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US confrontation with Iran

Project: US Confrontation with Iran
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Tehran’s ultra-conservative mayor, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, wins 19.5 percent of the vote in Iran’s national election for president putting him in second place behind the moderate Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, who receives 21 percent. A run-off election is scheduled for June 25 (see June 24, 2005). Many say the strong voter turn-out—62.7 percent—is a response to George Bush’s denunciations of Iran’s electoral system and government which angered many Iranians. “I picked Ahmadinejad to slap America in the face,” says one voter. Abdollah Momeni, a political affairs expert at Tehran University, tells the Washington Post: “People faced a dilemma. In people’s minds it became a choice between voting or giving Bush an excuse to attack.” [Associated Press, 6/18/2005; Washington Post, 6/19/2005] Mehdi Karroubi, a reformist cleric and former parliamentary speaker who comes in third, alleges voter fraud and calls for an investigation. “There has been bizarre interference. Money has changed hands,” he says. [BBC, 6/18/2005]

Entity Tags: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mehdi Karroubi

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Opposition Groups

Four Iranians are arrested in London under Britain’s anti-terror laws. The suspects are reportly connected to the dissident pro-monarchy group, Anjomane Padeshahi. The leader of the group, Dr. Froud Fouladvand, is among those arrested. London police say the men were arrested in connection with militant activity in the Middle East, possibly involving Iran’s elections (see March 11, 2005). [Guardian, 6/18/2005; Agence France-Presse, 6/18/2005]

Entity Tags: Anjomane Padeshahi, Froud Fouladvand

Category Tags: Opposition Groups

The National Iranian Gas Company announces the awarding of a $2.2 billion contract to construct a gas refinery in the southwestern Iranian province of Khuzestan to a consortium headed by the British construction firm Costain Oil, Gas & Process (COGAP). [Costain, 6/24/2005 pdf file; Forbes, 6/24/2005]

Category Tags: Oil and Gas

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. [Source: Associated Press]Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is declared the winner of Iran’s presidential run-off election (see also June 24, 2005), winning 62 percent of the vote and beating President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who garners just 35.3 percent. An estimated 50 percent of eligible Iranian voters vote. Ahmadinejad wins the election with 62 percent of the vote. [CNN, 6/25/2005; Islamic Republic News Agency, 7/9/2005] Ahmadinejad ran on a humble anti-corruption platform based on embracing the founding principles of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Ahmadinejad calls for encouraging foreign investment and partnership with Iran, modernizing industry, promoting a peaceful nuclear energy alternative while shunning reconciliation with the US. He had the support of many popular militia groups, as well as much of the poor. [CNN, 6/25/2005]

Entity Tags: Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Opposition Groups

An article in the Washington Times suggests that Iran is “in effect doing an end run around US sanctions threats” by expanding oil, gas, and petrochemical deals with countries such as India, Russia, and Iraq. [United Press International, 6/29/2005] The Times list the following examples:
Proposed Iraq Oil Swap - “A proposed pipeline from Bandar Imam in Iran to Iraq’s Basra port would carry Iraqi crude oil to Iran’s Abadan refinery and refined oil products back to Iraq.” (see also October 24, 2003). [United Press International, 6/29/2005]
Iran-Pakistan-India gas-pipeline project - “[A] 1,700-mile pipeline—sometimes referred to as the ‘peace pipeline’—that would transport Iranian natural gas through Pakistan to India” (see also January 27, 2003). [United Press International, 6/29/2005]
Russia - Iran… is pursuing plans to let Russia export its Caspian Sea oil through a Persian Gulf [oil] swap scheme, under which Russia’s oil would be piped into Iran.” The Times notes: “The scheme is a direct challenge to the recently completed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, which, built with US backing, was designed to get Caspian Sea oil to market through Turkey while bypassing both Russia and Iran.” [United Press International, 6/29/2005]

Category Tags: Oil and Gas

A map of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization countries. Blue countries are members, green countries are observers.A map of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization countries. Blue countries are members, green countries are observers. [Source: Shanghai Cooperation Organization]Vyacheslav Nikonov, a leading Russian political scientist and the president of the Moscow-based Polity Foundation, says during a news conference in Moscow that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is resetting its priorities and that curbing US influence in Central Asia has become one of the organization’s central objectives. “The SCO is now emerging as something of an interest club,” he says. “The member countries are coming to share an interest in the possible restriction of American influence in Asia.” [Novosti Russian News and Information Agency, 6/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Geopolitics

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, calls on the US to set a withdrawal date for US military forces in Afghanistan. “As the active military phase in the anti-terror operation in Afghanistan is nearing completion, the SCO would like the coalition’s members to decide on the deadline for the use of the temporary infrastructure and for their military contingents’ presence in those countries,” the organization says in its declaration. [Associated Press, 7/5/2005] The declaration also advocates limited outside interference in a country’s internal affairs, while at the same time the organization asserts its right to work with Afghanistan on security matters. “We have to make every effort to step up security cooperation or else all our talks about stability will be pointless,” says Chinese President Hu Jintao after the conference. [Eurasia Daily Monitor, 7/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Geopolitics

Iranian security forces shoot and kill Kurdish political activist Shivan Qaderi. According to Qaderi’s brother, Qaderi was approached by security forces in public, shot three times, and then tied to a military vehicle and dragged through the city. The government had accused Qaderi of “moral and financial violations.” In the aftermath, protests erupt across the western province of Kurdistan. [Human Rights Watch, 8/11/2005; Amnesty International, 8/14/2005]

Entity Tags: Shivan Qaderi

Category Tags: Opposition Groups

Curt Weldon’s book ‘Countdown to Terror,’ which warns of the so-called ‘12th Imam’ plot.Curt Weldon’s book ‘Countdown to Terror,’ which warns of the so-called ‘12th Imam’ plot. [Source: Barnes and Noble]House Intelligence Committee chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) and committee member Curt Weldon (R-PA) meet secretly in Paris with an Iranian exile calling himself “Ali.” The purpose of the meeting is unknown, but is soon disclosed by current and former US officials who request anonymity because they do not want to risk angering either of the congressmen. [McClatchy News, 7/20/2005] Weldon has just published a book, Countdown to Terror, which alleges that the CIA routinely ignores intelligence about Iranian-sponsored terror plots against US targets, and that Iran is planning a spectacular terrorist strike against the US, which he calls the “12th Imam plot.” Weldon also writes that Iran is very close to producing nuclear weapons, and that Osama bin Laden is hiding inside Iran. “Ali” is one of Weldon’s primary sources of information; much of Weldon’s book is composed of “intelligence memos” “Ali” sent him in 2003 and 2004.
'Ali' an Associate of Iranian Disinformation Peddler - Unfortunately, according to CIA station chief Bill Murray, “Ali” is really Fereidoun Mahdavi, a former minister of commerce for the long-deposed Shah of Iran, and a longtime business associate of discredited arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar. Like Ghorbanifar, Mahdavi is a known fabricator and source of disinformation. “The two are inseparable,” Murray says. “Ghorbanifar put Mahdavi out to meet with Weldon.” Murray also says Weldon broke government regulations by not informing the US ambassador to France of his 2003 and 2004 meetings with Mahdavi. Worse, Weldon denied having any meetings planned with Mahdavi, then proceeded to meet with Mahdavi in a hotel just around the corner from the US embassy. When asked by reporter Laura Rozen about the meetings between himself and Weldon, Mahdavi says he is stunned and perplexed to learn that Weldon wrote a book, and that the congressman never told him about any book plans. Mahdavi confirms that much of the information he gave Weldon came from Ghorbanifar, who was the subject of a CIA “burn notice” almost 20 years ago. In halting English, Mahdavi says: “Many information that I have given to Weldon is coming from Ghorbanifar. Because Ghorbanifar used me, in fact, to pass that stuff because I know he has problems in Washington.… I am well known in Tehran. How can I call Tehran? But Ghorbanifar is something else. He has all the contacts within Iran. Nobody has so many information and contacts that he has. Now if he is using that information through me to try to buy power indirectly, that is his business. I do it because I have known him for many years.” In Weldon’s book, one memo he receives from “Ali” reads: “Dear Curt. An attack against an atomic plant by a plane, the name mentioned, but not clear it begins with ‘SEA’,” perhaps indicating Seattle. Another memo reads: “Dear Curt:… I confirm again a terrorist attack within the United States is planned before the American elections.” Rozen calls the memos “comically overwrought.”
Interfering with Real Intelligence Work - Murray is less than impressed with Weldon’s literary effort. “Most of us [CIA officers] have been consumed with preventing real terrorist threats to the US for the past four years,” he says. “And virtually everything Ghorbanifar and his people come up with diverts us. I have hard-working people working for me, and they don’t have time for this bullsh_t.” [American Prospect, 6/10/2005; Unger, 2007, pp. 336]
Ongoing Disinformation Campaign against Iran - CIA analysts have examined Mahdavi’s “intelligence” and deemed it worthless. They do believe, however, that Mahdavi is engaged in an effort to destabilize the Iranian government, and is using Weldon and perhaps Hoekstra for those ends. Former CIA counterterrorism chief Vincent Cannistraro says Mahdavi “is just part and parcel of the longest-running, ongoing fabrication in US history.” [McClatchy News, 7/20/2005] In October 2006, one intelligence source will say that the Paris meeting was part of a larger intelligence disinformation campaign designed to plant propaganda in foreign news sources with the hope that it will filter into American news reporting and be presented as legitimate reporting. The idea is to promote the need for military action against Iran, and perhaps the overthrow of the Iranian government by the US military. [Raw Story, 10/16/2006]

Entity Tags: Fereidoun Mahdavi, Peter Hoekstra, House Intelligence Committee, Curt Weldon, Laura Rozen, Bill Murray, Vincent Cannistraro, Manucher Ghorbanifar

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations, Geopolitics

Iranian Shahab III missile on display.Iranian Shahab III missile on display. [Source: GlobalSecurity.org]US intelligence officials meet with the leaders of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna and reveal the contents of what they say is a stolen Iranian laptop computer. The laptop contains over a thousand pages of documents describing Iranian computer simulations and results of experimental results that the US officials say show a long-term Iranian effort to design a nuclear weapon (see Summer 2004). The documents do not prove that Iran has a nuclear weapon at this time, the Americans acknowledge, but say that the documents are powerful evidence that Iran, despite its denials, is actively developing a nuclear weapon that can fit atop its Shahab III ballistic missile. That missile can reach Israel and other Middle Eastern countries. The briefing, which includes IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei, is a secret part of a US campaign to bring international pressure to bear on Iran. Some countries, such as Britain, France, and Germany, have known of the documents for over a year, and have been convinced of their accuracy. Other countries unaware of the documents are not so willing to go along with the US campaign. Foreign analysts, unable to peruse the documents for themselves because of the unwillingness of the US to provide the actual documents, have not been willing to conclude that the documents are real. One European diplomat says, “I can fabricate that data. It looks beautiful, but is open to doubt.” However, IAEA analysts find the documents credible evidence of Iran’s progress with nuclear weapons. “They’ve worked problems that you don’t do unless you’re very serious,” says a European arms official. “This stuff is deadly serious.” [New York Times, 11/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Mohamed ElBaradei, Bush administration (43), Joseph Cirincione, Colin Powell, International Atomic Energy Agency, Gary Samore

Category Tags: 2007 NIE on Iran, Geopolitics, Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran

Iran marks the imminent ascension of hardline conservative Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to the presidency (see August 3, 2005) by announcing that it is resuming its previously-suspended conversion of uranium into plutonium. [BBC, 8/3/2005; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 251]

Entity Tags: Mahmoud Ahmedinejad

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is readying a vote on whether to recommend that the UN Security Council impose sanctions against Iran over that nation’s nuclear weapons program. The Bush administration, as part of its campaign to pressure the IAEA to vote for such a recommendation, briefs the president of Ghana, along with officials from Argentina, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, and Nigeria, all Security Council members, on its findings on Iran’s nuclear program derived from a laptop computer that contains evidence of Iran’s nuclear experiments (see Summer 2004). The briefing, actually a slide show, contains excerpts of the documents contained on the laptop. The US also presents a “white paper” containing summaries of the findings from the documents to another group of nations; the white paper contains no classified evidence and no mention of Iran’s purported attempts to develop a missile capable of deploying a nuclear weapon, but instead uses commercial satellite photos and economic analysis to argue that Iran has no need for nuclear power and has long hidden its nuclear ambitions. The white paper was prepared by analysts from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on behalf of the State Department. The paper does contain extensive details about some of Iran’s previously hidden nuclear sites. Most foreign officials are unimpressed. “Yeah, so what?” says one European expert who heard the briefing. “How do you know what you’re shown on a slide is true given past experience?” Nevertheless, the presentation is effective; on September 24, the IAEA votes 22 to 1 to adopt a resolution against Iran, with 12 countries, including China and Russia, abstaining. The resolution cites Iran for “a long history of concealment and deception” and its repeated failure to live up to its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which it signed in 1970. The resolution says Iran may now be considered for sanctions by the Security Council. Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, denounces the resolution as “illegal and illogical” and the result of a “planned scenario determined by the United States.” The IAEA will decide whether to send the recommendation to the Security Council in November. It is by no means certain that the Council will adopt the recommendation, as two countries rotating onto the Council, Cuba and Syria, are almost certain to refuse to bow to US pressure. And the IAEA itself is not wholly convinced of the accuracy of the documents, given the US’s refusal to allow the agency to examine the documents. IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei says he is bound to “follow due process, which means I need to establish the veracity, consistency, and authenticity of any intelligence, and share it with the country of concern.” In this case, ElBaradei says, “That has not happened.” [New York Times, 11/13/2005]

Entity Tags: United Nations Security Council, Bush administration (43), International Atomic Energy Agency, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Mohamed ElBaradei, Manouchehr Mottaki, US Department of State

Category Tags: 2007 NIE on Iran, Geopolitics, Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran

The US intelligence community releases a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran, the first of its kind since 2001. Its central conclusion is that Iran is about ten years away from manufacturing enough highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon. That doubles the previous estimate of five years. (The “five years away” estimate has been a staple of US assertions about Iran’s nuclear program since 1995.) Even then, the report states, it is unclear whether Iran would have the technology capable of using the uranium in a functional nuclear device. The NIE gives little support for recent statements by Bush administration officials that assert Iran is working hard to develop and deploy a nuclear weapon, and that such deployment could happen much sooner than ten or even five years. President Bush has said repeatedly that while he wants to resolve the crisis with Iran diplomatically, “all options are on the table,” meaning a potential military strike is being considered. The NIE says that Iran is conducting clandestine work as part of its nuclear program, but there is no way to know if that work is on nuclear weapons development. Iran is, the report states, acquiring technologies that could be diverted to bomb-making. It is uncertain whether Iran’s ruling mullahs have decided whether to build a nuclear arsenal, the NIE says, but, according to a senior intelligence official, “it is the judgment of the intelligence community that, left to its own devices, Iran is determined to build nuclear weapons.” The White House has refrained from attributing its assertions about Iran’s nuclear program to US intelligence, as it did with Iraq before the March 2003 invasion. Instead, it has pointed to Iranian efforts to conceal its activities, and questioned why, since Iran has tremendous oil and natural gas reserves, it would need a nuclear energy program. The administration is riven with infighting and competing viewpoints on Iran’s nuclear program, and this NIE does little to resolve those differences. The NIE also says that the US intelligence community still knows far too little about Iran’s nuclear program. The intelligence community gathers most of its information from communication intercepts, satellite imagery, and reports from the UN inspectors who have been investigating Iran’s nuclear program since 2003. Those inspectors have found facilities for uranium conversion and enrichment, results of plutonium tests, and equipment bought illicitly from Pakistan, all of which raised serious concerns but could be explained by an energy program. Inspectors have found no evidence that Iran possesses a nuclear warhead design or is conducting a nuclear weapons program. Deputy Director of National Intelligence Michael Hayden says that since the October 2002 NIE, which wrongly concluded Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program (see October 1, 2002), the rules governing the creation of NIEs have been revamped to mandate “a higher tolerance for ambiguity,” even if NIEs would be less conclusive in the process. [Washington Post, 8/2/2005] In 2007, a new NIE will conclude that Iran actually stopped work on a nuclear weapon in 2003 (see December 3, 2007).

