9 July 2006

News, Views, & Analysis Governments, Lobbies, & the
Corporate Media Don't Want You To Know



MER - MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 9 July: The war to 'regime change' IRAN and/or to devastate IRAN is already underway. It has been fomented in Washington primarily by the Israeli/Jewish lobby working in tandem with the worst of the Evangelical Zealots. AIPAC's convention in March was in fact quite openly devoted to Get Iran!
This time don't expect an invasion like Iraq; the Americans have been too bloodied and Iran is a much larger and more difficult target. But already there are clandestine special 'Black Ops' underway in Iran just as there were in the years before the Iraq take-over. And already great efforts and huge amounts of money are being used to undermine the regime, to finance the opposition, to further weaken the economy, to create domestic tensions, and to propagandize through many covert as well as overt media, including Radio Liberty and other US government-sponsored radio and TV outlets.
The first two articles that follow were published overseas Asia Times and the Inter Press Service News Agency. And the Flashback article that follows is from a few months before the invasion/occupation of Iraq actually began in public.

Tehran insider tells of US black ops
By an Asia Times Online Special Correspondent

TEHRAN - A former Iranian ambassador and Islamic Republic insider has provided intriguing details to Asia Times Online about US covert operations inside Iran aimed at destabilizing the country and toppling the regime - or preparing for an American attack.

"The Iranian government knows and is aware of such infiltration. It means that the Iranian government has identified them [the covert operatives] but for some reason does not want to show [this]," said the former diplomat on condition of anonymity.

Speaking in Tehran, the ex-Foreign Ministry official said the agents being used by the US "were originally Iranians and not Americans" possibly recruited in the United States or through US embassies in Dubai and Ankara. He also warned that such actions will engender "some reactions".

"Both sides will certainly do something," he said in a reference to Iran's capability to stir trouble up in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan for the occupying US troops there.

Veteran US journalist Seymour Hersh wrote in a much-discussed recent article in The New Yorker magazine that the administration of President George W Bush has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack as the crisis with Iran over its nuclear program escalates.

Hersh wrote that "teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups". The template seems identical to the period that preceded US air strikes against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan during which a covert Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) campaign distributed millions of dollars to tribal allies.

"The Iranian accusations are true," said Richard Sale, intelligence correspondent for United Press International, referring to charges that the US is using the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) organization and other groups to carry out cross-border operations. "But it is being done on such a small scale - a series of pinpricks - it would seem to have no strategic value at all."

There has been a marked spike in unrest in Kurdistan, Khuzestan and Balochistan, three of Iran's provinces with a high concentration of ethnic Kurdish, Arab and Balochi minorities respectively. With the exception of the immediate post-revolutionary period, when the Kurds rebelled against the central government and were suppressed violently, ethnic minorities have received better treatment, more autonomy and less ethnic discrimination than under the shah.

"The president hasn't notified the Congress that American troops are operating inside Iran," said Sam Gardiner, a retired US Army colonel who specializes in war-game scenarios. "So it's a very serious question about the constitutional framework under which we are now conducting military operations in Iran."

Camp Warhorse is the major US military base in the strategic Iraqi province of Diyala that borders Iran. Last month, Asia Times Online asked the US official in charge of all overt and covert operations emanating from there whether the military and the MEK colluded on an operational level. He denied any such knowledge.

"They have a gated community up there," came the genial reply. "Not really guarded - it's more gated. They bake really good bread," he added, smiling.

But that is contrary to what Hersh was told by his sources, According to him, US combat troops are already inside Iran and, in the event of air strikes, would be in position to mark critical targets with laser beams to ensure bombing accuracy and excite sectarian tensions between the population and the central government. As of early winter, Hersh's source claims that the units were also working with minority groups in Iran, including the Azeris in the north, the Balochis in the southeast, and the Kurds in the northwest.

Last week, speaking on the sidelines of a Palestinian solidarity conference, Major-General Yehyia Rahim Safavi, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander, sent a warning to the US and British intelligence services he accuses of using Iraq and Kuwait to infiltrate Iran. "I tell them that their agents can be our agents too, and they should not waste their money so casually."

On April 9, Iran claimed to have shot down an unmanned surveillance plane in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, according to a report in the semi-official Jumhuri Eslami newspaper. US media have also reported that the US military has been secretly flying surveillance drones over Iran since 2004, using radar, video, still photography and air filters to monitor Iranian military formations and track Iran's air-defense system. The US denied having lost a drone.

This new mission for the combat troops is a product of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's long-standing interest in expanding the role of the military in covert operations, which was made official policy in the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review, published in February. Such activities, if conducted by CIA operatives, would need a Presidential Finding and would have to be reported to key members of Congress.

The confirmation that the US is carrying out covert activities inside Iran makes more sense out of a series of suspicious events that have occurred along Iran's borders this year. In early January, a military airplane belonging to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards went down close to the Iraqi border. The plane was carrying 11 of the Guard's top commanders, including General Ahmad Kazemi, the commander of the IRGC's ground forces, and Brigadier-General Nabiollah Shahmoradi, who was deputy commander for intelligence.

