Situation Room – 26 January 2007

"Let’s get some more now on our top story, President Bush authorizing U.S. military forces in Iraq to capture or kill Iranian agents in that country if there’s intelligence showing they’re planning to attack U.S. or coalition forces.

Let’s get a little bit of analysis now what this means. Joining us, retired U.S. Army colonel Pat Lang, former chief of Mideast intelligence over at the Pentagon.

Pat, you know this area well. You studied it your whole life. You speak the language.

If the U.S. goes ahead, soldiers or Marines, and kill Iranians on the spot in Iraq, what are the Iranians do in retaliation?

COL. PAT LANG, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, I think Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. atomic agency, has it right. Everybody ought to calm down and take a step back and take a few deep breaths, because there’s a kind of cycle of accelerated statements and heated developments that’s going on now that tends to ratchet up the situation so much that it tends to push you in the direction of war. And something like that, in which we start to eliminate their people because we have information that we think might incriminate them is a very — is a very dangerous escalating move.

BLITZER: Well, what would happen if the U.S. does kill these Iranians and the president has signed off on it?

LANG: Well, if he has signed off on it and intelligence is developed that indicates that what he says it’s true, then they will in fact eliminate the people. The problem is, is that the Iranians will then have to make a decision as to how they’re going to retaliate for that.

BLITZER: Well, how could they retaliate?

LANG: They could retaliate against U.S. forces in Iraq in a big way.

BLITZER: How could they do that?

LANG: They have hundreds of thousands of people from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guard corps already in Iraq. (This figure included "encouraged" emigrants to Iraq)

BLITZER: Hundreds of thousands?

LANG: Oh, yes. That’s a well-established figure that’s thought to be true across the community of people that look at this. And they’re there as liaison personnel with the very Shia militias and things like that. And if they get sufficiently angry with us, they can start retaliating directly against our forces.

BLITZER: And in terms of in the past, Iranians, at least according to U.S. officials, have been accused of using terror organizations as sort of a cover for what they’re plotting.

LANG: The Islamic Republic of Iran has been the principal international sponsor of Islamic terrorism, both Sunni and Shia, ever since its foundation after the revolution against the Shah. They’re very skilled at this. They’ve done it all over the world. And they would be — that would be right in character with the way they do things to start using terrorism as an instrument of retaliation.

BLITZER: You’re referring to Iran right now?

LANG: I’m referring to Iran, that’s right. And they could do it anywhere in the world, not just in Iraq.

BLITZER: So, basically, there is potential here for what is a really bad situation getting increasingly worse?

LANG: Yes, there’s a cycle of escalation going on right now between (us and them)– certainly on our side. The Iranians, on their side, have kind of hunkered down and are acting stubborn about things in the way that people in the third world sometimes do when their ambitions are interfered with.

But I don’t see any tendency to a de-escalation through negotiation on our part. Instead, we’re just telling the Iranians, we want you to stop interfering in Iraq. And that’s the end of the conversation.

BLITZER: There’s been some suggestion that the president of Iran, Ahmadinejad, is in sort of shaky ground right now and that the supreme leader may be angry at what he’s done and that others are clearly irritated.

What’s your sense about his stability right now?

LANG: Well, the way the Iranian republic is set up, in fact, he is not the sole possessor of power in the same way the president of the United States is over the American armed forces. There are a lot of other actors in Iran, and a lot of them are very irritated with him, because he is, in fact, enabling a cycle of escalation against Iran which could be devastating if the United States decided to use its main strategic forces against the country.

BLITZER: I was told recently by a senior administration official that U.S. intelligence on actually what’s happening inside of Iran right now, as far as his strength, Ahmadinejad is concerned, is not necessarily all that good.

LANG: No. I think probably if you go around the academic community and the think tank community in the United States, talk to people in New York and in California and here, academics who deal with Iran, you’ll probably have a better, clearer idea of what is actually happening politically in Iran.

BLITZER: Is there, in your sense, bottom line, a desire on the part of the Iranians to engage directly with the United States in Iraq?

LANG: You mean in a combat sense?

BLITZER: Yes. In other words, to use — the suggestion has been they’re already supplying sophisticated improvised explosive devices, other military equipment, training to their friends in Iraq. But do you sense that the Iranians will get directly involved?

LANG: I don’t think they’ll do that if they think that their ambitions for their Shia co-religionists in Iraq are going to be fulfilled in the way that we have been going toward with a Shia government in Iraq and that kind of thing. On the other hand, if the situation of competition between the United States and Iran gets out of hand, then, in fact, it could get very hot, very fast.

BLITZER: The deployment of another 21,000 or so U.S. troops to the Baghdad area, to the Al Anbar Province — you’ve studied Iraq for a long time — is it going to make a difference?

LANG: Well, in the overall situation?


