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Iraq under US Occupation

Iraq and Iran

Project: Iraq Under US Occupation
Open-Content project managed by AJB, KJF, mtuck

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Neoconservative Michael Ledeen recommends that the US invade Iraq—but only after invading Iran and overthrowing that nation’s government. Ledeen claims that the sporadic demonstrations by Iranian dissidents prove that the entire nation is just waiting for someone like the US to come in and get rid of the theocratic Iranian “mullahcracy” and replace it with a Western-style democracy. Ledeen writes: “This is yet another test of the courage and coherence of American leaders. President Bush has been outstanding in endorsing the calls for freedom in Iran, as has Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. It would be nice if Secretary of State Powell added his own eloquence to the chorus, especially because many Iranians fear that the State Department is still trying to cut a deal with the mullahs. I have long argued that it would be better to liberate Iran before Iraq, and events may soon give us that opportunity. Let’s hope our national security team recognizes how wonderful an opportunity it is, and therefore gives the Iranian freedom fighters the assistance they so richly deserve. Faster, please. Opportunity is knocking at our door.” [National Review, 11/12/2002]

Entity Tags: Michael Ledeen

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran, Neoconservative Influence

Category Tags: Military Operations, Iraq and Iran

The Russian Supreme Court outlaws a number of Islamic organizations. The “black list” of groups, compiled by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), includes Asbat al-Ansar, a Sunni militant group based in Lebanon. [Interfax, 3/15/2007] In late 2006, the US will begin providing funds through the Lebanese government to this and other militant Sunni groups as part of an effort to rollback the influence of Iran and the Shiites in Iraq (see Late 2006).

Entity Tags: Asbat al-Ansar

Category Tags: Iraq and Iran

The militant Sunni group, Asbat al-Ansar, begins sending fighters to Iraq. The group is based in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. A deputy commander of the group later tells the New York Times, “The US is oppressing a lot of people. They are killing a lot of innocents, but one day they are getting paid back.” [New York Times, 3/16/2007] The Bush administration, which has repeatedly called Iraq the new front in the war on terrorism, will reportedly begin funneling funds through the Lebanese government to Asbat al-Ansar and other militant Sunni groups in late 2006 and early 2007 in an effort to rollback the influence of Iran and the Shiites in Iraq (see Late 2006).

Entity Tags: Asbat al-Ansar

Category Tags: Iraq and Iran

The US ambassador to the UN, neoconservative John Bolton, reassures Israeli government officials that after invading Iraq, the US intends to, in author Craig Unger’s words, “take care of Iran, Syria, and North Korea.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 290]

Entity Tags: John R. Bolton, Craig Unger

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Category Tags: Military Operations, Iraq and Iran

The US-appointed Iraq Governing Council orders the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) to leave Iraq by the end of year citing its “black history” in Iraq as a “terrorist organization,” a reference to the militant organization’s long history of working with Saddam Hussein (see 1991 and December 2003). But Pentagon officials do not want the MEK to leave Iraq, as they are considering plans to use the group against Iran. [Christian Science Monitor, 12/31/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Governing Council

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Category Tags: Iraq and Iran

Ahmed Chalabi, a member of Iraq’s governing council, meets with the Baghdad station chief for Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security and informs him that the US has broken the code used to encrypt Iran’s intelligence communications. Chalabi says that he learned about the code-break from a drunken American official. A frantic exchange of communications takes place between the Iranian agent and Tehran concerning Chalabi’s claim. The US intercepts and decodes all of them, revealing Chalabi’s role. When the story is broken in the press, Chalabi denies having passed classified information to the Iranians. [Newsweek, 5/10/2004; New York Times, 6/2/2004; CBS News, 6/3/2004; News Insight, 6/9/2004]

Entity Tags: Ahmed Chalabi

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Category Tags: Political Administration, Iraq and Iran

The US sends teams of US-trained former Iranian exiles, sometimes accompanied by US Special Forces, from Iraq into southern and eastern Iran to search for underground nuclear installations. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005; United Press International, 1/26/2005; Guardian, 1/29/2005] In the north, Israeli-trained Kurds from northern Iraq, occasionally assisted by US forces, look for signs of nuclear activity as well. [United Press International, 1/26/2005] Both teams are tasked with planting remote detection devices, known as “sniffers,” which can sense radioactive emissions and other indicators of nuclear-enrichment programs while also helping US war planners establish targets. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005; United Press International, 1/26/2005] The former Iranian exiles operating in the south and east are members of Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a group that has been included in the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations since 1997 (see 1997) and included in a government white paper (see September 12, 2002) that criticized Iraq for its support of the group. After the US invaded Iraq, members of MEK were “consolidated, detained, disarmed, and screened for any past terrorist acts” by the US (see July 2004) and designated as “protected persons.” (see July 21, 2004) Initially, the MEK operate from Camp Habib in Basra, but they later launch their incursions from the Baluchi region in Pakistan. [United Press International, 1/26/2005; Newsweek, 2/15/2005] They are assisted by information from Pakistani scientists and technicians who have knowledge of Iran’s nuclear program. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] Pakistan apparently agreed to cooperate with the US in exchange for assurances that Pakistan would not have to turn over A. Q. Khan, the so-called “father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb,” to the IAEA or to any other international authorities for questioning. Khan, who is “linked to a vast consortium of nuclear black-market activities,” could potentially be of great assistance to these agencies in their efforts to undermine nuclear weapons proliferation. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] In addition to allowing Pakistan to keep Khan, the US looks the other way as Pakistan continues to buy parts for its nuclear-weapons arsenal in the black market, according to a former high-level Pakistani diplomat interviewed by Seymour Hersh [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] The United States’ use of MEK is criticized by Western diplomats and analysts who agree with many Iranians who consider the group to be traitors because they fought alongside Iraqi troops against Iran in the 1980s. [Christian Science Monitor, 12/31/2003]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Bush administration (43), People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Category Tags: Iraq and Iran

