Creating people's geographies
In the upcoming July 7 edition of the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh claims that the Bush regime has increased secret funding for clandestine operations in Iran. Read the article in full here; an accompanying article interview with Hersh is also featured (below – 7 minutes). *** See also Rebreaking the News: Two Months Later, Seymour Hersh Strains to Catch Up With CounterPunch by Alexander Cockburn for a critique of Hersh’s essay. ***
Hersh writes that while the funding was approved last year, the
scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.
Under federal law, a Presidential Finding, which is highly classified, must be issued when a covert intelligence operation gets under way and, at a minimum, must be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees—the so-called Gang of Eight. Money for the operation can then be reprogrammed from previous appropriations, as needed, by the relevant congressional committees, which also can be briefed.
“The Finding was focussed on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” a person familiar with its contents said, and involved “working with opposition groups and passing money.” The Finding provided for a whole new range of activities in southern Iran and in the areas, in the east, where Baluchi political opposition is strong, he said.
Although some legislators were troubled by aspects of the Finding, and “there was a significant amount of high-level discussion” about it, according to the source familiar with it, the funding for the escalation was approved. In other words, some members of the Democratic leadership—Congress has been under Democratic control since the 2006 elections—were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party’s presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy.
A little more encouraging are the dissenters within the administration who question the strategic value of a “preemptive strike”:
A Democratic senator told me that, late last year, in an off-the-record lunch meeting, Secretary of Defense Gates met with the Democratic caucus in the Senate. (Such meetings are held regularly.) Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preemptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.” Gates’s comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch, and another senator asked whether Gates was speaking for Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Gates’s answer, the senator told me, was “Let’s just say that I’m here speaking for myself.” (A spokesman for Gates confirmed that he discussed the consequences of a strike at the meeting, but would not address what he said, other than to dispute the senator’s characterization.)
The Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose chairman is Admiral Mike Mullen, were “pushing back very hard” against White House pressure to undertake a military strike against Iran, the person familiar with the Finding told me. Similarly, a Pentagon consultant who is involved in the war on terror said that “at least ten senior flag and general officers, including combatant commanders”—the four-star officers who direct military operations around the world—“have weighed in on that issue.”
Read the article in full.
Addendum I: I am inclined to agree with the editorial comment at War in Context that “Time’s running out fast for Hersh to be vindicated on his perennial war-with-Iran warnings. In this case, I’d want to know what his sources meant when they used the word “conducting” — as in Special Ops forces have been conducting cross-border operations. At face value, that sounds like American troops sneaking into Iran. What it could mean is members of the MEK being given directives by Americans. The political risks involved in Iranians being caught by Iranians, is clearly much less than that of having US troops put on trial in Tehran.