Revolution #53, July 16, 2006

Seymour Hersh On Iran:

Worried Generals, Lies, and War Plans

Seymour Hersh has written another revealing article (“Last Stand—The military’s problem with the President’s Iran policy,” The New Yorker, July 10, 2006) based on inside sources, detailing a fierce debate between elements of the U.S. military and the core of the Bush regime (Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in particular) over plans for attacking Iran, including whether to use nuclear weapons.

“There is a war about the war going on inside the building,” one Pentagon consultant told Hersh. “Inside the Pentagon, senior commanders have increasingly challenged the President’s plans,” Hersh reports. “The generals and admirals .... have also warned that an attack could lead to serious economic, political, and military consequences for the United States.” On Democracy Now (July 6), Hersh added, “Here, you have a military man warning the White House about the political economic consequences of bombing Iran. This is not something that happens every day.”

This clash within the ruling class is not over the unjustness of their overarching goals of regional and global hegemony; it is over how to best advance those objectives. It reveals both the seriousness and immediacy of U.S. military planning against Iran (and the Bush regime’s lies and hypocrisy about its objectives), and most significantly the enormity of the stakes for the U.S. rulers and the unpredictable consequences of a military assault—for the U.S. rulers themselves. The horrendous murder and devastation which would be inflicted on Iranians is not, tellingly, at the heart of this debate. This latest internecine battle is an example of how many different contradictions are sharpening as the Bush juggernaut rolls—or attempts to roll—forward, and the potential for many more to erupt in unexpected ways in the not-distant future.

Hersh Confirms Bush Lies and War Plans

Hersh’s reporting confirms, from new angles, that the Bush regime’s claim that Iran could soon be a nuclear menace and that Bush and company are trying to prevent this through diplomacy—is a lie.

For starters, Hersh’s military sources admit the U.S. has no proof whatsoever that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. On Democracy Now, Hersh summed up, “The intelligence services of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and even Israel, have been unable to come up with any specific evidence of what’s known as a parallel or secret weapons program inside Iran.” Hersh reports in The New Yorker that a former senior intelligence official bluntly said, “People in the Pentagon were asking, ‘What’s the evidence? We’ve got a million tentacles out there, overt and covert, and these guys’—the Iranians—‘have been working on this for eighteen years, and we have nothing? We’re coming up with jack shit.’”

Second, the U.S. negotiating posture is not designed to resolve Iran’s nuclear status without war; it is designed to ratchet up the pressure on Iran and prepare the ground for possible military strikes in the service of the Bush goal of a regime change. The deal presented to Tehran on June 6 by the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China offered various incentives and multilateral talks in exchange for Iran temporarily halting its nuclear enrichment program and allowing international inspections. Bush threatened, "If Iran's leaders reject our offer, it will result in action before the (UN) Security Council, further isolation from the world, and progressively stronger political and economic sanctions.”

As Hersh notes in The New Yorker, "Iran...was being asked to concede the main point of the negotiations [i.e., whether it has the right to enrich uranium to produce nuclear power] before they started," as well as effectively acknowledge that it had been doing something wrong, even though there is no evidence that Iran has violated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. And the U.S. has pointedly refused to discuss Iran’s main concern: a “security” agreement that the U.S. would not seek to overthrow the Islamic Republic. If Bush’s main concern is really Iran’s nuclear program, why isn't the U.S. negotiating controls on it in exchange for a non-aggression pact? 

The U.S. and its allies arrogantly demanded that Iran give an answer by July 12. Iran’s leadership has called for "a just and equal dialogue with no preconditions,” and said it needed until late August in order to conduct a “comprehensive and accurate study of the package,” at which time it would make a counter-offer.

The Bush regime’s gangster intent is clear: its arbitrary deadline is aimed at creating a crisis atmosphere and accelerating its offensive; then if Iran refuses the U.S. offer, Bush can claim that Iran has something to hide and isn’t negotiating in good faith, therefore tougher action is needed, perhaps beginning with sanctions, but possibly quickly leading to military attacks.

