf is, especially as you approach the Straits of Hormuz. The tanker/container and related commerce traffic is incredible and it goes on twenty-four hours a day. We've already got one carrier battle group there and now we're going to put in another one, which will add a huge footprint. When you have, on both sides, nineteen-year-olds manning weapons, it's a formula for an accident that could spin out of control.

Here's an example: Every night, members of the Revolutionary Guard pack up their speed boats with rugs and crafts, really pricey stuff. They weave their way through all the traffic on the Gulf and sell the stuff on remote areas of beach just north of Sharjah, Ajman, and Umm al Qaywayn. They off-load and sell their goods and then load up with Jack Daniels, porn, CDs, electronics, satellite receivers, and computers, and weave their way back through traffic to Iran. At 3 a.m. on a moonless night, one of those boats speeding across the Gulf could easily cross the defensive radar signature of a U.S. frigate, and it's going to get shot up. So you have a situation that is essentially an accident, and all of a sudden you have a crisis.

Military action is not the best option. This is not like Iraq's Osirak reactor, which Israel destroyed in 1981. In that case, there was a single target. Iran's nuclear program is dispersed and our intelligence picture is thin because we don't have enough well-placed spies. It would take a massive air strike package with consecutive strikes to hit all the targets. You could hurt them and complicate their activities, but I don't think you could turn off their program.

The way to pressure the Iranian government is through pressure inside Iran and inside Iraq.

There's a thirst for information in Iran and we should be bombarding them with accurate information via conventional and unconventional means. We could be using TV and radio broadcasts, the Internet, Wi-Fi networks in Iraq, and underground newspapers to reach Iranians. There are about 60,000 Iranians in the Los Angeles area, many with daily contact with family and colleagues in Iran. Los Angeles is the headquarters for the American media/movie/television apparatus—and yet we're not broadcasting into Iran. Turn them loose! They can produce soap operas, talk shows, news programs, entertainment shows, all in Farsi.
Propagandizing is part of the CIA's mission charter, but the current leadership has decided against it. (They've also decided against covert action, direct action, covert influence, and other active measures.) The agency did it for years in Eastern Europe, Africa, Central and South America, and other parts of the world during the Cold War, with huge impact. With advances in technology, it's so much easier to do now.

When I started in this business, there was only TV, radio, and print, and it was very hard to influence what was shown on TV. Now you can plant a story on the Internet in a couple of minutes. You want to make Ahmadinejad react to stories—create the perception of a rift between him and the religious leadership and cast it as a problem in the country. The rumor mill works overtime in that part of the world. You'd want nuggets of truth in these stories, aimed at Iranian youth. We should be emphasizing the huge unemployment in Iran, the staleness of the revolution, the age of the mullahs, and how they live very well—their pious lifestyle is all baloney. But doing it requires too much effort, and careers could be risked.

Frank Anderson

Frank Anderson worked for the CIA from 1968 until 1995. He served three tours of duty in the Middle East as an agency station chief, headed the Afghan Task Force (1987-1989), and was chief of the Near East Division. He now runs a consulting practice that focuses on the Middle East.

I think that the Bush Administration has certainly ordered up contingency plans that give them military options for dealing with three possible Iran-related objectives. In decreasing order of importance, possible triggers for war are:

Reaction to Iranian support for attacks on U.S. troops;

Destruction or delay of Iranian nuclear capability; and/or
Regime change (the guys who brought us the Iraq war are still in charge).

Any administration would so prepare. This administration has, at least, a significant minority of officials who are determined to take on Iran, with the goals of destroying nuclear capabilities and/or regime change, before they leave office. Couple that with an abundant supply of provocations from an Iranian President whose political core is radically and almost recklessly anti-American. Thus, I think we're “locked and loaded” for an attack.

That said, the barriers to action are formidable. The President's party has lost control of the legislature and is in trouble over war in the Middle East. Interestingly, the last Iranian elections showed that the Iranian President is also in trouble, mostly over botched economic performance, but his opponents have linked the troubled economy to Ahmadinejad's confrontational foreign and nuclear policies. So, no matter how much the national executive on both sides might want a fight, they are both constrained. Moreover, it's difficult to come up with a “target deck” that, if struck, would make a strategic difference worth the political price. Of course, even the Administration's biggest war fans have to deal with the condition of our overall military capabilities and our weakened diplomatic position.

We should be trying to cope with Iran, rather than trying to take them out. Were I still taking a government paycheck, I would be pushing for coping mechanisms but also looking hard for intelligence on which to base strikes that could take out targets clearly tied to Iranian misdeeds in Iraq, like I.E.D. engineering and supply. I'd also look for, but doubt I could find, some set of critical targets whose destruction could seriously impact the prospects for an Iranian nuclear weapon.

My bottom-line guess is that we don't have the intelligence or military capability that would justify an attack on Iran that would be worth the significant cost. With the President politically constrained, that makes me bet against it, but the spread isn't big.
Anonymous Former CIA Official #2

A former senior CIA official, who preferred to remain unidentified, but who has broad experience in the Middle East.

The Bush Administration's combative rhetoric—its accusations about Iran's nuclear program, involvement in Iraq, and support for Hezbollah and Hamas—looks like a prelude to military action. It's eerily reminiscent of the fall 2002/winter 2003 rhetoric on Iraq, when the administration was talking about WMDs and Saddam Hussein's meddling in the region. It's back to the future. The administration is unlikely to embark upon military action immediately, but it's trying to squeeze Iran, to egg on the government, and hoping that Iran commits some sort of military action that the Bush Administration can use as justification for a strike. The administration was hurt by the accusation that it conducted a war of choice against Iraq, so it's trying to create a situation where it can say this is a war of necessity against Iran. But its actions are essentially the same thing as planning to go to war.

I see four types of evidence that the administration is planning military action. First, it is escalating its anti-Iran rhetoric. Second, it is parading evidence about Iranian involvement in Iraq, citing intelligence reports, serial numbers of weapons, and so on. Third, the United States is building up its military presence in the Gulf. Fourth, pro-United States regimes in the region, with encouragement, clearly, by the Bush Administration, are issuing statements denouncing Iran's threatening posture towards them, and its alleged efforts to pressure for the “Shiite-ification” of Sunni communities.

Despite differences between Shiites and Sunnis, a U.S. attack on Iran would be viewed in the region as the fifth in a series of American wars against Islam—after Afghanistan, Iraq, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Iran and its supporters will seek to respond, including through attacks on Israel. An American strike poses a huge threat to Israel, which I'm not sure the administration has thought through. It will also destabilize pro-American regimes in the region, solidify the jihadists in Iraq, and unify Iranians around their government.

....and the truth shall set us free.

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