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Bush administration (43), United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, Michael Hayden

Category Tags: 2007 NIE on Iran, Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran

After winning a contentious election in July, former Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, described by the BBC as an “ultra-conservative,” is confirmed as president of Iran. Ahmadinejad replaces moderate reformer Mohammad Khatami, who served as president for eight years. Ahmadinejad won the election in July, but only now becomes president after being formally endorsed by Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. With Ahmadinejad’s rise to power, hardline conservatives now control all the institutions of power in Iran. He is expected to lead a move to break off negotiations with European Union diplomats over constraining Iran’s nuclear development program (see January 2004), a move already heralded by Iran’s decision to resume converting uranium into plutonium (see Late July 2005). [BBC, 8/3/2005; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 251] Ahmadinejad tells the Iranian Parliament that while the nation will respect international norms regarding nuclear programs, it will never surrender to what he calls “illegal requests.” [Voice of America, 8/6/2005] Many believe that Khamenei is the driving force behind Ahmadinejad’s rise to power and the new sense of recalcitrant opposition to European diplomacy. [New York Times, 9/8/2006]

Entity Tags: Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Hojjat ol-Eslam Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program

Two lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, are indicted for crimes relating to their role in passing classified US government information to Israel (see April 13, 1999-2004). They are charged with conspiring “to communicate national defense information [to] persons not entitled to receive it,” applicable under the Espionage Act. Their charges are similar to those filed against former government employee Larry Franklin, their contact (see October 5, 2005). National security expert Eli Lake will call the charges against Rosen and Weissman “unprecedented,” noting that for them to face the same charges as Franklin puts them—two private citizens—under the same obligation as Franklin, a government official, to keep secret any classified information they might acquire. Lake will write: “[I]f it’s illegal for Rosen and Weissman to seek and receive ‘classified information,’ then many investigative journalists are also criminals—not to mention former government officials who write for scholarly journals or the scores of men and women who petition the federal government on defense and foreign policy. In fact, the leaking of classified information is routine in Washington, where such data is traded as a kind of currency. And, while most administrations have tried to crack down on leaks, they have almost always shied away from going after those who receive them—until now. At a time when a growing amount of information is being classified, the prosecution of Rosen and Weissman threatens to have a chilling effect—not on the ability of foreign agents to influence US policy, but on the ability of the American public to understand it.” [US v. Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman Criminal No. 1:05CR225, 8/4/2005 pdf file; New Republic, 10/10/2005; Savage, 2007, pp. 174] Months later, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will say that journalists and other private citizens can be prosecuted for leaking classified information (see May 21, 2006). Almost four years later, the charges against Rosen and Weissman will be dropped (see May 1, 2009).

Entity Tags: Keith Weissman, Steven Rosen, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Larry Franklin, Eli Lake

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Israel, Neoconservative Hawks, US Intel on Iran

Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick tells reporters that if China continues to pursue energy contracts with Iran it will find itself increasingly in conflict with the United States. He adds that it isn’t clear whether the force behind China’s dealmaking comes from new Chinese oil companies or some government “strategic plan.” He also asserts that China will not be able to guarantee its energy security through contracts with countries such as Iran “because you can’t lock up energy resources” in the global marketplace. [Reuters, 9/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Robert B. Zoellick

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Oil and Gas

During a news conference in Washington, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urges China, Russia, and India to support US threats of imposing sanctions against Iran for its nuclear programs. Iran needs to get a “unified message,” she says. “I think that after the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) report a couple of days ago, it is clear that Iran is not living up to its obligations, and so UN Security Council referral seems to be a reasonable option.” [US Department of State, 9/9/2005; BBC, 9/10/2005]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice, International Atomic Energy Agency

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Oil and Gas

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors passes a resolution declaring Iran in non-compliance with its safeguard obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The resolution calls on Iran to suspend all enrichment-related activity, cease construction on a heavy water research reactor, and provide agency inspectors access to research and development locations and documentation. The resolution also calls on Iran to “[p]romptly… ratify and implement in full the Additional Protocol,” which would require Iran to allow short-notice inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities. [International Atomic Energy Agency. Board of Governors, 9/24/2005 pdf file] Iran has signed but not ratified it. [Washington Post, 9/27/2005] If Iran fails to comply with this resolution, the board could decide at its next meeting in November to refer the matter to the UN Security Council. A referral to the Security Council would set the stage for the possible imposition of sanctions on Iran. Iran has repeatedly stated that it will not relinquish its right under the NPT to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. The resolution, sponsored by Britain, France, and Germany, passes with 22 votes. Twelve countries abstain, including Russia, China, Pakistan, South Africa and Brazil, and only one—Venezuela—opposes the resolution. India, under strong pressure from the US (see September 10, 2005), backs the resolution, despite its close ties to Iran. The resolution marks the third time in two decades that an IAEA resolution has not been approved unanimously. [BBC, 9/25/2005; Associated Press, 9/25/2005; Washington Post, 9/25/2005; Economic Times (Gurgaon, India), 9/26/2005] Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki calls the resolution “politically motivated, illegal, and illogical,” asserting that the “three European countries implemented a planned scenario already determined by the United States.” [Economic Times (Gurgaon, India), 9/26/2005]

Category Tags: Key Events, Oil and Gas

Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, says there are no plans to use military force against Iran. “All United States presidents always say all options are open. But it is not on the table, it is not on the agenda. I happen to think that it is inconceivable,” he says, referring to President Bush’s history of stating “all options are on the table” when describing the situation with Iran. [Associated Press, 9/28/2005; Daily Telegraph, 9/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Jack Straw

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Planning

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council spokesman, Ali Aghamohammadi, says that Iran has no intention of withdrawing from a multi-billion dollar deal to sell natural gas to India. There have been rumors that Iran, upset over India’s support of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution declaring Iran in breach of its Safeguard Agreements (see September 24, 2005), had informed India the deal was in jeopardy. “We have had good, deep relations with India in many fields and regional affairs and their behavior at the IAEA was strange and we didn’t expect them to vote against Iran,” he says. Nonetheless, “We don’t want to review our current relations with India and their vote against Iran doesn’t affect the gas project.” [BBC, 9/28/2005]

Entity Tags: International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Aghamohammadi

Category Tags: Iran-India pipeline, Oil and Gas

Hundreds of women from 23 women’s organizations demonstrate outside the British Embassy in Tehran protesting Britain’s support of international efforts to deny Iran its right to have a civilian nuclear energy program. [United Press International, 10/3/2005]

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program

Defense Department analyst Larry Franklin pleads guilty to passing government secrets to two employees of a pro-Israel lobbying group and to an Israeli government official, a violation of the Espionage Act. He is later sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison. [Washington Post, 10/6/2005; Washington Post, 1/21/2006; Savage, 2007, pp. 173] Franklin, an Iran specialist, gave details of US policy towards Iran to Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, two members of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) which the Washington Post calls “one of Washington’s most influential lobbying organizations.” He also admits to giving classified information directly to Naor Gilon, chief of political affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Gilon returned to Israel, but Rosen and Weissman have been charged in what prosecutors claim was a conspiracy to obtain and illegally pass classified US information to foreign officials and news reporters. Franklin reportedly has been cooperating with investigators in return for a relatively lenient sentence. [Washington Post, 10/6/2005; Washington Post, 1/21/2006] It appears that Franklin was caught by accident in 2003 as part of a larger FBI investigation into Israeli spying that began in 2001 (see September 9, 2001). Investigators had been monitoring Gilon and were reportedly “floored” to watch Franklin sit down and eat lunch with him. [United Press International, 12/9/2004]

Entity Tags: Naor Gilon, Keith Weissman, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Larry Franklin, Steven Rosen

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Israel

Britain accuses Iran of having played a role in the transfer of explosive technology from Hezbollah in Lebanon to the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army in Iraq. British officials say Iran is responsible for the deaths of all eight UK soldiers killed in Iraq this year, all of whom died in explosions. Iran denies the charges. [BBC, 9/5/2005; Reuters, 10/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Moqtada al-Sadr, Hezbollah, Mahdi Army

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says that, despite reports to the contrary, there are no plans to establish direct diplomatic contact with Iran. “[T]here is no change in our policy with respect to Iran. I think that over the past, if anything, over the past weeks and months you have seen an even tougher-minded US policy as well as a tougher-minded policy from the international community with respect to Iran’s behavior,” he says. A recent State Department briefing paper reportedly suggested establishing direct diplomatic contact with Iran in an effort to reopen negotiations with the European Union. [Associated Press, 10/6/2005; US Department of State, 10/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Sean McCormack

Category Tags: Diplomacy

In 2004, Undersecretary of State John Bolton privately informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran is conducting research into the carefully timed detonations of conventional weapons needed to trigger a nuclear device. The tests, Bolton claimed, are being held at Parchin, a secret facility south of Tehran that hosts Iran’s Defense Industries Organization, and a site where large amounts of conventional weapons and chemical munitions and fuels are manufactured. Satellite imagery shows a bunker that might be suitable for such tests. IAEA inspectors are granted limited access to the site, and find no evidence of Bolton’s claims. “We found no evidence of nuclear materials,” a European diplomat associated with the IAEA will say in 2007. The underground explosive-testing pit, the diplomat will recall, “resembled what South Africa had when it developed its nuclear weapons” in the 1970s. While the bunker could be used for nuclear trigger testing, it could also serve other purposes, such as testing rocket fuel, which routinely takes place at Parchin. The diplomat will say, “The Iranians have demonstrated that they can enrich uranium, and trigger tests without nuclear yield can be done. But it’s a very sophisticated process—it’s also known as hydrodynamic testing—and only countries with suitably advanced nuclear testing facilities as well as the necessary scientific expertise can do it. I’d be very skeptical that Iran could do it.” In November 2006, Israel will claim that new satellite photos show further evidence of possible nuclear trigger testing. [New Yorker, 11/27/2006]

Entity Tags: International Atomic Energy Agency, John R. Bolton

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program

Raymond Tanter.Raymond Tanter. [Source: PBS]Neoconservative Raymond Tanter, a member of the Institute for Near East Policy and a fervent advocate of regime change in Iran, tells the National Press Club that the Bush administration should use the Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) and its political arm, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) as an insurgent militia against the Iranian government. “The National Council of Resistance of Iran and the Mujahedeen-e Khalq are not only the best source for intelligence on Iran’s potential violations of the nonproliferation regime,” Tanter says, but “[t]he NCRI and MEK are also a possible ally of the West in bringing about regime change in Tehran” (see January 2005). Tanter also advocates using nuclear weapons against Iran’s nuclear program, and suggests that Israel might use bombs sold to it by the US to avoid conflicts with the UN’s Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Israel has refused to sign. He says that the Bush administration should “delist” MEK and the NCRI from its list of terrorist organizations: “The international community should realize that there is only one group to which the regime pays attention and fears: the Mujahedeen-e Khalq and the political coalition of which the MEK is a part, the National Council of Resistance of Iran. By delisting the NCRI and MEK from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations listing maintained by the Department of State, it would allow regime change to be on the table in Tehran. With regime change in the open, Tehran would have to face a choice about whether to slow down in its drive to acquire nuclear weapons or not.” [Iran Policy Committee, 11/21/2005; Vanity Fair, 3/2007]

Entity Tags: National Press Club, Bush administration (43), People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Raymond Tanter, National Council of Resistance of Iran, Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), US Department of State

Category Tags: US MEK policy, Covert/Clandestine Operations, Neoconservative Hawks

President Bush orders the Joint Chiefs of Staff to draw up a contingency war plan for Iran that can be implemented, upon orders from the president, within 24 hours. A special planning group will be formed to carry out the assignment. The plan will initially focus on a bombing campaign targeting Iran’s nuclear facilities. It will also include a scheme for regime change. After a major strategy shift takes place in early 2007 (see Late 2006), the plan will be revised to include targets in Iran believed to be involved in the supplying or aiding of militants in Iraq. [New Yorker, 3/5/2007]

Entity Tags: Joint Chiefs of Staff, George W. Bush, US Department of Defense

Category Tags: Preparation

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Condoleezza Rice says that the US is seeking to encourage “a new strategic alignment” that is emerging in the Middle East between “responsible” leaders on the one side, and extremists on the other. She says the US is working with Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and certain reformist leaders in Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories “to empower democratic and other responsible leaders across the region.” (Notably, only two of these countries—Turkey and Israel—have democratic forms of governments) Explaining the US’s interest in the Middle East, she says: “The security of this region is an enduring vital interest for the United States. America’s presence in this part of the world contributes significantly to its stability and success.” [US Congress, 1/11/2007 pdf file] According to a later article by veteran reporter Seymour Hersh, the policy she is describing is actually aimed at rolling back the influence that Iran has gained since the US invasion of Iraq (see Late 2006).