All this is being driven, not by an immediate concern over Iran’s nuclear program (Iran is at least 10 years away from being able to build a nuclear weapon), but by the Bush regime’s goal of gaining radically greater control of the Middle East as a crucial step in its overarching agenda of unchallenged and unchallengeable global hegemony. A U.S. stranglehold on the Middle East is inconceivable without firm control of Iran – because of its size, strategic location, regional influence, and because it has the world’s second-largest proven reserves of conventional crude oil and the second-largest reserves of natural gas. Thus, the U.S. goal remains regime change—whether through war or a U.S.-sparked internal upheaval or collapse.

While diplomacy goes on publicly, U.S. military preparations are secretly accelerating. Hersh reports in The New Yorker that “the U.S. Strategic Command…has been drawing up plans, at the President’s direction, for a major bombing campaign in Iran,” including air strikes of “overwhelming force,” possibly against 1,000 targets. According to one think tank study (cited in “Under the Olive Trees—Waiting for the war in Iran,” Harpers, July 2006), the air assault could range from hitting Iran’s nuclear sites and air defense, to more extensive strikes at its military infrastructure and bases, to massive destruction of its civilian infrastructure, an assault which could “cripple Iran’s ability to function as a nation.”

The Cauldron of Contradictions and the Worried Generals

The Bush administration's very efforts to push forward its sweeping, unprecedented global agenda, and its attempts to bully and bludgeon all in its path, both achieve certain results (such as the fall of Iraq's Hussein regime), but also call forth a host of new problems and difficulties—contradictions—at the same time. The result is a roiling cauldron of contradictions, any number of which could spin off in unexpected directions with unintended consequences, which in turn could explode events beyond the Bush regime's ability to control them, and perhaps even lead to the unraveling of its main strategic objectives.

The worries expressed by Pentagon insiders reflect the intensification of this “cauldron of contradictions,” and their sense that things could indeed “get out of their control.” The brass interviewed by Hersh weren’t upset about the horrific toll any U.S. attack would take on the people of Iran (or that it would constitute a war crime); they were worried that it wouldn’t work, and/or could backfire.

Officials Hersh talked to were concerned that “the bombing campaign will probably not succeed in destroying Iran’s nuclear program,” that the “target array” is huge, but it’s amorphous,” that unlike Iraq, Iran is not largely flat and its geography would “complicate an air war,” and that the Navy could not take out the “more than seven hundred undeclared dock and port facilities [Iran has] along its Persian Gulf coast,” which could be used to mount attacks on shipping.

Then, what about Iran’s response, in Iraq and the region? “What if one hundred thousand Iranian volunteers came across the border?” one retired Army Major General William Nash asked Hersh. Hersh adds (Democracy Now), “All of the oil and gas production facilities in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar…[are] unprotected. Iran could simply lob a few missiles into some of those facilities and cause horrific consequences for us. We would go dark… Gasoline would go up to enormous prices.”

Then there are political consequences. Maj. Gen. Nash told Hersh that an American bombing “would be seen not only as an attack on Shiites but as an attack on all Muslims. Throughout the Middle East, it would likely be seen as another example of American imperialism. It would probably cause the war to spread.”

Other bourgeois analysts have raised a variety of other concerns, including that any attack could strengthen Iran’s clerics (as was the case in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war), at a time when they’re widely hated; that Russia will end up being the main beneficiary of U.S. moves; or that the current U.S. coalition against Iran will collapse. Chillingly, one study by Britain’s Oxford Research Group predicted that “a military operation against Iran would not, therefore, be a short-term matter but would set in motion a complex and long-lasting confrontation.” (Harpers, July 2006)

The Bush Regime’s Answer and the Nuclear Option

This Bush regime is not unaware of these various concerns. But its view is that delay and equivocation will only make matters worse and give openings to the U.S.’s regional and global rivals, and that it could lose the whole game if it doesn’t maintain the momentum in the so-called “war on terror,” and aggressively move forward.

This spring, UN Ambassador John Bolton declared (in clear reference to military attacks possibly including nuclear weapons), “The longer we wait to confront the threat Iran poses, the harder and more intractable it will become to solve… We must be prepared to rely on comprehensive solutions and use all the tools at our disposal to stop the threat that the Iranian regime poses.” (Cited in AWTW News Service, “Iran—the threat of another war, part 4: The US plan and its contradictions,” 19 June 2006).