LANG: I don’t think it will because the force is too small in the Baghdad area and it will rely too heavily on Iraqi efficiency in carrying this out. And we’re going to have a lot of people scattered in little penny packets all over the city, backed with Iraqi forces. I doubt if that’s actually going to have the clearing effect in Baghdad that we expect it will have.

BLITZER: So what’s going to happen over the next six months?

LANG: Over the next six months I think the United States government will come to the realization that Prime Minister Maliki cannot deliver on some of things that he has told them he’s going to be able to do. And, therefore, we might well have a change of government in Iraq.

BLITZER: A change — would that be good?

LANG: It probably would be another Shia led government which also cannot deliver on promises it might make the United States, because any government there that is Shia in character has to depend on the Shia parties and militias for its support. So they can’t fight these people in the long run.

BLITZER: What the American public wants to know is, the vulnerability, what’s going to happen to 160,000 or so American troops in Iraq over the next six months to a year?

LANG: Over the next year, I would say that we’re going to have a situation which will not improve markedly, but we will still have approximately the same number of people in Iraq. And a year from now, say in the middle of ’08, we will be facing a situation in which things will not have greatly improved but we’ll still be there.

BLITZER: It will basically the same as what’s happening right now, is that what you’re saying?

LANG: I’m afraid that’s true.

BLITZER: If you were still at the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and you were briefing the president or the secretary of defense right now, what would be your recommendation?

LANG: Well, intelligence people don’t usually make recommendations. But, I will in this case.

I would say that what we need to have is a general, forceful, persistent round of negotiations throughout the region to settle as many interests as we can. Bring the temperature down enough so that we can all live with it without going to war some more. We don’t need any more wars. Wars are really bad.

BLITZER: Colonel Pat Lang, retired U.S. Army intelligence.

Thanks very much more for coming in.

LANG: My pleasure"

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68 Responses to Situation Room – 26 January 2007

  1. Frank Durkee says:

    Great post, I’m sorry I missed the interview. Your numbers re: Iranians in Iraq are striking. clearly they could pose a significant problem, if these encounters ‘go hot’. Thanks again for your blog.

  2. zenpundit says:

    I’m becoming quite a fan of your site, Colonel Lang.
    Tell me though, in your opinion, have we been killing Iranians for some time now on the pretense that they are Shiite Iraqi militiamen who picked a fight with U.S. personnel ?

  3. arbogast says:

    I am speechless with admiration for Colonel Lang.
    The Democrats received a mandate to end this war this past November. They must find the courage to act.
    Colonel Lang, who has been at war, has the courage to state the truth. Where are the Democrats?
    Where is the courage in the Democratic Party?

  4. COLORADO BOB says:

    Pat … Joe Galloway’s latest column … The part about the bullhorns …..

  5. chew2 says:

    Hundreds of thousands of Iranian intelligence and revolutionary guard in Iraq? That’s the first I’ve heard anywhere near those figures. With all due respect I don’t believe that. Can you cite some sources? The LA Times is reporting that the British in the south do not have any evidence of Iranian military assets in Iraq. So where are these thousands of Iranian troops? How can Persian speaking Iranians hide in Iraq? Sure a few hundreds or maybe even thousands could come in as pilgrims, but they can’t bring much with them and they couldn’t stay long without being discovered to some extent.
    The U.S. military has pointed to no evidence of large numbers of Iranian assets in Iraq, or any Iranian assets for that matter. Only the introduction of shaped IEC’s which allegedly originate in Iran, and a few captured Iranian’s who are claimed to be revolutionary guards at the SCIRI office. I find it implausible that the 5 Iranian’s arrested in Kurdish Erbil could be helping the Sunni insurgents (or the Shia militia’s for that matter). There are no Sunni insurgents in Erbil, it’s pretty much secured by the Kurdish forces. So attacking this alleged Iranian network in Iraq that is aiding the insurgents sounds trumped up as an excuse to put pressure on Iran.

  6. kovie says:

    Hello Colonol Lang,
    I appreciate your coming forth with this information and insight, given the current and growing seriousness of the situation in Iraq and the surrounding region, and have a couple of questions for you.
    First, I’m kind of confused by your assertion that there are several hundred thousand Iranian agents and soldiers currently in Iraq. I know that Wolf asked you to confirm this and that you did, but this is an extremely high figure by any measure, let alone for that theater, and I wanted to make sure that this is what you’re saying. If it is, why hasn’t this been reported until now, at least widely, given how serious it is? This is simply an ASTOUNDING figure.
    In your opinion, has the administration, with or without the help of the media, been trying to keep this information from the public, given how massive (and in my mind criminal) a failure this would constitute on the part of the administration and its war strategy if it was true? And if it is true, is there really any point in our remaining in Iraq any longer, since we’d have to at least double our forces there–which we do not have the ability to do–in order to take on such numbers militarily?
    And second, I am also confused about your assertion that Iran “has been the principal international sponsor of Islamic terrorism, both Sunni and Shia, ever since its foundation after the revolution against the Shah”. I’m sure that this is true with respect to Shiite terrorists, especially Hezbollah in Lebabon and some of the Shiite terrorists in Iraq. But I’m not aware that this has also been true of Sunni terrorists, e.g. Al Qaida, Hamas, Islamic Jihad. I don’t doubt that Iran hasn’t supported some Sunni terrorists over the years, but I was under the impression that Sunni terrorists’ support and funding was coming primarily from Sunni countries and organizations, especially Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and not Iran. Are you saying that this is not true?

