Posted by Joshua on Monday, June 30th, 2008
Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources……
Secretary of Defense Gates met with the Democratic caucus in the Senate. (Such meetings are held regularly.)
[Illustration caption: Operations outside the knowledge and control of commanders have eroded “the coherence of military strategy,” one general says.]
Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preëmptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.”
Gates’s comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch, and another senator asked whether Gates was speaking for Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Gates’s answer, the senator told me, was “Let’s just say that I’m here speaking for myself.” (A spokesman for Gates confirmed that he discussed the consequences of a strike at the meeting, but would not address what he said, other than to dispute the senator’s characterization.)…
When it came to the Iraq war, Fallon said, “Did I bitch about some of the things that were being proposed? You bet. Some of them were very stupid.”
The Democratic leadership’s agreement to commit hundreds of millions of dollars for more secret operations in Iran was remarkable, given the general concerns of officials like Gates, Fallon, and many others. “The oversight process has not kept pace—it’s been coöpted” by the Administration, the person familiar with the contents of the Finding said. “The process is broken, and this is dangerous stuff we’re authorizing.”…
When I arrived at CENTCOM , the Iranians were funding every entity inside Iraq. It was in their interest to get us out, and so they decided to kill as many Americans as they could. And why not?
They didn’t know who’d come out aheadThey didn’t know who’d come out ahead, but they wanted us out. I decided that I couldn’t resolve the situation in Iraq without the neighborhood. To get this problem in Iraq solved, we had to somehow involve Iran and Syria. I had to work the neighborhood.”
Fallon told me that his focus had been not on the Iranian nuclear issue, or on regime change there, but on “putting out the fires in Iraq.” There were constant discussions in Washington and in the field about how to engage Iran and, on the subject of the bombing option, Fallon said, he believed that “it would happen only if the Iranians did something stupid.”
Fallon’s early retirement, however, appears to have been provoked not only by his negative comments about bombing Iran but also by his strong belief in the chain of command and his insistence on being informed about Special Operations in his area of responsibility. One of Fallon’s defenders is retired Marine General John J. (Jack) Sheehan, whose last assignment was as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command, where Fallon was a deputy. Last year, Sheehan rejected a White House offer to become the President’s “czar” for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “One of the reasons the White House selected Fallon for CENTCOM was that he’s known to be a strategic thinker and had demonstrated those skills in the Pacific,” Sheehan told me. (Fallon served as commander-in-chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific from 2005 to 2007.) “He was charged with coming up with an over-all coherent strategy for Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and, by law, the combatant commander is responsible for all military operations within his A.O.”—area of operations. “That was not happening,” Sheehan said. “When Fallon tried to make sense of all the overt and covert activity conducted by the military in his area of responsibility, a small group in the White House leadership shut him out.”……
Talking to Iran Is Our Best Option
(By Ivo Daalder and Philip Gordon, The Washington Post)
…. McCain's argument that talking to Iran would only embolden it ignores the fact that 7 1/2 years of refusing to do so have left Iran stronger and closer to a nuclear bomb. That argument, combined with McCain's claim that "there is only one thing worse than military action against Iran, and that is an Iran with a nuclear weapon," implies that if the current policy does not work, the only option will be to bomb Iran. While virtually no Europeans advocate bombing, some insist that Iran accept their objective — suspending uranium enrichment — before opening negotiations. The origin of this stance — Iran's refusal to abide by a previous agreement it had with Europe to suspend enrichment — is understandable, but it no longer makes sense. Normally, objectives are the subject of negotiations, not a precondition for them. There is no reason this case should be any different.
In fact, the Europeans are, for all intents and purposes, already negotiating with Iran. All of them, as well as the Russians and Chinese, have full diplomatic relations with Tehran. The Europeans have — together with Moscow and Beijing and on behalf of Washington — repeatedly presented Iran with a list of benefits it would receive if it agreed to suspend enrichment, and they have spent countless hours discussing these ideas with the Iranians.
The right approach now is to end the anomaly of the United States not sitting at the table and to abandon the fiction that this dialogue is not a negotiation. Does anyone think that the six-party talks involving North Korea could have made any progress if the United States had refused to participate ….
Unmarried and pregnant, Ranya gathered up her courage and confided to a friend that she was considering a drastic step: an illegal abortion.
She braced for criticism. But to her surprise, her friend disclosed that she had had one too.
Ranya asked another friend, who also said she'd had an abortion. And another gave her the phone number of a doctor in Beirut who would perform the procedure on the sly. The doctor used no anesthetic. The pain lingered for days, but the guilt engulfed her weeks later.
"It doesn't make me feel guilty because of Islam," said Ranya, 29, a short, brown-haired artist, struggling with her words. "It's a very complicated guilt to explain. I tend to philosophize things. I feel guilty in a weird way. It crosses my mind all the time."
Despite legal and religious restrictions against abortion in much of the Arab world, changing social values and economic realities as well as demographic shifts have contributed to an apparent increase in the number of the procedures in the Middle East.
"There's definitely an increase compared to 10 to 15 years ago," said Mohammed Graigaa, executive director of the Moroccan Assn. for Family Planning. "Abortion is much less of a taboo. It's much more visible. Doctors talk about it. Women talk about it. The moral values of people have changed."…