Posted by Joshua on Friday, December 22nd, 2006
Could the US be Planning Covert Action in Lebanon and beyond? Some fanciful speculation.
Read the leaked story from Swoop copied below. In effect it suggests that Elliot Abrams and associates at the NSC have been working with Bandar bin Sultan on a covert action operation involving support to paramilitary rivals of Hizballah in Lebanon, with Israeli foreknowledge and approval. The core of the story is in line with recent speculations I have been engaged in with some Middle East insiders. The speculation goes something like this: The NSC diehards and Bandar (with Israeli coordination) have been working on a covert action program, the purpose of which is to strike back at Iran through surrogates, with the arrangements made in such a way as to obviate the need for a Presidential Covert Action Finding, which in today's Washington could not be kept secret. The Saudis would play the role of paymasters and prospective unindicted co-conspirators in case the operation is exposed (which seems to be the likely outcome). The leaking of the Syria MEPI money story to Time Magazine and this story to Swoop suggest some Washington insiders are worried that Cheney and the NSC are up to a hairball scheme which would only sink the US into further Middle East troubles.
Here is the story leaked to a Swoop reporter.
Iraq and the Wider Middle East: The Administration’s Counter Attack
Published on: December 22nd 2006 13:14:58, in Swoop
During his current consultations on the new strategy for Iraq, President Bush has told those advising him that he is not interested in any proposals that do not involve “success.” “Anyone who does not believe in victory should leave the room right now,” was how he began one consultation session. Top National Security Council officials are describing the Iraq Study Group as “discredited” and “dead and buried.” Instead a new policy is taking shape. Based on recent discussions between former Saudi Ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar bin Sultan and NSC Middle East Director Elliott Abrams, this policy foresees a central role for Saudi Arabia as a supplier of money and weapons to local conflicts involving Iranian surrogates. This is already happening in Lebanon, where anti-Hezbollah groups are receiving substantial Saudi help. Israeli intelligence officials are also encouraging these moves. “What we are seeing here,” a second NSC official commented, “s the Administration’s counter-attack to the ISG. Bush wants to negotiate from strength not weakness. He is trying to create new facts on the ground. This is an ambitious strategy. If it works, it allows us to recover much of the ground that Iraq has cost us. The opposite is also true. This strategy could double our losses. The key point here is that the Administration is still playing for a win in the Middle East. It is not leaving quietly.
It is too early to make predictions, but this could be another Iran Contra – a deliberate attempt to circumvent legal procedures for Covert Action.
There are a number of reasons to believe that President Bush and the Security Council are preparing covert action in Lebanon in order to regain the offensive in the Middle East.
The sudden unannounced departure of Saudi Ambassador Prince Turki suggests that Saudi Arabia will be the financier of this operation. Prince Bandar bin Sultan's return to Washington in the form of his young protégé, Adel al-Jubeir. Polished and American-educated, Mr. Jubeir, 44, once worked for Prince Bandar when he was ambassador to Washington. Over the past few months, we know that Prince Bandar has been visiting Washington frequently, staying at the Hay Adams Hotel and visiting people at the White House. He was not notifying Prince Turki of these visits, which has been a flagrant and insulting breach of diplomatic protocol, to say nothing of its personal discourtesy to his own brother-in-law.
Another curiosity has been the repeated rumors of a meeting between Bandar and some unidentified Israelis, time and place unspecified. (The strongest rumor was that one meeting took place in Amman last summer.) The rumors have been persistent, and deserve some credence.
Addendum: Dec. 24, 2006: Some of the post has been taken down for re-editing.