Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Next Act: Will the Republicans’ Mid-Term Loss Hurt Chances of a War on Iran?

With Amy Goodman

"In a new article for the New Yorker, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reports Vice President Dick Cheney told a White House meeting one month before the mid-term elections that a Democratic victory would have little effect on the administration’s decision to go to war. But plans for a military option were made “far more complicated” by a secret CIA report which has found no conclusive evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Hersh joins us from Washington.

AMY GOODMAN: Why don't you start off by talking about this CIA assessment, this secret report.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Yeah, it simply just says that we’ve been--for the United States, with our allies the Israelis, have been doing an awful lot of collection of intelligence inside Iran, and not only with people on the ground, but also with what they call ‘national technical means’, satellites, other sorta--of passive detection devices you can scatter on the ground, et cetera, inside the country, looking for evidence of a secret, or what they call ‘parallel’ nuclear weapons facility inside Iran.

As you know, Iran has declared a number of its facilities, the underground bunker at Natanz that is talked about quite a bit, a few hundred miles south of Tehran, they've declared them to the International Atomic Energy Agency and they're under inspection. In other words, all of the enrichment that’s going on now, is being inspected by the IAEA to ensure that it's for peaceful purposes and small scale.

So the issue has been whether or not Iran is a--has a covert program and the CIA’s assessment, which may be the core of a new national intelligence estimate coming, that is scheduled to be done on Iran, but I don’t know that for sure. But the CIA statement simply said, told the rest of the intelligence community, we can't find any evidence of a significant program. They don't talk about the intentions. It's very possible Iran is--does intend to do something, but as of this point, what's the rush is the issue.

And the other major point that the CIA made in this analysis, is that if we do -- if the white house does -- the President and Vice President do, decide to attack Iran or permit the Israelis to, given the green light, the consequences could be much worse than we might -- than they might think. You could actually drive the Sunni and Shia worlds, at least the Arab street, both Sunni and Shia together in a way that hasn't been done since the Khaliphates, of 1,000, you know 8-900 years ago.

So you could really polarize the Middle East or at least pull them together in a way they haven't been and the polarization of the various factions and have a unified faction against the west and us, and that was in the report.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Oh, Curveball was a -- the German started -- they had a bad -- your mentioning this because also in this article I write about the fact that right now the Israelis are pushing very hard some human intelligence known at ‘humit’. They have a source, the Israelis have come up with a number of sources inside Iran, who are probably real, they probably exist, and they've come up with new information, sorta to balance the CIA’s assessment, internally, it’s information that claims that Iran is secretly been working on detonating a warhead, a very complicated device, to explode a nuclear weapon is very, very tricky.

You know thousands of small dynamite pieces have to be imploded at the same time to compress the core and get the reaction you want, the fusion you want. And they’ve been testing it according to the Israelis, and this information is not being analyzed externally, but kept mostly by the -- in the White House and at the Pentagon. The CIA is not getting a big taste of it so nobody is quite sure how good it is.

And the problem with human intelligence, of course, is, before the buildup to Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi, the famous Ahmed Chalabi, was spinning us up with all sorts of human sources that were telling us that Saddam was basically -- swimming in piles of enriched uranium, et cetera, building bombs in his backyard, all those stories... , this idea of taking intelligence and doing what you want and shoving it in and making it be the primary basis for operations of what you do. Faulty intelligence, intelligence to please, if you will. And so we had experience with that.

What's happening right now and the reason some of the people talked to me about the new Israeli intelligence, is that there's a great debate inside the community about how good it is, whether it's for -- you know, there is human intelligence about a warhead being manufactured, but nobody in the CIA knows much about it, who the source is, knows – are there drawings, any evidence, any technical evidence? Those questions aren’t being asked and answered because the White House likes it.

AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, I know you have to go pay the meter for your car, but is the subtitle of your article damage -- Is a Damaged Administration Less Likely to Attack Iran or More? Well, what's your assessment?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Doesn't matter what I think. The guys who talk to me are divided pretty evenly. Some--some of the guys who know a great deal about what's going on inside believe that they really want to do it and they will do it. This President will not leave office without doing something about Iran, if he can't get it done diplomatically and at this point that's not -- it's a nonstarter, and by the way, Amy, why should Iran talk to us?

So it doesn't matter what I think. What matters is a lot of people who know the situation well, well, believe it's still very much on the table. On the other hand, there are other people equally as skeptical about this administration, how it makes decisions, that say -- people I talk with that say, the reality of today, the collapse of Iraq, the weakened political position of the President, the fact that the republicans are -- many leading republicans are not only against the current policy, but very worried about ‘08, will mitigate against something, that at this point seems to unnecessary as bombing Iran without talking to them."

Read The Rest of The Transcript of Today's Interview

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