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice

Category Tags: Geopolitics

The Internet news site Raw Story learns that Iranian exile and arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar (see December 9, 2001) attempted to peddle a fabricated story of stolen uranium to US and other Western governments in the spring and summer of 2003 (see March 7, 2003 and After). The story comes from US and foreign intelligence sources, and is confirmed by former CIA station chief Bill Murray. Ghorbanifar’s story, of an Iranian intelligence team infiltrating Iraq just before the March 2003 invasion and stealing enriched uranium to use in Iran’s nuclear weapons program, was apparently designed to earn him money as well as to embroil both Iran and Iraq in a spurious WMD plot. It is possible that a June 2003 meeting between Ghorbanifar and two US officials was part of his attempt to peddle the story (see June 2003). Ghorbanifar was extensively involved in the Iran-Contra scandal as a middleman between Iranian government officials and members of the Reagan administration (see July 18, 1985, July 25, 1985, December 8, 1985, and December 1986). [Raw Story, 1/11/2006]

Entity Tags: Raw Story, Bill Murray, Manucher Ghorbanifar

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations, Geopolitics, Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran

Conservative New York Times pundit David Brooks writes: “[D]espite administration hopes, there is scant reason to believe that imagined Iranian cosmopolitans would shut down the nuclear program, or could if they wanted to, or could do it in time—before Israel forced the issue to a crisis point. This is going to be a lengthy and tortured debate, dividing both parties. We’ll probably be engaged in it up to the moment the Iranian bombs are built and fully functioning.” [Editor & Publisher, 12/4/2007]

Entity Tags: David Brooks

Category Tags: 2007 NIE on Iran, Nuclear Program, Neoconservative Hawks

Two former CIA officials directly involved in producing intelligence estimates on Iran’s nuclear program (see August 2, 2005) say that the Bush administration’s policy of threatening to use military force against Iran is a driving force behind that nation’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran is fearful of such an attack, the two officials say, and therefore wants nuclear weapons as a way to divert such a threat. Paul Pillar, who managed the writing of all NIEs on Iran from 2000 through 2005 as the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, says, “Iranian perceptions of threat, especially from the United States and Israel, were not the only factor, but were in our judgment part of what drove whatever effort they were making to build nuclear weapons.” Had the US tried to reassure Iran on its security fears, Pillar says, that would have had a significant effect on Iranian policies. Iran has made several diplomatic overtures to the US since 2003 (see May 4, 2003), Pillar says, that have not been reciprocated by the Bush administration. While Iran wishes to be the “dominant regional superpower” in the Middle East, the NIEs state, it is not pursuing that aspiration by means that would jeopardize the possibility of thawed relations with the US. According to Ellen Laipson, who managed several NIEs on Iran as national intelligence officer for the Near East from 1990 through 1993, and closely followed others as vice-chair of the National Intelligence Council from 1997 to 2002, says the Iranian fear of a US attack has long been “a standard element” in NIEs on Iran. Laipson is “virtually certain the estimates linked Iran’s threat perceptions to its nuclear program.” The 1991 Gulf War heightened fears of US attacks on Iran, Laipson says, and the recent belligerence of the Bush administration have again agitated Iran’s rulers. Iran’s 2002 listing as one of seven countries that might be targeted by US nuclear weapons, and President Bush’s 2002 naming of Iran as a member of the so-called “axis of evil” (see January 29, 2002), further heightened Iranian fears of a US strike. In return, Iran has tried to counterbalance that threat with the threat of its own nuclear weapons as well as attempts to shore up relations with the US. Non-proliferation expert Joseph Cirincione says that US attempts to ease Iran’s fears would go a long way to convincing Iran to give up its nuclear program. “No nation has ever been coerced into giving up a nuclear program,” Cirincione says, “but many have been convinced to do so by the disappearance of the threat.” He cites the examples of three former Soviet republics, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, and Libya as nations who gave up their nuclear ambitions after fundamental international or internal changes eliminated the security threats that were driving their nuclear weapons programs. [Inter Press Service, 2/10/2006]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Bush administration (43), Central Intelligence Agency, Ellen Laipson, Paul R. Pillar, Joseph Cirincione, National Intelligence Council

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran

The progressive Internet news site Washington Note writes a follow-up to the day’s revelation that the exposure of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity as a covert CIA agent caused heavy damage to the CIA’s ability to monitor Iran’s nuclear weapons program (see February 13, 2006). The Note reports that, according to its source, Plame Wilson’s husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, included information about Iran’s nuclear program in the report from his 2002 trip to Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002 and March 4-5, 2002). Note reporter Steve Clemons says he cannot be sure of the accuracy of the claim, “so please take the following with a grain of salt until further sourced.” Clemons describes his source as “[s]omeone with knowledge of the classified report that Joe Wilson ‘orally’ filed after his now famed investigative trip to Niger.” Wilson allegedly included two notes in his debriefing that related to Iran and its possible activities in Niger. Clemons writes that “various intelligence sources” speculate that if Iran was indeed attempting to acquire Nigerien uranium, it would be to avoid “the international intelligence monitoring of Iran’s domestic mining operations.” Wilson, according to the source, may have reported that Iran, not Iraq, tried to acquire 400 to 500 tons of Nigerien uranium (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001). Clemons writes that the notes from Wilson’s Niger debriefing have been destroyed, making it much harder to verify the claims. [Washington Note, 2/13/2006]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Central Intelligence Agency, Steve Clemons, Joseph C. Wilson

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Geopolitics

Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Cheney.Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Cheney. [Source: Leading Authorities (.com)]The State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) spends at least $85 million over the year to fuel dissident movements in Iran and Syria. According to authors Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein, the State Department program “bore similarities to the program to support Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress in the run-up to the war on Iraq” (see (1994), After 1996, and After April 18, 2006). The program has the support of Vice President Cheney, not the least because his daughter, Elizabeth “Liz” Cheney, heads it. Dubose and Bernstein describe the younger Cheney as “smart, competent, hard-working… and compltely unqualified for the job she held: principal deputy assistant for Near Eastern affairs,” or PDAS. Her boss, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch, apparently knows better than to attempt to control the younger Cheney. “[S]he’s the vice president’s daughter,” says a State Department source. “There was a kind of parallel universe over there, where David had his projects and Liz had hers. There were some things that David didn’t touch.” The younger Cheney will eventually leave the State Department, but before leaving, she places people throughout the NEA bureau who are ideologically in sync with her and her father, and are intensely loyal. “Until she came in, the NEA bureau always had a variety of people and a variety of perspectives,” the State Department source recalls. “Under [former Secretary of State Colin] Powell, anyone could voice their opinion, make dissenting arguments even if it wasn’t the policy of the administration. That changed when Liz came to be PDAS. It’s now understood that it does you no good to make your views known. In fact, it can even hurt you professionally.… There’s always a fear of the [Pentagon] hawks associated with her father, and she’s obviously talking to her father and his people.” Dubose and Bernstein will write that once the younger Cheney leaves the department in the spring of 2006, “there [will be] a definite policy shift away from military options and toward negotiation with Iran.” [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 183-184]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, David Welch, Jake Bernstein, Elizabeth (“Liz”) Cheney, US Department of State, Iraqi National Congress, Lou Dubose

Category Tags: Calls for Overthrow, Geopolitics, Neoconservative Hawks, Preparation

Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security adviser to President Carter, is grim about the ramifications of a US military strike against Iran. “I think of war with Iran as ending America’s present role,” he says. “Iraq may have been a preview of that, but it’s still redeemable if we get out fast. In a war with Iran, we’ll get dragged down for 20 or 30 years. The world will condemn us. We will lose our position in the world.” Brzezinski says that success in Iran is simple: the US just needs to outwait Iran. “The mullahs aren’t the future of Iran, they’re the past,” he says. [Washington Post, 4/12/2006; Unger, 2007, pp. 346]

Entity Tags: Zbigniew Brzezinski

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Predictions

After a meeting (see April 18, 2006) with a selection of military analysts, retired officers chosen by the Pentagon for their ability to promote the administration’s Iraq policies on television (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond), Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld makes an interesting note to himself concerning the briefing. In his memo, which distills the analysts’ advice into bullet points, he writes: “Focus on the Global War on Terror—not simply Iraq. The wider war—the long war,” and “Link Iraq to Iran. Iran is the concern. If we fail in Iraq or Afghanistan, it will help Iran.” [New York Times, 4/20/2008]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld

Category Tags: Neoconservative Hawks, Preparation

Neoconservative Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute says that “though George W. Bush, the State Department, the CIA, and the Pentagon really would prefer to do anything else,” it seems all but certain that the US will attack Iran to prevent that country from developing nuclear weapons. The Iranian mullahs are driven more by ideology than anything else, Gerecht reasons, and even US attempts to bribe them into shelving Iran’s nuclear program—much less diplomatic and economic sanctions—will not be effective. Gerecht writes that what is most wrong with Iran and other Middle Eastern Muslim nations is their fascination with what he calls “toxic ideas… Marxism, socialism, communism, fascism, and now increasingly Islamism, but never Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, or even the illiberal state-driven capitalisms of East Asia.” He predicts, “The Iranians won’t play ball.” But an American attack on Iran wouldn’t cause further problems in that increasingly chaotic region, Gerecht predicts, but will “actually accelerate internal debate” in a way that would be “painful for [Iran’s] ruling clergy.” As for imperiling the US mission in Iraq, Gerecht says dismissively that Iran “can’t really hurt us there.” [Weekly Standard, 4/24/2006; Vanity Fair, 3/2007] This is the latest of several calls by Gerecht to invade Iran (see February 18, 2002 and January 2005).

Entity Tags: Milton Friedman, Adam Smith, American Enterprise Institute, George W. Bush, Reuel Marc Gerecht, US Department of Defense, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of State

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program, Predictions, Neoconservative Hawks

It is later reported that, starting this month, Israel and the US are working together to support the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, a small resistance group working out of Iraqi Kurdistan. The group begins mounting cross-border incursions into Iran, as “part of an effort to explore alternative means of applying pressure on Iran,” according to a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon. The Party for Free Life in Kurdistan is one of a number of Kurdish, Azeri, and Baluchi tribal groups encouraged by the Pentagon to undermine the Iranian government. Israel is giving the Kurdish group “equipment and training,” according to the consultant, and “a list of targets inside Iran of interest to the US.” The Israeli government denies Israel’s involvement with the group. [New Yorker, 11/27/2006]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Party for Free Life in Kurdistan

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations

William Kristol, the publisher and chief commentator for the neoconservative Weekly Standard, calls for a “military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.” He reasons: “Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? That the current regime will negotiate in good faith? It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions—and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement.” [Editor & Publisher, 12/4/2007]

Entity Tags: William Kristol

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran, Neoconservative Hawks

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: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Preparation, Geopolitics

Peter Hoekstra.Peter Hoekstra. [Source: Public domain]The House Intelligence Committee, led by Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), releases a 29-page report entitled “Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States” that blasts the CIA and other US intelligence agencies for lacking “the ability to acquire essential information necessary to make judgments” on Iran’s nuclear program, its intentions, or its ties to terrorism. [House Intelligence Committee, 8/23/2006]
Democrats Excluded From Report - The report is generated strictly by the Republicans on the committee; input from Democratic members was quite limited. The author of the report is ex-CIA officer Frederick Fleitz, a former special assistant to Undersecretary of Defense John Bolton and a hardliner on Iran. Not surprisingly, Fleitz’s report fully supports the Bush administration’s position that Iran is moving aggressively to acquire nuclear weapons, and thusly poses an significant threat to the US. It also claims that the US intelligence community has not tried to collect or collate evidence to prove Fleitz’s assertion that Iran, a majority-Shi’ite nation, has close and sinister ties to al-Qaeda, a Sunni organization, as well as some responsibility for the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Fleitz and his researchers used nothing more than publicly available documents for his report, and did not interview any intelligence officials. Hoesktra, who publicly releases the report before it is approved by the full committee, says his purpose is to avoid the intelligence “mistakes” that led the US to conclude that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. It is widely believed that Hoekstra’s decision to release the report is part of a larger effort by the Bush administration to pressure Iran to suspend its nuclear program, a push supported by few US allies. Democrats on the committee have little confidence that the report is complete and accurate; ranking subcommittee member Rush Holt (D-NJ) says the report is not “prepared and reviewed in a way that we can rely on.” [Washington Post, 8/24/2006]
Cherrypicking - The report will never be voted on or discussed by the entire committee, in essence short-circuiting Democrats from the review and approval process. Ranking member Jane Harman (D-CA) says the report “took a number of analytical shortcuts that present the Iran threat as more dire—and the Intelligence Community’s assessments as more certain—than they are.” It is not long before the report is thoroughly debunked. Further analysis shows the report to be riddled with errors; additionally, it fails to include key information, mostly from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that disproves the report’s claims about Iran’s nuclear program. When the report is officially presented in September 2006, IAEA officials and others will term the report “outrageous and dishonest,” and provide evidence refuting its major claims (see September 14, 2006). Gary Sick, an Iran expert and a former National Security Council under Jimmy Carter, notes that the report’s claim that Iran has “the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East” entirely ignores the far larger arsenals possessed by Israel and Saudi Arabia. “If you are going to take on the entire US intelligence community, it is a very good idea to at least get your basic facts straight,” Sick says. “It is a sloppy attempt to lay the ground for another ‘slam-dunk’ judgement and a potential rush to war. It deserves to be recognized for what it is.” David Albright agrees: “This is like prewar Iraq all over again.” Albright, a former UN weapons inspector and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, says, “You have an Iranian nuclear threat that is spun up, using bad information that’s cherry-picked and a report that trashes the [IAEA] inspectors.” Weeks after the November 2006 elections, the CIA will report that it can find no evidence supporting Fleitz’s contention that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program. [Inter Press Service, 8/25/2006; Washington Post, 9/14/2006; Vanity Fair, 3/2007]
An Attempt to Undermine Rice and Diplomatic Outreach? - Many committee Democrats believe that the report is an attempt by hardline Republicans to undermine Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has agreed to talk with the Iranians under certain conditions. Bolton, Fleitz, and others oppose any diplomacy or discussion with Iran. Bolton is now the US ambassador to the UN; he and Fleitz worked diligently during President Bush’s first term to undermine the efforts of Rice’s predecessor, Colin Powell, to engage Iran, North Korea, and Syria in diplomatic talks. Many Washington neoconservatives have denounced the Bush administration’s tentative move towards diplomatic talks with Iran as nothing more than “appeasement.” (Perhaps in the same vein, Fleitz is now working on a similar report on North Korea’s weapons program; a draft leaked to the Washington Post contains allegations about the North Korean program that also cannot be substantiated.) [Inter Press Service, 8/25/2006; Washington Post, 9/14/2006]
'Unusually Slick' Hoax - Former CIA official Ray McGovern calls the report an “unusually slick” hoax that is nothing more than an attempt to frighten Congress and the American people into supporting the Bush administration’s more aggressive posture towards Iran. McGovern notes that in recent weeks Hoekstra told a Fox News audience that weapons of mass destruction were indeed found in Iraq—“We were right all the time!”—and observes that the entire report is a calculated public relations effort based on overzealous falsehoods and not on verifiable fact. The cover of the report depicts Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad giving a suspiciously Nazi-like salute, and the first page repeats Ahmadinejad’s assertion that Israel “must be wiped off the face of the map.” He also notes that Fleitz, whom he describes as Bolton’s “chief enforcer” when Bolton was at the State Department, once told State Department intelligence analysts Christian Westermann that it was “a political judgment as to how to interpret” data on Cuba’s biological weapons program (a program that only existed in Bolton’s imagination) and that the intelligence community “should do as we asked” in making its reports. McGovern concludes, “Hoekstra’s release of this paper is another sign pointing in the direction of a US attack on Iran. Tehran is now being blamed not only for inciting Hezbollah but also for sending improvised explosive devices [IEDs] into Iraq to kill or maim US forces. There is yet another, if more subtle, disquieting note about the paper. It bears the earmarks of a rushed job, with very little editorial scrubbing.… It seems to me possible that the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal told Hoekstra to get the paper out sooner rather than later, as an aid to Americans in ‘recognizing Iran as a strategic threat.’” [Antiwar.com, 8/26/2007]
Replay of Flawed Iraqi Intelligence - Many observers agree with McGovern that the report is a replay of the dangerously flawed intelligence estimates that pushed Congress to approve military action against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Gary Sick goes even further back to draw a comparison between Hoekstra’s report and the mid-1970s effort by Ford aides Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld’s so-called “Team B” to provide an “alternative” intelligence assessment on the threat posed by the then-Soviet Union. The report “is really intended as a sort of Team B report of what at least one [Congressional] staffer believes the intelligence community should be reporting on Iran.” [Inter Press Service, 8/25/2006] Author and national security expert John Prados takes an even grimmer view: “The fact that this act has been perpetrated by a congressional committee whose job it is to oversee US intelligence is further evidence that intelligence oversight has become part of the problem, not the solution.” [Tom Paine (.com), 8/25/2006]