  7. David E. Solomon says:

    Colonel Lang,
    I am glad to hear that you are out and about giving rational analysis where you have the opportunity.
    I am not a fan of Wolf Blitzer, but I do think it is in our national interest to have your voice heard from whatever podium you can muster.
    “War Is Bad”!!
    Not doubt about it, please keep up the good work.
    My question to you is:
    What can we sorry citizens do in this developing situation??
    As each day passes, I feel more like an average citizen of the the Nazi propaganda machine sitting by and waiting for my post war chance to say “but what could I do”.
    How do we stop this madness?

  8. The Agonist says:

    “Dangerous Escalating Move”

    Col. Lang was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer today. I cannot recommend reading the transcript enough.
    Here’s a key graf from the start of the interview:
    Well, I think Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. atomic agency, has it right. Everybody ought to ca

  9. MarcLord says:

    The infiltration attack on the provincial ministry in Karbala, in which 4 US soldiers were kidnapped and killed last week, displayed a startling level of sophistication.
    The insurgents got past the gate by driving black GMC Suburbans, wearing US uniforms, and speaking English. The guards waved them through. They stunned the soldiers with a grenade who were meeting with a government official in his office (possibly the governor), and kidnapped the soldiers, drove them 25 miles away, and killed them.
    The intelligence required to pull that operation off had to be extremely good. It was an unprecedented, improbable, well-financed stunt. My first thought was, “Iranian retaliation.”

  10. Different Clue says:

    I suspect the Iranian response you warn of is precisely the Iranian response which the Bush Administration hopes to elicit. Gleiwitz, only with
    real Iranians taking the bait, not fake Iranians in Iranian uniform.
    I hope the Iranian leadership chooses not to take the bait. But if they don’t, the Bush administration will keep poking them ever harder with
    ever-sharper sticks.
    I remember reading somewhere that the ancient Persians invented chess. Is
    that true? If it is, would that be such a point of pride to the present day Iranian leadership that the Iranian Leadership would just keep grinding its teeth
    through all the dangling baits and sharp-stick-pokes to see who takes Cheney/bush’s place at the chessboard?

  11. bob randolph says:

    Pat, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the Blitzer show. However, I do not see how there could be 200,000+ Iranian Republican Guards and Intelligence agents in Iraq. That’s more Iranians in Iraq than Americans post-surge. How could there be that many Iranians without the US having more adversarial contact with them?

  12. ali says:

    Qods force is not what is stirring the pot in Iraq, we have there a very Iraqi struggle, they are merely adding some spice like the increasingly active Saudis.
    Tehran reaps short term defensive benefit from having the US land army mired in Iraq but in the longer game they want as big a slice of Iraq to be under the rule of their Shi’a brethren as possible. If Iraq implodes it will be a disaster for Tehran.
    DC does not have the decades long attention span to carry this ill considered political project through. It is already an embarrassing failure eager to be forgotten. Tehran is the only viable longterm protector of the new Shi’a ruling elite and their Kurdish allies. The Iranians have little choice in this; it’s in their vital interest.
    We should deal with the reality that the Iranians are a substantial power in Iraq. This is not just because of their militaries decades old infiltration of the South; it is for the simple reasons of geography, sect and trade.
    Having repeatedly failed to seize the diplomatic initiative DC power over Iran is in precipitous decline. When DC negotiates it will do this from a position of weakness. It would be wise to act while some leverage remains. As DC’s grip slips on Baghdad it could be enough to limit Tehran’s dominance in the region. It is worth considering that a deepening entanglement in Iraq may thwart advancing Persian imperialism just as it has the PNAC version.
    Instead the POTUS has pointed an accusing finger at Tehran and attempted to intimidate them once again. Whether he recklessly courts it or not the danger is that an incident will trigger an escalation; typically how war start.
    Tehran is ruled by cold calculating men who won’t easily be drawn. In 98 after the Taliban (fat with Saudi funds) butchered thousands of Shi’a at Mazar-i-Sharif and lynched the staff of their consulate Tehran did not impetuously strike back. They carefully sought Clinton’s permission to retaliate and eventually restrained themselves. However the Mullah’s apparatus of power is not a monolithic machine like DC. There are elements including their windbag President that may see domestic advantage in war and have means to act independently.