Overall the orientation of the hardcore at the center of U.S. power is to push ahead, more aggressively and viciously if need be. A consultant with ties in the Pentagon told Hersh, “Rumsfeld and Cheney are the pushers on [attacking Iran]—they don’t want to repeat the mistake of doing too little. The lesson they took from Iraq is that there should have been more troops on the ground,” which Hersh calls an impossibility in Iran due to the over-extension of U.S. forces in Iraq, “so the air war in Iran will be one of overwhelming force.” (The New Yorker)

This is not to say they are incapable of making tactical adjustments, as they have in their recent diplomatic offensive and, according to Hersh, in taking the nuclear option off the table (at least for now). Hersh reports, “In late April, the military leadership, headed by General Pace, achieved a major victory when the White House dropped its insistence that the plan for a bombing campaign include the possible use of a nuclear device to destroy Iran’s uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz.” According to Hersh, the nuclear option was “politically untenable,” including because it would “vent fatal radiation for miles,” and provoke an international “outcry over what would be the first use of a nuclear weapon in a conflict since Nagasaki.” (The New Yorker)

But several points need to be made about this apparent turn of events. First, it shows that the nuclear option was indeed on the table: “Bush and Cheney were dead serious about the nuclear planning,” a former senior intelligence official told Hersh.

Second, the Air Force’s response was not to back off of the objective of destroying Iran’s Nantz facility; according to Hersh it “came up with a new bombing plan, using advanced guidance systems to deliver a series of large bunker-busters—conventional bombs filled with high explosives—on the same target, in swift succession. The Air Force argued that the impact would generate sufficient concussive force to accomplish what a tactical nuclear warhead would achieve…”

Finally, the nuclear option is, strategically, still on the table. As an article on (“Nuking Iran Is Not Off the Table” by Jorge Hirsch, July 6, 2006) notes, “The president has not publicly taken it off, after confirming on April 18 that it is among the options being considered.” More importantly, “According to the Nuclear Posture Review of 2001, nuclear weapons are envisioned in response to ‘surprising military developments.’” And the concerns the generals raised to Hersh would certainly constitute “surprising military developments.”

Drive Out the Bush Regime

This situation is developing rapidly, and it’s not yet clear exactly how it will unfold. Iran has not, so far, officially answered Bush’s proposal. Its rulers understand that the U.S. has great military superiority and at this point, there are indications that the mullahs would rather cut a deal than have a head-on confrontation. But they also understand that they could lose everything if they cave in—either as a result of a military attack or internal political collapse and/or upheaval. So they may be forced to stand up to the Bush regime in some fashion. 

What is clear is that Bush and his regime are hell-bent on global domination by any means necessary, no matter what people want. Hersh’s article sheds light on this, as well as the fact that there’s currently no coherent force in the U.S. ruling class capable of stopping the Bush hardcore.

Hersh reports that “several current and former officials I spoke to expressed doubt that President Bush would settle for a negotiated resolution,” and that Bush is contemptuous of opinion polls. “My friends increasingly see [Bush] as messianic, in terms of his desire, at some point, to do something about Iran.” (Democracy Now)

In The New Yorker article, Hersh quotes a Pentagon consultant saying that Vice President Cheney “is not a renegade. He represents the conventional wisdom in all of this. He appeals to the strategic-bombing lobby in the Air Force—who think that carpet bombing is the solution to all problems,” and that he operates in near-total secrecy. 

The Democrats appear nowhere in Hersh’s article, even in terms of joining in the military’s objections to Bush’s plans on a tactical level. And Hersh himself feels the coming mid-term elections will have little if any impact on U.S. war planning: “If you ask me what I really think, the time to be frightened is when [Bush is] a lame duck after the November elections, whether the Democrats grab the House or Senate or not.” (Democracy Now)

Isn’t all this yet further proof that nothing good will come from the current situation unless and until people understand that there will be no ruling class saviors, and that it’s on all of us to take responsibility to drive the Bush regime from power, whatever the hardship and sacrifice involved? The hour is very, very late.

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