Sunday, December 27, 2009

Selig Harrison describes US efforts to support Iranian separatist movements

At the very least, the New York Times would have informed the Obama administration that it was considering giving space to someone it would present as an expert to claim the US supports separatist groups, and it would have honored an administration request that it not do so. The op-ed by Selig S. Harrison published by the New York Times has to be seen as a statement from the Barack Obama administration.
The result was a compromise: limited covert action carried out by proxy, in the case of the Baluch, through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate or, I.S.I., and in the case of the Kurds by the C.I.A. in cooperation with Israel’s Mossad. My knowledge of the I.S.I.’s role is based on first-hand Pakistani sources, including Baluch leaders. Evidence of the C.I.A. role in providing weapons aid and training to Pejak, the principal Kurdish rebel group in Iran, has been spelled out by three U.S. journalists, Jon Lee Anderson and Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker and Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times, who have interviewed a variety of Pejak leaders.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking in the Kurdish city of Bijar, charged on May 12 that the Obama administration had not reversed the Bush policy. “Unfortunately, money, arms and organization are being used by the Americans directly across our western borders in order to fight the Islamic Republic’s system,” he declared. “The Americans are busy making a conspiracy.”
This actually was also true about Seymour Hersh's 2008 article describing Bush administration anti-Iranian covert activities. At this point, US efforts under Barack Obama to support the dismantlement of Iran has reached the status of open secret, as it had under the Bush administration.

Now that it is acknowledged, the US can offer to mediate it, perhaps in exchange for Iran mediating its stances on Hamas and Hezbollah or more pressingly on its nuclear program. The downside is that support for anti-Iranian groups in Iran can contribute to spiraling hostilities between the US and Iran, and the spiral ends with substantial losses in Iraq and Afghanistan - even defeat in both countries.

What is happening is that the US has an unreasonable and unreachable goal that Iran not become nuclear capable as Japan and Brazil are, and as is fully within Iran's right as a sovereign nation - a right that is explicitly in no way diminished by Iran's agreement with the terms of the NPT. The US feels constrained to try to reach this goal because of Israel's strategic needs, and because of pressure pro-Israel factions of US policy are able to apply to the administration, but the fact that the goal is not reachable means we see one ineffectual lurch in policy after another.

First we saw what may have been a really clumsy trick, that the US would try to get Iran to export its stockpile of LEU without committing to an outcome that would include domestic enrichment, so that after the stockpile has left, the US could announce additional conditions for the return of fuel which would have, according to the possible US vision, increased pressure on Iran to submit to US demands on its nuclear program. Now we see the US move its continued support for separatists into the open with the implied offer to restrain support for separatists as part of a deal that would include Iranian submission on the issue of nuclear capability.

I don't know how important a factor the major separatist operation in October which killed several Revolutionary Guards commanders was in the breakdown of the medical reactor deal. The three possibilities are that the operation hardened Iran's position, and pushed Iran's demands for the final arrangement outside of what the US was prepared to accept, that the operation did not impact Iran's position, but that Iran's position has always been that it retain more capability in the long-term outcome than the US is willing to accept, or that outcomes have not been discussed yet, and the attack was irrelevant because there really was never any more to the deal than the insult that was made public.

But Harrison's op-ed amounts to a quasi-official assumption of responsibility for the Balochistan attack by the US - and renders Obama's contention that "we do not interfere in Iran’s internal affairs" an acknowledged lie. Hillary Clinton's earlier statement that "behind the scenes, we were doing a lot, as you know" to help the opposition movement before this had rendered Obama's statement a deliberate falsehood. Obama would do well to have a person knowledgeable about the region look at all of his speeches that reference the Middle East and just cross out statements that are flat-out false. These statements really unnecessarily detract from his credibility.

Where does this leave us? I see a picture of a United States that has not mentally accepted that it cannot prevent Iran from getting a "Japan option" - or a United States that has not found the internal strength to admit to the Israelis that such an option cannot be prevented. Because of this inability to face reality, the United States is taking increasingly desperate measures to build leverage that could hopefully pressure Iran to give that option up. However, the US does seem to understand that a military attack would not help it, nor would sanctions. The US is today just orchestrating a confused policy as it watches time pass and its objective slip further into impossibility.

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