Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Out of the box thinking

This article by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker is well worth a read. But it is long, so if you don't have the time, here is a rough summary of the content.

1) As the situation in Iraq has deterioriated, Iran has emerged the clear winner from the US decision to invade the country in 2003.

2) The deterioration, and Iran's ascendancy, have prompted the US to embark on a "new direction". This includes:

a) accusing Iran of active involvement in the killing of US troops inside Iraq to create a casus belli for possible US action inside Iran;

b) portraying the Sunni states (including Saudi Arabia) as moderates, and Iran, Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon as extremists with an intent to destabilise the region;

c) building a coalition of the "moderates", and encouraging better relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel to resist the rise of Shiite Iran (which helps explain why the Saudis tried to broker the "peace deal" between Hamas and Fatah at Mecca);

d) running a programme of covert action out of the vice-President Dick Cheney's office to undermine Hezbollah in Lebanon and Assad in Syria. This uses funds designated for US operations in Iraq (and therefore impossible to account for) to pay the Saudis and the Jordanians to back Sunni extremists, and to seek evidence of Iranian involvement in Iraq using special forces now operating inside Iran.

3) As Hersh points out, if accurate, this is a fundamental sea change. The policy has echoes of the Iran-Contra scandal, Cambodia, and most recently, Afghanistan. Effectively, desperation is forcing the US administration to fund exactly the groups which are behind the radicalisation of the Middle East and the emergence of Al-Qaeda. And at the heart of the strategy is a trust in Saudi Arabia which can most charitably be described as touching. One unnamed US government source tells Hersh that the Saudis have assured the White House that they will "keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was 'We've created this movement, and we can control it.' It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran."

It's worth remembering when considering the value of this assurance and the wisdom of the strategy Hersh is describing that fourteen of the nineteen hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi nationals. As Vali Nasr, of the US Council on Foreign Relations is quoted observing, "The last time Iran was a threat, the Saudis were able to mobilize the worst kinds of Islamic radicals. Once you get them out of the box, you can’t put them back."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In regards to Seymour Hersh, it should be recognized that too much of his work in the last several years has included much that has been disputed and disproven.I think, it is only right to post this with a warning.Unfortunately, I am in the middle of a deadline and am unable to write a proper critical review with
specific citations, but they are available.Sorry.