Be very afraid …

   

Iranian President Ahmadinejad

If you had  imagined that expansionist militaristic  “neocon” influence over the Bush administration  had been  vanquished following  the Democrat victory in the US mid-term elections, the sacking of Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary, and the appointment of the Iraq Study Group under conservative foreign policy “realist”  James  Baker, you might  have relaxed too soon.   Vice-President Dick Cheney, the biggest neocon of them all, is still running the joint, and thinktank neocons are still spinning assiduously to resuscitate the American imperial dream.  

The latest is American Enterprise Institute shill Joshua Muravchik in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald.   After shamelessly spinning recent history to claim that the neocons won the Cold War single-handed  and were also  responsible for Bosnian intervention in the face of the lily livered liberals and old-fashioned “realist” conservatives (a claim that involves  a considerable logical stretch given that the Bosnian intervention occurred under  the Clinton administration), Muravchik goes on to pitch the resurgent  neocon line on Iraq:

As badly as things have gone in Iraq, the war has not disproved neoconservative ideas. Iraq is a mess, and if the US mission fails, neocons deserve blame because we were key supporters of the war. But American woes in Iraq may be traced to the conduct of the war rather than the decision to undertake it.

Hopes have risen that the former secretary of state James Baker and the Iraq Study Group will devise an alternative approach to neoconservatism, one more in the mode of traditional conservatism. Rumour has it that this will rest on courting Iran. Others suggest Baker will link Iraq to an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, but this has been sought for decades without success.

Until someone comes up with better ideas than these, the neocon strategy of trying to transform the Middle East, however blemished, remains without alternative.

However, the neocon agenda is actually  much more ambitious and sinister than  Muravchik’s half-baked apologia might suggest.

Well connected US journalist Seymour Hersh writes in the current New Yorker about plans being hatched in Vice-President Cheney’s office to nuke Iran despite a recent CIA report showing no evidence of an active nuclear weapons program there.   Among others, Hersh quotes none other than our SMH op-ed friend Joshua Muravchik:

In the current issue of Foreign Policy, Joshua Muravchik, a prominent neoconservative, argued that the Administration had little choice. “Make no mistake: President Bush will need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities before leaving office,” he wrote. The President would be bitterly criticized for a pre«mptive attack on Iran, Muravchik said, and so neoconservatives “need to pave the way intellectually now and be prepared to defend the action when it comes.”

In fact, in contrast to his rather coy SMH piece, even the byline of Muravchik’s Foreign Policy article (titled “Operation Comeback”)  is disarmingly frank about neocon objectives: “Neoconservatives have the president’s ear, but they also have lots of baggage. To stay relevant, they must admit mistakes, embrace public diplomacy, and start making the case for bombing Iran.”     And his op-ed piece in the Los Angles Times last week was anything but coy.   It’s succinctly headlined Bomb Iran.  Unfortunately, Muravchik appears to be right about neocons still having the President’s ear, and according to Hersh their task in persuading Bush to  nuke Iran might not be  as large  a challenge  as any sane person might have hoped:

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.”

Moreover,  the CIA report, which  throws cold water on suggestions of an active Iranian nuclear weapons project on the verge of success, also doesn’t seem to have dampened neocon ardour for a double-or-nothing “last throw of the dice”  strike against Iran to resuscitate their political fortunes and the imperial dream of a “democratised” (i.e. subservient client state) Middle East:

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. The former senior intelligence official noted that at the height of the Cold War the Soviets were equally skilled at deception and misdirection, yet the American intelligence community was readily able to unravel the details of their long-range-missile and nuclear-weapons programs. But some in the White House, including in Cheney’s office, had made just such an assumption¢â¬âthat “the lack of evidence means they must have it,” the former official said.