More than 250 members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a militant Iranian opposition group, return to Iran from Camp Ashraf in Iraq, accepting Iran’s December offer of amnesty. For years, the MEK leadership has assured the group’s members they faced certain death if they returned to Iran. Many remaining MEK members, over 3,500 in Iraq alone, say they are skeptical of the Iranian government’s promises and [Christian Science Monitor, 3/22/2005] dismiss the defectors as “quitters.” According to the Los Angeles Times, which interviewed several of Camp Ashraf’s residents, remaining MEK members appear to “show no interest” in going back. [Los Angeles Times, 3/19/2005]

Entity Tags: People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Category Tags: Political Administration, Iraq and Iran

Farid Ghadry.Farid Ghadry. [Source: Committee on the Present Danger]Farid Ghadry, the president of the Washington-based Reform Party of Syria (see October 2001), “wants to be the [Ahmed] Chalabi of Syria,” warns Volker Perthes, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. Chalabi played a key role in the US’s attempt to bring about regime change in Iraq, and was the neoconservatives’ choice to lead Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein (see 2002-2003). Perthes says, “Chalabi is a role model for Ghadry.” [ABC News, 1/12/2006] Ghadry, like Chalabi, is a rich Arab exile with strong connections to Washington neoconservatives who wants to overthrow the Ba’athist dictator of his native country—in this case, Bashir Assad. Ghadry says that even though there doesn’t seem to be a strong impetus to invade Syria any time soon in Washington, Syria needs to be targeted, and soon. In February 2005, he said, “Maybe we don’t have weapons of mass destruction. But there’s reason enough to help. It’s important to free Syria because Syria could be on the avant-garde of helping the US win the war on terror.” Ghadry has taken pains to distance himself from the inevitable comparisons with his Iraqi counterpart, even sending one mass e-mail titled “I am not Ahmed Chalabi.” But like Chalabi, he has cultivated friends and colleagues within the American political and business communities; [Slate, 2/7/2005] in the US, where he is known as “Frank” Ghadry, he once presented himself as Lebanese instead of Syrian, and has owned a number of businesses, including a small defense contracting firm and a failed Washington coffee-shop chain called Hannibal’s. [Washington Business Journal, 10/4/1996; Business Forward, 3/2000] He is charming, comfortable with Westerners, and has long supported the idea of peaceful co-existence with Israel. [Slate, 2/7/2005] For instance, in May 2007, Ghadry, a member of the right-wing American Israel Public Affairs Committee, will write, “As a Syrian and a Muslim, I have always had this affinity for the State of Israel. As a businessman and an advocate of the free economic system of governance, Israel to me represents an astounding economic success in the midst of so many Arab failures.… While many Arabs view Israel as a sore implant, I view it as a blessing.” [Vanity Fair, 3/2007; Farid Ghadry, 5/5/2007]
Ties to US Neoconservatives - Upon creating the Reform Party of Syria, Ghadry told reporters that Chalabi provided him with a template for his own plans for Syria: “Ahmed paved the way in Iraq for what we want to do in Syria.” And in 2005, Ghadry discussed his agenda with Chalabi, a discussion which took place in the living room of powerful US neoconservative and Chalabi sponsor Richard Perle, who, like Ghadry, supports enforced regime change in Syria. [Boston Globe, 12/13/2005] Later, Ghadry joined the Committee on the Present Danger, a group of mostly right wing politicians and think-tank fellows, and which boasts as members such prominent neoconservatives as Newt Gingrich, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and James Woolsey. [Slate, 2/7/2005] He is particularly close to Elizabeth Cheney, the daughter of the vice president, who serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs [Syria News Wire, 2/19/2006] and heads of the State Department’s Iran-Syria Operations Group, tasked with planning strategies to “democratize” the two nations. [Vanity Fair, 3/2007] Cheney ensured that Ghadry’s group received some of the hundreds of millions of dollars given to the “Middle East Partnership Initiative,” which contributes to opposition groups throughout the region, [Iran Solidarity, 11/5/2006] and has coordinated at least one meeting, in February 2006, between Ghadry and senior Bush administration officials, including officials from Vice President Cheney’s office, the National Security Council, and the Pentagon. [Washington Post, 3/26/2005] Ghadry describes notorious neoconservative political operator Michael Ledeen as “my friend.” [National Review, 3/2/2005] He writes frequent screeds warning of dire consequences to the world if Assad remains in power, which often get picked up in right-wing media outlets such as Front Page and the Washington Times. And, like Chalabi, Ghadry says that once the US moves against Syria, it will be a virtual cakewalk: though Ghadry hasn’t lived in Syria since the 1960s, he says he has intimate knowledge of the Syrian society and culture, and he knows the Syrian people will welcome their US liberators. Syria has, he says, “good dissidents, who understand the United States, can work with the United States, and can help bring about major change.” [Slate, 2/7/2005] Boston Globe columnist H.D.S. Greenway wasn’t so sure, writing in December 2005, “Chalabi… is often accused of seducing the administration with false intelligence into invading Iraq. But the fact is that the Bush administration desperately wanted to be seduced. If you are feeling charitable, you can say that Chalabi, having lived in exile for so many years, may just have been out of touch with the real situation in Iraq. But one suspects that Farid Ghadry may be no better informed about his homeland than was Chalabi.” [Boston Globe, 12/13/2005]
Refusal to Work With Other Dissidents - A Syrian news site observes in February 2006 that Ghadry’s plans for Syria are made more difficult by his refusal to work with other dissident groups because, according to one dissident leader, Husam Ad-Dairi, Ghadry “only wanted to be a leader.” Another dissident Syrian, Riad At-Turk, calls Ghadry’s idea of opposition “nonsense.” Ad-Dairi says, “Ghadry did not split off from the [Syrian National Council, an umbrella organization of dissident groups] because we are Ba’athists or Islamists. He split off because he was not willing to be part of the group; he only wanted to be a leader. He wanted to start a Syrian government in exile with 19 people in Washington DC. Who does that represent? So we opposed it.” Ghadry will later attack Ad-Dairi, At-Turk, and other dissidents, widely considered some of the most liberal in the disparate dissident movements, “Stalinists” and accuse them of supporting al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. [Syrian Comment, 1/30/2006; Syria News Wire, 2/19/2006]
Ties to Abramoff? - Ghadry’s hopes to lead Syria may be tainted by his apparent ties to GOP lobbyist and convicted criminal Jack Abramoff. In January 2006, the Reform Party of Syria’s headquarters were located very near the offices of Abramoff’s lobbying firm, Middle Gate Ventures, which was apparently partnered with the Reform Party. Middle East expert Joshua Landis called the group “a front organization for Israeli interests in the Levant… supported by an impressive constellation of neoconservative stars. Regime change, effected by a US invasion and occupation of Syria and Lebanon, is the one and only item at the top of this gang’s agenda, and it comes as no surprise that Abramoff’s ill-gotten gains went to funding it.” [Syrian Comment, 1/11/2006]