Although a spokesman blamed bad weather and dilapidated engines for the crash, the private intelligence company Stratfor noted that there are several reasons to suspect foul play, not least of which was that any aircraft carrying so many of Iran's elite military luminaries would undergo "thorough tests for technical issues before flight". Later, Iran's defense minister accused Britain and the US of bringing the plane down through "electronic jamming".

"Given all intelligence information that we have gathered, we can say that agents of the United States, Britain and Israel are seeking to destabilize Iran through a coordinated plan," Minister of Interior Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi said. This sentiment was echoed on websites such as AmericanIntelligence.us, where one reader commented, "We couldn't have made a better hit on the IRGC's leadership if planned ... sure it was just an accident?"

Then, in late January, a previously unknown Sunni Muslim group called Jundallah (Soldier of Allah) captured nine Iranian soldiers in the remote badlands of Sistan-Balochistan province that borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. And in mid-February, another airplane crashed just inside Iraq after taking off from Azerbaijan and transiting Iranian airspace. The Iranian Mehr news agency reported that the "passengers on board were possibly of Israeli origin". It added that US troops have restricted access to the site to Iraqi Kurdish officials and that Western media were reporting the passengers aboard as having been German.

The Iranian government has not sat idly by and just taken these breaches of sovereignty. Early this month, an unidentified source in the Interior Ministry was quoted by the hardline Kayhan newspaper as saying that the leader and 11 members of the Jundallah group had been killed by Iranian troops. Then last Friday, Iranian missile batteries shelled Iranian Kurdish rebel positions inside Iraqi territory. They were targeting a militant group called PJAK that seeks more autonomy for Iran's Kurdish population and has been operating out of Iraq since 1999.

The former Iranian ambassador argues that in the event that US pressure on Iran continues, "the end of the tunnel" for President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's administration is "weaponization of the [nuclear] technology ... and a military strike".

"The Americans are pushing Iran to become a nuclear state. Iran just wants to be a supplier of nuclear fuel. But [with their threats] they are pushing it further." 25 April

To Battle Stations! To Battle Stations!
Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - Led by a familiar clutch of neo-conservative hawks, major right-wing publications are calling on the administration of Pres. George W. Bush to urgently plan for military strikes -- and possibly a wider war -- against Iran in the wake of its announcement this week that it has successfully enriched uranium to a purity necessary to fuel nuclear reactors.

In a veritable blitz of editorials and opinion pieces published Wednesday and Thursday, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard and the National Review warned that Tehran had passed a significant benchmark in what they declared was its quest for nuclear weapons and that the administration must now plan in earnest to destroy Iran's known nuclear facilities, as well as possible military targets to prevent it from retaliating.

Comparing Iran's alleged push to gain a nuclear weapon to Adolf Hitler's 1936 march on the Rhineland, Weekly Standard editor William Kristol called for undertaking "serious preparation for possible military action -- including real and urgent operational planning for bombing strikes and for the consequences of such strikes".

"(A) great nation has to be serious about its responsibilities," according to Kristol, a leading neo-conservative champion of the Iraq war and co-founder of the Project for the New American Century, "even if executing other responsibilities has been more difficult than one would have hoped."

The National Review, another prominent right-wing weekly, echoed the call. "Any air campaign should ...be coupled with aggressive and persistent efforts to topple the regime from within," advised its lead editorial, entitled "Iran, Now", and almost certainly written by Michael Ledeen of the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

"Accordingly, it should hit not just the nuclear facilities, but also the symbols of state oppression: the intelligence ministry, the headquarters of the Revolutionary Guard, the guard towers of the notorious Evin Prison."

The hawks' latest campaign appeared timed not only to the alarm created by Iran's nuclear achievement and by a spate of reports last weekend regarding the advanced state of U.S. war plans, but also to counter new appeals by a number of prominent and more mainstream former policy-makers for Washington to engage Iran in direct negotiations.

The Financial Times Wednesday published a column by Richard Haass, president of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations and a top adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell during Bush's first term, in which he called for Washington to make "a fair and generous diplomatic offer" to Iran that would permit it to retain a small uranium enrichment programme, if for no other reason than to rally international opinion behind the U.S. in the event rejects it.

Arguing that the "likely costs of carrying out such an attack substantially outweigh probable benefits", Haass noted that "the most dangerous delusion (among those who support military action) "is that a conflict would be either small or quick."

On Thursday, he was joined by Powell's deputy secretary of State, Richard Armitage, who, in an interview with the Financial Times, also called for direct talks.

"It merits talking to the Iranians about the full range of our relationship ...everything from energy to terrorism to weapons to Iraq," said Armitage, who is considered a strong candidate to take over the Pentagon if Donald Rumsfeld resigns or is forced out.

"We can be diplomatically astute enough to do it without giving anything away," he added, noting that Washington could be patient "for a while" given the estimated five to 10 years the U.S. intelligence community believes it will take before Tehran can obtain a nuclear weapon.

Such statements are anathema to the hawks, who have long depicted any move to engage Iran as equivalent to the appeasement policies toward Hitler of France and Britain in the run-up to World War II.

