Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Shortener Cheney: Bomb Iran

Sy Hersh:
A month before the November elections, Vice-President Dick Cheney was sitting in on a national-security discussion at the Executive Office Building. The talk took a political turn: what if the Democrats won both the Senate and the House? How would that affect policy toward Iran, which is believed to be on the verge of becoming a nuclear power? At that point, according to someone familiar with the discussion, Cheney began reminiscing about his job as a lineman, in the early nineteen-sixties, for a power company in Wyoming. Copper wire was expensive, and the linemen were instructed to return all unused pieces three feet or longer. No one wanted to deal with the paperwork that resulted, Cheney said, so he and his colleagues found a solution: putting “shorteners” on the wire—that is, cutting it into short pieces and tossing the leftovers at the end of the workday. If the Democrats won on November 7th, the Vice-President said, that victory would not stop the Administration from pursuing a military option with Iran. The White House would put “shorteners” on any legislative restrictions, Cheney said, and thus stop Congress from getting in its way.

The White House’s concern was not that the Democrats would cut off funds for the war in Iraq but that future legislation would prohibit it from financing operations targeted at overthrowing or destabilizing the Iranian government, to keep it from getting the bomb. “They’re afraid that Congress is going to vote a binding resolution to stop a hit on Iran, à la Nicaragua in the Contra war,” a former senior intelligence official told me.
“Iraq is the disaster we have to get rid of, and Iran is the disaster we have to avoid,” Joseph Cirincione, the vice-president for national security at the liberal Center for American Progress, said. “Gates will be in favor of talking to Iran and listening to the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but the neoconservatives are still there”—in the White House—“and still believe that chaos would be a small price for getting rid of the threat. The danger is that Gates could be the new Colin Powell—the one who opposes the policy but ends up briefing the Congress and publicly supporting it.”
...Gates would also be an asset before Congress. If the Administration needed to make the case that Iran’s weapons program posed an imminent threat, Gates would be a better advocate than someone who had been associated with the flawed intelligence about Iraq. The former official said, “He’s not the guy who told us there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and he’ll be taken seriously by Congress.”
Another critical issue for Gates will be the Pentagon’s expanding effort to conduct clandestine and covert intelligence missions overseas. Such activity has traditionally been the C.I.A.’s responsibility, but, as the result of a systematic push by Rumsfeld, military covert actions have been substantially increased. In the past six months, Israel and the United States have also been working together in support of a Kurdish resistance group known as the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan. The group has been conducting clandestine cross-border forays into Iran, I was told by a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon civilian leadership, as “part of an effort to explore alternative means of applying pressure on Iran.” (The Pentagon has established covert relationships with Kurdish, Azeri, and Baluchi tribesmen, and has encouraged their efforts to undermine the regime’s authority in northern and southeastern Iran.) The government consultant said that Israel is giving the Kurdish group “equipment and training.” The group has also been given “a list of targets inside Iran of interest to the U.S.” (An Israeli government spokesman denied that Israel was involved.)
The main Middle East expert on the Vice-President’s staff is David Wurmser, a neoconservative who was a strident advocate for the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Like many in Washington, Wurmser “believes that, so far, there’s been no price tag on Iran for its nuclear efforts and for its continuing agitation and intervention inside Iraq,” the consultant said. But, unlike those in the Administration who are calling for limited strikes, Wurmser and others in Cheney’s office “want to end the regime,” the consultant said. “They argue that there can be no settlement of the Iraq war without regime change in Iran.”
A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the C.I.A. analysis, and told me that the White House had been hostile to it. The White House’s dismissal of the C.I.A. findings on Iran is widely known in the intelligence community. Cheney and his aides discounted the assessment, the former senior intelligence official said. “They’re not looking for a smoking gun,” the official added, referring to specific intelligence about Iranian nuclear planning. “They’re looking for the degree of comfort level they think they need to accomplish the mission.” The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency also challenged the C.I.A.’s analysis. “The D.I.A. is fighting the agency’s conclusions, and disputing its approach,” the former senior intelligence official said. Bush and Cheney, he added, can try to prevent the C.I.A. assessment from being incorporated into a forthcoming National Intelligence Estimate on Iranian nuclear capabilities, “but they can’t stop the agency from putting it out for comment inside the intelligence community.” The C.I.A. assessment warned the White House that it would be a mistake to conclude that the failure to find a secret nuclear-weapons program in Iran merely meant that the Iranians had done a good job of hiding it.


Mizgîn said...

Hersh's information on PJAK doesn't square with my information on PJAK and my information doesn't come from CIA, the Turkish foreign ministry, or Arab and Turk media. Hersh has a pattern of writing that shows he relies on the unreliable for his information. Maybe he's stupid; maybe he's just another typical lazy Western journalist; maybe he's working for the Turkish government.

It really is pretty funny that he refers to PJAK as "Kurdish tribesmen." PJAK is a member organization of PKK--or more precisely, Koma Komalên Kurdistan--and nothing is less "tribal" or "feudal" than PKK. Guaranteed.

Too bad PKK priorities don't match American priorities, but if the US can be used for a change, that's a good thing.

lukery said...

thnx for the correction Mizgin

Mizgîn said...

It isn't so much a correction, Lukery, as it is an observation. Except the part about the tribal thing.

CIA was at Qandîl in the last half of 2003 and first half of 2004. Then there were reports that they were back at Qandîl this last summer. There was a lot of discussion about this among the Southern Kurds at the time. Eastern Kurds too. The reports all indicated that CIA had only spoken to PKK with no mention of PJAK.

For the extreme PKK sympathizers, this isn't an inconsistency because we know who is the president of the executive council of KKK--Murat Karayilan. Cemil Bayik is the commander of PJAK. PKK admitted publicly that CIA had been to Qandîl but did not discuss publicly what had taken place. Among extreme PKK sympathizers, who know PKK and know the mindset of the organization and the goals, the speculation is that Karayilan listened to CIA. It's possible that Bayik was present also. Other than listening, at this point, there is no indication of any "agreement" having taken place.

IF there had been any kind of agreement like the one Hersh talks about, this would be a matter of national security for the Kurdish people and must be treated as such. IF I had been a fly on the wall during the meeting(s), and knew exactly what had taken place, I would never say anything unless I knew it were safe to do so.

As I recall, Karayilan was not present during the 2003/2004 meetings. There were others present and in charge at that time. Those others totally relaxed discipline . . . even to the point of the most dishonorable attempt to symbolically "disarm" the gerîlas . . . in an act that bears heavily on a point of Kurdish warrior culture that no one else understands. Karayilan returned to Qandîl immediately because of that and reinstated discipline (not all the gerîlas were involved; most refused to dishonor themselves). The "dissenters" left.

I suspect that Hersh has never spoken to Kurds, especially Bakûrî (Northern), especially apocular. There has been a lot of propaganda this year.

Things will be relatively quiet from now until spring. Winter is setting in. If it is difficult for gerîlas to move about in their own environment, it is impossible for anyone else.