Hersh: Cheney shadow government running covert operations against Iran through Saudis
Our friends, the autocoprophagic neocons, are still working tirelessly toward Clusterfuck-alypse Now in the Middle East. Hersh:
The Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
Ah. "Redirection..." Some might call it a "do over", but that would be harsh. "Redirection" meaning "what happened was exactly the opposite of what we said would happen":
From the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence ["unintended" only if chaos is not the plan] of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran. ... To undermine Iran ... the U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
Oh-kay. I'd always thought that Al Qaeda was the main threat, but I guess that's just post-9/11 thinking. And what does a DFH like me know anyhow?
The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.
Republicans just don't learn, do they? No oversight, no accountability, and another Iran-Contra in the making, with an "off-the-shelf" covert operations capability. Fuck, why don't we just make Ollie North head of the DOD and have done with it?
So guess who's in charge of the "redirection"?
Why, the Dark Lord himself:
The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. While Rice has been deeply involved in shaping the public policy, former and current officials said that the clandestine side has been guided by Cheney. (Cheney’s office and the White House declined to comment for this story; the Pentagon did not respond to specific queries but said, “The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran.”)
Say, I wonder Shooter's justifying all this with his whack constitutional theory that the Vice President isn't really a bucket of warm spit, but a fourth branch of governnment? (Who's funding Big Dick now?) Bet on it. Because, for the Republicans, what were the lessons learned from Iran-Contra?
Two decades ago, the Reagan Administration attempted to fund the Nicaraguan contras illegally, with the help of secret arms sales to Iran. Saudi money was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then—notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams—are involved in today’s dealings.
Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal “lessons learned” discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: “One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office”—a reference to Cheney’s role, the former senior intelligence official said.
And whatever's going on in Cheney's Barad Dur, it's too much even for John Negroponte to stomach:
I was subsequently told by the two government consultants and the former senior intelligence official that the echoes of Iran-Contra were a factor in Negroponte’s decision to resign from the National Intelligence directorship and accept a sub-Cabinet position of Deputy Secretary of State. (Negroponte declined to comment.)
The former senior intelligence official also told me that Negroponte did not want a repeat of his experience in the Reagan Administration, when he served as Ambassador to Honduras. “Negroponte said, ‘No way. I’m not going down that road again, with the N.S.C. running operations off the books, with no finding.’ ” (In the case of covert C.I.A. operations, the President must issue a written finding and inform Congress.) Negroponte stayed on as Deputy Secretary of State, he added, because “he believes he can influence the government in a positive way.”
Oh my fucking Gawd, the classic insider's delusion. Assuming he isn't a cog in some bizarre disinformational ploy, I could actually squeeze out maybe a milligram of pity for Negroponte on this one.
The government consultant said that Negroponte shared the White House’s policy goals but “wanted to do it by the book.” The Pentagon consultant also told me that “there was a sense at the senior-ranks level that Negroponte wasn’t fully on board with the more adventurous clandestine initiatives.”
Good god. "More adventurous"? For the Bush administration? What kind of hare-brained scheme could possibly be too adventurous for the Bush administration?
It was also true, he said, that Negroponte “had problems with this Rube Goldberg policy contraption for fixing the Middle East.”
The Pentagon consultant added that one difficulty, in terms of oversight, was accounting for covert funds. “There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many places and used all over the world on a variety of missions,” he said. The budgetary chaos in Iraq [so now we know why chaos was the plan!], where billions of dollars are unaccounted for, has made it a vehicle for such transactions, according to the former senior intelligence official and the retired four-star general.
Flynt Leverett, a former Bush Administration National Security Council official, told me that “there is nothing coincidental or ironic” about the new strategy with regard to Iraq. “The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq, when—if you look at the actual casualty numbers—the punishment inflicted on America by the Sunnis is greater by an order of magnitude,” Leverett said. “This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.”
Splendid. More chaos. War without end. (And note well the willingness of a former administration official to actually be quoted by name. Things must be really bad.)
NOTE 1 Part of "making the case," as is natural with the Republicans, includes torture. No doubt this is part of the administration's plans for provocation as well:
The U.S. military also has arrested and interrogated [tortured] hundreds of Iranians in Iraq. “The word went out last August for the military to snatch as many Iranians in Iraq as they can,” a former senior intelligence official said. “They had five hundred locked up at one time. We’re working these guys [torturing them] and getting information from them. The White House goal is to build a case that the Iranians have been fomenting the insurgency and they’ve been doing it all along—that Iran is, in fact, supporting the killing of Americans.” The Pentagon consultant confirmed that hundreds of Iranians have been captured by American forces in recent months. But he told me that that total includes many Iranian humanitarian and aid workers who “get scooped up and released in a short time,” after they have been interrogated [tortured].
NOTE 2 The doubling-down is even more insane than we thought. Yet again, the administration has lowered the bar:
Martin Indyk, a senior State Department official in the Clinton Administration who also served as Ambassador to Israel, said that “the Middle East is heading into a serious Sunni-Shiite Cold War.” Indyk, who is the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, added that, in his opinion, it was not clear whether the White House was fully aware of the strategic implications of its new policy. “The White House is not just doubling the bet in Iraq,” he said. “It’s doubling the bet across the region. This could get very complicated. Everything is upside down.”
No shit, Sherlock. We're going to lose another city from this, mark my words. And the Republicans don't give a shit, because cities are blue, and therefore expendable.
UPDATE Welcome, Kos readers.
UPDATE C&L has the transcript of the CNN interview.
UPDATE Via Atrios, see Digby.