As war drums keep beating around the world threatening an attack on Iran, it is important (I think) to go back and study a similar situation some 10 years ago when similar sounds were being heard about a potential invasion of Iraq.
Today, I think it is safe to say, the winner in Iraq was not America. Now that the Iraq campaign is behind America, it is important to reflect on all the mistakes made in the process of digging a trillion dollar hole without establishing any enduring American strategic advantage from the campaign. By all accounts, and Iranian crony government has now assumed power in Iraq. Israel and Iran’s longtime foe (Saddam Hussein) and his army were decimated. The Brits walked off with full rights to the two largest oil fields in Iraq. Meanwhile 4000 Americans paid with lives and the U.S. federal government is near insolvency. To mask the insolvency during the Bush administration the government artificially inflated housing – leading to the near collapse of the U.S. and every major American trading partner – notably the Europeans.
How did all this happen? Very simply, the campaign was developed on the back of false intelligence. America was used. American resources were leveraged for the benefit of others. Americans were fooled – and in the end have paid with their lives, and if you think about it with the sweat of future generations to pay for the foolishness of the Iraq campaign.
It turned out that the key man the Americans relied on for information on Iraq, Ahmad Challabi was an Iranian double agent. He famously told George W. Bush, the Iraqis will be welcoming American soldiers with flowers as they enter their towns! The Brits, quietly killed David Kelly, a weapons expert after he revealed off the record to a journalist that Britain’s dossier on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction was all ‘cooked up’ for American (intelligence) consumption! And the Israelis were no angels too. It turned out that most of the ‘neo-cons’ who were pushing for the invasion of Iraq, were dual citizen American-Israelis (Wolfowitz, Pearl, et al). To quote George W. Bush directly, in 2008 he declared: "The biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq. A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is a reason to remove Saddam Hussein.”
You really have to ask yourself, who can the President truly trust? And here we are – wind forward – 10 years from the invasion of Iraq. Did America learn any lessons?
One major challenge American organizations constantly face, is that their key employees with experience end up migrating from job to job. And as they leave they take detailed knowledge, embedded knowledge with them, and a new crowd has to rediscover the realities of their new posts. Has American intelligence forgotten all the mistakes made in Iraq?
Clearly with Iran, many nations stand to benefit from a direct confrontation. It is also true that many nations stand to lose a lot from a direct confrontation. The Brits for example with their oil interests in neighboring Azerbaijan and financial service interests in Dubai do not want any destabilization in the region. They fundamentally benefit from sanctions on Iran – since in effect they get a carte blanche in the Caspian Sea for oil and gas exploration, and it simply forces more Iranian black market trade to go through Dubai. Tensions with Iran mean the presence of American forces in the Persian Gulf, which in turn not only provides ‘free’ protection for Dubai; but also real revenue for Qatar and Bahrain (two more British colonial outposts in the Persian Gulf). The current state of affairs benefits Britain.
The Israeli’s have strategic interests in ‘connectivity’ to Turkey. They need to bring their newly found off shore gas to Turkey – somehow – and need to put a big pipe across Lebanon and Syria. Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Assad regime in Syria clearly impedes Israel’s ability to do this. And it is very significant for Israel’s future. Nothing would be better for Israel, but to diminish Iranian influence to their North. Israel, wants Iran either considerably weakened or better yet eliminated as a regional foe.
To the extent that sanctions weaken Iran, both Israel and Britain share a common policy. And so, at least for now, with Israeli and British plodding America has blessed a heavier sanctioning regime on Iran.
But you have to ask, what is in the best interests of the United States? In the very worst case, does a Nuclear Iran pose a major threat to the U.S.? Could U.S. live with a Nuclear Iran? Is the American intelligence community really providing decent intelligence to the Administration (their customers) or is it all (like in the Iraq case) regurgitated British or Israeli or even British surrogates like Australian or Canadian false intelligence? What is it?
I for one, am in favor of a very tough stance on Iran for the purposes of regime change in Iran; BUT NOT, because of the Nuclear program. I actually think that a political shift in Iran will not only benefit the people of Iran, but more importantly be transformational for the region as a whole and help lift literally several hundred million people out of poverty into a new global market that in the end would benefit the U.S. in terms of trade. I see Boeing airplanes being sold to upstart new airlines in Tajikestan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Pakistan … you name it. I see new roads, new airports, new chemical plants, and new proud owners of Ford cars. I see new clients for American credit card companies. I see great opportunity as 300 million central Asians migrate to the 21st century. But that may not be consistent with Britain’s pillaging of Central Asia or Azerbaijan’s British backed dictatorship. It may not be consistent with Israel’s designs for a balkanized Iran – with no other serious regional rival around that could in any shape or form be a potential threat to Israel.
You have to really wonder, if these yo-yo’s in America’s intelligence community are being seriously challenged to provide real data, real intelligence and real analysis that is truly original and by American officials for American policy makers. My fear is, like most government officials in the U.S. they all love their cushy desk jobs, and want to cruise quietly to retirement, and in the end are doing the least possible to produce mediocre product largely by copying and pasting sections of British or Israeli intelligence reports.
They just don’t seem to understand that foreign intelligence is handed to them as an extension of foreign countries strategic plans. You hear it all the time from Israeli or British politicians trying to warm up to Americans – we are your most reliable ally, or we are your only ally in the region – fooling Americans to trust them. But they only have their national interests in mind – not America’s.
Just like Health Care in the U.S.; I am sure America is spending more on intelligence gathering than anyone in the rest of the world, only to get third rate – shit product in return. But as Iraq has taught America, faulty intelligence can cost current and future generations of Americans trillions of dollars.
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