U.S. 'POISED TO STRIKE IRAN'
By Geoff Elliott
August 25, 2007
Bob Baer, the former Middle East CIA operative whose first book about his life inspired the oil-and-espionage thriller "Syriana," is working on a new book on Iran, but says he was told by senior intelligence officials that he had better get it published in the next couple of months because things could be about to change.
Baer, in an interview with the Weekend Australian, says his contacts in the administration suggest a strategic airstrike on Iran is a real possibility in the months ahead.
"What I'm getting is a sense that their sentiment is they are going to hit the Iranians and not just because of Israel, but due to the fact that Iran is the predominant power in the Gulf and it is hostile and its power is creeping into the Gulf at every level," Baer says.
He says his contacts have told him of his book: "You better hurry up because the thesis is going to change. I told them submission is in January but they said, 'You're probably going to be too late.'"
Washington's intelligence community is abuzz about possible military action against Iran, which is being weighed at the highest levels of the Bush administration. While the guessing game has become "will they or won't they?", at least some experienced and trusted intelligence sources have told the Weekend Australian that the possibility of a strike in the next 12 months remains remote.
"The success of a strike is limited and the downside could be enormous," said one source, noting the possibility of a regional conflagration involving the entire Gulf because Iran would look to hit back at the U.S.'s strategic interests.
For his part, Baer is not an advocate of a demonstration strike on Tehran and he is scathing of the Bush administration's handling of Middle East policy, as he is of previous administrations, marking 1979, under the Carter administration, as the point in which U.S. policy on Iran went awry.
He agrees with many in the intelligence community in Washington that a strike on Iran could be a disaster and counterproductive to U.S. interests, but he says that the rising level of impatience in the Bush administration over Iran's belligerence on its nuclear program and its destabilising role in Iraq could mean that something snaps.
"In the CIA, they are calling what the Iranians are doing to us in Iraq as the slow cook -- where we get cooked there for the next 10 years and then we give up completely and leave."
But Baer says an emboldened Iran in the event of mass U.S. withdrawal from Iraq "scares the shit out of Saudis, the Bahrainis and all the Arab gulf states." "They are saying: 'What are you going to do now that you've created a mess in Iraq and what are you going to do about Iran?'"
Intelligence sources say military contingency planning on Iran under the Bush administration has been under way since 2003 but the latest speculation has been a surgical strike on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
A case for a strike became more prominent last week when the New York Times reported the Bush administration was preparing to declare the Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organisation.
"If imposed, the declaration would signal a more confrontational turn in the administration's approach to Iran and would be the first time that the United States has added the armed forces of any sovereign government to its list of terrorist organisations," the *Times* reported.
The Revolutionary Guard is said to be the largest branch of Iran's military.
"While the United States has long labelled Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, a decision to single out the guard would amount to an aggressive new challenge from an American administration that has recently seemed conflicted over whether to take a harder line against Tehran over its nuclear program and what American officials have called its destabilising role in Iraq," the newspaper said.
The Bush administration continues to try to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, pressing the U.S.'s allies to apply sanctions against Iran in the U.N. Security Council. The State Department and Treasury officials are pushing for sanctions that include an extensive travel ban on senior Iranian officials and further moves to restrict the ability of Iran's financial institutions to do business abroad.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has consistently denied U.S. allegations that Iran was furnishing weapons to both the Taliban in Afghanistan and insurgents in Iraq. Two months ago, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the volume of weapons reaching the Taliban from Iran made it "difficult to believe" that the shipments were "taking place without the knowledge of the Iranian Government."
Baer says the Iranians are "masters at using surrogates" and disguising their role in conflicts.
"They are not stupid, they are the least stupid people in the Middle East," he says. "If they are providing the EFPs (explosively formed penetrators), they are not leaving serial numbers, return addresses; it's not the way the world works out there."
CIA SAID TO STEP OPERATIONS AGAINST IRAN AS HAWKS SEEK TO TIE IRAQ BOMBS TO TEHRAN
By Larisa Alexandrovna
** ‘They still need a trigger,’ former official says **
August 24, 2007
http://rawstory.com/news/2007/Eyeing_strike_Bush_Administration_shifts_Iran_0824.html (see original for links)
In an effort to build congressional and Pentagon support for military options against Iran, the Bush administration has shifted from its earlier strategy of building a case based on an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program to one invoking improvised explosive devices (IEDs) purportedly manufactured in Iran that are killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
According to officials -- including two former Central Intelligence Agency case officers with experience in the Middle East -- the administration believes that by focusing on the alleged ties between IEDs and Iran, they can link the Iranian government directly to attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.
