Another step towards war with Iran?

Summary:  The Bush Administration has authorized covert offensives against Iran, taking another step towards war.  Or so we are told.  Again.  The Bush Administration and US military officers have long waged a campaign of words against Iran, firing salvos of heated rhetoric.  But the Left has done its part to fan fears with waves of rumors during the past 3 years about covert ops, cut cables as a prelude to war, and announcements that routine movements of carriers and expeditionary forces signal that the dogs of war have been unleashed.

The most recent “hot” news is “Secret Bush “Finding” Widens War on Iran“, Andrew Cockburn, Counterpunch, 2 May 2008 — “Democrats Okay Funds for Covert Ops”   Opening:

Six weeks ago, President Bush signed a secret finding authorizing a covert offensive against the Iranian regime that, according to those familiar with its contents, “unprecedented in its scope.”

Bush’s secret directive covers actions across a huge geographic area – from Lebanon to Afghanistan – but is also far more sweeping in the type of actions permitted under its guidelines – up to and including the assassination of targeted officials. This widened scope clears the way, for example, for full support for the military arm of Mujahedin-e Khalq, the cultish Iranian opposition group, despite its enduring position on the State Department’s list of terrorist groups.

This is terrifying but familiar.  It reminds me of what we learned from “Hostile Intent” by Laura Rozen, the American Prospect web site, 12 January 2007 — “Just what is the Bush administration up to regarding Iran?”  Excerpt:

Speculation is now intensifying: Has Bush signed a finding authorizing covert action on Iran? If so, what specifically does it say? Alternatively, has he authorized a more aggressive Iran strategy through a presidential directive that doesn’t explicitly require informing Congress — or the public — of action?

A finding is a formal notification to Congress of a presidentially authorized and signed covert action. They’re congressionally mandated, but there is a lot of wiggle room, depending on who interprets the law and particularly if the action is to be taken not by the CIA but by the U.S. military. (The law governing covert action and reporting requirements to Congress is covered by section 503 of the National Security Act.)

U.S. officials interviewed by the Prospect would not reveal whether they had been briefed on such a finding, or if one even exists. But there is evidence that, while Bush probably has not signed such a finding regarding Iran, he has recently done so regarding Iranian-supported Hezbollah in Lebanon; further, there is evidence that he may have signed an executive order or national security presidential directive regarding a new, more aggressive policy on Iran.

Of course nobody scoops Seymour M. Hirsch on these stories, even if they are imaginary.  As we learned by reading “The coming wars“, The New Yorker, 24 January 2005 — Excerpt:

In interviews with past and present intelligence and military officials, I was told that the agenda had been determined before the Presidential election, and much of it would be Rumsfeld’s responsibility. The war on terrorism would be expanded, and effectively placed under the Pentagon’s control. The President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia.

The President’s decision enables Rumsfeld to run the operations off the books-free from legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A. Under current law, all C.I.A. covert activities overseas must be authorized by a Presidential finding and reported to the Senate and House intelligence committees. (The laws were enacted after a series of scandals in the nineteen-seventies involving C.I.A. domestic spying and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders.) “

The Pentagon doesn’t feel obligated to report any of this to Congress,” the former high-level intelligence official said. “They don’t even call it ‘covert ops’-it’s too close to the C.I.A. phrase. In their view, it’s ‘black reconnaissance.’ They’re not even going to tell the cincs”-the regional American military commanders-in-chief. (The Defense Department and the White House did not respond to requests for comment on this story.)

In my interviews, I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Iran. “Everyone is saying, ‘You can’t be serious about targeting Iran. Look at Iraq,’ ” the former intelligence official told me. “But they say, ‘We’ve got some lessons learned-not militarily, but how we did it politically. We’re not going to rely on agency pissants.’ No loose ends, and that’s why the C.I.A. is out of there.”

Other Posts on this topic

  1. War with Iran   (9 November 2007)
  2. Is Iran dangerous, or a paper tiger?   (13 November 2007)
  3. Will Israel commit suicide? More rumors of a strike at Iran.   (22 December 2007)
  4. A 4GW puzzle: what happened in the Straits of Hormuz?   (17 January 2008)
  5. Cable Cut Fever grips the conspiracy-hungry fringes of the web  (7 February 2008)
  6. Resolution of the Great Submarine Cable Crisis – and some lessons learned   (8 February 2008)
  7. Will we bomb Iran, now that Admiral Fallon is gone?  (17 March 2008)
  8. More post-Fallon overheating: “6 signs the US may be headed for war in Iran”  (18 March 2008)
  9. A militant America, ready for war with Iran   (6 May 2008)

7 thoughts on “Another step towards war with Iran?

  1. Alex

    The Truman group, I believe, is heading for home as planned, as is another infantry brigade group. The Marines from the Nassau group are deployed; there are no more until the relieving ESG gets there, which is a wee while for 18 knot diesel ships as opposed to 30+ knot nuclear carriers and carrier escorts.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Stratfor does a weekly US naval update, which as of 30 April shows nothing of interest happening. As I said in comments to “A militant America, ready for war with Iran“: For two years it seems every US Navy ship that leaves port is seen by some as a prelude to an attack on Iran. This is absurd, as our fleets do sometimes sail here and there without attacking Iran.

