Preparing the Battlefield for Bush's War on Iran
By Matthew Rothschild
The Progressive

Tuesday 15 August 2006

The thought crossed my mind this weekend at a wedding party, when we were discussing the Israeli war on Lebanon: Maybe Bush's green light for this bloody war was part of his plan to bomb Tehran.

Bush's green light for this bloody war in Lebanon was part of his plan to bomb Tehran.

In previous months, I'd read that Pentagon war planners were worried about Hezbollah's ability to attack Israel in the event that Bush bombed Tehran. So it wasn't a big leap from remembering that fact to hazarding a guess that Bush wanted a preemptive strike.

Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker this week confirms that hunch.

One reason Bush goosed Israel into attacking Lebanon, a Middle East expert told Hersh, was to strip "Hezbollah of its missiles, because, if there was to be a military option against Iran's nuclear facilities, it had to get rid of the weapons that Hezbollah could use in a potential retaliation at Israel."

That the Pentagon was worried about such retaliation there is no doubt.

"U.S. intelligence and terrorism experts say they believe Iran would respond to U.S. military strikes on its nuclear sites by deploying its intelligence operatives and Hezbollah teams to carry out terrorist attacks worldwide," Dana Priest wrote in The Washington Post on April 2.

One U.S. official told Priest that the risk of terrorist actions flowing from a U.S. attack on Iran was "a huge issue" that was "consuming a lot of time." (Hersh himself cited this article in an April New Yorker article he wrote.)

Others have pointed out that risk, as well. The Oxford Research Group in February published a report entitled "Iran: Consequences of War."

"Iran would be likely to encourage more militant action by Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon," it said. "Given that Hezbollah now has large quantities of surface-to-surface missiles of a range sufficient to reach Haifa and other population centers in the north of Israel, a vigorous Israeli response should be expected, further adding to an atmosphere of crisis."

Hersh cites an additional cold-blooded reason why Bush was in favor of Israel's attack on Lebanon: It would serve as a dry run for the U.S. attacks on Tehran, especially against hardened targets.

"President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah's heavily fortified underground-missile an command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ... serve as a prelude to a potential American preemptive attack to destroy Iran's nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground," Hersh reported.

He said that U.S. Air Force planners "began consulting with their counterparts in the Israeli Air Force" early this spring.

One U.S. government consultant told Hersh, "It would be a demo for Iran."

Now Bush is declaring defeat for Hezbollah, though neither Israel nor the United States can be happy with the outcome.

Amazingly, Bush refused to pin an ounce of blame on Israel for the suffering of civilians that the war caused. "Responsibility for this suffering lies with Hezbollah," said Bush, adding that "Hezbollah's state sponsors, Iran and Syria," also bear some blame.

Yes, Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria do bear much of that responsibility, but so does Israel.

So, for that matter, does Israel's state sponsor, the United States.

These days, that means Bush and Cheney, who seem as eager as ever to go after Iran.