The U.S. military has provided credible evidence that the specialized IEDs known as explosively formed penetrators (EFPs), which have been killing U.S. troops in Iraq, appear to have been manufactured in Iran. Intelligence and military officials caution, however, that there is nothing tying the weapons directly to the Iranian government, nor is there a direct evidentiary chain of custody linking the IEDs to Iran.
“There is clear evidence that someone in Iran is manufacturing the EFPs,” said a source currently working with military and intelligence joint operations in the Middle East, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the topic. “They have a distinctive signature. These devices are being used against U.S. troops, Sunnis, and even some Shi'as.”
“This is viewed by some in the Bush Administration as sufficient justification for taking military action against Iran,” the source concluded.
Nearly half of all fatalities and serious injuries among U.S. forces in Iraq are caused by IED attacks, including 43% of U.S. casualties in Iraq this month.
CIA REPORTED TO STEP UP OPERATIONS
A senior intelligence official told RAW STORY Tuesday that the CIA had stepped up operations in the region, shifting their Iran focus to ”other” approaches in preference to the “black propaganda” that Raw Story “has already reported on.”
The source would not elaborate on what these “other” approaches are. A recent *Washington Post* report indicated that the U.S. plans to label Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group, the first such designation for a foreign nation's military.
CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano would neither confirm nor deny that “other” operations were taking place.
“The CIA does not, as a matter of course, comment on allegations involving clandestine operations, despite the large amount of misinformation that circulates publicly on the subject," responded Gimigliano in a late Thursday email.
RAW STORY revealed in June that, according to sources, Iran was being targeted by CIA activities promoting a “pro-democracy” message and that the agency was supporting overt “pro-democracy” groups.
Two former CIA case officers interviewed said that the administration has zeroed in on the EFPs as proof positive of Iran's involvement in Iraq, despite lacking any direct trail to Tehran.
One former CIA case officer who served in the Middle East even suggested that politically framing the Iranians for its own failures in Iraq would allow the Bush administration to avoid accountability, as well as providing a casus belli for an attack.
The Bush Administration “can say it’s [the Iranians'] fault we are losing the war in Iraq and that would be a convenient out for their failed policy,” the officer said Monday.
The Iranians “have declared war against the U.S. by sabotaging the war on terror is how they might sell it. I would not be surprised to next hear of Al Qaeda-Iranian connections because these people don't know the difference between a Sunni and a Shi'a.”
SOME CONTINUE TO PRESS FOR 'SURGICAL STRIKES'
Another former CIA case officer with experience in the Middle East said that some in the administration have continued to make a case for limited or surgical strikes inside Iran, and that preparations are well underway for such an operation to occur before next year’s presidential election.
“If you were to report that a U.S. surgical strike against key targets in Iran were to happen sooner rather than later, you would not be wrong,” said this source, who wished to remain unnamed due to the sensitivity of the topic.
None of the sources interviewed for this article referenced President George W. Bush or alluded to the end of the Bush presidency as the deadline for an Iranian offensive. Each, instead, mentioned either the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney or Cheney himself.
Intelligence expert Steven Aftergood, Research Director for the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said he doesn’t believe a surgical strike would be wise.
“A surgical strike simply refers to a precisely targeted attack on a particular installation, conducted so as to minimize collateral damage. Israel's 1981 attack on Iraq's Osirak reactor would be an example,” Aftergood remarked.
“I don't believe there is a consensus that a surgical strike could be used effectively to disable Iran's nuclear program, or that it would be wise to attempt such a strike.”
IRAN'S REVOLUTIONARY GUARD
In addition to shifting from a strategy that uses an alleged immediate threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran to one featuring IEDs as the tool by which Iran is allegedly trying to sabotage the efforts of U.S. forces in Iraq, the administration has also moved toward directly implicating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps -- sometimes referred to as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard -- by labeling the group a "specially designated global terrorist" organizations.
According to an August 15 Washington Post article, the Guard will be designated a global terrorist organization under Executive Order 13224, which was issued shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, to target and block funding to terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard is the largest branch of Iran's military, boasting well over 100,000 elite active duty soldiers and roughly 300,000 reservists. The designation of the Guard as a "specially designated global terrorist” would be the first time a foreign military has been declared a terrorist organization.
Some officials speculate that the administration is trying to provoke the Iranians into an incident that will justify an airstrike in response, suggesting that the combined effect of circumstantial evidence tying Iran to the IEDs and an event or incident involving the Iranian Revolutionary Guard might “just be enough” to justify military action against Iran.
Experts and officials in the U.S. military and intelligence communities read the administration's move to declare the Guard a terrorist organization as an indication that something ominous is looming over the horizon.
