Is Lebanon the 'Trigger' for U.S.
War With Iran?
by Larisa Alexandrovna
www.alternet.org/, August 10,
Connect the dots, and it's clear that
Cheney and the neocons are desperate to start a war with Iran.
For over a year now I have been reporting
on activities that appear to be leading the United States into
direct confrontation with Iran. Aside from Sy Hersh and a few
others, the majority of the U.S. media largely has ignored this
march toward war, mainly because it helped disseminate the pre-war
propaganda prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But failing to
connect the dots on Iran is just as bad, if not worse, because
Iran is by no means Iraq. A war with Persia will be a catastrophe
of unimaginable consequences and the trigger for that action may
have already begun.
Several months back, I reported that concern
was rapidly rising that the United States was setting the table
for its Iran engagement:
Speculation has been growing on a possible
air strike against Iran. But with the failure of the Bush administration
to present a convincing case to the U.N. Security Council and
to secure political backing domestically, some experts say the
march toward war with Iran is on pause barring an "immediate
An immediate need is also sometimes called
Military brass and intelligence experts
have been watching Iran with concern since 2003, when the entire
world was focused on Iraq. Hersh reported for The New Yorker:
"Israeli intelligence assets in Iraq were reporting that
the insurgents had the support of Iranian intelligence operatives
and other foreign fighters, who were crossing the unprotected
border between Iran and Iraq at will."
That Iranian intelligence assets are crossing
the border into Iraq is of course true, but it is also true that
Al Qaeda assets, which had not previously been in Iraq, made their
way via Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. In fact, everyone
who wanted to engage Americans simply crossed the border. Instead
of containing this situation and securing the country, Hersh reported
that the Bush administration chose the photo-op route to war tactics:
"The border stayed open, however.
The administration wasn't ignoring the Israeli intelligence about
Iran," explained Patrick Clawson, the deputy director of
the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who has close ties
to the White House. "There's no question that we took no
steps last summer to close the border, but our attitude was that
it was more useful for Iraqis to have contacts with ordinary Iranians
coming across the border, and thousands were coming across every
While the administration was busy doing
nothing to secure Iraq's borders, I reported in January that they
did find the time to propagate a bizarre story of an Iraq-Iran
cross-border uranium operation:
The story that was peddled -- which detailed
how an Iranian intelligence team infiltrated Iraq prior to the
start of the war in March of 2003 and stole enriched uranium to
use in their own nuclear weapons program -- was part of an attempt
to implicate both countries in a WMD plot. It later emerged that
the Iranian exile was trying to collect money for his tales, sources
Of course this conspiracy theory presented
as credible by its spinners was false. That did not, however,
stop Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from bypassing the intelligence
community, which had already debunked this story, and sending
an off-book team to investigate.
During that same summer, then Undersecretary
of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was busy trying to convince the U.S.
State Department to allow the use of Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK),
a terrorist organization on the State Department's terror group
list. Wolfowitz wanted to use MEK on the ground in Iran.
The following year, the civilian leadership
at the Pentagon came up with a plan for how to use MEK as assets
and still not come up against pushback from the State Department
-- the members of MEK were simply told to resign from the organization
en masse and swear an oath to "democracy." This was
clever, to be sure, because even though MEK is listed as a terrorist
organization, the DOD could argue that it was not using "that
The allegations are that the DOD briefed
no members of Congress on the use of MEK in Iran. In March of
2006, their slaughter of 22 Iranian officials, including a governor,
would become news all over the world, except in the United States.
But even more serious, some analysts hold the view that it was
MEK that was responsible for the Samarra Mosque bombing in Iraq.
But in 2003, although the United States
had just recently invaded Iraq and was still by all appearances
in search of WMD, the military civilian leadership at the Pentagon,
under the leadership of the vice president's office, would not
secure Iraq's borders, is alleged to have actively promoted propaganda
about Iranian WMDs and began planning covert ops for Iran.
The drums of war
Flash forward to late 2005, where a recently
reelected Vice President Cheney, the undisputed policy "decider"
is given an election "mandate." As Sy Hersh reported:
This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq
is just one campaign. The Bush administration is looking at this
as a huge war zone," the former high-level intelligence official
[said]. "Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign.
We've declared war, and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the
enemy. This is the last hurrah -- we've got four years, and want
to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.
In the following months, pressure on the
U.N. Security Council by the Bush administration became a major
concern to military brass and intelligence experts, as they began
to see an imperialistic executive branch continue to operate outside
international and domestic law.
But engaging Iran in military action would
not be as easily sellable to the American people, who were still
grieving post-911 when the Bush administration presented a story
of a nuclear Iraq working in conjunction with Al Qaeda -- now
completely and fully debunked.
