Foreign Affairs: Watch for Al Qaeda to provoke nuclear war with Iran using a "false flag" operation
[On rereading this post, I'm thinking that, really, the foreign policy establishment thinks that the administration is, well, batshit. DFH types, obviously.]
In the latest issue of the very establishment Foreign Afffairs, Bruce Riedel has an excellent* analysis of the state of play in the waronterra, in particular how Al Quaeda, with the help of the Bush penchant for creating chaos, has reconstituted itself. This paragraph of Al Qaeda Strikes Back caught my eye (remember that AQ is Sunni, unlike the majorities in Iran and Iraq, who are Shiite):
Bin Laden might also be nurturing bolder plans, such as exploiting or even triggering an all-out war between the United States and Iran. Indeed, there is evidence that al Qaeda in Iraq -- and elements of the Iraqi Sunni community -- increasingly consider Iran's influence in Iraq to be an even greater problem than the U.S. occupation. Al Qaeda worries about the Sunni minority's future in a Shiite-dominated Iraq after the Americans leave. Propaganda material of Sunni jihadists in Iraq and elsewhere openly discusses their fear that Iran will dominate a postoccupation Iraq and seek to restore the type of regional control that the Persian Empire had in the sixteenth century. In a remarkable statement last November, Zarqawi's successor, Abu Hamza al-Masri, thanked President George W. Bush for sending the U.S. Army to Iraq and thus giving al Qaeda the "great historic opportunity" to engage Americans in direct fighting on Arab ground. (He also said that Bush was "the most stupid and ominous president" in U.S. history.) But he warned that the invasion had "revived the glory of the old Persian Safavid Empire in a very short period of time." Similarly, the self-proclaimed emir of the Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, issued a statement in February 2007 welcoming news that the U.S. government was considering sending more troops to Iraq and saying that he was eagerly looking forward to an American nuclear attack on Iran.
Al Qaeda would especially like a full-scale U.S. invasion and occupation of Iran, which would presumably oust the Shiite regime in Tehran, further antagonize Muslims worldwide, and expand al Qaeda's battlefield against the United States so that it extends from Anbar Province in the west to the Khyber Pass in the east. It understands that the U.S. military is already too overstretched to invade Iran, but it expects Washington to use nuclear weapons. Baghdadi has told Sunnis in Iran to evacuate towns close to nuclear installations.
Translation: Al Qaeda to Bush: Let's you and Iran fight.
And when the going gets tough, the tough get foily:
The biggest danger is that al Qaeda will deliberately provoke a war with a "false-flag" operation, say, a terrorist attack carried out in a way that would make it appear as though it were Iran's doing. The United States should be extremely wary of such deception. In the event of an attack, accurately assigning blame will require very careful intelligence work. It may require months, or even years, of patient investigating to identify the plotters behind well-planned and well-executed operations, as it did for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Loc kerbie, Scotland, and the 1996 attacks on the U.S. barracks at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton were wise to be patient in both those cases; Washington would be well advised to do the same in the event of a similar attack in the future.
"Careful intelligence work," eh? I'm sure we can set up another Office of Special Plans! Especially if the "false flag" operation takes place in, oh, September 2008, just in time for whatever product rollout the Republicans have planned.
Well, I think I'll hit my head with a hammer now, and then put it in a bucket of water. Put my head in the bucket, that is. The hammer would rust. Maybe then I'll feel better.
* "Excellent," that is, if you accept the Foreign Affairs notion of a kindler, gentler Imperium. But Riedel does have a lot of other interesting things to say. For example:
Iraq is, of course, another critical battlefield in the fight against al Qaeda. But it is time to recognize that engagement there is more of a trap than an opportunity for the United States. Al Qaeda and Iran both want Washington to remain bogged down in the quagmire. Al Qaeda has openly welcomed the chance to fight the United States in Iraq. U.S. diplomacy has certainly been clumsy and counterproductive, but there is little point in reviewing the litany of U.S. mistakes that led to this disaster. The objective now should be to let Iraqis settle their conflicts themselves. Rather than reinforce its failures, the United States should disengage from the civil war in Iraq, with a complete, orderly, and phased troop withdrawal that allows the Iraqi government to take the credit for the pullout and so enhance its legitimacy.
It is now fashionable to call the struggle against al Qaeda the long war. It need not be so, even though helping to rebuild Afghanistan will require a long-term commitment. Decisive actions in key arenas could bring significant results in short order, and a focused strategy could eventually destroy the al Qaeda movement. On the other hand, a failure to adjust U.S. strategy would increase the risk that al Qaeda will launch another "raid" on the United States, this time perhaps with a weapon of mass destruction. For the last several years, al Qaeda's priority has been to bleed the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. Striking on U.S. soil has been a lesser goal. If al Qaeda survives, however, sooner or later it will attack the U.S. homeland again.