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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sy Hersh On Covert Action Against Iran, Again : By Cernig

Audio: Seymour M. Hersh talks about the White House and Iran.

The full article : Sy Hersh has a new piece out in the New Yorker -

June 29, 2008 - Alleging that the Bush administration has ramped up covert action inside Iran - funding and directing proxy groups of Iranian dissidents, including a group with ties to Al Qaeda, to carry out attacks "designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership." Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature. Under federal law, a Presidential Finding, which is highly classified, must be issued when a covert intelligence operation gets under way and, at a minimum, must be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees—the so-called Gang of Eight. Money for the operation can then be reprogrammed from previous appropriations, as needed, by the relevant congressional committees, which also can be briefed. “The Finding was focussed on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” a person familiar with its contents said, and involved “working with opposition groups and passing money.” The Finding provided for a whole new range of activities in southern Iran and in the areas, in the east, where Baluchi political opposition is strong, he said. Although some legislators were troubled by aspects of the Finding, and “there was a significant amount of high-level discussion” about it, according to the source familiar with it, the funding for the escalation was approved. In other words, some members of the Democratic leadership—Congress has been under Democratic control since the 2006 elections—were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party’s presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy.
None of the Democratic leaders in Congress would comment on the finding, according to Hersh. The White House, which has repeatedly denied preparing for military action against Iran, and the CIA also declined comment. There's a lot more - seven pages in total. Read, as they say, the whole thing. Hersh has been vocal about this alleged covert war and other clandestine Bush administration plans to provoke conflict with Iran for some time now, over a year. That there hasn't been a full-on shooting match despite his claims has led many to question his reports. Kevin Drum, for instance, wrote recently: In the past, conservatives have complained that we liberals are obsessed with the idea that George Bush is going to launch a military strike on Iran. And I admit that after reading the tenth or twentieth article about this with no attack forthcoming, I began to think that maybe they had a point. Maybe we should all lay off the Seymour Hersh pieces for a while and calm down. So is Hersh crying wolf or is he one of the few warning voices in the wilderness? Seems to me I'd rather be wrong and there wasn't a war than wrong and there was. If the former, I look foolish - if the latter, I look foolish and people die. I don't think my pride or credibility is worth any portion, however small, of the responsibility for the loss of multiple lives. If some of our prominent foreign policy commenters had felt the same before the Iraq invasion, it would have been far harder for Bush to accomplish. And so, here's my post noting Hersh's article and saying I continue to be worried about the true intentions of an administration that has a proven record of saying they don't want war while preparing to launch one. Read Hersh's piece and make your own mind up about what he writes.

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