  13. jr786 says:

    Great post. Dumb question: Why on earth don’t we negotiate with Iran and Syria? I can’t believe it’s just truculence on the part of the administration. Is there some legitimate strategic reason behind this, such as fear of elevating Iran’s status, etc.? Or is really just crackpot realism? Baffling.

  14. Rider says:

    I only wish there would be someone there to make those recommendations, Col. Lang.
    Al Jazeera ran a piece on the Mahdi Army this week which reported it at about 60,000 members also, for whatever that’s worth.
    I am disturbed by reports of an appalling attempt to exploit The Holocaust to justify pre-emptive attack on Iran by the U.S. as proxy for Israel:

  15. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The Bush Administration sees these two countries as the main obstacles to revolutionary change in the Islamic World. It seeks their radical transformation or removal. It sees them as EVIL. Therefore it does not want to deal with evil except to arrange the surrender of evil. This has nothing to do with realism. pl

  16. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You are excessively literal in regard to my remark about hundreds of thousands of Iranian agents in Iraq. If I gave the impression that I mean Iranian SOLDIERS in every case then I was not sufficiently precise. What I mean is that the Iranians have pushed large cadres of IRGC across the border. These cadres are present with all the major militias on the Shia side as advisers, trainers, logistical helpers, communications staff, etc. In addition to that the Iranian government has “sponsored” the migration of literally hundreds of thousands of Iranians to Shia Iraq to shift the demographic balance there and create what the Israelis call “facts on the ground.”
    It would be a serious self deception to think that Iran has not been “interfering” with the development of history in Iraq. In that, the Bush Administration is correct. The question should be – why are they now making a fuss over it?
    Incidentally, my postings are in the nature of editorials not reportage. I don’t have to proove anything to anyone. If you are bothered by that, then, don’t read it. pl

  17. confusedponderer says:

    first you have to understand the the Iranians are evil men. That is achieved through moral clarity. Evil men cannot be trusted. They lie. Always. Thus, there has to be regime change.
    America is such a force of good, that talking with evil men will give them legitimacy, which is bad for regime change. THus there are no talks.
    The basic idea that for evil men there is no approach other than regime change has remained unchanged in the Bush doctrine, reality be damned. And they stick to it, and do it by the book.

  18. W. Patrick Lang says:

    They have been avoiding contact with US forces with the help of their “friends”
    among the Shia. It is a big country, full of Shia and our intelligence is terrible. pl

  19. Frank Durkee says:

    Col. Do you have a reaction to General Odum’s presentation to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? My sense is that he has hold of at least a good portion of what we need to think through and act on. I got the text from a post on Josh Marshalls blog. sory I can’t do the appropriate computer stuff.

  20. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The Islamic Republic of Iraq has provided “material support” (in the language of US law) to a number of Sunni zealot (terrorist) groups in Lebanon, Egypt and elsewhere.
    In the struggle against the “kuffar” (unbelievers) they are quite willing to make common cause with the Sunni. The situation would be quite different if the interests of a twelver Shia group were involved. pl

  21. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I would think that IRGC men embedded with Shia militias would be difficult for American troops to identify as Iranian.
    I have seen many occasions in which american troops were unable to identify different nationalities of Arabs and there are a lot of Iranians from the border country who speak Arabic quite well. pl

  22. ali says:

    Along similar lines:
    “The increasingly common arrangement for sick or wounded Iraqis to receive treatment in Iran is just one strand in a burgeoning relationship between these two Persian Gulf countries. Thousands of Iranian pilgrims visit the Shiite holy cities in southern Iraq each year. Iran exports electricity and refined oil products to Iraq, and Iraqi vendors sell Iranian-made cars, air coolers, plastics and the black flags, decorated with colorful script, that Shiites are flying this week to celebrate the religious holiday of Ashura. But when President Bush and top U.S. officials speak of Iran’s role in Iraq, their focus is more limited. U.S. officials accuse Iranian security forces, particularly the al-Quds Brigade of the Revolutionary Guards, of funneling sophisticated explosives to Iraqi guerrillas.”
    This is a symbiotic relationship like the one Tehran has with Southern Lebanon and Hamas ruled Palestine but set to be far deeper.
    That’s soft power at work, insidious and multifaceted, not intimidated by carrier groups, not vulnerable to laser guided bombs.
    Qods Force are just a nail in a very big stick.
    No wonder the plump Saudis are terrified; Khomeni’s morbid revolution could be snuggling up to the downtrodden Shi’a who live on top of the Ghawar field within a decade.