Entity Tags: Richard Perle, Joshua Landis, Michael Ledeen, Syrian National Council, Newt Gingrich, Reform Party of Syria, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Riad At-Turk, James Woolsey, Farid Ghadry, Institute for International and Security Affairs, Ahmed Chalabi, Bashir Assad, Jack Abramoff, Committee on the Present Danger, Volker Perthes, Elizabeth (“Liz”) Cheney, Middle Gate Ventures, HDS Greenway, Husam Ad-Dairi

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

Category Tags: Iraq and Iran

The White House orders the military to capture and detain as many Iranians as possible in Iraq. The Bush administration wants to build a case that Iran is fueling the violence. According to a former senior intelligence official interviewed by reporter Seymour Hersh, US forces have had as many as “five hundred locked up at one time.” But many of these included Iranian humanitarian and aid workers who “get scooped up and released in a short time.” [New Yorker, 3/5/2007]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Category Tags: Iraq and Iran

Neoconservative academic Meyrav Wurmser, the director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Hudson Institute, says the problem with the Iraq war is that it is confined to Iraq. “It’s a mess, isn’t it?” she says. “My argument has always been that this war is senseless if you don’t give it a regional context.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 344-345]

Entity Tags: Meyrav Wurmser

Category Tags: Other, Iraq and Iran

Shakir al-Abssi, a 51-year-old Palestinian militant and former associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leaves Syria and heads to the Nahr al Bared Palestinian refuge camp in Lebanon, where he establishes the new Sunni militant group Fatah al-Islam. Abssi’s departure coincides with a clamp-down in Syria against Islamic militant groups. By late March 2007, Abssi’s organization will boast a militia force of 150 fighters, roughly 50 of whom are Saudi Arabians or nationals from other Arab countries who have fought in the insurgency in Iraq. [Scotsman, 3/25/2007; Reuters, 3/25/2007]

