Friday, September 05, 2008

Attack On Iran?

In a report it was not able to confirm, the Jerusalem Post on September 1, 2008 wrote

The Dutch intelligence service, the AIVD, has called off an operation aimed at infiltrating and sabotaging Iran's weapons industry due to an assessment that a US attack on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program is imminent, according to a report in the country's De Telegraaf newspaper on Friday.

The report claimed that the Dutch operation had been "extremely successful," and had been stopped because the US military was planning to hit targets that were "connected with the Dutch espionage action.

This reminded me of an interview with Ron Suskind, author of "The Way of the World," on 8/7/08 on National Public Radio's Fresh Air.

NPR: I want to talk just a little about this fascinating episode you describe in the summer of 2006, when President Bush is very anxious about some intelligence briefings that he is getting from the British. What are they telling him?

SUSKIND: In late July of 2006, the British are moving forward on a mission they’ve been–an investigation they’ve been at for a year at that point, where they’ve got a group of “plotters,” so-called, in the London area that they’ve been tracking…Bush gets this briefing at the end of July of 2006, and he’s very agitated. When Blair comes at the end of the month, they talk about it and he says, “Look, I want this thing, this trap snapped shut immediately.” Blair’s like, “Well, look, be patient here. What we do in Britain”–Blair describes, and this is something well known to Bush–”is we try to be more patient so they move a bit forward. These guys are not going to breathe without us knowing it. We’ve got them all mapped out so that we can get actual hard evidence, and then prosecute them in public courts of law and get real prosecutions and long prison terms”…Well, Bush doesn’t get the answer he wants, which is “snap the trap shut.” And the reason he wants that is because he’s getting all sorts of pressure from Republicans in Congress that his ratings are down. These are the worst ratings for a sitting president at this point in his second term, and they’re just wild-eyed about the coming midterm elections. Well, Bush expresses his dissatisfaction to Cheney as to the Blair meeting, and Cheney moves forward.

NPR: So you got the British saying, “Let’s carefully build our case. Let’s get more intelligence.” Bush wants an arrest and a political win. What does he do?

SUSKIND: Absolutely. What happens is that then, oh, a few days later, the CIA operations chief–which is really a senior guy. He’s up there in the one, two, three spots at CIA, guy named Jose Rodriguez ends up slipping quietly into Islamabad, Pakistan, and he meets secretly with the ISI, which is the Pakistani intelligence service. And suddenly a guy in Pakistan named Rashid Rauf, who’s kind of the contact of the British plotters in Pakistan, gets arrested. This, of course, as anyone could expect, triggers a reaction in London, a lot of scurrying. And the Brits have to run through the night wild-eyed and basically round up 25 or 30 people. It’s quite a frenzy. The British are livid about this. They talk to the Americans. The Americans kind of shrug, “Who knows? You know, ISI picked up Rashid Rauf.”

NPR: So the British did not even get a heads-up from the United States that this arrest was going to happen?

SUSKIND: Did not get a heads-up. In fact, the whole point was to mislead the British…The British did not know about it, frankly, until I reported it in the book…What’s interesting is that the White House already had its media plan already laid out before all of this occurred so that the president and vice president immediately–even, in Cheney’s case, before the arrest, the day before–started to capitalize on the war on terror rhetoric and political harvest, which of course they used for weeks to come, right into the fall, about, “The worst plot since 9/11, that has been foiled, and this is why you want us in power.”

Apparently, by July of 2006 the White House had developed a scheme to maximize political advantage for the GOP in the upcoming fall elections, by exploiting arrest of plotters across the ocean to convince voters to keep his party in power. That month, Prime Minister Blair visited President Bush and advised the American president that the British are methodically moving on this group of plotters in the London area so as to gather sufficient evidence and prosecute the individuals most effectively. Mr. Bush was not pleased and voila!: a few days later a CIA agent met secretly with the Pakistani intelligence service, which then arrested the guy who is the contact in Pakistan for the British plotters. Angry, the British were left with with no option than suddenly one night to zip around and arrest, prematurely, 25-30 individuals.

I don't know whether the report in the Dutch newspaper is accurate. Hopefully, it is not, at least in part because it would be another example of George W. Bush as "cowboy"- the go it alone impulse of a President more concerned with his ego than with international cooperation to fight terrorism.

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