Cheney And Iran: A New "Casus Belli" for The VP?


Those red-blooded investors--perhaps speculators positioned to profit from oil prices going even higher and maybe spoiling for a conflict with Iran--should consider U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s comment on the consequences of a U.S. strike against Iran.

"We’ll create generation of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America,” Gates told the Democratic caucus at a Senate luncheon, according to a participant.

‘We’ll create generation of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America,” he told the Democratic caucus at a Senate luncheon, according to a participant. A U.S. strike against Iran might seem unlikely, but Vice President Dick Cheney is in hot pursuit of a “casus belli” to start hostilities, according to an article carried in the July 7 issue of the New Yorker magazine released yesterday.

The 6,160 word report by Seymour Hersh, the country’s premier investigative journalist, says this is part of the Administration’s to-the-hilt use of a significantly expanded covert operation against Tehran approved by Congress late last year; taxpayers’ tab: $400 million.

That money is aimed at destabilizing the religious leadership and is being channeled to a gaggle of unsavory ethnic groups (one of them, the Kurdish M.E.K. group has been on the State Dept.’s terrorist list for more than decade; another has links to Al-Qaeda and may be running drugs, etc.) who are stepping up attacks inside Iran.

One recent target, a cultural center in the southern city of Shiraz, where at least 12 were killed and more than 200 injured. Since none of these dissident groups has much support inside the country, these are just irritations for the regime, which is probably strengthened by public revulsion.

More serious are U.S. Special Operations raids into Iran, to seize Iranian Revolutionary Guards and then spiriting them back to Iraq for interrogation or the pursuit of other “high-value targets.” These have the potential for provoking the regime into more direct attacks against the U.S.

That seems to be just what Cheney wants, according to this article, and it may come in the form of a Tonkin Gulf-type incident; this time in the Persian Gulf. That almost happened in early January when the Pentagon reported five Iranian patrol boats menaced U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz with threats to “explode” them.

President Bush called the incident “provocative” and “dangerous” but the U.S. naval commander in the region downplayed the incident pointing out that the U.S. regularly interacts with the Iranian Navy (and the Revolutionary Guards). “I didn’t get the sense…of being afraid of these five boats,” said Vice-Admiral Kevin Cosgriff.

Within a week the Pentagon acknowledged it couldn’t positively link the menacing radio transmissions to the Iranians and reports pointed the finger at a prankster (can’t be tracked down?) in the region with a history of sending fake messages. “Nonetheless, Cosgriff’s demeanor angered Cheney,” according to a former senior intelligence official, cited by Hersh.

“But a lesson was learned in the incident: the public had supported the idea of retaliation, and was even asking what the US didn’t do more,” writes Hersh. This despite a November poll in which 73 percent of Americans supported diplomacy and economic actions against Iran, not direct military action, which was favored twice as often by Republicans versus Democrats.

A few weeks later, Hersh’s intelligence source (unnamed) said a meeting in Cheney’s office was convened where “the subject was how to create a casus belli between Tehran and Washington.”

In the last few days Reuters has been reporting that Iran would “impose controls” on shipping through the Hormuz straits if it were attacked, but let’s be real – if there is major hostilities, Tehran would be looking to shut down the Straits (through which 40 percent of the world’s crude flows) and maybe even lob missiles into Saudi oil fields.

There is not much doubt they are quite capable of this. (More on this another time.) So, speculators, or whoever may be thinking attacking Iran could be a profitable cakewalk, well, be careful what you wish for.

It is also time for more bureaucratically brave brass--such as Admiral William Fallon, former U.S. Central Command commander, who resigned under pressure in March after publicly airing misgivings about attacking Iran--to stand up to the administration’s hawks (most of whom, like Cheney, have never served in the armed forces) that they have already done enough damage.

Questions? Comments?