Cheney Trying to Create Casus Belli, Direct Special Ops in Iran, and Provoke the Entire Shiite World

In his latest New Yorker piece Seymour Hersh connects the resignation of Adm. William Fallon as CENTCOM commander in March to his efforts to control “Special Operations” conducted by CIA and U.S. military personnel within Iran. These operations, designed to produce regime change in Iran, have been conducted outside the normal chain of command and beyond the pale of congressional oversight, although the Democratic leadership in Congress (including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, and House Intelligence Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes) has accepted the presidential “Finding” that authorizes them.

Adm. Fallon, according to a former colleague interviewed by Hersh, “said that there’s a lot of strange stuff going on in Special Ops, and I told him he had to figure out what they were really doing. The Special Ops guys eventually figured out they needed [Fallon], and so they began to talk to him. [Fallon] would have won his fight with Special Ops but for Cheney.” [emphasis added].

You can draw your own conclusions from that. Cheney, as everybody knows or should, wants to attack Iran. His closest adviser on the issue is Elliott Abrams, the neocon of Iran-Contra misdemeanor conviction fame, son-in-law of neocon godfather Norman Podhoretz who has publicly prayed for Bush to bomb Iran in order to save Israel. But this Hersh piece supplies new details. It suggests that Cheney’s circle is now driving clandestine efforts in cooperation with Baluchi and Ahwazi Arab separatists as well as the MEK organization (which the State Department labels “terrorist”) to conduct attacks in Iran. Fallon apparently sought input into these activities but was frozen out by the Vice President.

Cheney wants to control the clandestine activities, alienating some of the professional people involved. “Everybody’s arguing about the high-value-target list,” a former senior intelligence official told Hersh, referring to persons targeted for assassination in Iran. “The Special Ops guys are pissed off because Cheney’s office set up priorities for categories of targets, and now he’s getting impatient and applying pressure for results.”

When in the history of this country has a vice-president exercised such power?

The Cheney-neocon cabal was at loggerheads with the CIA during the propaganda campaign leading up to the Iraq War. Cheney and his sidekick “Scooter” Libby had to repeatedly visit the Pentagon to browbeat agents into validating what turned out to be disinformation about Iraqi WMD and al-Qaeda ties. Then the Cheney camp blamed the Agency for “intelligence failures,” and reorganized it, driving out many of those alienated by the rising levels of dishonesty they had to accept if they wanted to stay in. Even so, conflict between Cheney and the intelligence people continues; the Special Ops guys are today upset by Cheney’s efforts to supervise their work.

Hersh cites a Gallop poll in November 2007 showing that 73% of respondents favored diplomatic and economic measures and only 18% military action, and suggests that the Cheney camp worried about these figures. But their spirits lifted in January, when Iranian patrol boats briefly approached U.S. war ships. Iranian ships—it was reported at the time—had issued via radio transmission a threat to “explode” a. U.S. vessel. The “intelligence community” has since dismissed the threat as the invention of a known radio prankster with a Filipino accent, and the mainstream press did raise questions about official reports, partly because the reports were contradictory. The Iranians released video evidence for the professional behavior of their radio operators aboard the patrol boats. At no point were U.S. forces threatened. Indeed, Vice-Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, commander of U.S. naval forces in the region, publicly downplayed the incident saying that the navy had had routine contact in the Persian Gulf with the Iranian Navy and the Revolutionary Guard and had not felt threatened by the five Iranian patrol boats. His statements reportedly displeased Cheney, conflicting as it did with his desire for an excuse for war with Iran, although I take it that Cosgriff still has his job.

Hersh reports specifically, “a few weeks later, a meeting took place in the Vice-President’s office.” There, according to a “former senior intelligence official” the “subject was how to create a casus belli between Tehran and Washington.”

Repeat: Cheney and his circle want to stage or provoke a “cause for war” with Iran. War with a country that, as Fallon told Hersh, is 80 million people, all of them different.

We should all really think a bit about this country, before the attack. Iran has restive ethnic minorities but its population is generally nationalistic and supportive of the nation’s nuclear power program. While subject to British infringements on its sovereignty, Iran was never colonized. It’s proud nation dating back to the Persian Empire of 2600 years ago. It’s a center of Shiite Islam, practiced by about 160 million people who are a minority within Islam but spread out for the most part in an arc stretching from India (20 million) and Pakistan (27 million) through Iraq (about 17 million, over 60% of the population) to Lebanon where they form the largest religious community. They also form the majority religious population in Azerbaijan (61%) in the Caucasus, and in the small pro-U.S. Kingdom of Bahrain (65%) located on an island in the Persian Gulf and ruled by the Sunni Khalifa emirs. There have, by the way, been many reported demonstrations in Bahrain by Shiites protesting discrimination over the last few years.

