Monday, June 30, 2008

IRAN DRAMATICALLY EXPANDS COVERT OPERATIONS INSIDE AMERICA

Oops--I'm sorry, I got it backward. It's America that, under the Bush administration, is doing the dramatic expanding and they're doing it inside Iran. Sometimes it's easy to confuse the bad guys.
U.S. Is Said to Expand Covert Operations in Iran Plan Allows Up to $400 Million for Activities Aimed at Destabilizing Government
By Joby Warrick Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, June 30, 2008; A02
The Bush administration told Congress last year of a secret plan to dramatically expand covert operations inside Iran as part of a long-running effort to destabilize the country's ruling regime, according to a report published yesterday.
The plan allowed up to $400 million in covert spending for activities ranging from spying on Iran's nuclear program to supporting rebel groups opposed to the country's ruling clerics, veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker magazine.
On the other hand, suppose it was Iran admitting publicly to the goal of destabilizing America? Would we be more than a little ticked-off? It just corks my bottle that the United States swaggers through what used to be international diplomacy, with two guns strapped to its belt and its chin stuck out.
While the administration has been waging a low-grade covert campaign against Iran for at least three years -- consisting mainly of cross-border raids targeting groups tied to attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq -- the new policy represents a significant expansion, the report contends. The prospect of a broader covert presence inside Iran also has raised concerns among some congressional and military officials about a possible escalation leading to a broader military conflict, it states.
"I can tell you flatly that U.S. forces are not operating across the Iraqi border into Iran, in the south or anywhere else," U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker said yesterday during an interview on CNN's "Late Edition."
Well, Ryan, thanks for the careful parsing. You have denied that U.S. forces are not operating in Iran and that's a huge relief to almost no one, because the use of U.S. forces is not the charge. ". . . ranging from spying on Iran's nuclear program to supporting rebel groups opposed to the country's ruling clerics," is the charge.
Your defense is sort of like Reagan telling us U.S. forces were not involved in the Iran Contra disaster--which would have been true (with the exception of a single disgraced Marine colonel).
Hersh reported that the approval for expanded covert authority was contained in a "Presidential Finding," a highly classified document that lays the legal groundwork for all covert activities by U.S. intelligence officials. The Iranian finding was presented late last year to eight congressional leaders -- the top Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and House, and on the intelligence committees of both chambers -- in keeping with a requirement for congressional notification. In theory, Congress can challenge a proposed covert action by denying funding.
I suspect that Congress gave its approval to this nefarious adventure in the hope that Bush-Cheney-Addington would busy themselves until the Bush presidency finally limps back to the ranch, without a major military assault on Iran. George has the country unilaterally under that threat and by country I mean America and not Iran.
The article, quoting unidentified administration officials, said the primary objectives of the covert activity included gathering intelligence on Iran's nuclear program as well as assisting Iranian opposition groups in their bid to undermine the current regime. Among the opposition groups allegedly receiving cash and other assistance are ethnic Balochi dissidents in southern Iraq as well as established resistance groups such the Mujaheddin-e Khalq.
That ought to result in the wholesale roundup of Balochi dissidents. Take that, you friends of America!! Balochistan, for those of you who may have missed that particular lesson in geography, is a province within Pakistan that overlaps ethnically into a portion of Iran. So, assisting Balochi dissidents has three advantages
  • further damaging an already strained relationship with Pakistan
  • putting those 'we help' under the spotlight, so Iran can conduct sweeps and throw all our buddies in prison
  • providing fuel for the 'American infidel treachery' label Iranian President Ahmadinejad likes to pin on an otherwise popular America
As for the People's Mujahedin of Iran, they are indeed enemies of the current Iranian regime, but they're a mixed-bag at best. These guys were formed as an armed struggle against the Shah of Iran, capitalism, and Western imperialism. Ah yes, the clean-hands guys (those who still have both hands), now devoted to a democratic, secular and coalition government in Iran. When was the last time you heard of an Islamic fundamentalist organization claiming to be pro-West and pleading for funds and weaponry? Does Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan ring a bell? Wasn't he in the thick of things as an American ally-supported by Charlie Wilson's clandestine CIA funding when we armed all these tribes to throw out the Russians? So now we're making another move, as stupid, transparent and damaging as the Iran Contra affair (for which a whole bunch of Reagan politicos went to prison) in order to take the largest democracy in the Middle East--a country that has wide American support among the youth that dominate the populace--and throw gasoline all over it in the hope that the conflaration will singe some leaders we don't like. Is it worth it if we can only escape a Bush attack on Iran? Maybe, but once a country submits to extortion by its own administration, it's the finest and most accurate definition of 'slippery-slopes' I can imagine.