Entity Tags: John Prados, John R. Bolton, Mohamed ElBaradei, National Security Council, Ray McGovern, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Jane Harman, Saddam Hussein, Rush Holt, Peter Hoekstra, James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr., Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Institute for Science and International Security, Condoleezza Rice, David Albright, Colin Powell, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Christian Westermann, International Atomic Energy Agency, Frederick Fleitz, Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr, House Intelligence Committee, Gary G. Sick, Donald Rumsfeld, Hezbollah

Category Tags: Diplomacy, Nuclear Program, US Policy Papers, Neoconservative Hawks

Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Druze minority in Lebanon and a strong supporter of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, meets with Vice President Cheney in Washington to discuss, among other issues, the possibility of undermining Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They are looking for a way to cut off Iranian support for Hezbollah. “We told Cheney that the basic link between Iran and Lebanon is Syria—and to weaken Iran you need to open the door to effective Syrian opposition,” Jumblatt later recalls. Jumblatt also tells Cheney that the US should consider working with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. [New Yorker, 3/5/2007]

Entity Tags: Walid Jumblatt, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations

Mohamed ElBaradei.Mohamed ElBaradei. [Source: MSNBC]The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) responds to a recently released report by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee on Iran’s nuclear program (see August 23, 2006). The IAEA terms the report “outrageous and dishonest,” and says that the report contains “erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated statements,” according to a letter from IAEA officials to Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), the chairman of the committee who released the report before it could be voted on by the full committee. Among the numerous errors is the report’s assertion that Iran is producing weapons-grade uranium at its Natanz nuclear facility. Weapons-grade uranium must be enriched to 90% or more to be effective; the Natanz facility is producing uranium enriched to only 3.5%. Intelligence officials point to at least a dozen claims in the report that are either flatly wrong or impossible to substantiate; one such error is the report’s claim that IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei removed a senior weapons inspector because of that inspector’s concerns over Iranian deception. In fact, that inspector is still working on the inspection process. The report also accuses ElBaradei of having an “unstated” policy preventing inspectors from telling the truth about Iran’s program; this allegation will provoke particular outrage from IAEA officials. [Washington Post, 9/14/2006]

Entity Tags: House Intelligence Committee, Peter Hoekstra, Mohamed ElBaradei, International Atomic Energy Agency

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Neoconservative Hawks

Paul Craig Roberts.Paul Craig Roberts. [Source: Air America]Conservative author and commentator Paul Craig Roberts believes that the Bush administration will certainly attack Iran, and probably with tactical nuclear weapons. Roberts’s conservative credentials are impressive: he served as assistant treasury secretary under Ronald Reagan, was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, and a contributing editor to the National Review. Roberts writes bluntly that a US military attack on Iran will happen, and will employ tactical nukes for the simple reason that “it is the only way the neocons believe they can rescue their goal of US (and Israeli) hegemony in the Middle East.” Roberts, unusually plain-spoken for a conservative in his opposition to the Bush policies in the Middle East, writes that the US has for all intents and purposes “lost the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan… there are no [more] troops to send” to win in either theater. Instead of acknowledging defeat, “Bush has tried to pawn Afghanistan off on NATO, but Europe does not see any point in sacrificing its blood and money for the sake of American hegemony.” In Iraq, “[T]he ‘coalition of the willing’ has evaporated. Indeed, it never existed. Bush’s ‘coalition’ was assembled with bribes, threats, and intimidation,” and cites the example of Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf admitting in September 2006 that his country was given two choices: join the US coalition or “be prepared to be bombed… back to the Stone Age” (see September 13-15, 2001). This leads Roberts back to his original position that Bush will use tactical nukes against Iran: “Bush’s defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel’s defeat by Hezbollah in Lebanon have shown that the military firepower of the US and Israeli armies, though effective against massed Arab armies, cannot defeat guerrillas and insurgencies. The US has battled in Iraq longer than it fought against Nazi Germany, and the situation in Iraq is out of control.… Bush is incapable of recognizing his mistake. He can only escalate. Plans have long been made to attack Iran. The problem is that Iran can respond in effective ways to a conventional attack. Moreover, an American attack on another Muslim country could result in turmoil and rebellion throughout the Middle East. This is why the neocons have changed US war doctrine to permit a nuclear strike on Iran.” Roberts, who has worked for and with neoconservatives for decades, says that this group believes “a nuclear attack on Iran would have intimidating force throughout the Middle East and beyond. Iran would not dare retaliate, neocons believe, against US ships, US troops in Iraq, or use their missiles against oil facilities in the Middle East. Neocons have also concluded that a US nuclear strike on Iran would show the entire Muslim world that it is useless to resist America’s will. Neocons say that even the most fanatical terrorists would realize the hopelessness of resisting US hegemony. The vast multitude of Muslims would realize that they have no recourse but to accept their fate.” The “collateral damage” of nuclear strikes against Iran would be acceptable, these neocons believe, especially in light of their “powerful intimidating effect on the enemy.” But Roberts cites nuclear expert Jorge Hirsch, who says such an attack would destroy the international Non-Proliferation Treaty “and send countries in pellmell pursuit of nuclear weapons. We will see powerful nuclear alliances, such as Russia/China, form against us. Japan could be so traumatized by an American nuclear attack on Iran that it would mean the end of Japan’s sycophantic relationship to the US.” Roberts writes that such an attack would make the US an international “pariah, despised and distrusted by every other country.” For the Bush neoconservatives, that is acceptable, Roberts writes: “Neocons believe that diplomacy is feeble and useless, but that the unapologetic use of force brings forth cooperation in order to avoid destruction. Neoconservatives say that America is the new Rome, only more powerful than Rome. Neoconservatives genuinely believe that no one can withstand the might of the United States and that America can rule by force alone.… It is astounding that such dangerous fanatics have control of the US government and have no organized opposition in American politics.” [Baltimore Chronicle, 9/26/2006; Vanity Fair, 3/2007]

Entity Tags: Paul Craig Roberts, George W. Bush, Jorge Hirsch, Bush administration (43), Pervez Musharraf

Category Tags: Predictions, Israel, Neoconservative Hawks

According to journalist Seymour Hersh, during a discussion of national security in the Executive Office Building, someone asks what will happen if the Democrats win both the Senate and the House, and how will that change the White House’s policy towards Iran? According to someone familiar with the discussion, Vice President Cheney begins reminiscing about his days as a telephone lineman in Wyoming, and the policy towards unused lengths of copper wiring. Any leftover wire over three feet long was required to be returned to the power company. No one wanted to deal with the paperwork that resulted from such returns, so, Cheney recalls, he and his fellow workers would cut the longer lengths into shorter pieces and toss them aside—making the longer wire into “shorteners.” If the Democrats win, Cheney says, the White House will still pursue a course of using the US military to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. The White House will merely put “shorteners” on any legislative restrictions Congress may pass, and stop Congress from interfering in the White House’s drive to war. A former senior intelligence official says, “They’re afraid that Congress is going to vote a binding resolution to stop a hit on Iran, a la Nicaragua in the Contra war.” Cheney’s office says it has no record of the discussion. [New Yorker, 11/27/2006]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

Former CIA counterterrorism specialist Philip Giraldi says that the 2002-2003 run-up to war with Iraq was chillingly similar to what the administration is now doing with Iran. “It is absolutely parallel,” he says. “They’re using the same dance steps—demonize the bad guys, the pretext of diplomacy, keep out of negotiations, use proxies. It is Iraq redux.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 344] In June 2006, Larry Wilkerson, the former chief of staff of ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell, echoed Giraldi’s sentiment. Noting that Vice President Dick Cheney and his office essentially drive the US’s foreign policy (see June 16, 2006), Wilkerson said of Cheney and his staff, “They are incapable of diplomacy” and determined to strike Iran. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 185]

Entity Tags: Philip Giraldi, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Lawrence Wilkerson

Category Tags: Calls for Overthrow, Geopolitics

The US is receiving false and misleading information about Iran’s nuclear capabilities from an Iranian dissident group labeled as a terrorist organization, says a former UN weapons inspector. The Mujahedeen-e Khalq, or MEK (see 1970s), is an exile group labeled by the US State Department as a terrorist organization, but embraced by many Washington neoconservatives, including a key group of White House officials operating inside Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and another working with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), says, “We should be very suspicious about what our leaders or the exile groups say about Iran’s nuclear capacity. There’s a drumbeat of allegations, but there’s not a whole lot of solid information. It may be that Iran has not made the decision to build nuclear weapons. We have to be very careful not to overstate the intelligence.” Albright says the information from MEK is somewhat more believable than the extravagantly false information provided by Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraq National Congress, which was used to bolster Bush administration allegations that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq posed a grave and imminent threat to world peace and US security (see (1994). In 2002, MEK provided critical information about Iran’s nuclear-enrichment complex at Natanz and a heavy-water production facility at Arak (see August 2002). It is unclear if Iran is pursuing a nuclear-weapons program; one UN official says of the information gleaned by the IAEA, “It’s a mixed bag.” Of MEK, he says, “The Mujahedeen Khalq appears to have some real sources inside Iran, but you can’t trust them all the time.” Iran has not been fully compliant with IAEA attempts to determine the nature and extent of its nuclear program. Nevertheless, some Congressional lawmakers say that, in light of the misinformation surrounding the claims of Iraq’s weapons programs, policy makers need to be doubly cautious about making claims and pursuing aggressive deterrence operations against Iran. Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, says, “In Iran, as well as North Korea, Syria, and so on, we need accurate, unbiased and timely intelligence. Iraq has shown that our intelligence products have a credibility problem and improvements are critically needed.” Iranian journalist Emadeddin Baghi, a columnist for the liberal Sharq newspaper who served two years in prison for criticizing the religious establishment, says that in Iran, skepticism runs deep. “Many Iranians instinctively disbelieve anything their own government says, but they also disbelieve the Americans, and what has happened in Iraq has strengthened that,” Baghi says. “Iranians see the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and they see the American accusations about nuclear weapons as just another pretext for other hidden aims.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/26/2006]

Entity Tags: Iraqi National Congress, David Albright, Bush administration (43), Ahmed Chalabi, Emadeddin Baghi, International Atomic Energy Agency, Jane Harman, Paul Wolfowitz, US Department of State, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Saddam Hussein, People’s Mujahedin of Iran, House Intelligence Committee

Category Tags: US MEK policy, Nuclear Program, Opposition Groups, Neoconservative Hawks

Larry Wilkerson, who served as the chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, says that the Iraq occupation has had a devastating effect on Israel. Bush’s wars “have put Israel in the worst strategic and operational situation she’s been in since 1948,” Wilkerson says. This has all rebounded to Iran’s favor: “If you take down Iraq, you eliminate Iran’s number one enemy. And, oh, by the way, if you eliminate the Taliban, they might reasonably be assumed to be Iran’s number two enemy.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 339]

Entity Tags: Lawrence Wilkerson

Category Tags: Geopolitics

Philip Giraldi.Philip Giraldi. [Source: Canal+]Former CIA official Philip Giraldi will later reveal that the office of Vice President Dick Cheney is holding up the internal release of a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran starting at this time, because Cheney’s people are not happy with the dissenting views contained within the document. The NIE contains widely differing views on whether or not Iran is trying to create a nuclear weapon. It also says that there is no conclusive evidence that Iran is arming Shi’ite insurgents in Iraq. Cheney’s office wants an NIE that bolsters its view of an aggressive, threatening Iran, and is not willing to accept the publication or the current Iran NIE. Giraldi says that the White House has decided not to release the NIE until after the November 2006 Congressional elections. The NIE will not be released until December 2007 (see December 3, 2007). [Inter Press Service, 11/10/2007]

Entity Tags: Philip Giraldi, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: US Policy Papers

