It is as though I'm back as an analyst at the
CIA, trying to estimate the chances of an attack on Iran. The putative attacker,
though, happens to be our own president.
It is precisely the work we analysts used to do. And, while it is still a bit
jarring to be turning our analytical tools on the U.S. leadership, it is by
no means entirely new. For, of necessity, we Veteran Intelligence Professionals
for Sanity (VIPS) have been doing that for almost six years now ever since
9/11, when "everything changed."
Of necessity? Yes, because, with very few exceptions, American journalists
lose their jobs if they expose things like fraudulent wars.
The craft of CIA analysis was designed to be an all-source operation, meaning
that we analysts were responsible and held accountable for assimilating
information from all sources and coming to judgments on what it all meant. We
used information of all kinds, from the most sophisticated technical collection
platforms to spies to open media.
Here I have to reveal a trade secret, which punctures the mystique of intelligence
analysis. Generally speaking, 80 percent of the information one needs to form
judgments on key intelligence targets or issues is available in open media.
It helps to have training from past masters of media analysis, which began
in a structured way in targeting Japanese and German media in the 1940s. But,
truth be told, everyone with a high-school education can do it. It is not rocket
This is not to denigrate the contribution of CIA operations officers, case
officers running sensitive agents, for though small in percentage of the whole
nine yards available to be analyzed, information from such sources can often
make a crucial contribution.
Consider, for example, the daring recruitment in mid-2002 of Saddam Hussein's
foreign minister, Naji Sabri, who was "turned" into working for the
CIA and quickly established his credibility. Sabri told us there were no weapons
of mass destruction in Iraq.
My former colleagues, perhaps a bit naively, were quite sure this would come
as a vast relief to President George W. Bush and his advisers. Instead, they
were told that the White House had no further interest in reporting from Sabri;
rather, that the issue was not really WMD, it was "regime change."
(Don't feel embarrassed if you did not know this; our corporate-owned,
war-profiteering media has largely suppressed all this.)
So our former colleague, operations officer par excellence Robert Baer, reports
(in this week's Time)
that, according to his sources, the Bush/Cheney administration is winding up
for a strike on Iran, that Bush's plan to put Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard
Corps on the terrorism list points in the direction of such a strike, and that
delusional "neoconservative" thinking that still guides White House
policy concludes that such an attack would lead to the fall of the clerics and
rise of a more friendly Iran.
Hold on, it gets even worse: Baer's sources tell him that administration
officials are thinking that "as long as we have bombers and missiles in
the air, we will hit Iran's nuclear facilities."
VIPs member Phil Giraldi, writing in The American Conservative, earlier
noted that Karl Rove has served as a counterweight to Vice President Dick Cheney,
determined as Cheney seems to be to expand the Middle East quagmire to Iran.
And former Pentagon analyst retired Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked
shoulder-to-shoulder with the most rabid Pentagon neocons just before the attack
on Iraq, has put into words (on LewRockwell.com)
speculation several of us have been indulging in with respect to Rove's departure.
In short, it seems a good bet that Rove, who is no one's dummy and would
not want to have to "spin" an unnecessary war on Iran, lost the battle
with Cheney over the merits of a military strike on Iran, and only then decided
to spend more time with his family.
Whatever else Rove has been, he has served as a counterweight to Dick Cheney's
clear desire to expand the Middle East quagmire into Iran.
As for White House spokesperson Tony Snow, it seems equally possible that,
before deciding he has to make more money, he concluded that his stomach could
not withstand the task explaining why Bush/Cheney needed to attack Iran.
With the propaganda buildup we have seen so far, what seems most likely, at
least initially, is an attack on Revolutionary Guard training facilities inside
Iran, and that can be done with cruise missiles.
With some 20 targets already identified by anti-Iranian groups, there are enough
assets already in place to do that job. But the while-we're-at-it neocon logic
referred to above may well be applied after, or even during, that kind of attack
from the air.
Cheerleading in the MSM
Yes, it is happening again.
editorial in Tuesday's Washington Post regurgitates the unproven
allegations that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is "supplying the weapons
that are killing a growing number of American soldiers in Iraq;" that it
is "waging war against the United States and trying to kill as many American
soldiers as possible."
Designating Iran a "specially designated global terrorist" organization,
says the Post, "seems to be the least the United States should be
doing, giving the soaring number of Iranian-sponsored bomb attacks in Iraq."
It's as though Dick Cheney is again writing the Post editorials. And
not only that, arch neocon James Woolsey has just told Lou Dobbs that the U.S.
may have no choice but to bomb Iran in order to halt its nuclear weapons program.
As Woolsey puts it, "I'm afraid within, well, at worst, a few months;
at best, a few years; they could have the bomb."
Woolsey, self-described "anchor of the Presbyterian wing of the Jewish
Institute for National Security Affairs," has long been way out in front
plumbing for wars, like Iraq, that he and other neocons myopically see as being
in Israel's, as well as America's, interest.
Within days of 9/11, Woolsey was arguing for war with Iraq even while conceding,
at the time, that there was no evidence tying Iraq to 9/11.
The latest is also rubbish. And Woolsey knows it. And so do the reporters for
the Washington Post, who are aware of, but have been forbidden to tell,
a highly interesting story.
The NIE That Didn't Bark
The National Intelligence Estimate on if and when
Iran is likely to have the bomb has been ready since February. It has been sent
back four times no doubt because its conclusions do not support what
folks like Cheney and Woolsey are telling the president.
The conclusions of the most recent NIE on the issue (early 2005) was that Iran
could probably not have a nuclear weapon until "early to mid-next decade,"
a formula memorized and restated by Director of National Intelligence Michael
McConnell at his confirmation hearing in February.
One can safely assume that McConnell had been fully briefed on the first "final
draft" of the new estimate, which has now been in limbo for half a year.
It is a safe bet that the conclusions of the new draft resemble those of the
2005 estimate all too closely to suit Cheney.
It is a scandal that the congressional oversight committees have not been able
to get hold of the new estimate, even in draft. For it is a safe bet it would
give the lie to the claims of Cheney, Woolsey, and other cheerleaders for war
with Iran and provide powerful ammunition to those arguing for a more sensible
approach to Iran.
Despite the administration's warlike record, many Americans may still cling
to the belief that attacking Iran won't happen because it would be crazy; that
Bush is a lame-duck president who wouldn't dare undertake a new reckless adventure
when the last one went so badly.
But with this administration rationality has not exactly been
a strong suit. Bush has placed himself in a neoconservative bubble that operates
with its own false sense of reality. As psychiatrist Justin Frank noted in a
July 27 memorandum
updating his book, Bush
on the Couch:
"We are left with a president who cannot actually govern, because he
is incapable of reasoned thought in coping with events outside his control,
like those in the Middle East.
"This makes it a monumental challenge as urgent as it is difficult
not only to get him to stop the carnage in the Middle East, but also
to prevent him from undertaking a new, perhaps even more disastrous adventure
like going to war with Iran, in order to embellish the image he so proudly
created for himself after 9/11 as the commander in chief of 'the first war of
the 21st century.'"