Shifting Targets: The Administration’s Plan for Iran

Seymour M. Hersh’s article in the latest New Yorker [Oct 8, 2007],“Shifting Targets, The Administration’s Plan for Iran,” adds to our confusion, puzzlement, and anxiety about this administration. When friends have expressed worry that the administration will concoct a war with Iran, as they did with Iraq, I have confidently assured them that the government could not be that stupid. Anyone would know, on many grounds, that that makes no sense. But if Hersh is right, we do in fact have reason to wonder if, to the multiple blunders for which this administration will be infamous, they might just add another, or rather, some more. God save us.

Shifting Targets: The Administration’s Plan for Iran
by Seymour M. Hersh

“In a series of public statements in recent months, President Bush and members of his Administration have redefined the war in Iraq, to an increasing degree, as a strategic battle between the United States and Iran.”
“the White House … requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on Iran … The focus of the plans had been a broad bombing attack … Now the emphasis is on ‘surgical’ strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps”
“The shift in targeting reflects three developments. First, the President and his senior advisers have concluded that their campaign to convince the American public that Iran poses an imminent nuclear threat has failed (unlike a similar campaign before the Iraq war), and that as a result there is not enough popular support for a major bombing campaign. The second development is that the White House has come to terms, in private, with the general consensus of the American intelligence community that Iran is at least five years away from obtaining a bomb. And, finally, there has been a growing recognition in Washington and throughout the Middle East that Iran is emerging as the geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq.” “The difficulty of determining who is responsible for the chaos in Iraq can be seen in Basra … Over the course of this year … the region became increasingly ungovernable, and by fall the British had retreated to fixed bases. A European official who has access to current intelligence told me that ‘there is a firm belief inside the … intelligence community that Iran is supporting many of the groups in southern Iraq that are responsible for the deaths of British and American soldiers.’ “
“A June, 2007, report by the International Crisis Group found, however, that Basra’s renewed instability was mainly the result of ‘the systematic abuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism…’ ”
[regarding the possibility of an attack on Iran, a former intelligence official said] “Do you think those crazies in Tehran are going to say, ‘Uncle Sam is here! We’d better stand down’? … The reality is an attack will make things ten times warmer.”