Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Going 15 Rounds with Seymour Hersh

On the Iraq War, Bush Foreign Policy, Private Contractors and the Prospects of War with Iran


ALI: I want to get back to the Sunni-Shia comment you made. As you know, America has history in that region, specifically the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980's. We know that the U.S., through then Vice President Bush, was heavily involved, trying to bleed both sides against the middle, weakening the Shia theocracy of Iran and hedging bets for the Sunni regime of Saddam. So, now, is it going to be good 'ol "divide and conquer" with the sectarian situation? How will U.S. forces and policy play with the Sunni-Shia dynamic in the Muslim world?

HERSH: Brother versus brother. It's going to be brother versus brother. Sunni versus Shia. There's an incredible sectarian war happening right now in Iraq. Things are always tense between both groups there. We know Saddam mistreated the Shia when he was in power. But, it was nothing then like it is now. The killing now is unbelievable.

The new policy of America is that we are going to work with Israelis and moderate Sunnis, those include Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia. We're going to join forces with Western forces in Europe. Then, America and Israel are going to go after people we don't like. People like Iran, Hamas, Hizbollah. There is a coalition forming, a coalition that forms and pits brother against brother, a fitnah. You know that's not an exact meaning of the word, it's an Arabic word. But it's fitnah [dissention, disunity]. And we have strange bedfellows working with us ­ Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia - all are going to be used to put pressure on Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah. It's a unique notion. It's "the Re-direction" ­ you are seeing it right now. I wrote about in the New Yorker. It's called "the Re-direction."

["The Re-direction," according to Hersh in his March piece, is the Bush Administration's new policy towards the Middle East. In order to undermine Iran, which is Shiite, the administration has decided to cooperate with Saudi's Sunni government in Lebanon to engage in "clandestine operations that intend to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria."]

You are seeing tremendous pressure now. For example, now, right now in Lebanon, America's position, the Bush Administration's position is to support the Siniora government as an example of their belief in democracy. We are not interested in hearing the complaints of the Shias [Hezbollah] and other groups.

[Hersh elaborates on this point in the same article, where he quotes an official who states, "We are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite influence, and we're spreading the money around as much as we canIn this process, we're financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequencesIt's a very high-risk venture."]........"

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