Entity Tags: Fatah al-Islam, Shakir al-Abssi

Category Tags: Iraq and Iran, Al-Zarqawi / Al-Qaeda in Iraq

Concerned that the balance of power in the Middle East has tilted in favor of Shiite-dominated Iran, the Bush administration implements a major shift in its policy toward the region. According to a number of current and former high-level government officials interviewed by reporter Seymour Hersh, the focus of the new policy is to roll back Iran’s growing influence in Iraq. The administration’s top concern is that the failure of its policy in Iraq has empowered Iran. To undermine Iranian influence, the Bush administration begins supporting clandestine operations in Lebanon, Iran, and Syria. The administration avoids disclosing these operations to Congress by skirting congressional reporting requirements and by running them through the Saudis. The White House is also turning a blind eye to Saudi support for religious schools and charities linked to Islamic extremists. “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,” Hersh notes. One former senior intelligence official explains to Hersh, “We are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite influence, and we’re spreading the money around as much as we can.” The official adds that the money “always gets in more pockets than you think it will. In this process, we’re financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences. We don’t have the ability to determine and get pay vouchers signed by the people we like and avoid the people we don’t like.” Much of the money used to finance these activities became available as a result of the budgetary chaos in Iraq, where billions of dollars are unaccounted for. A Pentagon consultant tells Hersh, “There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many places and used all over the world on a variety of missions.” Hersh reports that according to his sources, the US is providing large sums of cash to the Sunni government of Lebanon, which in turn is being funneled to emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south. “These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hezbollah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with al-Qaeda,” Hersh writes. Another group receiving support is the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Sunni group that is an avowed enemy of the US and Israel. The “Redirection” is reportedly being led by Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, former Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, and Saudi Arabia National Security Adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan. The clandestine activities are said to be guided by Cheney. Critics of the White House’s new policy compare it to other times Western state-powers have backed Islamic militants, such as when the CIA supported the mujahedeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s (see 1986-1992). The “blowback” from that policy included the creation of al-Qaeda. Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, notes another instance: “The last time Iran was a threat, the Saudis were able to mobilize the worst kinds of Islamic radicals. Once you get them out of the box, you can’t put them back.” [Democracy Now!, 2/28/2007; New Yorker, 3/5/2007; New York Times, 12/13/2007]

Entity Tags: Saudi Arabia, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Elliott Abrams, Seymour Hersh, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, Bandar bin Sultan, Vali Nasr

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Category Tags: Iraq and Iran, Al-Zarqawi / Al-Qaeda in Iraq

John Negroponte resigns from his position as director of national intelligence. The official explanation is that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has lured him to serve as her deputy, a post that has been vacant since July. [Washington Post, 1/4/2007; Fox News, 1/5/2007] But according to sources interviewed by reporter Seymour Hersh, Negroponte’s decision was spurred by a shift in the White House’s Middle East policy (see Late 2006) that he felt was reminiscent of the Iran-Contra affair. A former senior intelligence official tells Hersh, “Negroponte said, ‘No way. I’m not going down that road again, with the NSC running operations off the books, with no finding.’” (Findings are written communications issued by the president to Congress informing lawmakers about covert operations.) [New Yorker, 3/5/2007] Another factor, according to Hersh, was that he doesn’t get along with Cheney very well—Cheney apparently feels Negroponte is too “legalistic.” [Democracy Now!, 2/28/2007]

Entity Tags: John Negroponte

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Category Tags: Iraq and Iran

