After the National Intelligence Estimate last November which reported that Iran had no nuclear program since 2003, many of us breathed a sigh of relief. It was official: When it came to attacking Iran, the administration hadn't a leg to stand on.
But, as with Iraq, it was used to that. Once anointed lame duck, it didn't skip a beat and continued to stumble forward.
In a recent post at his blog "Early Warning," Washington Post security analyst William Arkin writes: "Those predicting war with Iran or some Bush-Cheney October surprise attack on Tehran are constantly looking for signs of military preparations." He cites the unauthorized transfer of nuclear warheads from Minot to Barksdale Air Force bases, extra aircraft carriers sent to the Persian Gulf, and the B-1 that crashed in Qatar last month.
Then Arkin recalls a secret mission conducted last August over Afghanistan. He claims it "tells us everything we need to know about the ability of the U.S. military to conduct a bolt-out-of-the-blue attack in Iran."
It seems that four F-16CJ fighters completed a mission that won the prestigious Mackay Trophy for the "most meritorious" Air Force fight of the year. They flew from Iraq to Eastern Afghanistan, where they dropping more than a dozen "precision-guided" bombs on Taliban targets. It "was the equivalent of flying from New York to Los Angeles and back," Arkin explains.
In other words, like a 10-K runner logging a hundred miles a week, they might have been training for a strike on Iran, which is just the next country over from Iraq.
Meanwhile, on May 2, Andrew Cockburn (author of a new book, "Muqtada," called "required reading" in the New York Times Sunday Book Review today) reported on Counterpunch that, six weeks before, President Bush signed a secret directive authorizing a covert offensive against Iran.
Supposedly, it surpasses in scope anything attempted before. Assuming, that is, that you don't count the CIA's work to destabilize Iran's democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh's, in 1953.
The directive, Cockburn writes, funds (to the tune of $300 million), "actions across a huge geographic area –- from Lebanon to Afghanistan -– but is also far more sweeping in the type of actions permitted. . . including the assassination of targeted officials." Presumably by the terrorist MEK, the Iranian anti-Islamic Republic group that, despite its designation as a terrorist group by the State Department, we're only too glad to make use of.
But, on his blog, Pen and Sword, outspoken Military.com columnist Ken Huber calls Cockburn's Counterpunch piece "counterproductive." "Cockburn seems to want us to get excited that this Lebanon-to-Afghanistan offensive may involve assassination," he writes. But "we're already assassinating people in Somalia with freaking cruise missiles. We're doing the same thing in Pakistan with Hellfire missiles fired from pilotless spy planes; the folks who pickle off the missiles are dweebs sitting at consoles in an Air Force base in Nevada."
Pickle off, indeed. Huber concludes: "The door to this barn has been open for a long, long time. That the horses are gone shouldn't be news to anybody."
However, the threat has since been kicked into a higher gear by respected security analyst Philip Giraldi, who was a former CIA officer and is now foreign policy advisor to the Ron Paul campaign.
In his latest blog at the American Conservative, "War With Iran Might Be Closer Than You Think," he writes: "There is considerable speculation and buzz in Washington today suggesting that the National Security Council has agreed in principle to proceed with plans to attack an Iranian al-Qods-run camp [near Tehran] that is believed to be training Iraqi militants."
"Secretary of Defense Robert Gates," he adds, "was the only senior official urging delay. . . . [The decision] is the direct result of concerns [over] the deteriorating situation in Lebanon, where Iranian ally Hezbollah appears to have gained the upper hand against government forces."
After contacting Iran and reading them the riot act, the White House decided that "some sort of unambiguous signal has to be sent to the Iranian leadership, presumably in the form of cruise missiles." Unambiguous, thy name is cruise missile. Of course, President Bush "will still have to give the order to launch after all preparations are made."
PBS has been running a series titled Carrier, about life aboard the USS Nimitz. Imagine Iran retaliating to an air strike by blowing a mega-tub like this, along with its crew of over 5,000 mostly young people, out of the water? Iran's state-of-the-art Shahab-3 missiles are able to reach parts of the Arabian Sea and even the Mediterranean.
In other words, not only is the Persian Gulf, but total war, a hop, skip and a jump away.