  23. taters says:

    Dear Col. Lang,
    Welcome back, sir.
    I subscribe to the Situation Room specifically to get a head’s up when you are on. Wouldn’t you know that yesterday I didn’t read it. I’m sorry I missed it.
    Wolf is at his best when you are on.
    Not that the Decider is interested, but what would do you think are starting points that are mutually beneficial to the US and Iran if we were able to talk?
    Pardon me if this overly naive but just for starters,I believe the taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, leading to a narco terrorist state would be something neither of us want. From what I’ve read, Iran fas a few million drug addicts already – that many junkies is a drain on any society. Thank you for posting this and kudos to you for the Athenaeum.

  24. jr786 says:

    Col. Lang and confusedponderer: Thanks. I’ll just have to remain baffled since the Administration’s Manichean world view is beyond my ken. Have we ever had a government that wore such an ideological straitjacket? Where did it come from? Where does it end?

  25. Got A Watch says:

    Inside the Shia death squads:
    “If they pay we kill them anyway’ – the kidnapper’s story. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad meets the commander of a Shia death squad .”,,1999916,00.html
    Insightful article on what is really happening in Shiite Baghdad now, worth a read. They do admit receiving substantial aid from Iran, not because they are allied with Iran necessarily but because they all hate America so much they co-operate.
    The Yorkshire Ranter quite handily debunks the “IED’s from Iran” story the Bushies keep repeating:
    “So how do you build an EFP anyway?”
    Just heard a financial analyst on the radio here talking about a “confidential” ING Bank (one of the world’s largest banks, Netherlands based) report sent this week to their “high net worth” customers (probably have at least $1M US$ equivalent minimum on deposit). This report apparently states (he was reading from it)that they have it from “reliable inside sources” (NATO?) that Israel and/or the USA intend to attack Iran within the next 60 days. They are predicting stock market declines, large spikes in oil/precious metals etc. The key quote was something like “Extent and duration of the damage is dependent on the amount of Iranian retaliation”.
    In other words, they (the neos) expect Iran to absorb the attacks and not retaliate much. Seems a classic neo-con strategy, and like all else they do, it depends on the other side taking it lying down. Given the many recent statements from various Iranian authorities promising “massive rataliation”, somehow I don’t see any sunny outcome here.
    “Does SPR Increase Foretell Iran Strike?” Ashraf Laidi, Chief FX Analyst at CMC Markets NA…rticle- 6764.htm
    key quote: “the aggressive approach on beefing up SPR may reflect heightened possibility of a US military strike against Iran as early as March or April, at a time when US navy ships are piling up in the Persian Gulf. Yesterday, markets were filled with chatter of a Kuwait-based newspaper article reporting that the US will launch a military strike on Iran before April 2007, citing “reliable sources”. According to the article, the strikes will be launched from US ships with Patriot missiles guarding all oil-producing countries in the region. The attacks would be planned in April, the last month of British PM Blair in office. The immediate result of such an attack is a protracted run up in oil prices, which could reach the $70 per barrel mark in less than a week.”
    Better start cleaning and stocking that fallout shelter.

  26. Nindid says:

    Col. Lang,
    In response to a question about Ahmadinejad’s political prospects you say:
    LANG: No. I think probably if you go around the academic community and the think tank community in the United States, talk to people in New York and in California and here, academics who deal with Iran, you’ll probably have a better, clearer idea of what is actually happening politically in Iran.
    Do you mean the academic community would not agree with the intelligence estimate or that it would?

  27. Got A Watch says:

    Every time I read this blog and the informed responses I am thankful to Col. Lang for hosting these discussions, and to the many insightful commenters. Respect! Now, how to get MSM readers to tune in?
    Anyone heard anything about the oft-dealyed new N.I.E. since the Senators got irate last week about where it was? How long can the “dog ate my NIE!” defence fly? This document must be so explosive for the Bushies they have probably shredded every copy and transferred the analysts who worked on it to Greenland or Okinawa before it leaks.

  28. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I am not sure which estimate you mean. do you have a particular document in mind?
    In general I think the academic community has better access in Iran and is less driven by policy concerns. pl

  29. ali says:

    “In addition to that the Iranian government has “sponsored” the migration of literally hundreds of thousands of Iranians to Shia Iraq to shift the demographic balance there and create what the Israelis call “facts on the ground.”
    I don’t doubt this. There’s even a carpet bagger element. Haliburton aren’t the only ones who have grown rich from our misadventures. Basra has the potential to make a lot of Iranians very rich men.
    Sistani is also an Iranian though no fan of Tehran. There were a couple of hundred thousand Iranian refugees resident in Iraq in the late 90s I assume they’ve high tailed it to LA. I aslo recall Saddam deporting Iranians. There have been Persians resident in the land of the two rivers for millenia. I was looking for some stat’s on Iranians living in Iraq. Came up dry.
    Iran was the elephant in the room before this war. We know the CIA was reporting heavy Iranian infiltration in the South before the invasion. It’s been going on for decades.
    There were also a couple of hundred thousand Iraqis (just the officially counted refugees) living in exile in Iran from Saddam. They now, thanks to our missionary zeal, make up the ruling elite. Our fat little chum Al Sadr is one of the few whose family was brave enough to tough it out under Saddam. Despite being the nearest thing to a Iraq nationalist politician even he has ties to Tehran. The facts really don’t need shifting.
    “The question should be – why are they now making a fuss over it?”
    Could it be that is has taken this long for this uncomfortable reality to intrude on their cosy fantasies?

