"Weapons of Mass Deception"


U.S. may be choosing Iran targets

January 17, 2005


Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Seymour Hersh reported today that the United States had been ''conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer'' to find nuclear, chemical and missile targets.

Hersh, who broke the story about the Abu Ghraib prisoner torture in Iraq, wrote that he had repeatedly been told by intelligence and military officials on condition of anonymity that ''the next strategic target was Iran.''

President Bush's communications director, Dan Bartlett, said he had read excerpts of Hersh's article, published in today's edition of the New Yorker magazine.

''I think it's riddled with inaccuracies. And I don't believe that some of the conclusions he's drawing are based on fact,'' the White House spokesman said.

The United States has accused Iran of developing an atomic program with the aim of making weapons, and Bush has labeled Iran part of the "axis of evil."

Military action not ruled out

But Iran says its atomic program is for energy. A government official offered that defense again Sunday, saying environmental samples taken from a military complex by United Nations nuclear inspectors will prove the atomic program is peaceful.

Bartlett said the White House wanted to resolve Iran's nuclear file through negotiation, primarily by relying on European allies and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

But he said Bush has not ruled out resolving the issue militarily.

''No president at any juncture in history has ever taken military options off the table. That is known. But what President Bush has shown is that he believes we can emphasize the diplomatic initiatives that are under way right now,'' Bartlett said.

The article said the secret missions' goal is to identify target information for three dozen or more suspected sites.

Hersh quoted one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon as saying, "The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible," according to Reuters.

'Iranian campaign' next

One former high-level intelligence official told the New Yorker, "This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign."

The former intelligence official, according to Reuters, told Hersh that an American commando task force in South Asia is working closely with a group of Pakistani scientists who had dealt with their Iranian counterparts.

The New Yorker reported that this task force, aided by information from Pakistan, has been penetrating eastern Iran in a hunt for underground nuclear-weapons installations.

In exchange for this cooperation, the official told Hersh, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has received assurances that his government will not have to turn over Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, to face questioning about his role in selling nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Hersh reported that Bush has already "signed a series of top-secret findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as 10 nations in the Middle East and South Asia," according to Reuters.


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Milton Frihetsson, 04:23


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