Monday, September 24, 2007

War with Iran: The Plot Thickens

The commander of U.S. military forces in the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon, was recently interviewed by Al-Jazeera television, which released a partial transcript of the interview Sunday.

According to Al-Jazeera's transcript, the Admiral made several statements about Iran, including the following:

This constant drum beat of conflict is what strikes me, which is not helpful and not useful.

I expect that there will be no war and that is what we ought to be working for.

We should find ways through which we can bring countries to work together for the benefit of all.

It is not a good idea to be in a state of war. We ought to try and to do our utmost to create different conditions.
His remarks put him at odds with Vice President Cheney's camp, which is reportedly pushing hard for bombing Iran.

On the very same day that Al-Jazeera released its partial transcript of Admiral Fallon's remarks, Newsweek Magazine published a report that Vice President Cheney is considering an underhanded and devious method to plunge the US into war with Iran:
Newsweek Magazine reported Sunday that Vice President Richard Cheney may have considered a plan for Israeli missile strikes against an Iranian nuclear site in an effort to draw a military response from Iran, which could in turn spark a U.S. offensive against targets in the Islamic Republic.

Citing two unnamed sources the magazine called knowledgeable, the magazine quoted David Wurmser, until last month Cheney's Middle East advisor, as having told a small group of people that "Cheney had been mulling the idea of pushing for limited Israeli missile strikes against the Iranian nuclear site at Natanz - and perhaps other sites - in order to provoke Tehran into lashing out."

According to the report, "The Iranian reaction would then give Washington a pretext to launch strikes against military and nuclear targets in Iran."
Steve Clemons, the Washington blogger who first broke the story of Cheney's deviousness, has argued for some time that, "[A war with Iran] would most likely be triggered by one or both of the two people who would see their political fortunes rise through a new conflict -- Cheney and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Meanwhile, the UK Sunday Times revealed that a secret US Air Force team, called "Project Checkmate", has been set up to perfect the plans to attack Iran:

The United States Air Force has set up a highly confidential strategic planning group tasked with “fighting the next war” as tensions rise with Iran.

Project Checkmate, a successor to the group that planned the 1991 Gulf War’s air campaign, was quietly reestablished at the Pentagon in June.

It reports directly to General Michael Moseley, the US Air Force chief, and consists of 20-30 top air force officers and defence and cyberspace experts with ready access to the White House, the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
What makes Project Checkmate especially interesting is that it bypasses Admiral Fallon's command:
Detailed contingency planning for a possible attack on Iran has been carried out for more than two years by Centcom (US central command), according to defence sources.
Yet, by by-passing his command (which is Centcom), Project Checkmate can hope to do an end run around the military opposition to war with Iran. Not surprisingly, according to some sources, Dick Cheney is the man in the Administration most responsible for setting up Project Checkmate.

UPDATE: Perhaps a little background on Admiral Fallon. There is an unconfirmed report that around the time of his confirmation as Centcom chief, Admiral Fallon privately expressed his intentions regarding war with Iran:
A source who met privately with Fallon around the time of his confirmation hearing and who insists on anonymity quoted Fallon as saying that an attack on Iran "will not happen on my watch".

Asked how he could be sure, the source says, Fallon replied, "You know what choices I have. I'm a professional." Fallon said that he was not alone, according to the source, adding, "There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box."
I don't know how likely the story is to be true, but it is at least consistent with Admiral Fallon's recent remarks on Al-Jazeera television.

UPDATE II: Juan Cole is arguing in Salon that, "Demonizing the Iranian president and making his visit to New York seem controversial is all part of the neoconservative push for yet another war."

UPDATE III: Think Progress is reporting that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's influence in the Administration is on the wane while Vice President Cheney's influence is again on the rise.


Military Chief: "No War" with Iran

No Iran War Says US Admiral

Report: Cheney may have mulled pushing Israel to hit Iran

Will Bush Bomb Iran?

Secret US Air Force Team to Perfect Plan to Attack Iran

Commander's Veto Sank Threatening Gulf Build Up

Turning Ahmadinejad into public enemy No. 1

Related Articles:

Will Bush Bomb Iran

US Administration Gives Fox News Its Marching Orders

Prediction: Administration Will Attack Iran


Musafir said...

Why does Cheney want the USA to fight Iran?

Paul said...

That's a good question, Musafir! I've read some speculations on that around the net, but nothing yet that seems to me to really know why Cheney wants to go to war with Iran.

Webs said...

I think a large part of it extends from Iran's president involvement with Palestinians and the president's outspokenness to Jews and Israel.

Mahendra said...

Paul, as always, thanks for the comprehensive update on this situation. You're taking lot of efforts to monitor this, and it is increasingly getting alarming.

I have the same question as Musafir. I don't understand what political gains Cheney will get if there's another war.