One of the former CIA case officers interviewed for this article explained that the Office of the Vice President is making this drastic move in order to lay the groundwork for a possible incident.
“They still need a trigger and I would not be surprised if we will see some event in Iraq which implicates the Iranians,” said this source. “They need a pretext.”
The motivations for an Iran strike were laid out as far back as 1992. In classified defense planning guidance -- written for then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney by then-Pentagon staffers I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, and current U.N. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad -- Cheney's aides called for the United States to assume the position of lone superpower and act preemptively to prevent the emergence of even regional competitors. The draft document was leaked at the time to the New York Times and the Washington Post and caused an uproar among Democrats and many in George H. W. Bush's Administration.
Previous attempts at “fixing the facts” around the policy of a military strike against Iran have failed on several occasions, including ramped up allegations of an Iranian WMD program being close to completion that culminated in a near-offensive in March of 2006 and attempts at provocation by positioning U.S. aircraft carriers in the region during the summer of 2006.
Muriel Kane contributed to the research for this article.
IRANIAN OPERATIVES STEP UP FLOW OF WEAPONS AND TRAINING TO IRAQ: GENERAL
August 24, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps operatives are trying to sabotage U.S. security gains in Iraq by stepping up the flow of arms and training to Shiite extremist groups, a top U.S. commander charged Friday.
Major General Rick Lynch said about 20 Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members are believed to be operating in his area in central Iraq on southern and eastern outskirts of Baghdad.
"The scale of the Iranian problem is especially troubling when you look at the numbers of weapons we found and destroyed since the start of the surge," Lynch told reporters here via video link from Iraq.
He said U.S. forces have captured 117 Iranian-made munitions since April, including rockets, armor piercing explosives, and mines.
His soldiers have been targeted 48 times with armor-piercing explosives made in Iran, also known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs.
Eight U.S. soldiers from Multi-National Division Center have been killed by EFPs since the division's deployment to Iraq in April, he said.
The general said attacks with Iranian-made rockets also have grown more precise, accounting for the deaths of five U.S. soldiers.
He described an incident in which a U.S. surveillance drone spotted 46 Iranian-made rockets with Iranian-made timers lined up for an attack on a U.S. forward operating base.
They were disabled, but a rocket fired at the base killed a soldier and wounded 15 others on July 11, he said.
Videos of the rockets being lined up were found about two weeks ago in a raid east of Baghdad that captured a man who Lynch said was a link between Iran and the Mahdi army, a Shiite militia loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Tool markings and other manufacturing evidence left no doubt that the components for the captured weapons were made in Iran, he said.
Assembled in Iraq, EFPs have gone primarily to Shiite militias but also have been found among Sunni groups, according to Lynch.
"I believe in my battlespace I've got IRGC surrogates -- people that have been trained by the IRGC in Iran and come back in Iraq to conduct acts of violence," he said
"And I believe I've got some members of the IRGC, some Iranians working in our battlespace. What they do is they transit the battlespace. They don't come in and stay. They go on back and forth," he said.
"I do believe that at any given time I've got up to about 20 Iranians working in our battlespace, who are either training Iraqis to conduct acts of violence or to conduct acts of violence themselves," he said.
WHITE HOUSE RAPS IRAN OVER IRAQ UNREST
August 24, 2007
CRAWFORD, United States -- The White House warned Friday that alleged Iranian weapons flows into Iraq were at odds with Tehran's public statements that it wants to help stabilize its war-torn neighbor.
"We've made it very clear that Iranian activity inside Iraq has not been helpful," national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters as U.S. President George W. Bush spent time on his Texas ranch.
Johndroe accused Iran of being two-faced in its dealings with the United States, pointing to recent talks between top officials from Tehran and the U.S. Ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker.
"The Iranians state publicly every time they meet with Ambassador Crocker that they want to play a constructive role inside Iraq. Yet, according to our commanders on the ground, we see an increased flow of very deadly explosively formed projectiles. That is not playing a constructive role in Iraq," he said.
"Those weapons supplied by Iranians to militias are responsible for the deaths of American soldiers. The support of those militias is responsible for the deaths of innocent Iraqis. It is an understatement to say that that kind of activity is not useful, nor helpful," said the spokesman.
Johndroe, who had been asked whether such activities would justify military action against Iran, declined to answer directly.
"Americans are being killed inside Iraq and U.S. forces are taking appropriate force protection measures to deal with it," he said.
His comments came after a top U.S. commander in Iraq charged that Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps operatives were trying to sabotage U.S. security gains in Iraq by stepping up the flow of arms and training to Shiite extremist groups.