Tuesday, February 27

Skullduggery in the Middle East

Seymore Hersh turns in another New Yorker tour de force on what the Bushies are up to in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon.

The man is a marvel. Who else would bury an exclusive interview with Hezbollah boss Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah -- complete with skull and dagger details -- on like page 17?
Security arrangements for the meeting were secretive and elaborate. I was driven, in the back seat of a darkened car, to a damaged underground garage somewhere in Beirut, searched with a handheld scanner, placed in a second car to be driven to yet another bomb-scarred underground garage, and transferred again. Last summer, it was reported that Israel was trying to kill Nasrallah, but the extraordinary precautions were not due only to that threat. Nasrallah’s aides told me that they believe he is a prime target of fellow-Arabs, primarily Jordanian intelligence operatives, as well as Sunni jihadists who they believe are affiliated with Al Qaeda.
Lots of juicy stuff in Hersh's piece, but the jist is this: The White House has shifted its strategic allegiances back to Sunni states like Saudi Arabia, despite their occasional tacit support for Sunni extremists who are intertwined with Al Qaeda, in an attempt to counter Iran and the rise of a Shiite crescent in the region.

Also, interesting echoes from the Iran-Contra affair, when the Reagan White House defied Congress to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. (They raised money by selling arms to...wait...don't tell me...oh yeah, IRAN). A lot of the players from those days, like deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams and Saudi national security adviser Prince Bandar, are involved in the latest machinations. And of course VP Dick Cheney is reported to be deeply involved as well.

Interestingly, Hersh reports that former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte (a veteran cold warrior who was involved in Iran-Contra) stepped down as because he could see history about to repeat itself.
The former senior intelligence official also told me that Negroponte did not want a repeat of his experience in the Reagan Administration, when he served as Ambassador to Honduras. “Negroponte said, ‘No way. I’m not going down that road again, with the N.S.C. running operations off the books, with no finding.’ ” (In the case of covert C.I.A. operations, the President must issue a written finding and inform Congress.)

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