Details of ‘surge’ troop deployments .Details of ‘surge’ troop deployments . [Source: Jordan Times] (click image to enlarge)In a major policy speech regarding Iraq, President Bush announces that he will order 21,500 more US combat troops to Iraq, in a troop escalation he calls a “surge.” The bulk of the troops will be deployed in and around Baghdad. In addition, 4,000 Marines will go to the violent al-Anbar province. In announcing the escalation, he concedes a point he has resisted for over three years, that there have not been enough US troops in Iraq to adequately provide security and create conditions favorable for an Iraqi democracy to take hold. He admits that his previous strategy was based on flawed assumptions about the unstable Iraqi government. “Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility lies with me,” he says. Bush says that to consider any withdrawals of American troops would be a grave mistake, and that by increasing the number of troops in Iraq now, conditions will improve to a point at which troops can be withdrawn. “To step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government,” he says. “Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer, and confront an enemy that is even more lethal. If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home.” Bush also commits the Iraqi government to meeting a series of “benchmarks,” tangible indicators of progress being made, that include adding a further 8,000 Iraqi troops and police officers in Baghdad, passage of long-delayed legislation to share oil revenues among Iraq’s ethnic groups, and a $10 billion jobs and reconstruction program, to be financed by the Iraqis. Bush aides insist that the new strategy is largely the conception of the Iraqi government, with only limited input from US planners. If successful, he says, the results will be a “functioning democracy” that “fights terrorists instead of harboring them.” [New York Times, 1/10/2007; ABC News, 1/10/2007; White House, 1/10/2007] While no one is sure how much the new policies will cost, Bush is expected to demand “billions” from Congress to fund his new escalation in the weeks ahead. [Marketwatch, 1/5/2005]
'New Way Forward' - The surge has a new marketing moniker, the “New Way Forward.” Some believe that the surge is more for political and public relations purposes than any real military effectiveness. “Clearly the deteriorating situation in Iraq is the overall background,” says political scientist Ole Holsti. The changes may indicate “they are looking for new bodies bringing fresh thinking…or you may have a kind of public-relations aspect,” to show Bush’s change in course is “more than just words.” [CBS News, 1/5/2007; USA Today, 1/5/2007]
Surge Already Underway - Interestingly, while Bush announces the “new” strategy of escalating the US presence in Iraq tonight, the escalation is already well underway. 90 advance troops from the Army’s 82nd Airborne are already in Baghdad, and another 800 from the same division are en route. The escalation will necessitate additional call-ups from the National Guard as well as additional reactivation of troops who have already toured Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, the naval group spearheaded by the aircraft carrier USS Stennis will shortly be en route to the Persian Gulf. Whether the new plan will work is anyone’s guess, say military commanders in Iraq. The escalation will take several months to implement and longer to see tangible results. One military official says, “We don’t know if this will work, but we do know the old way was failing.”
Contradicting Previous Assertions - In announcing the surge, Bush contradicts the position he has asserted since the March 2003 invasion—that military commanders were determining the direction of the war effort. Bush has repeatedly spoken of his disdain for micromanaging the war effort, and has said that he won’t second-guess his commanders. “It’s important to trust the judgment of the military when they’re making military plans,” he said in December 2006. “I’m a strict adherer to the command structure.” However, Bush balked at following the advice of many top military officials and generals, who have recommended a gradual drawdown in troop strengths, and in recent weeks replaced several top military officials who expressed doubts about the need or efficacy of new troop deployments in Iraq (see January 5, 2007). Instead, Bush believes the escalation will alleviate the drastically deteriorating security situation in Iraq. According to Pentagon officials, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who oppose the surge, have agreed to support it only grudgingly, and only because Bush officials have promised a renewed diplomatic and political effort to go along with the escalation. Outgoing Central Command chief General John Abizaid said in November that further troop increases were not a viable answer to the Iraq situation, and in their November 30 meeting, Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki did not ask Bush for more troops, instead indicating that he wanted Iraqi troops to take a higher profile. Viewpoints differ on Bush’s interaction with his commanders up to this point—some have seen him as too passive with the generals and military advisers, allowing them almost free rein in Iraq, while others see him as asserting himself by forcing the retirements or reassignments of generals who disagree with his policies.
Rebuffing the ISG - Many observers believe the surge is a backhanded rebuff to the Iraq Study Group (see January 10, 2007).
Surge Plan Concocted at Right-Wing Think Tank - Interestingly, the surge plan itself comes largely from neoconservative planners at the American Enterprise Institute (see January 2007).
Long-Term Ramifications - The Joint Chiefs worry that a troop escalation will set up the US military for an even larger failure, without having any backup options. The Iraqis will not deliver the troops necessary for their own security efforts, they believe, and worry that US troops will end up fighting in what amounts to a political vacuum unless Bush comes up with a plan for dramatic political and economic changes to go along with the military effort. A surge could lead to increased attacks by Iraqi al-Qaeda fighters, open the troops up to more attacks by Sunni insurgents, and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to battle US forces in Iraq. And the escalation’s short-term conception—to last no more than six to eight months—might well play into the plans of Iraq’s armed factions by allowing them to “game out” the new strategy. The JCS also wonder just where Bush will find the troops for the surge. Frederick Kagan, one of the architects of the surge plan, and Republican presidential candidate John McCain want far more than 20,000 troops, but the Joint Chiefs say that they can muster 20,000 at best, and not all at once. Rumsfeld’s replacement, Robert Gates, played a key role in convincing the Joint Chiefs to support the escalation. The biggest selling point of the escalation is the White House’s belief that it will portray the administration as visibly and dramatically taking action in Iraq, and will help create conditions that will eventually allow for a gradual withdrawal of US troops: Bush says, “[W]e have to go up before we go down.” [Washington Post, 1/10/2007]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, George W. Bush, American Enterprise Institute, Carl Levin, Frederick Kagan, Harry Reid, Iraq Study Group, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Peter Pace, Robert M. Gates, John P. Abizaid, John McCain, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Donald Rumsfeld, Nouri al-Maliki, Nancy Pelosi, Ole Holsti

Category Tags: Security, Iraq and Iran

Larry Wilkerson.Larry Wilkerson. [Source: New York Times]Military and national security experts outside of the neoconservative orbit view the US occupation of Iraq as a calamity that actually increases the threat towards both Israel and the US. “[Bush’s wars] have put Israel in the worst strategic and operational situation she’s been in since 1948,” says retired colonel Larry Wilkerson, who was Colin Powell’s chief of staff in the State Department. “If you take down Iraq, you eliminate Iran’s No. 1 enemy. And, oh, by the way, if you eliminate the Taliban, they might reasonably be assumed to be Iran’s No. 2 enemy.” The Brookings Institution’s Martin Indyk adds, “Nobody thought going into this war that these guys would screw it up so badly, that Iraq would be taken out of the balance of power, that it would implode, and that Iran would become dominant.” The Israeli hawks have decided that because of the disaster in Iraq, the only course left to protect itself against Iran is a military strike. “Attacking Iraq when it had no WMD may have been the wrong step,” says Uzi Arad, who advised former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on foreign affairs. “But then to ignore Iran would compound the disaster. Israel will be left alone, and American interests will be affected catastrophically.” [Vanity Fair, 3/2007]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Uzi Arad, Benjamin Netanyahu, Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson, US Department of State, Martin Indyk