That isn’t to suggest that concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions are unjustified.   Hersh quotes an unnamed European diplomat:

“There is no evidence of a large-scale covert enrichment program inside Iran,” one involved European diplomat said. “But the Iranians would not have launched themselves into a very dangerous confrontation with the West on the basis of a weapons program that they no longer pursue. Their enrichment program makes sense only in terms of wanting nuclear weapons. It would be inconceivable if they weren’t cheating to some degree. You don’t need a covert program to be concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. We have enough information to be concerned without one. It’s not a slam dunk, but it’s close to it.”

But it’s rather a large step from “cheating to some degree” to pre-emptively nuking Iran.   We might at the very least  want very clear answers to some rather obvious questions.   How advanced is any Iranian nuclear weapons program?   How reliable are more alarmist claims from pro-war elements of the Bush administration?   Are there viable alternatives to a pre-emptive strike?    Does Iranian President Ahmadinejad actually have any intention of menacing Israel despite his bellicose posturing to the Islamic peanut gallery?    What would be the regional and global  consequences of a pre-emptive strike against Iran?   Would a Cold War-style “Mutually Assured Destruction” nuclear standoff between Iran and Israel  be  worse or better than pre-emptively  nuking Iran?  Can the Bush administration be trusted to make judgments about any of these questions?   In other words, pretty much the same list of questions that more perceptive observers than yours truly were asking prior to Bush’s disastrous  invasion of Iraq.  

Perhaps even more disturbingly for the prospect of a peaceful resolution of the current Iranian standoff, Hersh also reports the thoughts of an unnamed “former senior intelligence official”:

According to the former senior intelligence official, the C.I.A.’s assessment suggested that Iran might even see some benefits in a limited military strike¢â¬âespecially one that did not succeed in fully destroying its nuclear program¢â¬âin that an attack might enhance its position in the Islamic world. “They learned that in the Iraqi experience, and relearned it in southern Lebanon,” the former senior official said. In both cases, a more powerful military force had trouble achieving its military or political goals; in Lebanon, Israel’s war against Hezbollah did not destroy the group’s entire arsenal of rockets, and increased the popularity of its leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

The former senior intelligence official added that the C.I.A. assessment raised the possibility that an American attack on Iran could end up serving as a rallying point to unite Sunni and Shiite populations. “An American attack will paper over any differences in the Arab world, and we’ll have Syrians, Iranians, Hamas, and Hezbollah fighting against us¢â¬âand the Saudis and the Egyptians questioning their ties to the West. It’s an analyst’s worst nightmare¢â¬âfor the first time since the caliphate there will be common cause in the Middle East.”

I can’t decide   whether to be more afraid of the Bushies or President Armoured Dinner Plate.   Are you still feeling relaxed and comfortable about our Prime Minister’s continuing unquestioning, obedient participation in the Bush administration’s Middle Eastern adventure?

PS I should stress that this latest report from Seymour Hersh doesn’t specifically assert an intent to nuke Iran (as opposed to pre-emptively bombing its nuclear facilities using conventional weapons).   However, earlier reports from Hersh, summarised in London’s Daily Telegraph, make precisely that point:

The military option is opposed by London and other European capitals. But there are growing fears in No 10 and the Foreign Office that the British-led push for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear stand-off, will be swept aside by hawks in Washington. Hersh says that within the Bush administration, there are concerns that even a pummelling by conventional strikes, may not sufficiently damage Iran’s buried nuclear plants.

Iran has been developing a series of bunkers and facilities to provide hidden command centres for its leaders and to protect its nuclear infrastructure. The lack of reliable intelligence about these subterranean facilities, is fuelling pressure for tactical nuclear weapons to be included in the strike plans as the only guaranteed means to destroy all the sites simultaneously.

The attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings among the joint chiefs of staff, and some officers have talked about resigning, Hersh has been told. The military chiefs sought to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans for Iran, without success, a former senior intelligence officer said.

 

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Rex
Rex
15 years ago

This is chilling Ken.

In my view failure in Iraq is inevitable. The only question is how best to limit the fallout. But the neocons seem to want fallout. Plenty of it, and radioactive too.

