Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

  More omens of war against Iran

For the past year I’ve been highly skeptical of claims that George Bush had resolved upon attacking Iran. Whatever he may have wanted early last spring, there were signs by June of 2006 that Bush was stepping back from the abyss. It may have been due to push-back by the Pentagon, or the complete collapse of post-election Iraq, or possibly a temporary eclipse of Cheney’s influence. Much of the administration’s saber-rattling since then I put down as the negotiating tactics of those Mayberry Machiavellis in the White House.

But increasingly these days we’re seeing more ominous signs of actual planning.

For example, a recent report suggests that an additional 20% of our operational fleet of U-2 planes was moved this year to bases in the Middle East in order to spy on Iran.

Today brings further news.

First, a curious provision tucked away in an appropriation bill to outfit B-2 “stealth” bombers with “bunker buster” bombs. The WH described this request as an “urgent operational need”.

From Congressional Quarterly:

Some Democrats are worried that President Bush’s funding request to enable B-2 “stealth” bombers to carry a new 30,000-pound “bunker buster” bomb is a sign of plans for an attack on Iran.

Buried in the $196.4 billion supplemental war spending proposal that Bush submitted to Congress on Oct. 22 is a request for $88 million to modify B-2 bombers so they can drop a Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, a conventional bomb still in development that is the most powerful weapon designed to destroy targets deep underground.

A White House summary accompanying the supplemental spending proposal said the request for money to modify ­B-2s to carry the bombs came in response to “an urgent operational need from theater commanders.” The summary provided no further details…

Previous statements by the Defense Department and the program’s contractors, along with interviews with military experts, suggest the weapon is meant for the kind of hardened targets found chiefly in Iran, which Bush suspects of developing nuclear weapons capability, and North Korea, which already has tested a nuclear device.

What is most alarming about the request is that the 15-ton bomb is still in its testing phase (the first test was held only in March). Only in June was the first contract (a small one) awarded to Grumman to retrofit the B-2 to carry the MOP. The current request, then, is a massive and sudden expansion of the operation. To what end?

CQ quotes Rep. James Moran (D-VA) and Jim McDermott (D-WA) as saying they believe the bomb capabilities are intended for use against Iran.

[McDermott] said the funding request was the latest of many signs that indicated Bush was contemplating an attack on Iran. McDermott said such a scenario was his “biggest fear between now and the election.”

“We are not authorizing Bush to use a 30,000-pound bunker buster,” he said. “They’ve been banging the drums the same way as they did in 2002 with Iraq.”

Both Moran and McDermott plan to oppose the request in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Others, however, have learned to love the Bomb.

Not all Democratic lawmakers oppose the weapon. Non-nuclear bunker busters have emerged in recent years as favorites of Democrats concerned about Bush administration’s earlier plans to conduct research on nuclear models.

“We need to have this as a conventional weapon,” said Norm Dicks, D-Wash., a member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. “It adds to our deterrent.”

That may have been the intended object of all that loose talk of nuclear strikes against Iran—to convince wavering Democrats to view a non-nuclear attack as the best outcome they could hope for from this administration. It’s a game that Bush & Co. have played successfully before: Push Democrats into negotiating with themselves until they arrive at the “compromise” he wanted in the first place.

At a minimum, it’s time to jangle those phones in the offices of members of the Defense Subcommittee, chaired by John Murtha.

The leaking of false information about the Israeli attack in Syria on Sept. 5 is also cause for concern. Ten days ago David Sanger and Mark Mazzetti published a Judith-Milleresque report in the NYT claiming that the Israelis had destroyed a nuclear reactor under construction with North Korean help. Neither Israel nor Syria confirmed the allegation, and few experts have credited it.

But it was clear that the Vice President’s minions were pushing the story hard. They appear to have been behind the related and equally false stories that Syria was disassembling the bombed reactor in order to conceal evidence, and that a Syrian diplomat at the U.N. had admitted the facility was a nuclear reactor. It was a classic whispering campaign; the only insider who would attach his name to the allegations was true-believer John Bolton.

Now Steve Clemons appears to have produced some actual inside dope. His sources confirm that Cheney’s gang was behind the dissemination of false information about Syria:

Then, a journalist friend of mine -- not at the New York Times -- confided to me that they were being pressed by the White House and by fellow travelers of the Cheney gang to pump up the Syria nuclear story. This is one of several people who actually used the term "being Judith Miller'd" to me to describe how they felt in their interactions with the administration. Even the way they were using it, it still doesn't describe properly the kind of interaction going on.

Other sources tell Clemons that the Syrian facility probably was working on retrofitting Scud missiles to take chemical weapons warheads that could burst in the air. Be that as it may (and even though Clemons spills a lot of pixels wringing his hands about his inability to find sources who can back up the nuclear allegations by Sanger and Mazzetti), it looks very likely that the real crazies inside the Bush administration (Cheney & Co.) treated the Israeli attack as agitprop.

At a minimum, if Cheney can convince the serious people in Washington that Israel attacked a nuclear facility in Syria, he’ll have built a partial case for an American attack on the Natanz facility in Iran—before the Israelis take the initiative there as well.

And if the Syrians were playing with chemical weapons, then Cheney could count on their refusal to open up the bombed facility or make an international cause celebre of the attack. His own scenario, then, might well go uncorrected. It would thus “prove” that it’s possible to bomb a nuclear facility in a rogue state without provoking an international crisis.

At long last, it’s time for Congress to pass a resolution prohibiting Bush from attacking Iran without explicit authorization from those with Article I authority to make war.

crossposted from

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