Shiites comprise about 15% of the population of Saudi Arabia, which is governed by a strict Sunni interpretation of the Sharia. (Relations between the Sunnis and Shiites in Saudi Arabia are such that some neocons have proposed splitting off the eastern region of Saudi Arabia, where the main oilfields happen to be located, and creating a pro-U.S. Shiite state. But the Iraq experience has shown how difficult it is to sever Shiites from Iran.)

160 million people, from the Mediterranean to the Punjab, with a common religious faith emphasizing historical experiences of victimhood and martyrdom. A faith nobody in the executive branch or Congress seems to have any inclination to study. The faith of an international community which will feel itself attacked as the American or Israel missiles or bombs hit their targets.

Shiites from all over the world make the pilgrimage to the tomb of the eighth imam, located in the holy city of Mashhad. The holy city of Qom in Iran is the world’s greatest center of Shiite scholarship. All the key leaders in the al-Maliki government have visited the grave of Ayatollah Khomeini (whom most Americans most immediately associate with the U.S. Embassy Hostage Crisis of 1979-81) and paid their respects. (These are men who, hating the Baathists’ secularism and aspiring to create an Islamic state, draw on the Iranian experience. Sometimes they raise criticisms or argue that the Iranian model is unsuitable for Iraq. In any case, they respect their eastern neighbor and do not want the U.S. to use Iraqi soil or territorial waters to mount an attack on Iran, or fly over Iraq airspace in doing so.)

The neocons, typically ignorant of the Arabic language and of the Arab world in general, have suggested that the historical Arab-Persian animosity, and fear in Riyadh and some other Arab capitals of the rise of Shiite Iran, will produce Sunni Arab support for an attack on Iran. But there seems little evidence for that. Rather, there is alarm that a U.S. attack will lead to greater militancy among Iran-backed groups in Lebanon and Palestine and more warfare throughout Southwest Asia.

Cheney in March responded to a reporter’s observation that 75% of American’s don’t think the Iraq War’s been worth it with his famous “So?” Perhaps he’d ask the same if told that a U.S. attack on Iran will (as IAEA chief ElBaradei recently put it), transform the Middle East into “a ball of fire.” The construction of the U.S. empire in the region requires the attack on Iran. It looks like House Resolution 362, essentially endorsing President Bush’s right to provoke war with Iran through a unilaterally imposed blockade, will sail through Congress. Are these brainless elected lemmings rushing to the cliff? Or are they somehow acting in their own interest by provoking a regional war and destroying the global economy?

Time and again in recent years Hersh has exposed plans to attack Iran, but how can those made aware of those plans take action to prevent their execution? Especially when, as Hersh shows, the Congress and mainstream press are so actively complicit in preparing the attacks? Or failing to prevent the contemplated crimes, how can we in the eyes of the world dissociate ourselves from them?

Gary Leupp is a Professor of History at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Gary.

11 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Sickofit said on July 3rd, 2008 at 6:51am #

    From 1945 to 2005, the United States attempted to overthrow 50 governments, many of them democracies, and to crush 30 popular movements fighting tyrannical regimes. In the process, 25 countries were bombed, causing the loss of several million lives and the despair of millions more.

    The Israeli and the United States Governments, both with powerful nuclear arsenals and self-righteous pretensions to have the right to attack anyone anywhere over perceived threats to “National Security”, have made it clear that they want to attack Iran on the grounds that Iran is a serious nuclear and regional threat.

    Iran has never even invaded anybody in its entire modern history, its supreme leader continues to issues Fatwas against the use of nuclear weapons, and the IAEA has yet to find any evidence of a viable nuclear weapons program. On top of that, America’s own intelligence agencies recently said as much too, that there is no evidence of an active nuclear weapons program.

    Meanwhile, American people continue leading their ‘American Dream’ lives while being led to their own destruction along a road paved with celebrity trivialities and banal stories of nothingness that passes for news in their country. Never has it been more true the age old saying, “For those who do not learn history they are doomed to repeat it.”

  2. hp said on July 3rd, 2008 at 8:26am #

    Yes, the “Judeo-Christian” exemplar is so very impressive, isn’t it.
    I get chills all over.

  3. john wilkinson said on July 3rd, 2008 at 10:24am #

    “While subject to British infringements on its sovereignty, Iran was never colonized. It’s proud nation dating back to the Persian Empire of 2600 years ago.”