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Category Tags: Security, Iraq and Iran

US and Middle Eastern intelligence officials tell the Scotsman that the recent formation of Fatah al-Islam, headed by Palestinian militant Shakir al-Abssi, represents a reemergence of al-Qaeda. The officials say that Abssi is considered a dangerous militant capable of leading teams of operatives with acute military skill. “Guys like Abssi have the capability on the ground that al-Qaeda has lost and is looking to tap into,” one US intelligence source tells the newspaper. [Scotsman, 3/25/2007]

Entity Tags: Shakir al-Abssi, Fatah al-Islam

Category Tags: Iraq and Iran

Shakir al-Abssi, leader of the recently formed Fatah al-Islam, is interviewed by the Scotsman. The 90-minute interview is his first with Western reporters. He tells the Scotsman that vengeance needs to be taken against the US for its activities in the Islamic world. “The only way to achieve our rights is by force,” he says. “This is the way America deals with us. So when the Americans feel that their lives and their economy are threatened they will know that they should leave.” According to Abssi, it is apparent that killing US soldiers in Iraq is not enough to undermine US public support for its government’s policies in the Islamic world. “We have every legitimate right to do such acts, for isn’t it America that comes to our region and kills innocents and children?” Abssi asks. “It is our right to hit them in their homes as they hit us in our homes. We are not afraid of being named terrorists. But I want to ask: is someone who detonates one kilogram a terrorist while someone who detonates tons in Arab and Islamic cities not a terrorist?” He says that US policies have created a pool of ready recruits for his organization. “Today’s youth, when they see what is happening in Palestine and Iraq, it enthuses them to join the way of the right and jihad. They have now started to adopt the right path,” he says. The Scotsman says that Abssi is permitted to operate freely within the camp despite his known ties to Islamic militant groups like al-Qaeda. The article explains that “because of Lebanese politics, he is largely shielded from the government.” [Scotsman, 3/25/2007] Lebanese forces are banned from entering Palestinian camps under an Arab agreement that signed in 1969. [Reuters, 3/25/2007] According to a recent articles by reporter Seymour Hersh and the Daily Telegraph, both the US and Saudi Arabia have begun providing the Lebanese government with financial support which is reportedly being funneled to Sunni groups, including Fatah al-Islam, as part of an effort to counterbalance the rising influence of Shiite Hezbollah, which has strong ties to Iran (see Late 2006, Before December 25, 2006, and Late 2006 or Early 2007). However, Abssi denies that his group is receiving funds from Sunni Muslim Lebanese politicians or wealthy Saudis. [Reuters, 3/25/2007]

Entity Tags: Shakir al-Abssi, Fatah al-Islam

Category Tags: Security, Iraq and Iran

Meyrav Wurmser.Meyrav Wurmser. [Source: Publicity photo via the Hudson Institute]Neoconservative Meyrav Wurmser, the director of the Center for Middle East Policy and the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney’s senior aide David Wurmser, says the failures in Iraq stem from the failure of America to think big. “My argument has always been that this war is senseless if you don’t give it a regional context,” she says. Author and journalist Craig Unger explains Wurmser’s comment by noting that she is saying that the only reason the invasion and occupation of Iraq makes sense if it is the first step in a post-millenial version of the “domino theory”—lining up one Arab regime after another, starting with Iran, and knocking them down. [Vanity Fair, 3/2007]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Craig Unger, Meyrav Wurmser, David Wurmser, Center for Middle East Policy

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

Category Tags: Iraq and Iran

A member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who resides in the Nahr Al-Bard Palestinian refuge camp, tells Al Jazeera that “Fatah Al-Islam is not a legitimate Palestinian group. They are a foreign force. Whoever brought them here should take them out.” [Arutz Sheva, 3/25/2007] Shakir al-Abssi, leader of Fatah al-Islam, has denied that his group is supported by outsiders (see March 2007). However recent reports suggest that his group is benefiting from a US and Saudi policy (see Late 2006) to use Sunni groups as part of a proxy effort to undermine Shiite groups and Iranian influence in the region.