Neocons: Blindly following their moral compass where no morals have tread before.

Matt Marks
15 years ago

Perhaps instead of the left using the term “neoconservative” in the same way that they used “economic rationalist” as a catch-all phrase in the 1980’s and 1990’s (although they never stopped to call themselves an economic irrational), some reading may be in order. By reading I am not just talking about Mr Hersh or Pilger or Chomsky, but understanding that neoconservativism actually emerged from the Democratic Party in the United States. Ken, we’re all disappointed though that you did not blame the neocons for 9/11, the Tube bombing, climate change, obesity, the price of milk and Rick Ponting’s decision to not enfore the follow-on. Perhaps that is in your next post?

Robert
Robert
15 years ago

There’s almost a plaintive cry coming out of that article. What,.. as though to say “We are very, very special people” … and… “We know best” .. and…”I just needed to tell you that”.

Nothing else in it of information or value, at all. A real shocker.

..(and why run the bloody thing? What was in it that deserved publication? Next door to Henderson, a complete travesty of Opinion in The Sydney Morning Herald today. Absolute trash).

Link
15 years ago

From the un-named European:

“But the Iranians would not have launched themselves into a very dangerous confrontation with the West on the basis of a weapons program that they no longer pursue. Their enrichment program makes sense only in terms of wanting nuclear weapons. It would be inconceivable if they weren’t cheating to some degree

This says more about the thought process of ‘Westeners’ than it does about those in the Middle-East.

Matt Marks
15 years ago

Ken after your lavish tribute to Mr Hersh and your sturdy defense of all things anti-neoconservative a quote from Shakespeare comes to mind:

“the lady doth protest too much, methinks”

We will agree to disagree but I think you do need to examine your approach to the Iranian regime. Having visited WW2 concentration camps recently, to blithely dismiss the threat posed by a regime led by a man who openly and repeatedly denies the holocaust I find particularly disturbing.

Geoff R
15 years ago

I sometimes think that if the Americans had cut their loses and withdrawn much earlier we would have seen in Iraq a very imperfect government, but one with regular fairly democratic elections that broadly reflected the views of the Iraqi majority religious (but not entirely fundamentalist), pro-Iranian and anti-Israeli. The existence of representative institutions however imperfect makes future advance possible, see Mexico. This would have been an achievement by the US. But the Americans seem to have deluded themselves that Iraqi public opinion was pro-American and pro-Israel rather than anti-Saddam. Once disappointed in the Iraqi people they sought to elect a new one. I wonder what conservatives think of the love-in between the Iraqi and Iranian presidents?

sdfc
sdfc
15 years ago

“Perhaps instead of the left using the term “neoconservative”

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
15 years ago

we’re going to start dropping bombs on David Irving too are we, Matt?

The question of what is to be done about the Iranian nuclear threat is a legitimate and serious one and we shouldn’t dismiss any ideas on the basis of whether they come from neocons, paleocons or otherwise. But I don’t see what the relevance of the fact that Ahmejinad is a Holocaust denier is.

Link
15 years ago

Ken, I don’t doubt for a minute that personal pride plays a too greater role in politics per se, much to the detriment of the world. Middle-easteners are up there with the best of them when it comes to personal pride, but its a pride that includes a certain amount of personal integrity, something our politicians seem to lack.

Rob
Rob
15 years ago

Hersh certainly seems to acquired a corner on the unattributable quote.

Of course nuking Iran is being discussed as a last-ditch possibility. Why shouldn’t it be? Contingency planning is a long way from ‘hatching a plan’ to do it tomorrow arvo. Hersh has form on this. I’m surprised anyone takes him seriously.

Rob
Rob
15 years ago

Ken, I’d say the fact that they remain unnamed means he can twist whatever they say to whatever suits his purpose without their having any comeback.