  30. Duncan Kinder says:

    The Bush Administration sees these two countries as the main obstacles to revolutionary change in the Islamic World. It seeks their radical transformation or removal. It sees them as EVIL. Therefore it does not want to deal with evil except to arrange the surrender of evil. This has nothing to do with realism. pl
    It seems to me that if any country is backing Islamic terrorism, it is neither Syria nor Iran but rather Pakistan. At the least, significant elements of Pakistan’s ISI support the Taliban in Afghanistan.
    Under these circumstances, that we should focus on Iran and Syria boggles the mind. Just what are these proposed “revolutionary changes” and whose interest would thereby be served?
    Bush Republican occasionally ask “What would YOU do?” Well, I didn’t create this fiasco – and it is beyond any good solution, but I would suggest that the United States shift its focus toward Pakistan instead of upon Iran and Syria. That is, assuming hypothetically that that actually fighting terror is our agenda and not something else.

  31. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    Those were not terrorists – they were freedom fighters.

  32. Eaken says:

    Iraq, in large part, is the solution to Iran’s economic problems.
    Iranians have been and will continue to have a formidable presence within Iran.
    The problem is we are trying to create a divide that simply cannot be made. It makes too much economic sense to have close ties, pre or post military adventurism.

  33. David E. Solomon says:

    Colonel Lang,
    I just came from a Town Hall meeting in Norwich, NY where Michael Arcuri (our newly elected Democratic House Representative) came to talk to the “people”.
    I asked him the same question that I posted earlier on this thread.
    How, indeed, do we avoid becoming like the Germans who in their post WWII mode claimed not to have known what was happening?
    How do we use legal action to stop the “decider” and his Neocon advisors from getting us into another war (this time quite possibly an all out totally destructive war) with the Iranians and the entire Muslim world?
    The response I got was mealy mouthed and condescending. He claimed that we only had two more years of Bush and that as Commander In Chief the “decider” could pretty much do what he wanted.
    I pointed out that, as far as I knew, Bush’s Commander In Chief title did not make him immune from following our laws and the laws of a functioning international society.
    Needless, to say when Michael Acuri comes up for reelection, he will not get my vote. I would prefer to vote for a rodent.
    Admittedly, I am steamed up, but I believe with good reason. Acuri is clearly not alone in his desire to hold corporate power and to do so to the detriment of his constituents.
    But I digress, again the question is how do we stop the “decider” and his handlers from leading us down the primrose path to the next hundred years war????

  34. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think that Col. Lang is correct; the US President believes that Iran and Syria are Evil and thus untrustworthy for any deal.
    On the other hand, Iran calls US the “Great Satan” and mistursts here motivations.
    Since “It takes one to know one” it follows that these two (Axis of Evil and the Great Satan) must have a lot in common. Since they have a lot in common, it is always possible to make a deal – after all – they both are related to the Prnce of Darkness.

  35. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    The “revolutionary change” that US is seeking has already happened – it is called the Islamic Revolution n(in Iran).
    Khomeini’s amalgamation of the principles of Islam and those of Republicanism has outlined the contours of the future evolution of Muslim polities – in my opinion. Just like the French Revolution in Europe.
    What USG is trying to do is “hyper-revolutionary” – it is akin to injecting a heart-attack patient with stimulants in the hope of regenerating the heart muscle.

  36. Michael Singer says:

    Dear Pat,
    Is there any evidence the Administration is monitoring what you say? And I don’t mean surveillance.
    What are “twelver shia?” Does Sen. Webb know what you think? Should the Democrats now be demanding some clarity from the Administration on its intentions in Iran–men like Sen. Webb? Is this new “surge” in Iraq just a sideshow to distract Democrats from bearing down on POTUS policy toward Iran? What would happen to oil supplies and prices if US/Israeli’s attacked Iran? Why did Bush just announce he was doubling our oil reserves? Is that related to an attack stradegy towards Iran?
    Olmert, as his position becomes increasing unstable, is more and more bellicose about Iran.
    Michael Singer

  37. confusedponderer says:

    the ‘science’ about reading the tea leaves about what the secretive and seclusive Bush administration is up to isn’t called ‘Kremlinology’ for no reason. Can’t wait for Glasnost in D.C.