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  2. Sven Ortmann

    Neocon foreign policy is really extremely unpopular in Europe.

    A continued neocon foreign policy (if McCain wins) would stress existing alliances of the USA.
    Europe might decide that it’s actually safer if its collective is organized along EU lines.
    Australia might decide it’s better off as neutral power selling good amounts of iron ore to both China and the USA.
    Japan might decide that it doesn’t want to wait till it’s drawn into a war.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Interesting speculation! Americans tend to assume that we have common interests with Europe, hence concern to adapt NATO for the 21st century. Perhaps the alliance is dead, on the current terms.
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    As Spengler at Asia Times has said, a people that cannot bother to reproduce are not likely to fight for their non-existent future.

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  3. OldSkeptic

    Europe, Japan, Iran, China, etc, low birthrates are logical reactions. Yes there is the short term pain of an ageing population. But as the World heads into a resource (including food) short world then a reduced population makes sense.

    To put it in very simple terms, if the World’s population was only 1 billion, then we could all live like kings. At 20B it gets tough.

    It is self correcting. As the population reduces, things get cheaper. Houses get cheaper. There are more jobs. People shortages mean better wages. Then people breed more (ref Black Death) . Nothing to get worried over, despite Spengler’s (read the Asia Times) rabid nonsense.

    Prediction: the birthrate of the US will drop over the next few years. Lower wages, more unemployment, higher prices of food, energy, less homes, etc.

    Hey, an Australia with only 10 million would be wonderful, an US at 100 million would be a paradise. What’s the problem?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Since most of the US is empty, and most of its wealth and income results from the work of its people, why would a 2/3 reduction in population would make us “live like kings”?
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    Much of the land fought over in the “wild west” is abandoned today, as we have concentrated in dense urban areas. Perhaps we would continue to do so if the population crashed.
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    Nor is it clear why our birthrate affects population. Immigration from Asian, Africa, and Latin America might easily keep the population at current levels, esp. as the new Americans will have far higher birthrates (at least for the first few generations). All three Presidential candidates favor open borders, although McCain pretended otherwise during the Republican primary season, so this scenario is easy to imagine.

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  4. Sven Ortmann

    “As Spengler at Asia Times has said, a people that cannot bother to reproduce are not likely to fight for their non-existent future.”

    Oh come on, that’s not the ‘old Europe’ attitude, is it?

    The problem of the USA in the NATO is that despite its size and influence, countries like Norway and Luxembourg have probably done more to enhance the national security of European alliance members than the USA (some small European countries have admirable neutral agent diplomats whose activities are rarely reported).

    Many U.S. Americans consider their country as the one that gets called if there’s a problem somewhere – and then it comes and solves the problem, afterwards complaining that others don’t do their homework and are ungrateful.
    Seriously, I cannot remember a real-world example of this in the past 17 years, almost the entire post-Cold War time. They were called upon sometimes, they came sometimes – but solved problems? There were too many complications. The bitching happened, that’s for sure.
    Look at the recent Kenya conflict. Look at the negotiator list. No American. No-one even bothered to ask for one.

    It’s easy to remember CAUSED troubles, visits without invitation and calls for their allies, though.
    (Europeans are doing a lot of non-sense in foreign policy, too. Like the Kosovo non-sense.)

    But as I understand it, it’s still not mainstream insight in the U.S. that 9/11 was a blowback, caused by its foreign policy?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: “that 9/11 was a blowback, caused by its foreign policy” — Yes, it is still a fringe view. We will have to wait for Bin Laden’s autobiography to know for sure.

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  5. Fabius Maximus Post author

    Update: More of the same

    Building a Case for War in Iran – Part 2“, posted at The Yankee Sailor (8 May 2008) — Excerpt:

    “News continues to roll in that the United States may be nearing a decision to strike Iran. In my previous installment, I discussed the storm of tough talk currently unleashed from Washington. In this installment I’ll lay out some of the other events in the region in recent weeks.”

    “The Fleet Positions Itself For War“, posted at Information Dissemination (7 May 2008) — Lists developments which the author believes as preludes to war: “Part of that strategy includes the buildup of rhetoric, the shuffling of resources, and the preparation in Iraq for a military action against Iran.”

    What I find disturbing is the widespread enthusiasm for war with Iran, as seen in the opening to the above post:
    “We believe the only successful exit strategy from Iraq travels a road through Iran.”

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  6. batguano101

    Thanks for the info on the new finding. War with Iran is nothing new, we are behind schedule on it.

    The fact that wars are trumped up for resources is nothing new in history, but follows history since armies stood up for nations.

    Circumstances might change war with Iran, as the bog-down in Iraq did, but if it is already decided on, it is going to take place circumstances permitting.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Nobody can say for certain, except for the Bush and DoD inner circle, but I do not believe that we will strike Iran (except perhaps, for raids on a few training camps). See these articles: War with Iran?

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  7. batguano101

    Fab.-

    No question Rice has been a moderating influence and Gates appears to be a good man.

    If Cheney and those who influence the President have it set in their minds it is important to bomb or invade Iran (for what ever reason), they are sitting in the seats of authority to make it so. Just based on prior acts and rhetoric alone, I would not be surprised with some form of military action before they leave office.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Who can say? But I will stick with what I have said for the past several years: probably no strike, although we might conduct small raids on training camps in Iran.

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