Was the war in Lebanon a blueprint for Iran?
Thu Aug 17, 2006 13:30

 
Thursday, August 17, 2006

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=74793#

Was the war in Lebanon a blueprint for Iran?

Investigative journalist contends Us colluded in air attacks

By Jim Quilty
Daily Star staff


BEIRUT: This week, Seymour Hersh, one of America's most-respected investigative journalists, published a piece in The New Yorker asserting that the higher echelons of the White House and Pentagon colluded with the Israeli military in formulating a plan t
o attack Lebanon - well in advance of Hizbu

Vice President Dick Cheney supported Israeli plans to attack Lebanon, Hersh contends, after Israel's military command encouraged him to view it both as a blueprint for a massive US air attack upon Iran and a pre-emptive strike against Hizbullah's capacit
y to respond to such an attack by lobbing m

The major ramifications of Hersh's claims apply to America and Iran.

Clearly, though, his assertions will have an impact in Lebanon as well, especially in the difficult days of consensual government that will follow the Israeli troop withdrawal from the South.

Unlike other high-profile journalists who take a critical position vis-a-vis American and Israeli policy, Hersh is not a polemicist. He is recognised, rather, for his network of extremely well-connected contacts, many of whom feed him information because
he protects their identities.

As a piece of journalism, the piece is up to Hersh's usual standards. Though he balances the, sometimes contradictory, assertions of several different sources - some named, most not - the gist of his argument is that Israel planned the July-August attack
and shared details with Bush administratio

The State Department, he continues, saw the Israeli attack as "a way to strengthen the Lebanese government so that it could assert its authority over the south of the country ...

"'The White House was more focussed on stripping Hizbullah 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 Hizbullah could use in a potential retaliation at Israel.

"'Bush was going after Iran, as part of the 'Axis of Evil,' and its nuclear sites, and he was interested in going after Hizbullah as part of his interest in democratization, with Lebanon as one of the crown jewels of Middle East democracy.'" While the W
hite House didn't reply to Hersh's enquirie

Hersh, however, quotes a former senior intelligence official who says that early in the spring the US Air Force - under pressure from the White House "to develop a war plan for a decisive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities - began consulting" with
the Israeli Air Force.

It seems air force planners "went to the Israelis with some new tactics and said to them, 'Let's concentrate on the bombing and share what we have on Iran and what you have on Lebanon' - discussions reached the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defe
nse Donald Rumsfeld.

"The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits," an anonymous US government source with close ties to Israel told Hersh. " We'll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran."

Hersh wrote the article with an eye to Iran. His sources express fears that, since the administration is having raw intelligence channelled directly to the White House, Cheney and his neo-con cohorts will be able to portray Israel's battle plan in Lebano
n as a success, and thus a green light to l

For intelligence analysts both claims are self-evidently untrue: Israel's battle plan failed to dislodge Hizbullah as a fighting force from South Lebanon; applying this Lebanese template as a model for success in Iran is an even more problematic assertio
n.

Hersh's arguments could well have implications in Lebanon as well.

Two of his sources say Washington knew the bombing campaign was premised on Israel's belief that, "by targeting Lebanon's infrastructure, including highways, fuel depots, and even the civilian runways at Beirut airport, it could persuade Lebanon's large
Christian and Sunni populations to turn aga

These assertions suggest the White House has been guilty of backing a battle plan intent on stirring up sectarian discord in Lebanon, even as its secretary of state urged Israel to exercise "restraint" so as to preserve the government of its "friend" Pre
mier Fouad Siniora.

Whether these assertions are ever substantiated or not, the message to the Lebanese street - and those who claim to voice its interests - is likely to be loud and clear: America treats some friends better than others.


Copyright (c) 2006 The Daily Star
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