I mean, what does it matter if some dorks are advocating nuking Iran tomorrow? It’s not what some think-tankers advocate, it’s what Washington decides that matters. Does anybody think that an Administration and a Republican Party desperate to get out of the huge mess that is Iraq is going to start another war — nuclear, this time, if you please — with a hostile Senate looming and lame duck in the White House? For Pete’s sake.

Don Quixote
15 years ago

“Perhaps instead of the left using the term “neoconservative”

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

I have my doubts about Hersh’s reliability as an accurate scribe. But let’s say he is correct. So far the Iranian terror masters have threatened Israel and continue to do so. They are also in flagrant violation of International Atomic Agency standards. Frankly we don’t know what they are up to. However it is a good bet they are up to no good. The US Administration are quite within their right to be concerned that these maniacs end up with a nuke after they have led an undeclared war against that great Satan since the kidnapping of the US embassy staff in the late 70s. Always concerned with international opinion, the mullahs essentially appointed one of the kidnappers as president.

Your question ought to be, how can the US tolerate a nuked up Iran threatening the destruction of near neighbors and wanting to throw its weight around the region? The idea of a nuked up state acting as a terror master around the world is intolerable for the US and the West.

If Iran doesn’t comply with IAA requests, we should take out the nuke sites and if that doesn’t work nuke the area where the sites are located. Anything else is asking for deep trouble further down the road.

I am open to suggestions as to how we can live with an Iran that has nukes and sponsors terror around the world. The Argentinean government has or is about to issue a writ against the previous Iranian lunatic who was involved in the bombing and deaths of 70 Jews in BA. The Kobi Towers bombing has also been clearly linked to Iran. Iran also supports the Hez with rockets so that it can attack Israel.
This regime has been at war with the west since the revolution. It is better we recognized that sooner rather than later.

Containment doesn’t work for terror masters.

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

Mre pertinently how could anyone respect any CIA assessments.
1. They failed to assess the Sov collapse
2. They failed to assess the Iraq threat in Gulf war 1
3 They failed to assess the threat of Iraq WMD.

These guys are turkeys and it would be best to be rid of the bloody agency sooner rather than later.

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

Let me try to answer some of these questions

1 How advanced is any Iranian nuclear weapons program?

We don’t know. But judging from their reactions to ongoing inspections and the goodies promised to them by the Euros, we can only surmise that their ingestions aren’t good. But sooner rather than later when they have nukes. It’s better odds.

2 How reliable are more alarmist claims from pro-war elements of the Bush administration?

We don’t just have to rely on the “alarmist claims’, we judge their behavior with the IAEA inspections and their lack of certification. They were offered enriched uranium and always turned it down. Moreover they laughed at the Euros inducements.

3. Are there viable alternatives to a pre-emptive strike?
The Euros never got very far with their incessant talking. It looks like there is none unless we just turn a blind eye and prolong the agony until a later time.

4 Does Iranian President Ahmadinejad actually have any intention of menacing Israel despite his bellicose posturing to the Islamic peanut gallery?

We don’t know. But since the holocaust the Jews would be best advised that when a maniac threatens destruction of Israel it is best to take him at his word.

5 Would a Cold War-style “Mutually Assured Destruction”

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
15 years ago

It looks a bit different from an Iranian perspective. I heard an interesting RN interview with an Edinburgh academic (of Iranian extraction) on how it (War on Terror) was seen locally, having just returned from a few months there.

The consensus was generally one of confusion and annoyance with the US. After 9/11 the Iranians co-operated in helping to vanquish the Taliban from Afghanistan and would have continued in the hunt for and destruction of Al Qaida. There was self-interest in that. They viewed the Wahabbe Sunni followers (which included Alqaida and the Taliban, and some elements of Saudi Arabia and the Pakistan military) as highly dangerous fanatics threatening not only the Shiite religion of Iran but the stability of the whole region. But there were also a number of the elite pleased to re-open dialogue with the US and the West.

