Bush authorises covert CIA operations to destabilise Iran
An ABC News report on Tuesday provided further evidence that the Bush administration is actively engaged in a covert campaign of destabilisation aimed at “regime change” in Iran.
According to the American television network, Bush signed a formal “non-lethal presidential finding” earlier this year authorising “a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran’s currency and international financial transactions”.
Based on information from unnamed former and current CIA officials, ABC News reported that Bush approved the plan “about the time that [Admiral William] Fallon took over [as head of the Pentagon’s Central Command]”—that is, about mid-March. It also stated that National Security Adviser Steve Hadley and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams both gave the green light for the operation.
The timing of the plan coincides with a steady stream of articles, prominently placed in the media, highlighting Tehran’s crackdown on women’s dress, arrest of dissidents, alleged nuclear weapons programs and support for anti-occupation militia operating inside neighbouring Iraq. While it is impossible to know how many of these reports are direct CIA “plants,” they point to a concerted campaign of propaganda and disinformation. Whatever the impact inside Iran, such stories serve to poison public opinion in the US and internationally in preparation for a possible military strike.
ABC News was at pains to point out that “approval of the covert action means the Bush administration, for the time being, has decided not to pursue a military option against Iran”. Retired CIA official Bruce Riedel said that in the internal White House debate, “Vice President [Dick] Cheney helped to lead the side favouring a military strike but I think they have come to the conclusion that a military strike has more downsides than upsides.”
These reassurances count for nothing. The US navy continues to maintain two aircraft carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf, which have the capacity to mount a sustained air assault on Iran. During his visit to the Middle East earlier this month, Cheney pointedly declared on the deck of the USS John C. Stennis, just 150 miles off the Iranian coast, “We’ll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.”
The US fleet began extensive exercises in the Persian Gulf on Wednesday, in a move designed to intensify the pressure on Iran as a UN deadline passed for Tehran to shut down its uranium enrichment program. Bush has never withdrawn his menacing threat that “all options are on the table”—in other words, if diplomatic bullying and covert operations fail, the military option remains.
It would also be wrong to conclude that covert operations are confined to the CIA. According to a number of media reports, including detailed articles from veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, the Pentagon and other US agencies have been actively targetting Iran since at least 2004. Unlike the CIA, which—formally at least—requires a presidential finding to mount “black” operations, the US military has, under Bush, increasingly engaged in its own covert activities, including the dispatch of special forces units inside Iran, without any congressional oversight.
There is nothing particularly secret about the Bush administration’s campaign for .........