    First off, Persia was UNIFIED in 625 BC, but its constituent parts date from much earlier. Secondly, Iran (Persia) has been colonized (occupied) SEVERAL times in its history: by Alexander the Great in 333 BC (reunification of Persia didn’t occur for 700 years after that defeat); it was part of the Arab Umayyad Caliphate for almost 200 years until 822AD. In the 1200s AD, there were repeated conquests by Genghis Khan and other Mongols and Turco-Mongols. Maybe Iran was never “colonized” in the “modern” era, though half of it was taken by Russia and Britain in 18-19th centuries and all of it was occupied in WW2 .

    So, murky play with facts.

  4. john wilkinson said on July 3rd, 2008 at 10:30am #

    … and it was occupied by the Romans under Trajan.

  5. bozhidar balkas said on July 3rd, 2008 at 10:51am #

    it wd be nice to know who r the 18% of the people that favor war against iran.
    as we know american 1 does not equal american 2.
    american 1 may be wife of a senator. american 3 might be a bnaire.
    am i mistaken that polsters don’t reveal who the respondents r, what they do, what they have, etc.
    still, i’m glad there is 73% of amers who oppose the war.

  6. john wilkinson said on July 3rd, 2008 at 10:56am #

    “…..“Everybody’s arguing about the high-value-target list,” a former senior intelligence official told Hersh, referring to persons targeted for assassination in Iran.”

    The above quote does NOT exist in the Hersh piece. You invented it. This is the snippet in the piece containing discussion of “high value targets”:

    “Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed.”

    Thus, it’s clear that the “high value targets” refers to cross-border pursuit of persons thought to be responsible for attacking the US military, etc. IN IRAQ, and NOT to assassination of selected Iranian officials as is suggested in YOUR wording. And, I’m sure that your wording is not accidental, it’s par for the course for the “progressives” to use any means necessary, including lying, disinformation, distortion to “prove” your points and get “points” from your base — it’s all about fame and fortune and truth be damned.

    And this is why we have this malignant administration and why we’ll never have change in this country. because people like you subvert the truth to your own ends. you could care less about change and about iran and about this world, it’s all cynically arranged to suit you.

  7. john wilkinson said on July 3rd, 2008 at 11:18am #

    the other thing is, not a word in the article about the nuclear issue, which, at this point is used as the excuse for all this. iranians are smart and capable people, with a civilization much longer than ours. of course they want not only nuclear energy, but nuclear weapons as well. there’s a million good reasons, from their standpoint for this (about 200 of them are called “israeli nuclear weapons” about which NOTHING is done and NOTHING was done when it could have made a difference). and we’re not acting responsibly, as a major power with nuclear weapons. doesn’t matter if we only use conventional weapons in our aggression — the nukes are there up our sleeve, just in case, if all else fails. whether or not they’ve temporarily suspended those efforts, that stands — that they want and think they need and can have these weapons. and they will eventually have them, no matter how long it takes. so that’s another legacy of the cretin in chief and the monstrous, malignant creature directing him — nuclear north korea (if you think they gave it up, you’re really naive) and nuclear iran. (and al-quaeda gaining upper hand in nuclear pakistan). along with an all-encompassing hatred for us.

    not a word about any of that in your article.

  8. john wilkinson said on July 3rd, 2008 at 11:28am #

    …not to mention nuclear weapons outside any serious control in Russia.

    and a huge gestapo-like bureaucracy created at home.

    fine legacy for our “security” for years to come.

    and you “progressives” were active enablers of this, with your lies and disinformation.

  9. john wilkinson said on July 3rd, 2008 at 11:39am #

    i really liked that photo-op of them (n. korea) blowing up the cooling tower, while the media gushed they blew up the “nuclear reactor” (which you would never in a million years do, anyway). f….ing, ignorant americans. a million workarounds around a little cooling tower for a relatively small plant, next to a major river.

  10. Arch Stanton said on July 3rd, 2008 at 12:52pm #

    “Or are they somehow acting in their own interest by provoking a regional war and destroying the global economy?”

    I don’t see how. They’re the ones with the most to lose. This seems like an easy bluff to call. Iran is calling it. The question is–why aren’t others?

  11. papercut said on July 3rd, 2008 at 8:14pm #

    well, here we are at dv, one of the main “free speech zones” of the internet. now, this clown asks, in his l;ast paragraph, “…how can we in the eyes of the world dissociate ourselves from them?”
    seems “dissociate” is the cause of the bush/cheney take over. here’s the solution to your problems. a lot of you git up offa’ yer lazy arses and go to dc and arrest the murderous sons a’ bitches. thats right, associate your selves. it’s the only solution. your vote is a big part of the problem. go get the sob’s. and please don’t continue to whine and cry on dv. tell the world how you fixed the problem. and attacking me says more about you that about me.