So they were shocked and disappointed to find Iran included with Iraq and North Korea in Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’ speech. It didn’t seem a good return for the olive branch they had extended. And calling off the hunt for Al Qaida in favour of invading Iraq didn’t seem all that consistent with the aims of the War on Terror.

Iraq had been effectively disarmed by the sanctions programs and the ‘no fly’ zones over the previous decade, at least as far as threatening the neighbours and the rest of the world went. So it was understandable that relations cooled again.

The problems with Iran seem to have been deliberately blurred by the US with the War on Terror anti-Islamic feelings and anti-Arab feelings (which is galling since they’re not Arabs). Given that relations with Israel have always been uneasy, there is a strong suspicion that there was an Israel push to have Iran and Iraq included on the US belligerence list.

When you consider the havoc wreaked on Iraq, and the amount of oil reserves at stake in both countries, you can hardly blame the Iranians for wanting to be fully armed against such an attack. If that means going nuclear so be it. Israel has the bomb, after all.

It’s a messy situation. But it would be dangerous to assume that the leaders are a bunch of madmen. They’re quite capable of acting in their country’s best interests. The joker in the pack is the Bush Administration. And Israel is not a great help towards a diplomatic solution either.

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

Leaving aside moral equivalency of Israel and Iran having a nuke. Who would you if you’re the US president trust in holding a nuke and be reasonably secure that NYC or Down Town Washington doesn’t get blasted?

Furthermore the argument that Iran was helpful after 911 doesn’t wash. If we are to believe that then one would have to argue that Iran going for nukes, threatening Israel every other days and holding a holocaust deniers convention was the result of US policy.
This guy you were listening to is simply a propagandist for the mullacracy and the lunatic prez they installed.

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
15 years ago

I doubt that, Joe, seeing he was also critical of the mullahs.

I wouldn’t take the Iranian President as representative of Iranians any more than I would the US president as representative of Americans.

I haven’t heard of any holocaust deniers convention there and I’m sure it would’ve got some attention. Was David Irving invited?

As to bombing NYC or Washington, as I recall it none, ie not one Iranian, was involved either in the atrocity or in providing shelter for those that were. I wish we could say the same for some of our friends like Saudi and the Pakistan ISI.

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

Don

You can’t say Iran isn’t involved in terror acts when they are supplying arms to the Hez, an officially recognized terror group and helping to cause havoc in Iraq. This of course doesn’t include the links to the bombing of the Jews in Argentina and Kobi towers. They are up to their neck in bad shit.

I wouldn’t take the Iranian lunatic prez as proper representative of the people either, but he is a leading figure of a dangerous regime.

They are currently running a “Holocaust conference” in Tehran at the moment gathering facts as the whether it actually happened. Amazing.

We don’t know if they were involved in 911, what we do know is they are up to their necks in terror activities and have been in the past, starting with the hostage taking in the late 70’s.

Even if they weren’t involved with 911, they seem to be doing their best to gain nukes. This is something we should never tolerate as it will come back to haunt us in the near future. No, containment wouldn’t work with this regime.

derrida derider
derrida derider
15 years ago

1. They [the CIA] failed to assess the Sov collapse
2. They failed to assess the Iraq threat in Gulf war 1
3 They failed to assess the threat of Iraq WMD.

Yes, JC, but why did they fail? They failed because their ultra-right political masters kept angrily asking “who ya gonna believe, us or your own damn lying eyes?”. If the CIA should be ditched because of these errors, what does that say for those masters – the sponsors of “Team B”, “Iraq as a counterwieght to Iran”, and Dick Cheney’s “Office of Special Plans”

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

DD
They failed because the Church committee cut their balls off and turned them into a bunch of big useless marys. It was once a superb outfit employing some of the best analytical minds around.

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

http://abcnews.go.com/International/IraqCoverage/story?id=2688501

The US shouldn’t be talking to these bastards. They ought to be taught there is a dear price to be paid for this sort of thing. Taking out their electicity grid would be a good start.