StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11067541651460.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of www.truthout.org’, ‘New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour Hersh.’);
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh revealed last week that the Bush administration has been conducting secret operations inside Iran and other Mideast countries since last summer.
Writing in the Jan. 24 issue of The New Yorker, Hersh said in his article Coming Wars, President Bush has authorized sending secret commando squads into as many as 10 countries in the Mideast and South Asia. These units could carry out combat operations and even perform terrorist acts, all without congressional oversight or knowledge.
Bush put the program under control of the Pentagon in order to evade the requirement of reporting to Congress on any covert activities. The Pentagon immediately attacked Hershs report, claiming it was full of errors. The president, however, told an NBC reporter that while he hoped for diplomatic resolution of differences with Iran, he would not rule out future military action, which could mean anything from pre-emptive bombing raids to an invasion.
Hersh said high administration officials repeatedly told him the next strategic target is Iran. He noted that the U.S. has refused to join the European Union in talks with Iran that have been in progress since 2003.
I think theres an understanding, Hersh said, that Iran has ambitions to become a nuclear power. Its not there yet. The goal of these talks is to offer them, I guess, to use a cliché, the carrot they need in terms of increased trade and increased credits and dual-use goods, goods that they have been denied by sanctions because of their activities, in exchange for a commitment to stop.
European diplomats are anxious for the U.S. to join the negotiations because they say, they dont have much leverage without Americas participation. Hersh concludes: If you really are interested in negotiations, its simple. Start talking to Iran.
Hersh said the real significant aspect of his story is not the problems with Iran, but the diminishing of the role of the CIA.
The president has really gone after the agency with (Vice-President Dick) Cheney and (Secretary of Defense Donald) Rumsfeld, and at this point, theres never been more significant or more intellectual or more intelligence capability for not only operations, but for analysis. More is totally centralized in the White House and the Pentagon than since the rise of the national security state after World War II in the Cold War. We now have the White House and a Pentagon that basically dominates the process. The CIA has been marginalized, Hersh said.
He said the commando groups will be trying to make contact with groups inside the various countries, to set up operations, carry out some war games and do a little terrorism themselves. Terrorism, apparently, is sanctioned if we do it. You run with the bad boys to find the bad boys, is the way somebody said to me, Hersh said. And it will all be done without telling most of the government anything about it. As Hersh put it: Its going to be done by Rummy and his people. Thats a huge shift, an unprecedented shift, in the last 60 years.
Will Israel play a part in this operation? Hersh responds: Well, Israels role is simply to say, Yeah, if you guys dont do it, were going to do it. Nobody wants that.
Hersh said many Americans are troubled by the Israeli connection to the Bush administration as it relates to the Iraq invasion. He said there are questions whether Israel was a major player or a major factor in this event. Because of this, Hersh said, the Zionist neo-cons in the administration want to avoid further contention on these issues in the event we take some action in Iran.
The function of Pakistan in all this is more devious and complicated because Pakistan is supposedly our ally in the region. Yet President Musharraf is steadily making more nuclear weapons, some of which in recent years found their way onto the black market.
Musharraf has, however, given our officials access to some of his scientists who work in Iran. By this means we have learned where certain nuclear facilities are inside Iran. We also found out that the Iranians and the Pakistanis had been cooperating for years.
Hersh said that, like the plan for the Iraqi invasion, the neo-cons believe that a few quick air strikes against Iran in the spring or summer, about the time that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon begins his withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, would improve Muslim attitudes toward the U.S., and if we have the evidence to show Iran is cheating on the nuclear issue, may stimulate a civilian uprising and overthrow the mullahs rule.
He said more realistic and knowledgeable persons in and out of government view that scenario with scorn and brand it pure fantasy.
As for the other countries targeted, Hersh said we are already active in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, the Philippines and Indonesia. North Africa is of interest because the administration believes there is a good deal of terrorist activity there.
Hersh said he was not concerned about criticisms from the Pentagon because they did not address the substance of his articleare we running secret operations in Iran, and are there new boundaries for Pentagon action? (democracynow.org).