Entity Tags: Fatah al-Islam

Category Tags: Iraq and Iran

Alexis Debat.Alexis Debat. [Source: PBS]Conservative security consultant Alexis Debat, a former French military official often used by ABC News and other US media outlets, admits that he published an interview with Democratic senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama that he never conducted. In the interview, Obama supposedly said that Iraq was “already a defeat for America” and that the US has “wasted thousands of lives.” Debat claims that he signed off on the article, published in the Summer 2007 issue of the French magazine Politique Internationale, but did not write it, instead farming it out to a freelance journalist, Rob Sherman, and having it published under Debat’s name. Sherman concocted the interview, says Debat, who says both he and Obama are victims. [Washington Post, 9/13/2007] “Rob Sherman asked me to remove his name from the interview, and my mistake was to put my name on it,” says Debat. [ABC News, 9/12/2007] “I was scammed. I was very, very stupid. I made a huge mistake in signing that article and not checking his credentials.” [Washington Post, 9/13/2007]
Greenspan: No Such Interview - Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said on September 7 that an interview with him, conducted by Debat and published in the same magazine, also never happened. [Rue 89, 9/7/2007]
Many US Officials Also Not Interviewed - Hours after Obama’s campaign disavowed the Debat interview, numerous other US politicians and business figures also say they were victimized by fake interviews supposedly conducted by Debat. Those figures include former President Bill Clinton, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Politique Internationale editor Patrick Wajsman says “This guy is just sick,” and says his magazine is removing all of Debat’s work from its Web site. Annan’s deputy communications director, Stephane Dujarric, says he warned the magazine that the Annan interview was a fabrication back in June 2005, and said that if the magazine published it—which it did—Annan’s office would “denouce the interview as a fake. This was not some obscure guy. This was the sitting secretary-general of the UN, and the magazine was told it was a fake.” Nevertheless, ABC News and Politique Internationale continued to rely on Debat as a source of information and a regular contributor of “interviews” with a variety of influential Americans. The magazine published a second interview with Annan earlier this year, but it, too, was a fabrication, apparently culled from a speech Annan gave at Princeton University. Wajsman calls the publications of the Annan interviews either a “technical” error or a misunderstanding. “I was a victim of this man. I had no reason to suspect someone like him could lie,” Wajsman says. So why did Wajsman continue to rely on Debat after the UN protests? “Everybody can be trusted once,” Wajsman says. “He seemed to be well-connected in Washington, working for ABC and the Nixon Center.” Debat admits he never interviewed any of the above-named figures, but explains: “The magazine asked me to send questions. They got the answers, and then I edited and translated them and put my name on it.” Wajsman retorts, “That is an outright lie.” [ABC News, 9/13/2007]
Debat Frequent Source of Unreliable Information on Iran - Debat has been a frequent source of incendiary information and commentary about the US’s need to invade Iran; on September 2, The Times of London published commentary from Debat in which he claimed the US is planning massive, systematic air strikes against Iran, and called it a “very legitimate strategic calculus” (see Late August, 2007). Recent reports have claimed that an organized campaign to insert reports and commentary in the US and European media drumming up support for a US attack against Iran is being orchestrated by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. [Attytood, 9/13/2007]
Debat Falsified University Record - Debat’s other reports are now being scrutinized for possible fabrications. ABC News fired Debat in June 2007 after finding that Debat lied about his background: Debat claimed he has a Ph.D from the Sorbonne, when in fact he does not. (Debat claims he earned his Ph.D, but the university hasn’t granted him the degree because of an “administrative issue.”) ABC’s chief investigative reporter Brian Ross, who has worked closely with Debat and has high praise for his work, now says: “I was angry with him because it called into question, of course, everything he had done. He could never satisfy us that he had the Ph.D.… I was very upset.” Debat has specialized in reports on terrorism and national security for the last six years. ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schnieder says that while it has so far verified all of Debat’s reporting: “There are some very serious questions about exactly who he is and how he works. We want nothing more than to get to the absolute bottom of that.” Debat directed the terrorism and national security program from Washington’s Nixon Center, a conservative think tank set up by former President Richard Nixon. He wrote for the conservative political journal National Interest, which is chaired by Henry Kissinger. Debat has now resigned both positions. His position as a regular contributor to Politique Internationale has also probably ended, Debat admits. [Washington Post, 9/13/2007]
'Never Spoke with Your Alexis What's-His-Name' - The French magazine Rue 89 exposed Debat earlier this week, calling him a “strange character” and questioning his credibility. It interviewed the purported freelance journalist, Rob Sherman, who is not a journalist but a radio talk show host in Chicago; according to Sherman, he “never spoke with your Alexis what’s-his-name.” It also reports that Debat once claimed to have earned a Ph.D from Edenvale University, in Britain, an institution that does not exist. He has also claimed to be the director of the scientific committee for the Institut Montaigne in Paris, which denies Debat ever worked with it; he has appeared on French television news claiming to be a former social worker and to be a former French commando who fought against Serbian soldiers in Yugoslavia, claims which have not been confirmed. As for his service in the French military, the French government confirms that Debat indeed held a desk job in its Ministry of Defense for a few months. [Rue 89, 9/7/2007]
'Lone Wolf' or Disinformation Source? - Philadelphia Daily News journalist Will Bunch observes: “[T]here are two radically different ways to look at this scandal. Either Debat is a lone wolf, a deluded self-aggrandizer whose main agenda is promoting himself. Or he is acting in his role at the Nixon Center as a conduit, spreading information and occasional disinformation at the behest of others.” [Attytood, 9/13/2007]
ABC News Also to Blame - Reporter Laura Rozen, a regular contributor to numerous high-end US media outlets such as the Boston Globe and Mother Jones, is unforgiving of both Debat and ABC News: “My own feeling as primarily a print world reporter… is that it is deeply problematic for a news organization to have a paid source/consultant to sometimes put on the reporter hat and act as the reporter too.… Seriously, imagine if a New York Times reporter put an ex-NSC or CIA operative on the payroll for about $2,000 to $4,000 a month as a source, cited in articles as a source, and then sometimes let him or her report news stories with a byline, without glaringly indicating to readers what was going on. But this is what ABC was doing with Debat. ABC must have known they were stretching the rules on this one. For instance, their consultant Richard Clarke is never presented as the reporter. But ABC changed the rules in the Debat case, presumably because he was bringing them such sexy scoops, that they loved flacking at the time. Now they insist the scoops were solid, but Debat misrepresented his credentials. They’re blameless.… [D]id ABC bend the rules by paying a source who also served as their reporter while having a full time appointment elsewhere, smoothing over any complications by calling him an all purpose ‘consultant?’ How much did Brian Ross approve the unusual arrangement and independently verify the information Debat was bringing from the dark corners of Pakistan? [If] Debat faked interviews for a French journal, what was to keep him from faking interviews that informed multiple stories for ABC? I find it implausible that ABC has independently re-reported all that stuff so quickly and determined it’s kosher.” [Laura Rozen, 9/12/2007]