  38. Iopta says:

    Perhaps you should take a closer look at the AP article, you might think to yourself “false flag” or “blackwater special op” instead of iranian retailiation.
    quotes of interest:
    “The attackers captured four soldiers and fled with them and the computer east toward Mahawil in Babil province, crossing the Euphrates River, the U.S. military officials said.”
    —The computer?—
    “One Iraqi official said the leader of the assault team was blond, but no other official confirmed that.”

  39. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Sorry, but the US does not kill its own soldiers. pl

  40. anon says:

    “Bring the temperature down enough so that we can all live with it without going to war some more. We don’t need any more wars. Wars are really bad.”
    Thanks for ending with that. The neocon and Bush/Cheney enterprizes seem to be based on the assumption that wars are really really good, or that good things always come out of playing a game of chicken over going to war.
    I think we need serious and sensible people to remind the country that this attitude is nuts. The US may have gotten away with it for the Mexican and Spanish-American Wars, and some of the Indian wars, but other than that, it goes against 218 years of US tradition. Even the Spanish-American War turned ugly and expensive in the Philippines, besides being very immoral.

  41. kovie says:

    Colonel Lang,
    Thanks for your response. As I indicated in my initial comment, I did not doubt that Iran has supported both Sunni and Shiite terrorists, and that it is the world’s principal supporter of the latter. But I am not aware that it was also the world’s “principal sponsor” of the former, as you asserted in the following:
    “The Islamic Republic of Iraq (sic) has been the principal international sponsor of Islamic terrorism, both Sunni and Shia, ever since its foundation after the revolution against the Shah.”
    Are you sure about this? I.e. the Sunni part?

  42. lester says:

    You wouldn’t think that the US would be looking at ANY state as relevant, particularly when we are talking about dividing Iraq into 3 states. They clearly understand loyalties to religous groups and tribes in Iraq, yet they seem to be looking at iran as if this was 1985 or something. everything they know they throw out the window. “state sponsered terror”? al queda is sponsered by rich suadi oil guys. and donations in mosques.
    what “state” sponsored padilla. or the shoe bomber. or those guys up in canada who were going to chop the PM’s head off.
    Bush hates Iran because they make his coalition of bribed dictators look bad. virtually all muslims in the middle east are closer to his opinions, and saddam husseins opinions, on israel and the US than the leaders of their own countries. who lie to us for our billions in aid.
    Bush’s line about going after Iranians was meant to satiate them. it was probably a product of condis meaningless sunni world tour last week. In which mahmoud abbas was discussed as a substantial person, which is ridiculous.

  43. anon says:

    I am not a history buff, but Iran seemed to tolerate lots and lots of death in its war with Iraq in order to pull out a win. What if Iran does nothing in particular in response to US policy, except hunker down, protect (and perhpas quietly reinforce) its most valuable assests and wait for the Bush and Cheney to do something really weird and stupid?

  44. bambi1950 says:

    Col. Lang,
    Just a dumb housewife writing to you to ask a dumb question. Could I be correct in assuming that the U.S. is probably planning on ‘liberating’ Iran next? It appears that ‘liberating’ a country comes at the cost of many deaths in said country, perhaps if our guys just mentioned to Iran that we might indeed ‘liberate’ them, everyone would calm down. I’m not sure we have sufficient troops to do any more liberating at the present time. Enjoy your posts often, thanks for all who read them.

  45. W. Patrick Lang says:

    It’s up to the decider and Vader. God help us.

  46. IH says:

    Pat, what do you mean by “Islamic Republic of Iraq”?

  47. confusedponderer says:

    they’re being saved, even to death, for their own good. Even death is better then living under tyranny.
    Say people who haven’t ever experienced tyranny from closer than 5000 miles.
    I guess it’s one thing if an actual freedom fighter sais that line, or if it’s coming out of the mouth, or oozes out of the pen, of the distinguished fellows from AEI & Cie. That’s why I can only shake my head over those rabid Americans chanting ‘Better dead than red!’ They, fortunately, have never been in a position or situation where they possibly had to choose.
    Those living under tyranny are biased as a result of the reality they have to face, thus their opinions count nothing. That is why America has to make the hard choice for them, not because America likes to, but because it is America’s solemn duty. This burden stems from being uniquely virtuous among the nations.
    Only America’s current leaders have the moral clarity and, according to Cheney, the stomach, to do what’s got to be done. According to Cheney, that distinguishes them from their electorate, too.

  48. W. Patrick Lang says:

    It should have been “Iran.” I fixed it in the transcript. Thanks. pl

  49. walrus says:

    I have this feeling that the downing of three helicopters over the last few weeks is not a coincidence.
    I don’t know if it was MANPADS that did it, but if I was an Iranian Government, supplying such weapons and training to insurgents would be a natural way of responding to Bush’s sabre rattling.

