Monday, March 26, 2007

Interview: Seymour Hersh on US plan to attack Iran

Our Correspondent Mehdi Geramifard has interviewed Seymour Hersh, an investigative journalist with "New Yorker", on his recent statements about the US plan to attack Iran.

Question: Mr. Hersh there is so many people who predict that there would be a US military strike on Iran, most of them to say this is going to be an air strike. According to Iran's geo- strategic position which is mountainous and the US air strike could not be followed by ground strike, what could the US military do in order to be successful and does the US have the ability to launch a ground strike on Iran or not?

Answer: I am somebody who has an opposition to the government and so I do not sit down at the table with people in the White House and the Pentagon officially and discuss these things. The best I can tell you is nobody knows for sure what is going to happen. It is very possible that President Bush and Vice President Cheney, all their language is just a bluff and it is designed to make Iran give up and stop its nuclear fuel cycle research. I don't think so, but it is possible. I do know there is an intensive planning for an air strike and one of the problems you have when you start the process is if the air strike isn't successful or it doesn't lead to what they want, I mean a capitulation by Iran. The next step would be they are considered some sort of on the ground operation. All of this has to be considered in the planning but this is just planning. What I have been writing about for over year is still planning. It is going to be planning until the president wakes up one morning and says I want to strike Iran and then it happens. That order so far has not come.

Question: It seems that President Bush is under pressure from neo-cons according to the fact that some Republicans along with majority of Democrats voted for non-binding resolution in the House of Representatives to limit President Bush and according to decreasing popularity of President Bush could Democrats and moderate Republicans resist against President Bush's strategy in the Middle East and stop him or he would act upon guideline from neo-cons circle and influential lobbies in Washington?

Answer: Of course, it is not clear that President Bush is going to be influenced by the Democrats. The congressional elections in the Last fall clearly showed that the American people want this war ended in Iraq. There is no sign that the president has done that. What has been done is surge, increase number of troops. My country is also in big trouble in Afghanistan, the war that has got much worse. The Taliban clearly have not been defeated as we had thought. We have huge problems. But you would think normally the president would be working very closely with the Democrats and trying to figure out the best way to resolve the crises in such a way that we are not defeated and the world is in jeopardy that he doesn't seem to be doing that. It seems to be doing exactly what he wants to do. So the politics of the day make very little difference to Bush.

Question: How about if Democrats and some Republicans in the House of Representatives vote for limiting President Bush's authority which the majority of senators voted in 2002 for his war authority?

Answer: It was not the resolution, the language of the actual resolution said that the President could go wherever in the world he saw a threat to the United States and act preemptively. In other words act before we are attacked not in response but the before. It did not limit the president authority to just by Iraq. It said basically the President attacks any place he wants. So he has the legal authority, what congress can do is cut off funds but right now there is one of the issues as in the story, just wrote for the New Yorker, there is billions of dollars that nobody knows where it is gone. These dollars are missing in Iraq as many as 9 billion dollars that they have not accounted for. That is a lot of money to run a war. What Congress can do is cut off funds to do it where the war on Iraq but I guess I don't think they are going at once and it is not clear that even if they did the House which is very democratic, voted it. The Senate make up is very close almost perfectly divided between Republicans. So change in the election does not change what Bush does at all.

Question: Do you mean that Senators or members of the House of Representatives could not cancel that authority given to President Bush in 2002?

Answer: The Senate could. The vote was in the Senate and then there was Democrat-Republican Senate. only 27 members voted against the resolution. Now you have a different Senate. It is 51 Democrats or 50 Democrats and one independent. But I am not sure they could get enough vote to override. I think they had to vote again. It would be very close and I think they probably could override their legislation and put an amendment on it. But so far nobody is talking about doing that yet. What they did vote was a non-binding resolution in the House. They had no authority. It was just everybody was a political state man that we don't like this war on Iraq. I think I have to say that the Democrats so far want running for presidency or even more critical of Iran and some other Republicans.

Question: As our supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei has stated in case of any attack upon us we have got the right to retaliate against American interests and bases at any place of our choice. So doesn't US administration fear about targeting its bases around our country and its establishments or killing its forces and etc?

Answer: You know I can just tell you it should and again as I wrote in the New Yorker magazine we are doing more than targeting Iran where inside your country. There are a lot of aggressive activities by the United States. I think we and the Israelis, I have written this, have contacts with Baluchis and the Iranian Kurds all of whom in some cases are happy with the government or in opposition to the government and we are also setting our troops across the border. So there is a lot of aggression by the United States right now on Iran and what happens next nobody knows. So far, Iran has been very quiet.

Question: Most international analysts believe that the US ultimate goal is to fight against revolutionary Islam and to dominate of the region's energy and oil. But Mr. Jimmy Carter stated that the overthrow of Saddam did not have anything do with energy and oil. So what is the real goal of the US administration in the Middle East?

Answer: Nobody knows what is in the president mind and Mr. Cheney. We don't know what they think. He attacked Iraq in 2003 in response to the Sunni Al- Qaeda in America. Why he would attack Iraq have never been clear because Saddam Hussein was secular. He was a Sunni but he did not like Jihadists. So it is unclear to me what Bush was doing. You could argue that the neo-cons want to get rid of any threat. They never liked Saddam. He was a threat to the other countries in the Middle East, to Israel. Perhaps what we are doing is for Israel and oil but I don’t think this president believes that he really thinks his mission is to spread democracy in the Middle East, even though, you could argue that Iran is probably the most democratic country. The elections there certainly indicate people vote what the way they believe but he believes to spreading democracy and right now we are working with some of the most undemocratic countries in the Middle East, you know Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia that do so. It is very strange.

Question: Some analysts believe that Iranian nuclear case is just an excuse for the US attack on Iran and if Iran's nuclear case is going to be solved the White House will find another excuse to fight against Iran. What is your take on this Mr. Hersh?

Answer: You asked me what is inside the president's mind. I can tell you that they believe that despite Iran's denials, despite the fact that there is no intelligence showing a significant weapons program in Iran. I think the President and the Vice President believe that Iran will have a bomb soon and it will give it to Hizbullah and ask them to spread it in America. They believe that Hizbullah has the capability to operate inside America. There is no real evidence for any of this but that is what they believe. Therefore we may end up with some terrible events because there is a belief for this President. President believed that Iraq had WMDs and it did not.

Question: We hear some contradictory statements from American leaders. Cheney in Australia says that, all options including military option are on the table but Tony Snow immediately rejected that statement and said that we don't have any military option on the table. Condoleezza Rice says that we are going to talk to Iran to solve the Iraqi crisis but when she is asked about regime change in Iran she refrained from answering that question. Are these contradictory statements intentional or accidental or what is it?

Answer: I think that it is pretty clear that Mr. Cheney is very powerful. We always have stories that Condoleezza Rice is getting more powerful. I think Cheney is the powerful one and he is the one I listen to. But that doesn't make me right, but he is the one I listen to. I think what they mean by no planning is that there is no planning with the immediate intention to bombing but they have of course this planning. I can't believe they are denying that. But trying to understand what inside this government is, it's very hard.

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