Iran is unlikely to be able to develop a nuclear weapon before 2015, says the head of Germany’s intelligence service. Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) head Ernst Uhrlau tells a security conference, “It is difficult to give an exact estimate of the time,” but “[a]ccording to the current rate of enrichment, the Islamic Republic will not have sufficient amounts of highly enriched uranium with which to build atomic weapons before 2010. For a nuclear bomb we are looking at around 2015.” Uhrlau’s estimate echoes the findings of a recent US intelligence report on Iran’s nuclear weapons program (see August 2, 2005). Iran has long insisted that its nuclear program is strictly for the production of electricity. [Reuters, 10/24/2006]

Entity Tags: Ernst Uhrlau, Bundesnachrichtendienst

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran

Joshua Muravchik.Joshua Muravchik. [Source: American Enterprise Institute]Joshua Muravchik, a prominent neoconservative with the American Enterprise Institute, writes in the magazine Foreign Policy that Bush must launch a military strike at Iran. “Make no mistake: President Bush will need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities before leaving office,” he writes. Bush will come under heavy criticism for such a strike, he notes, so Muravchik and his fellow neoconservatives “need to pave the way intellectually now and be prepared to defend the action when it comes.” [New Yorker, 11/27/2006]

Entity Tags: American Enterprise Institute, Joshua Muravchik, George W. Bush, Foreign Policy Magazine

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program, Neoconservative Hawks

Rumsfeld leaving the Defense Department.Rumsfeld leaving the Defense Department. [Source: Boston Globe]Donald Rumsfeld resigns as US defense secretary. On November 6, he writes a letter telling President Bush of his resignation. Bush reads the letter the next day, which is also the date for midterm elections in the US, in which the Democratic Party wins majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives. Bush publicly announces the resignation the next day. No explanation is given for the delay in making the announcement. [Reuters, 8/15/2007]
Replaced by Gates - Rumsfeld is formally replaced by Robert Gates on December 18, 2006. According to a retired general who worked closely with the first Bush administration, the Gates nomination means that George H.W. Bush, his close political advisers—Brent Scowcroft, James Baker—and the current President Bush are saying that “winning the 2008 election is more important than any individual. The issue for them is how to preserve the Republican agenda. The Old Guard wants to isolate Cheney and give their girl, Condoleezza Rice, a chance to perform.” It takes Scowcroft, Baker, and the elder Bush working together to oppose Cheney, the general says. “One guy can’t do it.” Other sources close to the Bush family say that the choice of Gates to replace Rumsfeld is more complex than the general describes, and any “victory” by the “Old Guard” may be illusory. A former senior intelligence official asks rhetorically: “A week before the election, the Republicans were saying that a Democratic victory was the seed of American retreat, and now Bush and Cheney are going to change their national security policies? Cheney knew this was coming. Dropping Rummy after the election looked like a conciliatory move—‘You’re right, Democrats. We got a new guy and we’re looking at all the options. Nothing is ruled out.’” In reality, the former official says, Gates is being brought in to give the White House the credibility it needs in continuing its policies towards Iran and Iraq.
New Approach towards Iran? - Gates also has more credibility with Congress than Rumsfeld, a valuable asset if Gates needs to tell Congress that Iran’s nuclear program poses an imminent threat. “He’s not the guy who told us there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and he’ll be taken seriously by Congress.” Joseph Cirincione, a national security director for the Center for American Progress, warns: “Gates will be in favor of talking to Iran and listening to the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but the neoconservatives are still there [in the White House] and still believe that chaos would be a small price for getting rid of the threat. The danger is that Gates could be the new Colin Powell—the one who opposes the policy but ends up briefing the Congress and publicly supporting it.” [New Yorker, 11/27/2006]

Entity Tags: Robert M. Gates, Joseph Cirincione, Brent Scowcroft, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, James A. Baker, George Herbert Walker Bush, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: US Military, Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation, Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: Diplomacy, Neoconservative Hawks

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announces that Iran has made further progress in its uranium enrichment research program. He says, “We know that some countries may not be pleased,” and although he insists Iran is abiding by international agreements, he adds, “Time is now completely on the side of the Iranian people.” In a recent meeting with a former senior administration official, Ahmadinejad questioned the US’s right to tell it that it could not enrich uranium. “Why doesn’t America stop enriching uranium?” he asked, and added, laughing, “We’ll enrich it for you and sell it to you at a fifty-per-cent discount.” [New Yorker, 11/27/2006] The IAEA is skeptical of the claim (see Mid-November 2006), and experts have alternative explanations for the claim (see Mid-November, 2006).

Entity Tags: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program

The International Atomic Energy Agency is skeptical of the claim that Iran has made further progress in its uranium enrichment research program (see Mid-November, 2006). However, Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s defiant tone does nothing to lessen US suspicions about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. A European diplomat says: “There is no evidence of a large-scale covert enrichment program inside Iran. But the Iranians would not have launched themselves into a very dangerous confrontation with the West on the basis of a weapons program that they no longer pursue. Their enrichment program makes sense only in terms of wanting nuclear weapons. It would be inconceivable if they weren’t cheating to some degree. You don’t need a covert program to be concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. We have enough information to be concerned without one. It’s not a slam dunk, but it’s close to it.” [New Yorker, 11/27/2006]

Entity Tags: International Atomic Energy Agency, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program

Responding to Iranian claims that it is progressing in its attempts to enrich uranium (see Mid-November, 2006) and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s skepticism of the claims (see Mid-November 2006), analysts and officials have alternative explanations. Whether peaceful or not, Iran’s nuclear program is a source of great national pride, and its popularity bolsters President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s rather tenuous grip on power. A former US intelligence official says it is not inconceivable that Ahmadinejad would welcome a limited military strike against Iran by the US, especially if it does not destroy its nuclear program. Such an attack would shore up Iran’s position in the Islamic world. “They learned that in the Iraqi experience, and relearned it in southern Lebanon,” the official says, referring to both the US debacle in Iraq and the resurgent popularity of Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, after Israel’s 2006 strike at the group in Lebanon. Indeed, the former official says, a US attack on Iran could possibly serve as a rallying point to unite the divided Sunni and Shi’ite populations. “An American attack will paper over any differences in the Arab world, and we’ll have Syrians, Iranians, Hamas, and Hezbollah fighting against us—and the Saudis and the Egyptians questioning their ties to the West,” he says. “It’s an analyst’s worst nightmare—for the first time since the caliphate there will be common cause in the Middle East.” A Pentagon consultant says the CIA does not believe that even a large-scale bombing attack will eradicate Iran’s nuclear program, and a limited campaign of subversion and sabotage plays into Iran’s hands, bolstering support for Iran’s theocratic leaders and “deepening anti-American Muslim rage.” [New Yorker, 11/27/2006]

Entity Tags: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Central Intelligence Agency, International Atomic Energy Agency

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran

In an interview, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushes hard for the US and Israel to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities, and warns that if this does not happen, the world will find itself teetering on the brink of World War III and a “second Holocaust.” Netanyahu says flatly, “Iran is Germany, and it’s 1938, except that this Nazi regime that is in Iran, that’s a religious kind of fanaticism, but it wants to dominate the world, annihilate the Jews, but also annihilate America. Remember, [Israel is] the small Satan. You’re the big Satan.… We’re just the first way station en route to you. So there is this fundament[al] fanaticism that is there. It’s a messianic cult. It’s a religious messianic cult that believes in the Apocalypse, and they believe they have to expedite the Apocalypse to bring the collapse of the West.” Netanyahu compares the Iranian leadership, both political and religious, to Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh (see June 22, 2002, “a crazy messianic cult of death.” He says, “So imagine David Koresh with nuclear weapons. Imagine David Koresh, not with hundreds of followers, but millions of followers, with nuclear weapons, wanting to obliterate America, wanting to obliterate America’s allies, wanting to take over the world’s oil supply. If the lunatics escape from the asylum, that’s one thing. But if they can get their hands on a nuclear weapon, that’s another. And this is that kind of cult.… I think when you have something as fanatic and as dangerous as this, the question now is not whether he should be stopped, but how’s he going to be stopped?” He also says of Muslim terrorists, “[T]hey’re out to get you; they’re not out to get us. We’re simply standing in their way. They’re not interested in Israel, per se. They’re interested in bringing down Western civilization, led by the United States.” If the US doesn’t act quickly, Netanyahu predicts that Iran “will dominate the Middle East very quickly,” making “the Persian Gulf an Iranian pond,” controlling “the world’s oil supply [and using] the weapons, first against my country, and then to intimidate or threaten Europe. They want to control the world.” [CNN, 11/17/2006]

Entity Tags: Benjamin Netanyahu, Adolf Hitler, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, David Koresh, Saddam Hussein

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Israel, Calls for Overthrow, Neoconservative Hawks

Vice President Dick Cheney flies to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with King Abdullah and Prince Bandar bin Sultan. The king reportedly warns Cheney that the Saudis will consider providing financial support to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shiites if the US pulls out of Iraq. An unnamed Arab diplomat tells the New York Times, “If things become so bad in Iraq, like an ethnic cleansing, we will feel we are pulled into the war.” But according to a European intelligence official interviewed by reported Seymour Hersh, the real concern—one shared by both the Saudis and the Bush administration—is that the conflict in Iraq is resulting in a tilt of power in the Middle East that favors Shiite-dominated Iran. [New York Times, 12/13/2007]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Bandar bin Sultan

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Geopolitics

An unnamed Pentagon consultant describes the Bush administration’s policy on Iraq and Iran as “a classic case of ‘failure forward.’” He adds: “They believe that by tipping over Iran they would recover their losses in Iraq—like doubling your bet. It would be an attempt to revive the concept of spreading democracy in the Middle East by creating one new model state.” In the light of belligerent statements made by several administration officials hostile to the current regime in Iran, he also says: “More and more people see the weakening of Iran as the only way to save Iraq.… [T]he goal in Iran is not regime change but a strike that will send a signal that America still can accomplish its goals. Even if it does not destroy Iran’s nuclear network, there are many who think that thirty-six hours of bombing is the only way to remind the Iranians of the very high cost of going forward with the bomb—and of supporting Moqtada al-Sadr and his pro-Iran element in Iraq.” (Note: al-Sadr’s closeness to Iran is a matter of dispute.) [New Yorker, 11/27/2006]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, US Department of Defense, Moqtada al-Sadr, David Wurmser, Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Bush administration (43), Condoleezza Rice

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Predictions

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington and now King Abdullah’s national security adviser, makes several trips to Washington and holds meetings with Elliott Abrams, the senior Middle East official on the National Security Council. It has been suggested that the visits relate to the White House’s new Mideast policy “redirection,” aimed at undercutting Iranian influence in the region (see Late 2006). Bandar’s actions reportedly upsets Prince Turki bin Faisal, the current Saudi ambassador to the US, prompting him to quit his post (see December 11, 2006). [Daily Telegraph, 1/10/2007]

Entity Tags: Elliott Abrams, Bandar bin Sultan

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations

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: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Geopolitics

The US intelligence community begins plumbing the data they have compiled on Iran’s nuclear weapons program in an attempt to shore up the Bush administration’s premature conclusion that Iran is on the verge of producing a nuclear weapon. Instead, their conclusions are that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003. In the process, White House aides begin a program of “deep dives,” or special briefings for President Bush to meet with not only his advisers but the actual analysts who study Iranian intelligence data, in an attempt to allow Bush to “get his hands dirty” with real intelligence and not just pre-digested summaries. Bush is dismayed at the lack of solid intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program and asks for more. When the intelligence community does provide more, it finds more and more evidence that Iran had shut down its nuclear weapons program years before. Those conclusions will be released in a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) a year later (see December 3, 2007).
Troubling Conclusions, White House Spin - Bush and his top officials don’t like the findings; if true, the reports disprove the entirety of the administration’s push to define Iran as an imminent threat to the Middle East. White House officials are initially skeptical, believing that the intelligence community might be a victim of Iranian disinformation. The intelligence agencies create a special “red team” of analysts to thoroughly test and, if possible, discredit the information. They are unable to do so. “They tried to figure out what exactly it would take to perpetrate that kind of deception, how many people would be involved, how they would go about doing it, when it would have been set up and so forth,” says one intelligence official. Analysts “scrubbed and rescrubbed” more than 1,000 pieces of evidence but conclude Iran’s program really had been shut down. Faced with that conclusion, the White House decides to focus on the findings that confirm their suspicions—that Iran did have a secret weapons program that could be restarted again. No one in the White House suggests that Bush tone down his rhetoric or change his policies towards Iran. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell decides to keep the new findings secret, the same position adopted by Vice President Cheney (see October 2006 and November 10, 2007). Only the Israelis are told of the new findings; Congress, the US’s European allies, and the UN’s monitoring agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are told nothing. McConnell will reluctantly change his mind out of a fear of leaks and possible charges of a coverup. That decision may come back to haunt the administration, particularly with the ill-will it will create among the US’s allies. Former State Department nonproliferation official Robert Einhorn says, “The administration is going to pay a price for not allowing allies in on it at an earlier date. The French had carried the administration’s water on this issue and really went out on a limb to get the European Union to adopt tough sanctions. And now the rug has been pulled out from under them.”
New NIE Draft Sparks Controversy - An NIE the year before (see August 2, 2005) had led the US to conclude that Iran was actively working on a nuclear weapons program. Congressional Democrats, not entirely convinced by the NIE’s conclusions and increasingly resistant to Bush’s push for confrontation with Iran, asks for a new NIE. Bush wants the new NIE to confirm his accusations and, in one official’s words, “get more information on Iran so we know what they’re up to.” The 2005 NIE had been based largely on information about Iran’s “Project 1-11,” a program that Iran is apparently pursuing to retrofit a ballistic missile to carry nuclear warheads (see Summer 2004). But no new information on Project 1-11 has been secured in three years, and the administration insists on new confirmations. “They just wouldn’t budge,” one agency official recalls. A new draft is completed in June, provoking heated discussions among agency and administration officials. CIA director Michael Hayden and NSA director Keith Alexander begin directing their agencies to closely monitor Iranians who were involved in their country’s nuclear program. Soon, communications intercepts from key Iranian officials indicate that the program had been mothballed in 2003. Some of the officials discuss their belief that the program may never be restarted.
Evolving NIE - As the draft NIE evolves, McConnell, with the assistance of his deputies Thomas Fingar and Donald Kerr, both national security veterans, lay down ground rules. One official later says that McConnell “quickly got the mantra down: ‘We must make a clear distinction between what we know and don’t know and what we judge to be the case.’” The internal debate over the NIE is sharp and often contentious. McConnell will finally inform Bush of the new conclusions—that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003—in August (see December 5, 2007 and December 3-4, 2007). In September, House and Senate intelligence committee members are informed as well. A September draft radically differs from the June version, based in large part on the communications intercepts and the exhaustive analysis on the data possessed by the CIA and NIE. The chief analysts are grilled by Hayden and his deputy Stephen Kappes, but the analyses stand up. Cheney, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, and other key officials will be given a preliminary briefing on the new NIE on November 15; Bush, finalizing a Middle East peace conference in which he will try to rally Middle Eastern countries against Iran, is not officially told of the new NIE until November 28. Bush immediately tells Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (see November 26-28, 2007), and Cheney appraises Israeli Foreign Minister Ehud Barak. Discussions about whether or not to keep the NIE secret lead to McConnell’s decision to make a declassified version public. A top intelligence official says, “We knew it would leak, so honesty required that we get this out ahead, to prevent it from appearing to be cherry picking.” [Washington Post, 12/8/2007]

