[DEBATE] : Foreign policy expert says Bush has ruled out first-strike on Iran; Worries about 'accidental' conflict
Riaz K. Tayob
riazt at iafrica.com
Fri Sep 21 09:49:32 BST 2007
Foreign policy expert says Bush has ruled out first-strike on Iran;
Worries about 'accidental' conflict
09/19/2007 @ 10:04 am
Filed by John Byrne
Tells RAW he doesn't believe Bush is in the 'Cheney gang' yet
President Bush is not going to bomb Iran -- unless an "accidental"
incident forces his hand, according to well-respected foreign policy
moderate Steve Clemons, who laid out his case in Wednesday's Salon
article, "Why Bush Won't Attack Iran."
Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program at New America
Foundation and publisher of The Washington Note, says Bush has deviated
from a Cheney-laid track to launch a first-strike on Iran, citing, as
examples, frustrations that the vice president's aides are airing, a
conversation with a journalist who sat in on a December 2006 strategy
meeting, and private conversations with high-level foreign policy players.
In a telephone conversation with RAW STORY Wednesday, Clemons emphasized
that he wasn't arguing that there wouldn't be an American conflict with
Iran. Rather, he believes that Bush has opted not to strike Iran in a
first-strike scenario. His gravest concern, he said, was that the US
might seize on an accidental incident -- such as a collision between a
US and Iranian ship or a border skirmish between Iraq and Iran -- as a
"A mistake in the Gulf where ships collide or US soldiers are attacked
or Israel fires a low-level cruise missile attack against Natanz or
there's a border skirmish between Iraq and Iran that results in the
death of a high-ranking military or diplomatic official – any of these
could spark a conflict," he said.
Of the indications that Bush has thus far tabled a preemptive strike,
Clemons believes "the most significant is that the Cheney wing feels
that Bush is not on their side and they're frustrated with that. The
fact that the Cheney wing feels they need to tie Bush's hands, 'end run'
the president and remove the 'diplomatic course' from the field of
options in front of the President is an indication that Bush hasn’t
decided to bomb."
Clemons cites a report by Time Magazine journalist and commentator Joe
Klein, which spoke of a meeting Klein sat in on in December 2006.
Then Bush asked about the possibility of a successful attack on
Iran's nuclear capability. He was told that the U.S. could launch a
devastating air attack on Iran's government and military, wiping out the
Iranian air force, the command and control structure and some of the
more obvious nuclear facilities. But the Chiefs were -- once again --
unanimously opposed to taking that course of action.
Why? Because our intelligence inside Iran is very sketchy. There
was no way to be sure that we could take out all of Iran's nuclear
facilities. Furthermore, the Chiefs warned, the Iranian response in Iraq
and, quite possibly, in terrorist attacks on the U.S. could be
devastating. Bush apparently took this advice to heart and went to Plan
B -- a covert destabilization campaign reported earlier this week by ABC
"I think a classic war buildup that we had with Iraq is not possible for
Iran," he continued. "There are too many inter-agency blocks."
"I'm not saying there won't be any war but nothing in Bush’s posture
suggests he's really with the Cheney gang yet. But I do worry about the
Cheney gang and the [Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps]/Ahmadinejad crowd
in Iran trying to precipitate a spark that produces a very fast
escalation that circumvents most of Bush’s national security
decisionmaking structure -- and that kind of war is something we should
worry about. That's what I think could happen.
"An 'accidental war' would escalate quickly and 'end run,' as Cheney
aide [David] Wurmser put[s] it, the president's diplomatic, intelligence
and military decision-making apparatus," Clemons wrote in his Salon
editorial. "It would most likely be triggered by one or both of the two
people who would see their political fortunes rise through a new
conflict -- Cheney and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."
Increased CIA activity on the ground
RAW STORY has reported on alleged attempts by the Office of the Vice
President to provoke Iran into a first strike situation as a pre-text
for US strikes.
Managing Editor Larisa Alexandrovna reported in August on alleged new
activities by the Central Intelligence Agency, seen by some to suggest
US escalating its attempts to provoke Iran.
A senior intelligence official told RAW STORY that the CIA had stepped
up operations in the region, shifting their Iran focus to ”other”
approaches in preference to the “black propaganda” that Raw Story “has
already reported on.”
The source would not elaborate on what these “other” approaches are. At
the time, CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano would neither confirm nor deny
that “other” operations were taking place.
“The CIA does not, as a matter of course, comment on allegations
involving clandestine operations, despite the large amount of
misinformation that circulates publicly on the subject," Gimigliano said.
RAW STORY revealed in June that Iran was being targeted by CIA
activities promoting a “pro-democracy” message and that the agency was
supporting overt “pro-democracy” groups.
Clemons first revealed a battle between Cheney aides and those at the
State and Defense Department in May. Supporting a pre-emptive strike, he
said, was Cheney's office; opposing was Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, White House chief of staff Josh
Bolten and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.
"The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel
at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran's nuclear
activities and international frustration over this to mount a
small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles
(i.e., not ballistic missiles)," he wrote.
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