It is during this time that discussion
of a "needed trigger" -- an event that would force the
United States into conflict with Iran, despite public objection
-- would have to occur. Most experts I consulted with from late
2005 to early 2006 believed that the WMD argument would continue
to be pressed and that, coupled with our own threats of a nuclear,
chemical and biological preemption policy, would be enough to
force Iran into having to beef up its security. In other words,
many experts believed that by posing enough of a threat, the United
States would force Iran to seek some form of WMD, and then the
United States could justify a preemptive strike.
But the United States failed in making
a case for an operational Iranian home-grown WMD program. Attempts
to revive the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 2003 findings
on Iran's centrifuges and blueprints only proved to be another
embarrassment for the United States.
So it was after all a U.S. ally who had
been providing Iran with parts for weapons, and that investigation
had already shown that Iran had made no significant progress toward
a fully operational nuclear program.
Even now, most estimates range that such
a program would not be ready for seven to 10 years, at minimum,
while others speculate even longer. But again, this is of course
the case if Pakistan continues to provide black-market support
Whatever the trigger event would be, however,
most experts believed that no military action would be undertaken
by the United States until the spring of 2007.
Sometime around mid-spring of this year,
that calculation changed. Experts I consulted at this time, still
working in this administration and others already gone, began
speaking of a summer or fall strike. And then, as though on cue,
things began to move more quickly.
We find out, for example, that in March
of this year, the Department of Defense replaced its already disbanded
and notorious Office of Special Plans with what they call the
Iranian Directorate. As with the OSP, the ID is run out of the
policy side and contained largely the same cast of characters,
minus Larry Franklin, who has already pleaded guilty to passing
classified information to Israel and Iran, and Doug Feith, former
undersecretary of defense policy. Feith's shoes were filled by
another neoconservative hawk, Eric Edelman.
In describing OSP and by extension, ID,
one expert I talked with did not hold back his feelings on what
has come to be known as the "cabal":
"It was created to, as Dean Acheson
urged Harry Truman, to scare the hell out of the American people
by making things a little bit clearer than the truth," John
Pike of Global Security told me. But OSP did more than scare people;
it created a war that the vice president's office could sell.
And if ID was created for the same reason, then there is no doubt
a war is already being "cooked up," as some say.
But what would be the trigger?
When aircraft carriers began movements
that experts found troubling, and other covert operations began
in earnest, the trigger was believed to be provocation. That is,
placing a ship where it could be targeted by Iranian forces believing
it to be a threat.
I spoke with retired Air Force Col. Sam
Gardiner in May about this then, and he too was troubled by the
ships and their movement.
I would expect two or three aircraft carriers
would be moved into the area," Gardner said, describing what
he thinks is the best way air strikes could be carried out without
disengaging assets from U.S. fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Two aircraft carriers are already en route
to the region, Raw Story has found. The USS Abraham Lincoln, which
recently made a port call in Singapore, and the USS Enterprise
which left Norfolk, Va., earlier this month, are headed for the
western Pacific Ocean and the Middle East. The USS Ronald Reagan
is already operating in the Gulf.
In addition to aircraft carrier activity,
Gardiner says, B-2 bombers would be critical.
But at that time, he and I did not speak
of our theories on triggers. I had, however, long claimed that
any trigger would have to involve Israel, either as a defensive
measure or a measure of provocation. An attack on Israel would
be the easiest way to shore up domestic support.
When I was told that Israel had begun
a military strike on Lebanon, for me there was no question: This
was the trigger. Just prior to Israel's bombing of Lebanon, I
got a call from a friend in the military who told me about two
Israeli troops being kidnapped across the border into Lebanon.
My first question was, "Do they say it is Hezbollah?"
and of course we know now that it was. But when my friend answered
that it was indeed Hezbollah, I knew that Israel -- for whatever
reason -- had become a proxy U.S. war machine for Dick Cheney's
madness of regime change in Iran.
My friend said not to worry, that the
soldiers would be exchanged for Hezbollah prisoners in Israel.
I knew this not to be the case, and I said that this will be full
military action, full war, with many casualties. My friend thought
I was overreacting.
Yet there is a full war and full military
action, and it is not by accident. It is also exactly on time
to be the trigger. But this will not be the worst of it, because
Syria will be drawn in; it has to be, and then Iran. This is the
strategy that was feared and that is now being played out across
the Middle East.
This is a strategy long wanted by the
far right and people like Dick Cheney, and this is a strategy
that was long in the planning. Even as we began military operations
in Iraq, Iran was the subject of all major military discussions.
And yet when Israel became engaged in military operations against
Lebanon, the entire world failed to understand the true nature
of this conflict and the real issues behind it. Israel is a client-state
of the United States and, as such, it will do as it is told.
For Israel to act so harshly and so carelessly,
putting its entire nation in jeopardy and with world support failing,
one can only imagine the pressure that the Cheney "cabal"
used to push for such an event.