Entity Tags: Keith Alexander, Ehud Barak, Don Kerr, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), Ehud Olmert, International Atomic Energy Agency, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Robert Einhorn, National Security Agency, Mike McConnell, Michael Hayden, Stephen Kappes, Thomas Fingar, George W. Bush

Category Tags: 2007 NIE on Iran, Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran, Neoconservative Hawks

President Bush issues a “non-lethal presidential finding” permitting the CIA to provide financial and logistical support to Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora. The classified presidential order “authorizes the CIA and other US intelligence agencies to fund anti-Hezbollah groups in Lebanon and pay for activists who support the Siniora government,” the London Telegraph reports. “The secrecy of the finding [order] means that US involvement in the activities is officially deniable.” Some of the activist groups that will be supported by this policy will include Sunni militant groups who have ideological ties with al-Qaeda (see, e.g., Late 2006 or Early 2007 and Late 2006 or Early 2007). [Daily Telegraph, 1/10/2007] In February 2007, a senior official in the Siniora government, will candidly admit in an interview with Seymour Hersh, “We have a liberal attitude that allows al-Qaeda types to have a presence here.” [New Yorker, 3/5/2007] The president’s order is part of a larger policy shift (see Late 2006) that has aligned the US with the Sunni states of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, as well as Israel, to undercut Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East. As one intelligence source of the Telegraph explains, “There’s a feeling both in Jerusalem and in Riyadh that the anti-Sunni tilt in the region has gone too far. By removing Saddam, we’ve shifted things in favor of the Shia and this is a counter-balancing exercise.” The source adds, “The administration is reaping its own whirlwind after Iraq. For 50 years the US preferred stability over legitimacy in the Middle East and now it’s got neither. It’s a situation replete with ironies.” [Daily Telegraph, 1/10/2007]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Fouad Siniora

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations, Geopolitics

A “democracy and public diplomacy” working group at the State Department drafts a two-page document discussing ways the US can support Syrian activists who oppose President Bashar al-Assad. The document, which notes that the US is already “supporting regular meetings of internal and diaspora Syrian activists” in Europe, says that the country’s upcoming March 2007 elections “provide a potentially galvanizing issue for… critics of the Assad regime.” It proposes a secret “election monitoring” plan, in which “Internet accessible materials will be available for printing and dissemination by activists inside the country [Syria] and neighboring countries.” The operation would also involve providing financial backing to an opposition candidate, as well as funding “voter education campaigns” and public opinion polling. The document makes it clear that the efforts would be clandestine. “Any information regarding funding for domestic [Syrian] politicians for elections monitoring would have to be protected from public dissemination,” it says. Funding for the program would apparently be funneled through the International Republican Institute through a State Department program known as the Middle East Partnership Initiative, or MEPI. Time, which is the first to report on the memo, quotes one US official familiar with the document who says, “You are forced to wonder whether we are now trying to destabilize the Syrian government.” Joshua Landis, a Syria expert who is co-director of the Center for Peace Studies at the University of Oklahoma, tells the magazine the proposed operation is “really just an attempt to pressure the Syrian government” into doing what the US wants. [Time, 12/19/2006]

Entity Tags: International Republican Institute, Syria, US Department of State, Joshua Landis

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, Prince Turki al-Faisal, abruptly resigns and flies back to Saudi Arabia. His staff is reportedly shocked by his sudden departure. The explanation provided to the public is that he wants to spend more time with his family. [Washington Post, 12/10/2006] But insiders say Turki left because he was angry about dealings taking place behind his back between the previous Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar, and top White House officials (see Late November 2006 and Late 2006). [Daily Telegraph, 1/10/2007; New Yorker, 3/5/2007]

Entity Tags: Turki al-Faisal

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations

US troops raid the compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the Shi’ite leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and capture two Iranians. The two, Brigadier General Mohsen Chirazi and Colonel Abu Amad Davari, are high-ranking members of Iran’s al-Quds Brigade, which the US accuses of supplying funding and training to Shi’ite insurgents in Iraq. After a tense nine-day diplomatic standoff, the US acquiesces to requests by the Iraqi government and its own State Department to allow the two to return to Iran, though the Pentagon wished to keep them in captivity for interrogation. [Washington Post, 1/12/2007; Asia Times, 3/31/2007] Iran calls both Chirazi and Davari “diplomats,” and says they are in Iraq at the invitation of Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, as part of an agreement to improve security between the two countries. [BBC, 12/29/2006]

Entity Tags: al-Quds Brigade, Abu Amad Davari, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Jalal Talabani, Mohsen Chirazi, Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, US Department of Defense, US Department of State

Category Tags: US Intel on Iran

Representatives of the Lebanese government reportedly approach the newly-formed Sunni extremist group Fatah al-Islam (see November 2006) and offer it weapons and cash to fight against Hezbollah. Lebanon is said to be flush with cash as a result of a new US policy (see Late 2006) aimed at undercutting the growing influence of Iran and Shiite militant groups in the region. [New Yorker, 3/5/2007]

Entity Tags: Lebanon, Fatah al-Islam

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations, Geopolitics

Lebanese internal-security forces and militias supportive of the Lebanese government provide the Sunni militant group Asbat al-Ansar with large amounts of cash. Large sums of money are reportedly flowing to the Lebanese government as a result of the White House’s recent decision (see Late 2006) to redirect its policy in the Middle East toward efforts that will counter Iran’s growing influence in the region. [New Yorker, 3/5/2007]

Entity Tags: Lebanon, Asbat al-Ansar

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations

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: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Preparation

President George W. Bush adopts more confrontational language with regard to Iran and alleges that Iran is working against US interests in Iraq. In an address to the nation, he says, “We will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.” The president announces the decision to send another strike group of ships (i.e., an aircraft carrier and companion ships) to the Persian Gulf. Patriot missiles will also be sent to the region for the security of US allies there, he says. [US President, 1/15/2007 pdf file] According to an article published in the New York Times the next day, US officials hold that these actions are not indicative of a coming attack on Iran. However, the same officials say that members of the administration, such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley, have determined that the United States is finished with diplomatic attempts to deal with Iran, unless Iran makes a significant change in its behavior. Bush and other US officials claim that Iran, particularly the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds force, has helped train Iraqi Shiite militias how to attack US troops in Iraq. Military officials believe that “shaped charges,” a type of roadside bomb that has been increasingly used against troops, are made in Iran. General Michael V. Hayden, CIA Director, recently told Congress that he has the “zeal of a convert” and now strongly believes that Iran is contributing to the death toll of US soldiers in Iraq. [New York Times, 1/11/2007]

Entity Tags: Stephen J. Hadley, Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush, Iran, Michael Hayden

Category Tags: Diplomacy

Irbil’s Iranian Liaison Office.Irbil’s Iranian Liaison Office. [Source: Yahya Ahmed / Associated Press]US forces carry out two raids inside Iraq, capturing five Iranians as well as a large amount of documentary and computer data. Both raids are inside the Kurdish city of Irbil. One raid is at the Iranian Liaison Office, which is used as a local headquarters by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards; according to Iranian sources, five US helicopters land on the roof of the office building around 4 a.m. local time, and US soldiers break down doors, snatch up the five Iranians, and take away boxes of documents and computer equipment. The second raid, at the Irbil airport, ends differently, with US troops finding themselves confronting unfriendly Kurdish troops. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says, “A massacre was avoided at the last minute.” No Iranians are detained as part of the airport raid. The two raids are part of a new US intelligence and military operation launched in December 2006 against Iranians allegedly providing assistance to Iraqi Shi’ite insurgents. Iran’s al-Quds Brigade, which provides funding and military training to other Shi’ite revolutionary groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, is the primary target of the US offensive. “Throughout Iraq, operations are currently ongoing against individuals suspected of being closely tied to activities targeting Iraqi and Coalition forces,” the headquarters of the US-led Multi-National Force-Iraq says in a prepared statement. The month before, two senior Iranians of al-Quds, Brigadier General Mohsen Chirazi and Colonel Abu Amad Davari, were captured in similar raids (see December 21-29, 2006), and freed shortly thereafter. [Alalam News, 1/11/2007; Washington Post, 1/12/2007; Newswire, 1/12/2007] US officials dismiss the raids as “routine.” [Reuters, 1/11/2007] Months later, a Kurdish government official says that the real target of the raids was not the Iranian liaison officials, but commanders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who were openly visiting Kurdish government officials. The commanders were not captured (see Early April, 2007). [Associated Press, 4/6/2007]
Rhetorical Escalation - Bush says that he has ordered US forces to “seek out and destroy the networks” arming and training US enemies, an indirect reference to Iran (see January 10, 2007). Joining Bush in the rhetorical escalation is General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who charges that Iran is “complicit” in providing weapons designed to kill American troops: “We will do all we need to do to defend our troops in Iraq by going after the entire network regardless of where those people come from.” The Iranian Liaison Office was opened with the approval of the Iraqi Kurds, who maintain a near-autonomous region in northern Iraq with the support of the US. Iran wants to upgrade the office to a formal consulate. US forces did not inform their Iraqi allies of the raids on the office beforehand; the raids may well disrupt Kurdish and Iraqi government attempts to deepen ties with the Iranian government. “This is a very, very dangerous thing,” says Zebari. The Iranian government has protested the raids, and the capture of their five officials, through Iraqi and Swiss diplomats to the United Nations (Switzerland represents US interests in Iran). Tehran insists that all five captured Iranians are diplomats, a claim rejected by US and Iraqi officials. [Washington Post, 1/12/2007] The State Department will assert, without presenting proof, that the Iranians are part of a much larger effort by Iran to support the Iraqi Shi’ite militias and insurgents. Apparently the United States’ charges that the Iranians are not diplomats rest on a bureaucratic foible: the five Iranians had applied for diplomatic accreditation, but their paperwork had not been fully processed. The Kurdish government were treating them as if they were accredited. Iran insists that the five are legitimate diplomats regardless of paperwork, and that by capturing them, the US is violating the Vienna Conventions and other international diplomatic regulations. But the US routinely ignores such laws in both Iraq and Afghanistan, causing criticism from human rights organizations and legal experts around the globe. Human Rights Watch researcher John Sifton says, “The US hasn’t articulated the legal grounds under which it detains ‘combatants’. They regularly conflate criminal terrorism, innocent civilians, and real combatants on the ground, and throw them all into the same pot. The vagueness of the war on terror has supplied the soil under which all this has flourished.” [Agence France-Presse, 1/25/2007; Asia Times, 3/31/2007]
Eventual Release of Some Captives - Months later, the US will release some of the captured Iranians (see November 6-9, 2007).

Entity Tags: al-Quds Brigade, US Department of Defense, Peter Pace, US Department of State, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Mohsen Chirazi, Human Rights Watch, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Abu Amad Davari, Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush, Hezbollah, John Sifton, Iranian Liaison Office, Hoshyar Zebari, United Nations

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran

In a press briefing, President Bush says of Iran, “As you know, the Iranians, for example, think they want to have a nuclear weapon. And we’ve convinced other nations to join us to send a clear message, through the United Nations, that that’s unacceptable behavior.” [White House, 1/26/2007]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Neoconservative Hawks

Ali Reza Asgari.Ali Reza Asgari. [Source: FARS / Reuters]Iran’s former Deputy Minister of Defense, General Ali Reza Asgari, defects during a visit to Turkey. [Inter Press Service, 12/17/2007] According to former CIA officer Vincent Cannistraro, Asgari is a longtime Western intelligence agent, and is immediately debriefed by Turkish and US intelligence officials. Asgari will be given a new identity; his current whereabouts are unknown to the public. [Guardian, 12/8/2007]
History and Connections - Asgari held the Defense Ministry position from 1997 through 2005, under the regime of reformist Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, and, according to US media reports, was providing the US with intelligence during that time period. [Inter Press Service, 12/17/2007] He is a former intelligence officer in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and is believed to have considerable knowledge about several IRGC-ordered terrorist attacks, including the October 1983 bombing of a US Marine barracks in Lebanon (see April 18-October 23, 1983) and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia (see June 25, 1996). He has close ties to Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, and presumably can tell US intelligence about Hezbollah’s military command structure, its overseas networks, and perhaps its cells inside the US. [Time, 3/22/2007]
Source for National Intelligence Estimate - Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi says that Asgari is a “key” source for the intelligence community’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear program, currently in development (see August 2, 2005). Asgari’s information helps the intelligence community determine that Iran had ceased work on its nuclear program in 2003. According to Giraldi, Asgari had been recruited by Turkish intelligence in 2003, and defected after learning that Iranian intelligence had become suspicious of him. Asgari defects with “bags of documents,” presumably including information about Iran’s nuclear program. Asgari will provide information crucial to the US’s ability to monitor sensitive communications among senior Iranian military officials (see July 2007), which helps corroborate the finding that Iran had indeed ceased research into nuclear weapons development. Former National Security Council official Gary Sick will say that Asgari’s knowledge of the Iranian military is critical in determining what is and is not important among the communications intercepts. “There are zillions of pieces of evidence, and what you look for is defined by what you know,” Sick will say. “What Asgari gave them was a new way of looking at the evidence.” It is highly likely that President Bush will be made aware of Asgari’s information soon after Asgari’s debriefing, though the White House will claim that Bush knew nothing of the new intelligence on Iran until August 2007 (see December 3-4, 2007). [Inter Press Service, 12/17/2007]

Entity Tags: Vincent Cannistraro, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, George W. Bush, Hezbollah, Ali-Reza Asgari, Central Intelligence Agency, Gary G. Sick, Hojjat ol-Eslam Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, Philip Giraldi

Category Tags: 2007 NIE on Iran, Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran

Flynt Leverett, a former Bush administration National Security Council official, tells investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that “there is nothing coincidental or ironic” about the administration’s new policy to support Sunni extremists (see Late 2006). “The administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq, when—if you look at the actual casualty numbers—the punishment inflicted on America by the Sunnis is greater by an order of magnitude,” Leverett explains. “This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the administration will have an open door to strike at them.” [New Yorker, 3/5/2007]

Entity Tags: Seymour Hersh, Flynt Leverett

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations

Admiral William Fallon.Admiral William Fallon. [Source: US Navy]Admiral William Fallon, named to replace General John Abizaid as head of the US Central Command (Centcom) for the Middle East and Southwest Asia (see March 16, 2007), reportedly privately opposes the proposed addition of a third US aircraft carrier group in the Persian Gulf, and vows that there will be no war against Iran as long as he is chief of Centcom. Fallon’s opposition to a military strike against Iran results in a shift in the Bush administration away from its aggressive, threatening posture towards Iran, and instead moves the administration’s rhetoric incrementally towards diplomatic engagement with that nation. Historian and author Gareth Porter writes, “That shift, for which no credible explanation has been offered by administration officials, suggests that Fallon’s resistance to a crucial deployment was a major factor in the intra-administration struggle over policy toward Iran.” Fallon’s resistance to further naval buildups in the Gulf apparently surprises Bush officials; in January, Defense Secretary Robert Gates publicly suggested that Fallon’s appointment gives greater emphasis on the military option for Iran. Gates said in January, “As you look at the range of options available to the United States, the use of naval and air power, potentially, it made sense to me for all those reasons for Fallon to have the job.” A third carrier group deployment would have pushed the US naval presence in the region to the same level as it was during the last months of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. Apparently, the deployment of a third carrier group was envisioned as a means of pressuring the Iranian government, in a plan to engage in a series of operations that would appear to Tehran to be war preparations much like those that presaged the invasion of Iraq (see March 19, 2003). But Fallon’s opposition scotched those plans. Fallon recently told an informed source that an attack on Iran “will not happen on my watch.… You know what choices I have. I’m a professional.” And Fallon indicated he is not alone: “There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box.” Fallon’s position weakens the belligerent posture adopted by Vice President Dick Cheney and his aides, and strengthens that of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is now preparing to make high-level diplomatic contacts with Iranian officials. [Inter Press Service, 5/15/2007]

Entity Tags: John P. Abizaid, Bush administration (43), Condoleezza Rice, Gareth Porter, Robert M. Gates, US Central Command, William Fallon, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Saddam Hussein

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Neoconservative Hawks, Preparation

Hillary Mann, the Bush administration’s former National Security Council director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs, tells Newsweek that some advisers in the administration are looking for an excuse to attack Iraq. “They intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something [America] would be forced to retaliate for,” he says. Newsweek notes, “With Americans and Iranians jousting on the chaotic battleground of Iraq, the chances of a small incident’s spiraling into a crisis are higher than they’ve been in years.” [Newsweek, 2/17/2007]

Entity Tags: Hillary Mann

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations

In an open letter to President Bush, Florida Congressman Robert Wexler and New York Congressman Gary Ackerman ask the president to give Congress immediate access to all information regarding a May 2003 dialog between Iran and the US in which Iran offered the US concessions (see May 4, 2003). Wexler and Ackerman acknowledge their skepticism of Iran’s intentions with regard to the offer, but ask the president to explain why the administration turned Iran down. Wexler and Ackerman, both of whom are members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, say the information is needed in order to create a more informed policy toward Iran. The two congressmen ask that the information be turned over to Congress by February 23, 2007. [Robert Wexler, 2/9/2007]

Entity Tags: Robert Wexler, George W. Bush, Iran, Gary Ackerman

Category Tags: Diplomacy

Gary Sick, an Iran expert at Columbia University, commenting on the build-up of US naval power in the Middle East, tells the New York Times that there is a “danger of accidental war.” He notes, “If anything goes wrong, if something happens, there’s an unexplained explosion and we kidnap an Iranian, and the Iranians respond to that somehow, this could get out of control.” [New York Times, 2/15/2007]

Entity Tags: Gary G. Sick

Category Tags: Predictions

The BBC reports that US plans for air strikes on Iran extend well beyond that country’s nuclear power plants and nuclear development sites, and include most of Iran’s military infrastructure. If ordered, US air strikes would target Iran’s air bases, naval bases, missile facilities, and command centers. The US insists it has no plans for any strikes against Iran, but evidence suggests otherwise (see September 2004). However, diplomatic sources say that US military planners have already selected their target sets inside Iran. The BBC claims that such a strike would be triggered by US confirmation that Iran is indeed building a nuclear weapon, which the US has asserted is the case but Iran denies. Another trigger could be if the US learns that Iran is behind any high-casualty attack on US forces inside Iraq. The US air strike plans include B2 stealth bombers delivering “bunker-buster” bombs on the nuclear facility at Natanz, which is deep underground. US officials insisted in January that they had evidence Iran was providing weapons to Iraqi Shi’ite insurgents, but those reports were soon debunked by US military officials. [BBC, 2/20/2007]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

Mike McConnell.Mike McConnell. [Source: US Defense Department]Retired Vice Admiral Mike McConnell is sworn in as the new Director of National Intelligence (DNI), replacing John Negroponte. [White House, 2/20/2007] Negroponte will become the Deputy Secretary of State under Condoleezza Rice, a position that has been vacant since July 2006, when the previous deputy, Robert Zoellick, left to take a position with the Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs. Negroponte is felt to be a voice of experience in the State Department, and one that will help the oft-faltering Rice in her duties. [Associated Press, 1/5/2007]
Cheney, Negroponte, and the Iran NIE - One of the major factors in the White House’s decision to replace Negroponte is Vice President Dick Cheney’s insistence that the administration release a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq that supports Cheney’s aggressive policy towards Iran, and does not include any dissenting views. Cheney, who has for months suppressed the draft NIE on Iran because he does not want any views other than his own to be included in the NIE (see November 10, 2007), was displeased with Negroponte; Negroponte angered Cheney and other neoconservatives when, in April 2006, he told reporters that the US intelligence community believes Iran is “a number of years off” from being “likely to have enough fissile material to assemble into or to put into a nuclear weapon, perhaps into the next decade.” Though Negroponte was merely echoing the position of the 2005 NIE on Iran, he came under fierce attack from Cheney allies inside and outside the administration. Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph publicly contradicted Negroponte, calling Iran’s nuclear program near the “point of no return,’ an Israeli concept referring to the mastery of industrial-scale uranium enrichment. And neoconservative Frank Gaffney, a protege of former defense adviser Richard Perle, called Negroponte’s position on Iran’s nuclear program “absurd.” Cheney himself approached McConnell about accepting the position. McConnell is far more amenable to White House influence than Negroponte. On February 27, he will tell the Senate Armed Services Committee that he is “comfortable saying it’s probable” that the alleged export of explosively formed penetrators to Shi’ite insurgents in Iraq was linked to the highest leadership in Iran. Negroponte, along with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, have refused to go that far. And the 2005 NIE on Iran estimated that it would take Iran five to ten years to produce a nuclear weapon, another position that Cheney opposes. [Inter Press Service, 11/10/2007]

Entity Tags: Robert M. Gates, Robert G. Joseph, Robert B. Zoellick, Richard Perle, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Frank Gaffney, Bush administration (43), Mike McConnell, John Negroponte

Category Tags: 2007 NIE on Iran, Geopolitics, Neoconservative Hawks

Vice President Dick Cheney flies to Pakistan to meet with President Pervez Musharraf. The White House is tight-lipped about the trip and refuses to provide details about what the two leaders discuss. But media accounts, citing administration officials, suggest that Cheney warns Musharraf that US aid to Pakistan could be in jeopardy if his government does not improve in its efforts to combat al-Qaeda and the Taliban. [New York Times, 2/26/2007] Cheney’s trip comes after the head of US military operations in Afghanistan compiled a dossier of evidence indicating the Pakistani government is secretly supporting the militants attacking US troops in Afghanistan (see Autumn 2006- February 2007). But Cheney is known to be a strong supporter of Musharraf and generally has blocked pressure against him (see June 27, 2007). Pakistani intelligence sources will later tell ABC news that the two leaders discussed a secret operation (see 2005 and After) to support attacks against Iran by the Sunni militant group Jundullah. [ABC News, 4/3/2007]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Pervez Musharraf, Al-Qaeda, Jundullah, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations

President Bush signs a “nonlethal presidential finding” authorizing a CIA plan that will use propaganda, disinformation, and manipulation of Iran’s currency and international financial transactions to destabilize the country’s government. According to unnamed officials interviewed by ABC, the covert “black” operation is designed to force Iran into abandoning its nuclear enrichment program and aid to insurgents in Iraq. The plan is reported to have the fingerprints of both National Security Adviser Steve Hadley and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams. Current and former intelligence officials tell ABC that Bush’s approval of the plan is an indication that the White House, for the time being, has decided not to take military action against Iran. “Presidential finding” are reported to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and other key congressional leaders. Vali Nasr, adjunct senior fellow for Mideast studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, says the operation could potentially provoke a larger confrontation. “And this covert action is now being escalated by the new US directive, and that can very quickly lead to Iranian retaliation and a cycle of escalation can follow,” he says. [ABC News, 5/23/2007]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Central Intelligence Agency, Elliott Abrams, Vali Nasr, Stephen J. Hadley

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations

Norman Podhoretz, one of the founding fathers of neoconservatism, meets with President Bush to urge a military strike against Iran. Podhoretz meets privately with Bush at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City, with Bush’s political adviser Karl Rove taking notes. The meeting is not logged in Bush’s schedule. Podhoretz will become senior foreign policy adviser to presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani (R-NY) (see October 28, 2007). The London Times characterizes the meeting as evidence of “the enduring influence of the neoconservatives at the highest reaches of the White House, despite some high-profile casualties in the past year.”
Iran Discussed - Podhoretz will say of his meeting with Bush: “I urged Bush to take action against the Iranian nuclear facilities and explained why I thought there was no alternative.… I laid out the worst-case scenario—bombing Iran—versus the worst-case consequences of allowing the Iranians to get the bomb.” Podhoretz recalls telling Bush: “You have the awesome responsibility to prevent another holocaust. You’re the only one with the guts to do it.” Podhoretz recalls Bush looking “very solemn.” Primarily, Bush listens without responding, though Podhoretz will recall both Bush and Rove laughing when he mentions giving “futility its chance,” a phrase used by fellow neoconservative Robert Kagan about the usefulness of pursuing United Nations sanctions against Iran.
No Sign of Agreement - “He gave not the slightest indication of whether he agreed with me, but he listened very intently,” Podhoretz will recall. Podhoretz is convinced that “George Bush will not leave office with Iran having acquired a nuclear weapon or having passed the point of no return”—a reference to the Iranians’ acquisition of sufficient technical capability to produce a nuclear weapon. “The president has said several times that he will be in the historical dock if he allows Iran to get the bomb. He believes that if we wait for threats to fully materialize, we’ll have waited too long—something I agree with 100 percent.”
No Need to Use Nukes - Podhoretz tells Bush that the US could neutralize Iran’s nuclear program without using its own nuclear weapons: “I’m against using nuclear weapons and I don’t think they are necessary.” Podhoretz is preparing a book, World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, which echoes the points he makes with Bush. According to Podhoretz, World War IV is the global struggle against terrorism (World War III was the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union). “The key to understanding what is happening is to see it as a successor to the previous totalitarian challenge to our civilization,” he says. Podhoretz asserts that Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran are merely different fronts of the same long war. [London Times, 9/30/2007] Podhoretz says that “the debate [over Iran] is secretly over and the people who are against military action are now preparing to make the case that we can live with an Iranian bomb.” [Daily Telegraph, 11/1/2007]

Entity Tags: Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Norman Podhoretz, Karl C. Rove, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Neoconservative Hawks, Nuclear Program

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: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Israel, Neoconservative Hawks

Sam Gardiner.Sam Gardiner. [Source: CNN]Retired Air Force colonel Sam Gardiner, who specializes in staging war games on the Middle East, believes President Bush has already made the decision to invade Iran. “Bush’s ‘redline’ for going to war is Iran having the knowledge to produce nuclear weapons—which is probably what they already have now,” says Gardiner. “The president first said [that was his redline] in December 2005, and he has repeated it four times since then.” [Vanity Fair, 3/2007]

Entity Tags: Sam Gardiner, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Preparation

Grover Norquist, the influential conservative who heads Americans for Tax Reform, says that President Bush’s neoconservative advisers have been consistently wrong about their predictions for success in Iraq, and warns that Bush is now receiving similar advice about striking at Iran. “Everything the advocates of war said would happen hasn’t happened,” says Norquist, who initially supported the invasion of Iraq. “And all the things the critics said would happen have happened. [The president’s neoconservative advisers] are effectively saying, ‘Invade Iran. Then everyone will see how smart we are.’ But after you’ve lost x number of times at the roulette wheel, do you double-down?” [Vanity Fair, 3/2007]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Grover Norquist, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Predictions

A report by a nonpartisan British think tank, the Oxford Research Group, warns that military strikes against Iran could actually accelerate Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. The report says military action could lead Iran to change the nature of its program and quickly build a few nuclear arms. Frank Barnaby, the nuclear scientist and arms expert who authored the report, says, "If Iran is moving towards a nuclear weapons capacity it is doing so relatively slowly, most estimates put it at least five years away." But an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities "would almost certainly lead to a fast-track program to develop a small number of nuclear devices as quickly as possible." It "would be a bit like deciding to build a car from spare parts instead of building the entire car factory." Western powers have threatened to expand sanctions on Iran; the US has not ruled out using force against Iran, but says it wants to give diplomacy a chance. [BBC, 3/5/2007]

Entity Tags: Oxford Research Group, Frank Barnaby, Iran

Category Tags: Predictions

Admiral William J. Fallon takes over the United States Central Command (Centcom), replacing the retiring General John P. Abizaid. Fallon, a decorated Vietnam veteran pilot, formerly led the US Pacific Command (Pacom). Fallon now commands the US forces throughout the Middle East, Southwest Asia, and the Horn of Africa, and is in charge of strategic and tactical operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Fallon is the first naval officer to command Centcom. Fallon was nominated for the position by President Bush in January, and was easily confirmed by the Senate in February. [US Central Command, 3/16/2007]
Fallon In Place to Oversee Strike on Iran? - Many observers see Fallon’s new command as a sign that the Bush administration is preparing for war with Iran. Fallon’s position is not a promotion, but a lateral transfer—as commander of Pacom, he actually commanded more forces than he does at Centcom, and Fallon will not have the direct control of the forces in Iraq, which remain under the day-to-day command of General David Petraeus. Fallon is a naval officer, with no real experience in commanding large numbers of ground troops, but a great deal of experience in commanding and deploying carrier groups. Centcom’s primary responsibility is on the ground, battling insurgents and warlords in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Nation’s Michael Klare observes, “If engagement with Iran and Syria was even remotely on the agenda, Abizaid is exactly the man you’d want on the job at Centcom overseeing US forces and strategy in the region. But if that’s not on the agenda, if you’re thinking instead of using force against Iran and/or Syria, then Admiral Fallon is exactly the man you’d want at Centcom.” Fallon’s experience is in air and naval operations, the kind of operations that would lead any US strikes against Iran. [Nation, 1/10/2007] Former Defense Intelligence Agency official W. Patrick Lang says of Fallon’s appointment, “It makes very little sense that a person with [Fallon’s naval] background should be appointed to be theater commander in a theater in which two essentially ‘ground’ wars are being fought, unless it is intended to conduct yet another war which will be different in character. The employment of Admiral Fallon suggests that they are thinking about something that is not a ground campaign.” [Vanity Fair, 3/2007]
Fallon Won't Countenance Attack on Iran - However, other events indicate Fallon may not be as gung-ho for a war with Iran as some now perceive. In February, Fallon privately expressed his opposition to the proposed increase of US carrier groups in the Persian Gulf from two to three, and told administration officials an attack on Iran “will not happen on my watch” (see February 2007).

