The Secret History of the Impending War with Iran That the White House Doesn’t Want You to Know

In the years after 9/11, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann worked at the highest levels of the Bush administration as Middle East policy experts for the National Security Council. Mann conducted secret negotiations with Iran. Leverett traveled with Colin Powell and advised Condoleezza Rice. They each played crucial roles in formulating policy for the region leading up to the war in Iraq. But when they left the White House, they left with a growing sense of alarm — not only was the Bush administration headed straight for war with Iran, it had been set on this course for years. That was what people didn’t realize. It was just like Iraq, when the White House was so eager for war it couldn’t wait for the UN inspectors to leave. The steps have been many and steady and all in the same direction. And now things are getting much worse. We are getting closer and closer to the tripline, they say.

“The hard-liners are upping the pressure on the State Department,” says Leverett. “They’re basically saying, ‘You’ve been trying to engage Iran for more than a year now and what do you have to show for it? They keep building more centrifuges, they’re sending this IED stuff over into Iraq that’s killing American soldiers, the human-rights internal political situation has gotten more repressive — what the hell do you have to show for this engagement strategy?’ ”

But the engagement strategy was never serious and was designed to fail, they say. Over the last year, Rice has begun saying she would talk to “anybody, anywhere, anytime,” but not to the Iranians unless they stopped enriching uranium first. That’s not a serious approach to diplomacy, Mann says. Diplomacy is about talking to your enemies. That’s how wars are averted. You work up to the big things. And when U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker had his much-publicized meeting with his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad this spring, he didn’t even have permission from the White House to schedule a second meeting.

The most ominous new development is the Bush administration’s push to name the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization.

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Caspian Summit: Putin Puts Forward A War-Avoidance Plan

The visit to Tehran on Oct. 16, by Russian President Vladimir Putin was officially billed as his participation in the second summit of the Caspian Sea littoral nations, convoked to deal with legal and other aspects of resource-sharing in the oil-rich waters. Although that summit did take place as scheduled, and important decisions were reached by the leaders of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Iran, the main thrust of Putin’s visit was another: The Russian President’s trip–the first of a Russian head of state since the 1943 Tehran conference of war-time powers–was geared to register his government’s commitment to prevent a new war in the region, at all costs. That new war is the one on the strategic agenda of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, against Iran.

Putin’s participation in the summit, especially, his extensive personal meetings with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, constituted a spectacular gesture manifesting Russian support for war-avoidance factions in the Iranian government, in their showdown with Cheney’s neocon war party. As one Iranian political source put it, Putin’s visit was tantamount to saying to Washington: If you want to start a war against Iran, then you have to reckon with me, and that means, with Russia, a nuclear superpower. Perhaps not coincidentally, Putin right after his return to Moscow, stated in a worldwide webcast press interview, that his nation was developing new nuclear capabilities. His Iran visit was, as one Arab diplomat told me, a message to the warmongers in Washington, that Russia is still (or again) a superpower, and is treating the Iran dossier as a test for its status as a great power.

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Dem: Blackwater Dodged Millions in Taxes

Demblackwater_mn A controversial U.S. private security company under intense scrutiny for its aggressive use of force has a new problem: an allegation it illegally avoided paying millions of dollars in taxes.

In a letter to Blackwater security firm president Erik Prince, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., charged that the company illegally dodged “millions” in payroll taxes by misclassifying its security guards as “independent contractors” rather than employees.

That way, Blackwater guards were responsible for paying their own Medicare, Social Security and unemployment taxes — an “illegal scheme,” according to Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. If the firm had classified its armed guards as employees, which Waxman says it was required to do, it would have been responsible for covering those taxes.

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War pimp allert: SAS raiders enter Iran to kill gunrunners

BRITISH special forces have crossed into Iran several times in recent months as part of a secret border war against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Al-Quds special forces, defence sources have disclosed.

There have been at least half a dozen intense firefights between the SAS and arms smugglers, a mixture of Iranians and Shi’ite militiamen.

The unreported fighting straddles the border between Iran and Iraq and has also involved the Iranian military firing mortars into Iraq. UK commanders are concerned that Iran is using a militia ceasefire to step up arms supplies in preparation for an offensive against their base at Basra airport.

An SAS squadron is carrying out operations along the Iranian border in Maysan and Basra provinces with other special forces, the Australian SAS and American special-operations troops.

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Blackwater and me: A love story it ain’t

By Lt col Robert Bateman 

I know something about Blackwater USA. This opinion is both intellectually driven as well as moderately emotional. You see, during my own yearlong tour in Iraq, the bad boys of Blackwater twice came closer to killing me than did any of the insurgents or Al Qaeda types. That sort of thing sticks with you. One story will suffice to make my point.

The first time it happened was in the spring of 2005. For various reasons, none of which bear repeating, I was moving through downtown Baghdad in an unmarked civilian sedan. I was with two other men, but they had the native look, while I was in my uniform, hunched in the back seat and partially covered by a blanket, hoping that the curtains on the window were enough to conceal my incongruous presence, not to mention my weapons. It was not the normal manner in which an Army infantry major moved around the city, but it was what the situation called for, so there I was. We were in normal Baghdad traffic, with the flow such as it was, in the hubbub of confusion that is generated when you suddenly introduce more than 1 million extra vehicles in the course of two years into a city that previously had only a few hundred thousand vehicles, and no real licensing authority

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Michael Mukasey: Another Loyal Bushie

The Michael Mukasey Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing has demonstrated that Mukasey cannot be relied upon to function independently as U.S. Attorney General. Nevertheless, Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee seem so thrilled that Mukasey is not Alberto Gonzales that they’re willing to vote for him even though he’s another loyal Bushie. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, backed down on his promise to hold up the confirmation hearing until the administration turned over material his committee had requested regarding several investigations. Leahy said of Mukasey after the hearing, “He’s at least answered the questions, which is better than his predecessor. He’s going to be different than Gonzales on all the issues, I think. He will certainly be better than Gonzales on morale.” 

But saying that Mukasey compares favorably to Alberto Gonzales is faint praise for the nominee. The former Attorney General resigned during a firestorm of criticism about his U.S. Attorney purges, and his repeated claims of memory loss when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Mukasey doesn’t seem to have a memory problem; he relied on a different excuse for dodging the Senators’ hard questions: he hasn’t been “read in on” the details of Bush policies, such as interrogation techniques, or the “Terrorist Surveillance Program.” Mukasey claims he doesn’t know what water boarding is, so he can’t say if it constitutes torture. Say what? Mukasey’s claimed ignorance of water boarding is about as credible as his predecessor’s convenient claims of amnesia. Rear Adm. John Hutson (USN Ret.) testified at the confirmation hearing, “Other than, perhaps the rack and thumbscrews, water boarding is the most iconic example of torture in history. It was devised, I believe, in the Spanish inquisition. It has been repudiated for centuries.”

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The Bill Maher Real Time Meltdown – Comments from a Long Time Bill Maher Fan

Bill Maher has been the white shining knight for the anti-war movement for years now, when he was canned from network TV, and eventually found a place on HBO.  He’s weekly insulted viciously those on the right who disagreed with him.  I personally actually was a fan of Bill’s standup long before, back when he was the fashion photographer on an episode of Roseanne.

About a year ago, a right wing pundit was on Real Time, and made a statement that actually resonated with me.  I remember it so well, because I rarely agree with right wing pundits.  He made the point that when Bill Maher caustically insults those who have a spiritual faith, and makes fun of all people living in the heartland of America . . . he drives people away from opening their minds to the issues he purports to care about.

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