Entity Tags: Politique Internationale, Philadelphia Daily News, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Richard A. Clarke, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Will Bunch, Stephane Dujarric, Patrick Wajsman, William Gates, Nixon Center, Richard M. Nixon, Michael R. Bloomberg, Brian Ross, Barack Obama, ABC News, Alexis Debat, Alan Greenspan, French Ministry of Defense, Colin Powell, Nancy Pelosi, Laura Rozen, London Times, Jeffrey Schnieder, Henry A. Kissinger, Kofi Annan

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran, Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: Iraq and Iran, Other Propaganda / Psyops

Former ABC News source and sometime reporter Alexis Debat, whose career as a media commentator and information source is in shambles due to his exposure as a fabricator of numerous interviews with US political and business figures (see September 12, 2007), has a number of close ties with US neoconservatives, according to research by Philadelphia Daily News reporter Will Bunch. Debat has had a strong influence on the US media’s slant on both the Iraq occupation and the envisioned war with Iran, particularly with his frequent contributions to ABC News reports and commentary. Debat has also provided sensational, and often unconfirmed, “information” about the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several “scoops” from Debat and published by ABC News about Pakistan had to be either corrected or suffered contradiction by Pakistani officials. Debat also has close, if murky, ties with a number of prominent neoconservatives and right-wing Middle East figures. Iranian-born Amir Taheri was listed as an editor of Debat’s primary European press outlet, Politique Internationale, from 2001 through 2006. Taheri’s work has been promoted by a New York public-relations firm, Benador Associates, which specializes in Middle Eastern affairs and boasts a number of neoconservatives on its website, including former Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle and former CIA director James Woolsey. Taheri is often published in newspapers owned by conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch. And, like Debat, Taheri’s work has been called into question in recent years. A May 2006 column printed in a Canadian newspaper that alleged Iran was forcing Jews and other religious minorities to wear colored badges was proven false. And a 1988 book by Taheri, Nest of Spies, purporting to give inside details about Islamic terrorism, has been shown to contain a raft of inaccuracies and misstatements. Taheri’s connections with Benador gives him prime entry to conservative media outlets, which seem to sometimes ignore the rampant problems with his reporting. [Attytood, 9/14/2007]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Amir Taheri, Alexis Debat, ABC News, Benador Associates, James Woolsey, Politique Internationale, Will Bunch, Philadelphia Daily News, George W. Bush, Rupert Murdoch, Richard Perle

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence, Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: Iraq and Iran, Other Propaganda / Psyops

The Associated Press reports that 2007 is the deadliest year yet for US troops in Iraq, though the death toll has dropped significantly in the last few months. The US military’s official count of US war dead for 2007 in Iraq is 899. (The previous high was 850 in 2004. The current death toll since the March 2003 invasion is 3,902.) The unofficial count for Iraqi civilian deaths in 2007 is 18,610. [Associated Press, 12/30/2007] CNN reports that there was a spike in US deaths in the spring as the “surge” was getting underway. There were 104 deaths in April, 126 in May, and 101 in June: the deadliest three-month stretch in the war for US troops. [CNN, 12/31/2007] The reasons for the downturn in US deaths are said to include the self-imposed cease-fire by the Shi’ite Mahdi Army, a grassroots Sunni revolt against extremists (see August 30, 2007), Iran’s apparent decision to slow down its provisions of aid for Shi’ite fighters, and the US “surge” (see February 2, 2007). General David Petraeus, the supreme commander of US military forces in Iraq, says: “We’re focusing our energy on building on what coalition and Iraqi troopers have accomplished in 2007. Success will not, however, be akin to flipping on a light switch. It will emerge slowly and fitfully, with reverses as well as advances, accumulating fewer bad days and gradually more good days.” Security consultant James Carafano of the conservative Heritage Foundation warns that the US is not out of the weeds yet. “The number of people who have the power to turns things around appears to be dwindling,” he says, referring to Iraqi extremists. “But there are still people in Iraq that could string together a week of really bad days.… People have to be really careful about over-promising that this [decline in violence] is an irreversible trend. I think it is a soft trend.” [Associated Press, 12/30/2007]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda in Iraq, James Carafano, David Petraeus, Mahdi Army, US Department of Defense, Heritage Foundation, Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Economic Reconstruction, Security, Iraq and Iran

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