Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Next on Bushs "global war on terror" campaign list:Iran

Next on Bushs "global war on terror" campaign list:Iran: "Next on Bushs "global war on terror" campaign list:Iran
1/18/2005 10:30:00 AM GMT
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Douglas Feith, whose office is overseeing the development of the U.S. Iran policy


With George Bush's second inauguration coming up on Thursay, the debate amongst foreign policy analysts and experts in Washington is whether the U.S. President will extend the "global war on terror" to Iran. And if so, when?

The increase in the Iran talks is down to the "neo-conservatives" in the Pentagon. Even though they managed to amass completely misleading so-called intelligence on Iraq's weapons in the run-up to the invasion, they have keept their positions even with the post-election Bush reshuffling.

While the European Union has been involved in the recent negotiations with Iran, Washington has chosen to observe from the sides. Pentagon hardliners are convinced that the deal being brokered - which calls for the suspension of nuclear enrichment and the increase of weapons inspections - will not be implemented and thus prove to be a failure in a few months.

What Pentagon hardliners are contending for is that only when the U.S. issues a credible threat and if necessary the use of air and special operations attacks on the suspected Iranian nuclear facilities, will Tehran put a halt to the acquisition of warheads.

The doves in Bush's administration, who this time round are even fewer in number than before, are insisting that even if Iran does have a secret weapons programme, more than likely they'll be so widely spread out and buried in locations rendering it virtually impossible for American intelligence to locate them.

Furthermore, the moderates believe the chances for Iranian retaliation from inside Iraq and other locations would be so great that there is in effect no military option.

A senior administration official heavily involved in the development of the Iran policy naturally rejects the doves argument saying, "It is not as simple as that. It is not a straightforward problem but at some point the costs of doing nothing may just become too high. In Iran you have the intersection of nuclear weapons and proven ties to terrorism. That is what we are looking at now."

However, the chances of the U.S. switching its attentions to Iran have become higher following Seymour Hersh's report on the Pentagon's running of special operations teams in Iran to try and locate nuclear weapons sites.

The report was 'brushed aside' by the White House and the Pentagon, though not denied completely.

"The Iranian regime's apparent nuclear ambitions and its demonstrated support for terrorist organisations is a global challenge that deserves much more serious treatment than Seymour Hersh provides," Lawrence DiRita, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said.

"Mr Hersh's article is so riddled with errors of fundamental fact that the credibility of his entire piece is destroyed."

But according to a British media report, the Pentagon has been considering the infiltration of members belonging to the Iranian rebel group, Mujahedine-e-Khalg (MEK) in order to collect intelligence over the Iraq-Iran border.

The Iranian group is based near Baghdad and was under the protection of Saddam Hussein. Currently the U.S. is 'keeping an eye' on them while the Pentagon decides on its strategy.

The American State Department has declared MEK to be a 'terrorist group'.

The status of the group has not deterred Pentagon hardliners from including them in future Iran plans.

A former CIA agent had been asked by Pentagon officers to oversee "MEK cross-border operations".

"They are bringing a lot of the old war-horses from the Reagan and Iran-contra days into a sort of kitchen cabinet outside the government to write up policy papers on Iran," he said.

Furthermore, this policy discussion is being overseen by one Douglas Feith, the Under-Secretary of Defence for Policy and one of the strongest advocates of the Iraq war. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Feith's Office of Special Plans had contracted "like-minded experts to serve as consultants" in helping the Pentagon "counter the more cautious positions of the State Department and the CIA."

The former CIA agent believes the neo-conservatives have an extremely simple minded view as to how objectives can be achieved, and one that is dangerous.

"They think in Iran you can just go in and hit the facilities and destabilise the government. They believe they can get rid of a few crazy mullahs and bring in the young guys who like Gap jeans, all the world's problems are solved. I think it's delusional," he said.

Others believe that's not the case.

Reuel Marc Gerecht, another former CIA officer, now a leading neo-conservative voice on Iran at the American Enterprise Institute, said: "It would certainly delay [the programme] and it can be done again. It's not a one-time affair. I would be shocked if a military strike could not delay the programme."

He adds: the internal debate in the administration was only just beginning."

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