Entity Tags: Patrick Lang, George W. Bush, George Casey, Defense Intelligence Agency, David Petraeus, Iraq Study Group, Michael Klare, William Fallon, John P. Abizaid, Robert M. Gates, US Pacific Command, US Central Command

Category Tags: Preparation

In a press briefing, President Bush says that Iran is actively working on a nuclear weapon: “Our position is that we would hope that nations would be very careful in dealing with Iran, particularly since Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, and a major threat to world peace is if the Iranians had a nuclear weapon.… [We] are deeply concerned about an Iranian government that is in violation of international accords in their attempt to develop a nuclear weapon.” [White House, 3/31/2007]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran, Neoconservative Hawks

Kurdish government officials in Iraq say that the US raids in Irbil that captured five Iranian diplomats and government officials (see January 11, 2007) were actually an attempt to capture two leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Mohammed Jafari, the deputy head of the Iranian National Security Council, and General Minojahar Frouzanda, the chief of intelligence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Both were visiting Kurdish officials at the time. British journalist Patrick Cockburn writes, “The attempt by the US to seize the two high-ranking Iranian security officers openly meeting with Iraqi leaders is somewhat as if Iran had tried to kidnap the heads of the CIA and MI6 while they were on an official visit to a country neighboring Iran, such as Pakistan or Afghanistan.” [Independent, 4/3/2007]
Iranians Welcomed, Says Kurdish Leader - Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq, says that the Iranian commanders visited Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, and then visited Barzani, most likely in Irbil. The five Iranians are still in US custody. “It [the house raided by US forces] was not a secret Iranian office,” Barzani says. “It is impossible for us to accept that an Iranian office in Irbil was doing things against coalition forces or against us. That office was doing its work in a normal way and had they been doing anything hostile, we would have known that.” Barzani continues, “They [the US troops] did not come to detain the people in that office. There was an Iranian delegation, including Revolutionary Guards commanders, and they came as guests of the president. He was in Sulaimaniyah. They came to Sulaimaniyah and then I received a call from the president’s office telling me that they wanted to meet me as well.” [Associated Press, 4/6/2007]
Iranians 'Disappeared' - The location of the captured Iranians is unknown; they are said to have “disappeared” into the controversial and allegedly illegal US “coalition detention” system. International law expert Scott Horton says that under the UN resolutions, the US detention of the Iranians is illegal, and they should be detained under Iraqi law. “The Iranians who are being held as ‘security detainees’ are not being charged with anything, and so are being held unlawfully,” he says. Iraqi law mandates that detainees identified as insurgents “actively engaged in hostilities” are supposed to be charged in civilian courts. They may be held up to 14 days before being brought before a magistrate and either charged with a crime or released. To hold detainees longer without charging them, detention authorities must provide justification for doing so, Horton says. “It’s an exercise of raw power by the US that’s not backed by any legal justification.” [Asia Times, 3/31/2007] Observers say the US rationale for the capture and continued detention of the Iranians is hard to fathom, as no US soldiers have ever been killed in Irbil and there are no Sunni nor Shi’ite militias operating in that region. [Independent, 4/3/2007]

Entity Tags: Scott Horton, Patrick Cockburn, UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Minojahar Frouzanda, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Jalal Talabani, James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr., Mohammed Jafari, International Committee of the Red Cross, Masud Barzani, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: US Intel on Iran

The US-government operated Voice of America (VoA) radio broadcasting service conducts a phone interview with Abdul Malek Rigi, the leader of the Sunni militant group, Jondollah. Rigi, designated by Iran as a terrorist, is introduced by VoA as the “leader of the Iranian people’s resistance movement.” [Press TV (Tehran), 4/2/2007; Reuters, 4/5/2007] According to US and Pakistani intelligence sources, Rigi’s group has been advised by the US and supported by Pakistan since 2005 (see 2005 and After).

Entity Tags: Abdul Malik Rigi, Voice of America

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations

Iran television reports that the country’s border patrol detained 10 people who illegally entered the country from Pakistan carrying $500,000 in cash, maps of “sensitive areas,” and “modern spying cameras.” [Reuters, 5/13/2007] A senior Pakistani official will tell ABC News the 10 men were members of Jundullah. [ABC News, 5/23/2007] (Jundallah is reportedly being supported by the Pakistanis and advised by US government officials (see 2005 and After).)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations

Author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman writes, “Iran is about to go nuclear.” [Editor & Publisher, 12/4/2007]

Entity Tags: Thomas Friedman

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran

Brigadier General Lawrence Stutzriem.Brigadier General Lawrence Stutzriem. [Source: US Air Force]The US Air Force sets up a secret strategic planning group, nicknamed “Project Checkmate,” tasked with “fighting the next war” against Iran. Project Checkmate, a successor to the group that planned the 1991 Gulf War’s air campaign, reports directly to the Air Force’s commander, General Michael Moseley, and consists of twenty to thirty senior USAF officials as well as defense and cyberspace experts with strong access to the White House, the CIA, and other intelligence agencies. While planning for war with Iran began two years ago in Washington, the strategic planning group represents a serious escalation of planning and perhaps intent by the Bush administration and the US military. Checkmate is envisioned to modernize the stratified strategic thinking that often results in the US military “fighting the last war” over again, and intends to provide innovative strategies for tactical battles using air, space, and even cyberwarfare. The leader of Checkmate is Brigadier General Lawrence “Stutz” Stutzriem, and is assisted by former Israeli military officer Dr. Lani Kass, an expert on cyberwarfare. George W. Bush has said repeatedly that he prefers diplomacy with Iran over military action, but if Iran continues to work towards developing a nuclear weapon, as he and his top advisers believe, then he will consider aggressive, pre-emptive military action. However, Bush faces strong opposition from his own Joint Chiefs of Staff: “None of them think it is a good idea, but they will do it if they are told to,” says one senior defense source.
Aftermath the Biggest Problem - Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney warns that the administration must seriously consider the aftermath of such a military offensive against Iran. “There is no question that we can take out Iran,” he says. “The problem is the follow-on, the velvet revolution that needs to be created so the Iranian people know it’s not aimed at them, but at the Iranian regime.” Checkmate, which is also looking at military contingencies against China and North Korea, was originally formed in the 1970s to counter threats from the then-Soviet Union, but fell into disuse in the 1980s when the Soviet Union began showing signs of internal collapse. Checkmate was revived under Colonel John Warden in 1990 to draw up plans for air strikes against Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War. “When Saddam [Hussein] invaded Kuwait, we had access to unlimited numbers of people with expertise, including all the intelligence agencies, and were able to be significantly more agile than Centcom,” Warden says, referring to the US Central Command in Florida. Warden says Checkmate’s primary role is to develop the necessary expertise so that “if somebody says Iran, it says: ‘here is what you need to think about.’ Here are the objectives, here are the risks, here is what it will cost, here are the numbers of planes we will lose, here is how the war is going to end and here is what the peace will look like.” [London Times, 9/27/2007]

Entity Tags: US Central Command, US Department of the Air Force, Saddam Hussein, Thomas G. McInerney, Michael Moseley, George W. Bush, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), John Warden, Project Checkmate, Lani Kass, Lawrence Stutzriem, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Category Tags: Preparation

George W. Bush and Ehud Olmert.George W. Bush and Ehud Olmert. [Source: White House]During a press briefing with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Bush accuses Iran of actively developing nuclear weapons, and warns of the ramifications of that activity. He warns of the “consequences to the Iranian government if they continue to pursue a nuclear weapon, such as financial sanctions, or economic sanctions.… Now, whether or not they abandon their nuclear weapons program, we’ll see.” [White House, 6/19/2007]

Entity Tags: Ehud Olmert, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran, Neoconservative Hawks

David Wurmser.David Wurmser. [Source: ThinkProgress.org]Vice-President Dick Cheney is reportedly considering asking Israel to launch limited missile strikes against the Iranian nuclear site at Natanz in order to provoke an Iranian counterattack. The Iranian retaliation would then give the US an excuse to launch its own air strikes against nuclear and military targets in Iran. Cheney’s Middle East adviser, well-known neoconservative and war proponent David Wurmser, tells a small group of unidentified officials that Cheney is considering such a request. Meyrav Wurmser, the wife of Cheney’s adviser and a member of the neoconservative Hudson Institute, later denies the story, which is reported in late September 2007 by Newsweek, from two unidentified sources. [Reuters, 9/23/2007; Ha'aretz, 9/23/2007; Newsweek, 10/1/2007]

Entity Tags: Meyrav Wurmser, David Wurmser, Hudson Institute, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Newsweek

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Planning, Israel, Neoconservative Hawks

Conversations between Iranian military commanders indicate that Iran’s nuclear weapons program has been shut down for years. The calls are intercepted by the US and lead to the realization that the program was halted in 2003 (see December 3, 2007). However, when they first learn of them, senior White House officials will balk at accepting those calls, with some suggesting that the secretly intercepted calls are part of a clever Iranian disinformation campaign. Intelligence officers will spend months validating the new information before determining it is real. [Washington Post, 12/4/2007]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: 2007 NIE on Iran, Nuclear Program, US Policy Papers

In a press briefing, President Bush says, “The fight in Iraq is part of a broader struggle that’s unfolding across the region. The same region in Iran—the same regime in Iran that is pursuing nuclear weapons and threatening to wipe Israel off the map is also providing sophisticated IEDs to extremists in Iraq who are using them to kill American soldiers.” [White House, 7/12/2007]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran, Neoconservative Hawks

President Bush says, “[I]t’s up to Iran to prove to the world that they’re a stabilizing force as opposed to a destabilizing force. After all, this is a government that has proclaimed its desire to build a nuclear weapon. This is a government that is in defiance of international accord, a government that seems to be willing to thumb its nose at the international community… [T]he burden of proof is on the Iranian government to show us that they’re a positive force. And I must tell you that this current leadership there is a big disappointment to the people of Iran. The people of Iran could be doing a lot better than they are today. But because of the actions of this government, this country is isolated. And we will continue to work to isolate it, because they’re not a force for good, as far as we can see. They’re a destabilizing influence wherever they are.” [White House, 8/6/2007]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran, Neoconservative Hawks

President Bush’s rhetoric towards Iran’s supposed nuclear program shifts from flat assertions that Iran is definitely working for a nuclear bomb (see January 26, 2007, March 31, 2007, June 19, 2007, July 12, 2007, and August 6, 2007) to a more nuanced approach. In a press briefing, Bush now asserts that Iran is taking measures to have a nuclear weapons program: “They have expressed their desire to be able to enrich uranium, which we believe is a step toward having a nuclear weapons program. That, in itself, coupled with their stated foreign policy, is very dangerous for world stability.… It’s a very troubling nation right now.” [White House, 8/9/2007] Journalist Dan Froomkin, and others, later believe that Bush was informed a day or two before he made this comment that the US intelligence community has found that Iran stopped work on its nuclear weapons program in 2003. But instead of reversing course, Froomkin will write, Bush merely adjusts his rhetoric and continues to insist that Iran is a danger to the Middle East because of its nuclear ambitions (see December 5, 2007). “[I]t certainly didn’t tame the overall message,” Froomkin will observe. [Washington Post, 12/5/2007]

Entity Tags: Dan Froomkin, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran, Neoconservative Hawks

The Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive air strikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, with the goal of annihilating Iran’s military capabilities in three days, according to Alexis Debat, the director of terrorism and national security at the conservative Nixon Center. Unfortunately, Debat’s credentials as a reporter and a reliable source of information have been seriously discredited (see September 12, 2007), so it is hard to tell how much credence to give Debat’s warnings. Debat, an ardent neoconservative, says the US military has concluded, “Whether you go for pinprick strikes or all-out military action, the reaction from the Iranians will be the same.” Therefore, he says, such massive air strikes make up “very legitimate strategic calculus.” Debat’s statements come on the heels of George W. Bush’s assertion that Iran is forcing the Middle East to live “under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.” Bush said that the US and its allies will confront Iran “before it is too late.” (The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that Iran is cooperating with the agency over its nuclear program.) A Washington source says the “temperature [is] rising” inside the administration. Bush is “sending a message to a number of audiences,” he says—to the Iranians and to members of the UN Security Council who are trying to weaken a proposed third resolution on sanctions against Iran for flouting a UN ban on uranium enrichment. If Bush’s present commitment to diplomacy with Iran flags, his administration believes it would be prudent to use rapid, devastating force against Iran. [London Times, 9/2/2007] Three weeks later, the British media reports on “Project Checkmate,” an Air Force strategic planning group that is developing plans for a crushing air strike against Iran’s military capabilities (see June 2007).

Entity Tags: Nixon Center, Alexis Debat, Bush administration (43), International Atomic Energy Agency, Project Checkmate, George W. Bush, US Department of Defense

Category Tags: Preparation

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: Iraq under US Occupation, Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: Neoconservative Hawks, Preparation

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