Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Monday, February 12th, 2007.


Plan of Attack

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Bush Administration, Middle East

The White House is pushing its new product — war with Iran — as hard as it can. Dan Froomkin describes the sales pitch:

For a long time now, Bush administration officials have been promising reporters proof that the Iranian government is supplying deadly weaponry to Iraqi militants.

The administration finally unveiled its case this weekend, first in coordinated and anonymous leaks to a trusting New York Times reporter, then in an extraordinarily secretive military briefing at which no one would speak on the record, journalists weren’t allowed to photograph the so-called evidence, and nothing even remotely like proof of direct Iranian government involvement was presented.

Joshua Partlow of the Washington Post describes the briefing:

Senior U.S. military officials in Iraq sought Sunday to link Iran to deadly armor-piercing explosives and other weapons that they said are being used to kill U.S. and Iraqi troops with increasing regularity.

During a long-awaited presentation, held in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, the officials displayed mortar shells, rocket-propelled grenades and a powerful cylindrical bomb, capable of blasting through an armored Humvee, that they said were manufactured in Iran and supplied to Shiite militias in Iraq for attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops.

Today the Telegraph (UK) published a photograph of the cylindrical bomb claimed to have been made in Iran. “America today blamed Iran for the deaths of 170 US troops inside Iraq, accusing Teheran of supplying insurgents with increasingly sophisticated bombs,” David Blair of the Telegraph wrote.

Sean-Paul Kelley of The Agonist questioned the, um, provenance of the bombs. Kurt Nimmo of Global Research made the same call.

For some reason the geniuses at the Pentagon have failed to explain why the Iranians used a date from the Christian Gregorian calendar and not one from the Islamic Persian calendar. According to the Muslim calendar, the date stenciled on this mortar shell should read 1427, not 2006. And why did Iran, a country speaking and writing in Persian, a language written in a version of the Arabic script, decide to label their shells in English? Maybe they thought it would fool the infidels?

I’m not taking the bait. As usual, this attempt to frame Muslims stinks of neocon sloppiness. Once again, the neocons blow it. Not that it particularly matters, as most Americans are oblivious and, besides, millions of them still think Osama and Saddam are twin brothers.

The Voice of America reports that General Peter Pace “declined to endorse” the claims of the anonymous Baghdad Briefers (hat tip News Hog).

At Raw Story, David Edwards reports that a former Bush Administration official is accusing the White House of trying to provoke a conflict with Iran.

A former top Bush administration official for Persian Gulf affairs has said in an interview this morning on CNN that the US may be trying to spark a conflict with Iran.

Hillary Mann is the former National Security Council Director for Iranian and Persian Gulf Affairs. She warned in the interview that the recent flare up between Iran and the US over the former’s alleged assistance to Shi’a militias results from a US desire to provoke conflict with the Iranians.

“They’re trying to push a provocative, accidental conflict,” Mann said.

She added that the administration hopes to goad Iran into an overreaction so that it can have justification to carry out “limited strikes” against nuclear infrastructure and Revolutionary Guards headquarters buildings in Iran.

Meanwhile, Nico at Think Progress points to a quote from a Cheney aide — the Bushies are calling 2007 “the year of Iran.”

So, yeah, the Bushies plan to attack Iran. Paul Krugman writes,

Now, let’s do an O. J. Simpson: if you were determined to start a war with Iran, how would you do it?

First, you’d set up a special intelligence unit to cook up rationales for war. A good model would be the Pentagon’s now-infamous Office of Special Plans, led by Abram Shulsky, that helped sell the Iraq war with false claims about links to Al Qaeda.

Sure enough, last year Donald Rumsfeld set up a new “Iranian directorate” inside the Pentagon’s policy shop. And last September Warren Strobel and John Walcott of McClatchy Newspapers — who were among the few journalists to warn that the administration was hyping evidence on Iraqi W.M.D. — reported that “current and former officials said the Pentagon’s Iranian directorate has been headed by Abram Shulsky.”

Next, you’d go for a repeat of the highly successful strategy by which scare stories about the Iraqi threat were disseminated to the public.

This time, however, the assertions wouldn’t be about W.M.D.; they’d be that Iranian actions are endangering U.S. forces in Iraq. Why? Because there’s no way Congress will approve another war resolution. But if you can claim that Iran is doing evil in Iraq, you can assert that you don’t need authorization to attack — that Congress has already empowered the administration to do whatever is necessary to stabilize Iraq. And by the time the lawyers are finished arguing — well, the war would be in full swing.

Finally, you’d build up forces in the area, both to prepare for the strike and, if necessary, to provoke a casus belli. There’s precedent for the idea of provocation: in a January 2003 meeting with Prime Minster Tony Blair, The New York Times reported last year, President Bush “talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire.”

In the end, Mr. Bush decided that he didn’t need a confrontation to start that particular war. But war with Iran is a harder sell, so sending several aircraft carrier groups into the narrow waters of the Persian Gulf, where a Gulf of Tonkin-type incident could all too easily happen, might be just the thing.

Watch for it.

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