Obama’s Axis of Evil?
by Jeffrey Steinberg on 06 Dec 2010 2 Comments

Zbigniew Brzezinski has publicly boasted on several occasions that the clandestine war against Soviet penetration of Afghanistan began at least six months prior to the Christmas Eve 1979 Red Army invasion, when he got President Carter to sign an Intelligence Finding authorizing the recruitment and support for mujahideen operations inside the country.  Looking back on what has transpired over the past 31 years in and around Afghanistan; one could fairly say that the launching of those covert operations marked the beginning of a Thirty Years War on the roof of the world. 

Reports out of Iran this week, bolstered by reports I have received from two well-placed U.S. intelligence sources, makes it clear that there is already a similar clandestine war underway inside Iran.  The assassination of one top Iranian nuclear scientist and the near-assassination of a second, this week, were the work of foreign intelligence services.  While Israel appears at the top of everyone’s list and most likely author of the two near-identical bombing attacks (also similar to a January 2010 bombing that killed another top Iranian physicist), in all likelihood, they were not acting alone. 


I cannot say what role U.S. intelligence played in the two assassination operations.  The computer virus that damaged Iran’s centrifuge enrichment program earlier this year has also been widely attributed to Israel, but with help from computer experts from India.  As one Arab source told me this week, Iran is the target of a "full-scale clandestine war," and he insists that there is a significant British MI6 hand in this effort, given British intelligence’s longstanding recruiting and tracking of Iranian tribal structures, exile circles, etc. 


A large Iranian Jewish exile community, centered in Los Angeles, has been bankrolling Radio Free Iran-type operations for years.  And there is now a mobilization of Jundallah, an Al Qaeda-linked Baluchi insurgent apparatus, operating from bases across the border in the Baluchistan region of Pakistan, across into Iran.  At least one new petrochemical plant in Iran was recently blown up, indicating that there is an ongoing economic sabotage campaign underway, in synch with the sanctions regimes from the UN, the US and the EU.

I understand that this clandestine asymmetric warfare is aimed at sabotaging Iran’s presumed nuclear weapons program, and that the argument is being made that such successful covert operations can either postpone or avert the need for full-scale military operations against the Iran nuclear program, which is dispersed, hardened, and probably impossible to wipe out altogether. 


But I received an alarming report from one of my most trustworthy U.S. intelligence sources last week, indicating that President Obama is increasingly coming around to the view that, if the combined diplomacy/sanctions/covert sabotage campaign does not work, Israel should be given the green light to bomb Iran, as the first step in a rapidly escalating full-scale military action.  The agreement to give Israel at least 20 F-35 stealth fighters, ostensibly as part of the deal for a 90-day extension of the West Bank settlement freeze, was the clearest indication that we are prepared to back Israel in such an attack. 


While Secretary Gates was explicit in his warning against military action against Iran, his opposition to a full-scale attack is time-specific. If the soon-to-begin P5+1 talks fail, the issue of military action will be on the table by May 2011. There is clearly a broad hope that the combination of the proactive operations already underway, combined with an evolving factional eruption within the Principalist faction, can further weaken the current Ahmadinejad / IRGC regime, and lead ultimately to a change in regime.

In Asia, the Chinese government is now convinced that the United States is pursuing a policy of regime change in North Korea. While there is a good deal of paranoia in this Chinese (PLA-centered) assessment, the situation on the Korean peninsula is clearly on a hair-trigger, and the deployment of the USS George Washington carrier group to the Yellow Sea is aimed at delivering a message to the Chinese, as well as to Pyongyang.

Whether by design or by lack of any grand strategy, the Obama Administration is on a confrontation course with the remaining members of the Axis of Evil of G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney infamy. I remember attending an event at the Willard Hotel in February 2003, sponsored by Benador Associates, the public relations firm of the whole AEI/neocon crowd.  Speakers included Richard Perle and Michael Ledeen. While most of the participants congratulated themselves at having orchestrated the conditions for the imminent invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Ledeen struck a sour note. He warned that the overthrow of Saddam would do no good unless and until it was followed by regime change in Iran. We seem to be on the verge of taking that plunge, sometime in the next 12 months. 


But, with the world financial system in ruins, and with all of the other instabilities around the globe, I cannot help but think about the likelihood that this is all going to get horribly out of control, and that this is all way over President Obama’s head.

Are we stumbling towards Sarajevo?

The author is a noted historian; he works with the Executive Intelligence Review 

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