"Is the America of 2006 more willing to thwart the unacceptable than the France of 1936," asked the title of Kristol's editorial, which, despite the reports of advanced Pentagon planning that included even the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons against hardened Iranian targets, asserted that the administration's policy had been "all carrots and no sticks".

His view echoed that of the neo-conservative editorial writers at the Wall Street Journal, who said the administration's "alleged war fever is hard to credit, given that for three years the Bush Administration has deferred to Europe in pursuing a diplomatic track on Iran". The Journal said the government must give priority to developing "bunker buster" nuclear bombs.

While Kristol insisted that the "credible threat of force" should initially be used in support of diplomacy with Washington's European allies, he also called for "stepping up intelligence activities, covert operations, special operations, and the like", as well as "operational planning for possible military strikes".

What he had in mind was laid out in a companion article by ret. Air Force Lt. Gen Thomas McInerney, a member of the ultra-hawkish Iran Policy Committee (IPC), entitled "Target: Iran".

If Iran resists diplomatic pressure, according to McInerney, Washington should be prepared to carry out a "powerful air campaign" led by 60 stealth aircraft, and more than 400 non-stealth strike aircraft with roughly 150 refueling tankers and other support aircraft, 100 unmanned aerial vehicles, and 500 cruise missiles to take out some 1,500 nuclear-related and military targets.

Before or during such an attack, he wrote, "a major covert operation could be launched, utilising Iranian exiles and dissident forces trained during the period of diplomacy". The IPC has long advocated support for the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK), an Iraq-based paramilitary group listed as a terrorist organisation by the State Department.

In yet another op-ed published in Thursday's Washington Post, Mark Helprin, a novelist and Israeli military veteran, called for anticipating the possibility that U.S. forces in Iraq and its broader interests in the region could be imperiled by Iranian retaliation and popular outrage in the Arab Middle East.

To prepare for such an eventuality, "we would do well to strengthen -- in numbers and mass as well as quality -- the means with which we fight, to reinforce the fleet train with which to supply fighting lines, and to plan for a land route from the Mediterranean across Israel and Jordan to the Tigris and Euphrates."

Such concerns, counseled Reuel Marc Gerecht, a Gulf specialist at AEI, are overblown. In a lengthy analysis of the possible costs of a military attack that was also published in the Standard, he argued that Washington should "not be intimidated by threats of terrorism, oil-price spikes, or hostile world opinion".

"What we are dealing with is a politer, more refined, more cautious, vastly more mendacious version of bin Ladenism," according to the article, entitled "To Bomb, or Not to Bomb: That is the Iran Question". "It is best that such men not have nukes, and that we do everything in our power, including preventive military strikes, to stop this from happening."
13 Apr 06.

Flashback: 6 January 2003:

Undercover war begins as US forces enter Iraq
By John Donnelly in Washington and Tom Allard in Canberra

Syndney Morning Herald, Jan 6, 2003: About 100 United States special forces personnel and more than 50 CIA officers have been inside Iraq for at least four months, looking for missile-launchers, monitoring oil fields, marking minefields and helping their pilots target air-defence systems.

The operations, which are said to have included some Australian, Jordanian and British commandos, are seen as part of the opening phase of a war, intelligence officials and military analysts say.

This is despite the Bush Administration agreeing to the schedule of United Nations weapons inspections.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Defence, Robert Hill, rejected the suggestion that Australians - even individual soldiers attached to US or British commando units - had been involved in covert incursions. "Australians haven't been operating in Iraq," she said.

Australia is believed to have a policy of not sending special forces on covert operations into hostile countries, but the spokeswoman described this as hypothetical.

The action by US and British special forces in Iraq breaches international law because it is not sanctioned by the UN.

But it also reflects the new warfare, which targets terrorists and hidden weapons and relies heavily on commando operations and pre-emptive strikes.

On January 27 the UN inspectors will report on whether they have found evidence of a program to develop chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

Soon after, the US is expected to announce whether Iraq is in "material breach" of UN resolutions and whether that is a trigger for an invasion aimed at toppling President Saddam Hussein.

War preparations have been in full swing for months. The Pentagon says 60,000 troops are in the Gulf region, and that number could double in coming weeks.

Even as President George Bush repeated at the weekend that it was not too late to avert war if Saddam complies with the inspectors, bombing by US jets over the no-fly zone, coupled with the commando operations, means that a fight is already unfolding.

"We're bombing practically every day as we patrol the no-fly zones, taking out air defence batteries, and there are all kinds of CIA and special forces operations going on," said Timur Eads, a former US special operations officer. "I would call it the beginning of a war."

Naseer Aruri, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, said the Bush Administration was being duplicitous in conducting undercover operations while agreeing to the UN inspections.

"Certainly, the Arab world and the Islamic world would see it as being inconsistent with the weapons inspections, as well as an infringement on Iraq's sovereignty."

A US intelligence official said the Iraq missions were separate from the work of the inspectors, but that the two operations might be moving in parallel.

Some special forces members were following movements around suspected weapons sites, and this information could be handed to the UN teams.

The US has so far refused to do so, out of concern that the reports might be passed to Iraqi officials.

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/01/05/1041566310159.html

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