In an echo of the intelligence wars that preceded the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a high-stakes struggle is brewing within the Bush administration and in Congress over Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program and involvement in terrorism.
U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials say Bush political appointees and hard-liners on Capitol Hill have tried recently to portray Iran's nuclear program as more advanced than it is and to exaggerate Tehran's role in Hezbollah's attack on Israel in mid-July.
The struggle's outcome could have profound implications for U.S. policy.
President Bush, who addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, has said he prefers diplomacy to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, but he hasn't ruled out using military force.
Several former U.S. defense officials who maintain close ties to the Pentagon say they've been told that plans for airstrikes - if Bush deems them necessary - are being updated.
The leader of a Persian Gulf country who visited Washington recently came away without receiving assurances he sought that the military option was off the table, said a person with direct knowledge of the meetings.
"It seems like Iran is becoming the new Iraq," said one U.S. counterterrorism official.
We've already been propagandized about Iran. In May, Forward reported that an attempt was made to make Iran seem nazi-esque. "It was not exactly up there with the failure to uncover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," Marc Perelman wrote, "But the effort to discredit the Iranian regime took an embarrassing turn this week with a false media report claiming that Tehran had passed a law requiring Jews and other religious minorities to wear special badges."
The story was reported by Amir Taheri in the National Post, a canadian paper. Taheri is to Iran what Ahmed Chalabi was to Iraq -- an expat with an axe to grind. He works with a PR firm, Benador Associates. Larry Cohler-Esses wrote in The Nation, "[Benador's] stable of writers and activists, a Who's Who of the neocon movement, includes Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, Frank Gaffney, Charles Krauthammer, Victor Davis Hanson and Iranian exile journalist Amir Taheri--the author of the bogus piece. Even among a crowd notable for wrongheaded analyses, Taheri stands out, with a rap sheet that leaves one amazed that he continues to be published."
It was in 1989 that Taheri was first exposed as a journalistic felon. The book he published the year before, Nest of Spies, examined the rule and fall of the Shah of Iran. Taheri received many respectful reviews, but in The New Republic Shaul Bakhash, a reigning doyen of Persian studies, checked Taheri's footnotes. Suddenly a book review became an investigative exposé. Bakhash, a history professor at George Mason University and a former fellow at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, detailed case after case in which Taheri cited nonexistent sources, concocted nonexistent substance in cases where the sources existed and distorted the substance beyond recognition when it was present. Taheri "repeatedly refers us to books where the information he cites simply does not exist," Bakhash wrote. "Often the documents cannot be found in the volumes to which he attributes them.... [He] repeatedly reads things into the documents that are simply not there." In one case, noted Bakhash, Taheri cited an earlier article of his own--but offered content he himself never wrote in that article. Bakhash concluded that Nest of Spies was "the sort of book that gives contemporary history a bad name." In a response published two months later, Taheri failed to rebut Bakhash's charges.
Taheri, like his iraqi soulmate Chalabi, is clearly willing to lie. And we know the president is willing as well, having already lied us into war with Iraq. In another Nation article, writer Michael Klare told us in July of '05 that, "Just as Bush gave ambiguous signals about his intentions regarding Iraq in 2002--denying that a decision had been made to invade but never ruling it out--so, today, he is giving similar signals with respect to Iran. 'This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous,' Bush declared in Belgium on February 22. He then added: 'Having said that, all options are on the table.' And, just as Bush's 2002 denials of an intent to invade Iraq were accompanied by intense preparations for just such an outcome, so, today, one can detect similar preparations for an attack on Iran."
The man I call "Mr. Fun" (because he never has good news), Seymour Hersh, reported this April in The New Yorker:
The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and 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 officials say that President Bush is determined to deny the Iranian regime the opportunity to begin a pilot program, planned for this spring, to enrich uranium.
"This is much more than a nuclear issue," a source Hersh identified only as a 'high-ranking diplomat in Vienna' told him, "That’s just a rallying point, and there is still time to fix it. But the Administration believes it cannot be fixed unless they control the hearts and minds of Iran. The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years."
It's always about the oil. Rightwing commentators talk about Iran as if it already has nuclear weapons - which is completely untrue. Media Matters tells us , "Both Rush Limbaugh and a Washington Times editorial repeated a distortion from the Drudge Report of recent comments by International Atomic Energy Agency director general Mohamed ElBaradei regarding how soon Iran might have a nuclear weapon; each claimed ElBaradei said Iran was "a few months" away. However, ElBaradei actually said that Iran may be able to produce a nuclear weapon "a few months" after it becomes capable of enriching uranium to a grade suitable for making weapons, which, according to the IAEA and news reports on U.S. intelligence, is at least two years away." In another article, we're told by MM that Pat Robertson told viewers of The 700 Club, "It's amazing that Iran has come to the fore as it has with a president who says Israel should be wiped off the map, who -- it now has atomic weapons."
It seems pretty clear that the right has an itch to go to war with Iran. I think they all have ADD -- they start one war and lose interest, start another and lose interest, and now they're getting ready to start yet another one. Can we a least finish one of the wars we've already started before we start up another?
Just one more reason why it's absolutely crucial to take at least the House in November. These people are maniacs shoveling coal into runaway train -- they seriously need a brakeman.
Technorati tags: politics; Iran; Iraq; war; propaganda; Bullshit; Bush, republicans, and neocons can't finish anything they start