July 2, 2008

Bad Timing: Covert War on Iran

If you haven’t read it yet, take the time to read Seymour Hersh’s blockbuster article in The New Yorker about US covert activities in Iran. 
This article is important for a number of reasons.  At the very least, it should be read because Seymour Hersh is an investigative journalist in a class by himself–he received a Pulitzer Prize during Vietnam for breaking the story of the My Lai massacre, he uncovered much of what we know about the Abu Ghraib scandal, he broke the story of last year’s Israeli strike on a Syrian nuclear site, and most recently he has revealed valuable information about US covert activities in Iran. 

And his current article, “Preparing the Battlefield,” makes a few surprising and significant observations.  The first and most striking for many of us is a number: 400 million.  That’s how much money the US has authorized for covert operations in Iran.  The purpose — and here Hersh cites what’s called a Presidential Finding signed by President Bush — is to destabilize Iran’s religious leadership and gather intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program. 
NIAC has long opposed a proposal for $60 million for these purposes; now we hear that Congress authorized over 6.5 times that much through classified procedures.  And it might surprise you (or not) to hear where this money is going: to covert activities supporting Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups, with the chance that some could also go to three known terrorist entities, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), PJAK, and Jundallah. 
For expert commentary on Hersh’s article, check out Laura Rozen’s blog War and Piece, particularly this post. 
This news is tragic enough by itself, but it comes at exactly the time when it appears a major breakthrough on Iran’s nuclear program is drawing near.  Former Iranian foreign minister and foreign policy advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati has hinted that Iran might accept the most recent offer by the P5+1 to suspend its uranium enrichment program.  This would pave the way for a diplomatic solution to the current standoff.  Check out Trita’s analysis of the latest news here.  And also read the comments by the eminent Iran scholar Gary Sick here
This also follows news that the Bush administration has been considering creating a US interest section in Iran, which would open up the first diplomatic channel between the US and Iran in nearly three decades. 
In all, it’s been a pretty busy week, and that’s not even including news of the plans for a blockade (up to 224 cosponsors now…), Trita’s newest op-ed with former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami in the Christian Science Monitor, or NIAC’s fund-raising efforts. 
Anyway, there’s a lot going on, but we’re not too busy to say one last thing: Happy 4th of July!

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