Powered by WebAds

Monday, August 14, 2006

New York Magazine: Israel's war against Hezbullah a 'dress rehearsal' for US action against Iran

Writing in the current edition of New York Magazine, columnist Seymour Hersh claims that the United States backed Israel's war against Hezbullah because it viewed it as a dress rehearsal for a US attack on Iran's nuclear facilities:
According to a Middle East expert with knowledge of the current thinking of both the Israeli and the U.S. governments, Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollah—and shared it with Bush Administration officials—well before the July 12th kidnappings. “It’s not that the Israelis had a trap that Hezbollah walked into,” he said, “but there was a strong feeling in the White House that sooner or later the Israelis were going to do it.”

The Middle East expert said that the Administration had several reasons for supporting the Israeli bombing campaign. Within the State Department, it was seen as a way to strengthen the Lebanese government so that it could assert its authority over the south of the country, much of which is controlled by Hezbollah. He went on, “The White House was more focussed on stripping Hezbollah of its missiles, because, if there was to be a military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it had to get rid of the weapons that Hezbollah could use in a potential retaliation at Israel. Bush wanted both. Bush was going after Iran, as part of the Axis of Evil, and its nuclear sites, and he was interested in going after Hezbollah as part of his interest in democratization, with Lebanon as one of the crown jewels of Middle East democracy.”

Administration officials denied that they knew of Israel’s plan for the air war. The White House did not respond to a detailed list of questions. In response to a separate request, a National Security Council spokesman said, “Prior to Hezbollah’s attack on Israel, the Israeli government gave no official in Washington any reason to believe that Israel was planning to attack. Even after the July 12th attack, we did not know what the Israeli plans were.” A Pentagon spokesman said, “The United States government remains committed to a diplomatic solution to the problem of Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program,” and denied the story, as did a State Department spokesman.

The United States and Israel have shared intelligence and enjoyed close military coöperation for decades, but early this spring, according to a former senior intelligence official, high-level planners from the U.S. Air Force—under pressure from the White House to develop a war plan for a decisive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities—began consulting with their counterparts in the Israeli Air Force.

“The big question for our Air Force was how to hit a series of hard targets in Iran successfully,” the former senior intelligence official said. “Who is the closest ally of the U.S. Air Force in its planning? It’s not Congo—it’s Israel. Everybody knows that Iranian engineers have been advising Hezbollah on tunnels and underground gun emplacements. And so the Air Force went to the Israelis with some new tactics and said to them, ‘Let’s concentrate on the bombing and share what we have on Iran and what you have on Lebanon.’ ” The discussions reached the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he said.

“The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. “Why oppose it? We’ll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran.”

A Pentagon consultant said that the Bush White House “has been agitating for some time to find a reason for a preëmptive blow against Hezbollah.” He added, “It was our intent to have Hezbollah diminished, and now we have someone else doing it.” (As this article went to press, the United Nations Security Council passed a ceasefire resolution, although it was unclear if it would change the situation on the ground.)

According to Richard Armitage, who served as Deputy Secretary of State in Bush’s first term—and who, in 2002, said that Hezbollah “may be the A team of terrorists”—Israel’s campaign in Lebanon, which has faced unexpected difficulties and widespread criticism, may, in the end, serve as a warning to the White House about Iran. “If the most dominant military force in the region—the Israel Defense Forces—can’t pacify a country like Lebanon, with a population of four million, you should think carefully about taking that template to Iran, with strategic depth and a population of seventy million,” Armitage said. “The only thing that the bombing has achieved so far is to unite the population against the Israelis.”
Read the whole thing.

4 Comments:

At 5:30 AM, Blogger ShumBaayaMyLord said...

Carl, as you have probably long been aware, Sy Hersh's Mideast-related reportage in The New Yorker tends to be little more than hyperventilating, motivated by self-loathing perfidy. On those occasions when he gets something right, it's sheer happenstance.

I interviewed Richard Armitage once, back in Feb.1990 for my undergrad senior honors thesis (he had just left the Bush the Elder DoD, where he'd been Deputy SecDef or Undersecretary for International Security Policy). Armitage is an ex-Green Beret and power lifter, and it was very intimidating just to sit across the coffee table from him.

From this safe distance (from Armitage that is), I can suggest that Armitage is perhaps not on-target with his view of the regime-change implications of bombings. If you can get today's NYT Sunday Magazine and read the article in there by The Beirut Star's Michael Young, regarding the head-spinning political maneuverings that characterize current-day Lebanon, you'll see that a crushing IDF victory over Hizballah would be equivalent to cleaning up a nagging (to put it mildly) political-bedfellows mess that key constituencies in Lebanon would be enormously relieved to see cleaned.

 
At 7:44 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Shumbaayamylord,

I am aware of Hersh's reputation, and I certainly would not vouch for any of his claims being true.

Armitage strikes me as a typical State Department Arabist, although I could be wrong on that.

The Young article has been on the Times website all week. I ran it during the week and therefore I have seen it.

 
At 3:24 PM, Blogger ShumBaayaMyLord said...

Carl--I wouldn't characterize Armitage as an Arabist in the slightest. To begin with, fortunately for those of us who cherish our freedom, he's not a career State Department guy--Powell had brought him in completely from outside. Second, in the main Armitage "gets it," despite occasional and non-terrible lapses. He's been known to do things like going to Islamabad and telling Pervez Musharraf straight out that Pakistan had better get its act together on any number of fronts.

 
At 5:14 PM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

Actually Hersh has it completely backwards.

The Hezbollah War against Israel is the first act of Iran's war against the West. At least that's the view of someone who, I'd guess, has real data to work from (as opposed to a fertile imagination): Gen. Moshe Yaalon

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Google