Monday February 26, 2007
"Seymour Hersh's reputation as an investigative journalist means his latest report on US policy in the Middle East will fuel worries that despite Washington's insistence on using diplomatic means to end the nuclear crisis with Iran, confrontation is still on the cards.
Dick Cheney, the vice-president, underlined this at the weekend when he warned that "all options were on the table". Hersh fleshes this out by revealing that a Pentagon special unit is planning a bombing campaign that could be implemented within 24 hours of getting a White House go-ahead.......
Experts will not be surprised by the key role he attributes to the Saudi national security adviser, Prince Bandar, who is close to Mr Cheney, or by the claim that the funding and execution of some clandestine activities is being left to the conservative kingdom. That would mirror Saudi support for the mujahideen during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
One fascinating revelation is that "budgetary chaos" in Iraq is creating "pots of black money" for covert purposes - with echoes of the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan presidency in the 1980s. Another is that some cash for Fuad Siniora's beleaguered pro-western government in Beirut "to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shia influence" has found its way to Sunni radical groups with ideological ties to al-Qaida.
Walid Junblatt, the Lebanese Druze leader, is quoted as telling Mr Cheney that the US should support the banned Syrian Muslim Brotherhood to undermine the Assad regime in Damascus, and a former CIA officer confirms the US and Saudis are now backing Syrian opposition groups. Syria is Iran's only Arab ally and a key backer of Hizbullah......"