The Nonwar War Against Iran
While the Iraq debate was gripping Washington over the past few weeks, the Bush administration was also shifting its policy toward neighboring Iran -- in a more confrontational direction.
U.S. officials, who asked not to be identified, say that the Iran policy has expanded from focusing chiefly on Iran's nuclear ambitions to challenging Tehran's suspected misbehavior across the Middle East. Indeed, one source said succinctly that the new policy is geared to "confront Iran in every way but direct armed conflict, using all means short of war."
Under the new policy, the United States will aggressively seek to expose and confront Iranian networks thought to be supplying radical proxies in Iraq, U.S. sources involved with the policy said. In addition, the U.S. is doubling its naval power in the Persian Gulf, considering covert ways to counter Hezbollah in Lebanon, and sending Patriot missiles to jittery allies in the Gulf. Bush administration officials are "projecting a lot of confrontation with Iran," says one American source privy to the administration's Iran policy debate who asked not to be further identified. "But they don't mean to signal war. They don't mean war. It's war by other means.
Yet some sources indicate that elements inside the U.S. government -- in the U.S. intelligence community, in particular -- are trying to head off a possible administration move to escalate the confrontation with Iran over its suspected actions in Iraq. Some officials reportedly have doubts about the precise nature of the evidence indicating Iranian involvement in Iraq.
Contrary to some initial reports that American troops had found damning maps and documents on the detained Iranians, some U.S. government sources indicate that the Hakim raid did not produce definitive proof of Iranian involvement in supplying Iraqi militants. "They are trying to walk this back," one U.S. official said. "There are no smoking guns about Iran in Iraq," said another knowledgeable U.S. source. "That's the problem. Sort of like the WMD."
"The administration believes that the Saudis had an epiphany, that Iran is the lens through which they now view all their security concerns," says Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert and the deputy director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "And that means the Saudis may be prepared to do a variety of things which previously they were not prepared to do."
In addition to the ISOG, the Pentagon last spring set up a six-person Iranian directorate in the Office of the Secretary of Defense that includes three former members of the Office of Special Plans, a controversial unit established by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that produced discredited intelligence analysis linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda.
U.S. officials say that multiple inter-agency meetings on Iran are going on every day under the auspices of the Iran-Syria Policy and Operations Group, and that the pace of activity has quickened. "There are so many meetings; we're doing stuff, writing papers; actions are being taken," said one person involved with the group. "It's very intense."
Friday, January 19, 2007
The Nonwar War Against Iran
Laura in the National Journal:
Posted by lukery at 1/19/2007 10:40:00 AM