  50. confusedponderer says:

    A PS to my previous post:
    As self-flattering, self-congratulatory the neo-con ideology, as it is propagated in NR or countless Op-Eds, is, it is extremely useful s a vessel to justify intervention against basically everyone. All it takes is to demonise him.
    Such an ‘idealistic’ policy certainly sells much better than a ‘cynical’ interest politic, a term the neo-cons use derogatory. The war fever after 911 pointed out the appeal quite clearly.
    For a time it certainly appealed to me, basically until I witnessed with growing disgust the farce at the UN, when Powell presented all this junk as evidence, and they started their assault on international law.
    Under the rubric of ‘Freedom’, you can then pursue interests, like basing, influence, access, market access, access to resources, regional re-shaping (only a defeated nation would let Grover Norquist screw with their business law) – in short: goodies that can (only) be achieved by regime change.
    When you are working in an echo-chamber where you’re surrounded by like-minded folks, who permanently agree and tell each other how right they are, and how wrong the others are, they end up believing it themselves. I think that a good deal of neo-cons are not cynical, but convinced they do good.
    The neo-con appeal clearly lies in the potential to offer people of various persuasions, motivations and interests, a vessel to pursue an agressive and militaristic policy. This is reflected in the manyfold US justifications for war, which offered something for everyone – make your pick.
    Reminds me of a story from Barbara Tuchmann’s ‘Distant Mirror’, about the squire who slept with three girls, and is then angrily confronted by them. His reply was: ‘I didn’t lie! When I told each one of you that I love you, I truly meant it!’

  51. Richard Steven Hack says:

    Interesting analysis, Col. Lang.
    With regard to the possibility that the capture and execution of the US soldiers was a “set-up”, who said it was the US that did it?
    Mercenaries are easy to find who will do anything. Somebody other than the US or the Iraqis could have done it.
    Personally, I suspect that it was an Iranian operation in retaliation for the arrest of their people. However, we may never know.
    It’s also possible that the operation was undertaken by Iranians acting on their own initiative without orders from their superiors in Iran. Unlikely, but possible.
    It’s also possible that it was a “false flag” operation by an agency such as the Mossad. Israel has been willing to kill US soldiers in the past for their purposes, as the Liberty incident proves. It would be useful for Israel to conduct such an operation in Iraq, then supply intelligence blaming the Iranians to the US. Israel benefits most from a war between the US and Iran – just as it did from the war between Iraq and the US.

  52. confusedponderer says:

    The more I think about it, the more I tend to see them as the ultimate aidees, tasked with whipping through a policy for their political masters who over time they have adopted their masters hard-line views.
    That would explain the lack of substance, that is actual expertise, and the emphasis on ‘sophistry’, that is, an intellectual framework that allows for ignoring factual informations, in favour of an ideological view.
    That is where Strauss comes in, and the way he taught his disciples how to read a text, basically like a theologist reads the Bible (well, only if he is not a ‘literalist’). How, is illustrated by this quote from Irvin Kristol:
    “There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people . . . There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work.”
    Which suggests as the underlying premise that they, as highly educated adults, have seen the light, and we didn’t. They are right, we are not.
    While we may accuse the neo-cons of ‘lying’ or ‘distorting intelligence’, they see it fundamentally different: They believe in their moral clarity, and because they see clearer than the benighted ‘masses’, lies are not only justifiable, but virtuous. Reality can and must be fundamentally distorted for our own good.
    That is so, because ‘realists’ who only look for facts, do not see the inherent evil posed by ‘intent’ that is so clearly visible to those who possess moral clarity. A realist can’t see ‘intent’ because for that there is no proof. One must not allow for such a perilous self-delusion. A neo-con just *knows*, think of Wolfowitz’ gut feeling.
    Think of Frum and Haggard: Gay gay-bashing preacher Haggard was accused of being a hypochrite, and Frum came to the rescue. Frum argued, because being gay vilifies traditional moral principles, Haggard did good in lying instead of being open about it. He did good, because the good influence of his preaching at least mitigates the bad effect of his misconduct.
    Ergo: Lying is virtuous.
    I find that quite remarkable, because it illustrate the neo-con pattern of argument.

  53. confusedponderer says:

    In the end it might well all come down to the idea that ‘will’ reigns supreme. In their perception Vietnam was lost because of lack of national resolve in the US.
    It is plausible to me that they then went on to conjure up the Soviets as larger-than-live bogeymen in order to maintain national resolve. Alarmist distortion, as produced by Pipe’s Team B, was then seen as an act of virtue, and the only means to counter the subversive effect of ‘detente’, or ‘appeasement’.
    The threat-mongering about Saddam, Iran, North-Korea, Russia and China probably is also intent on generating national resolve, to give the country the will to fight for what the neo-cons envision as America’s destiny: Global benevolent hegemony.

  54. Babak Makkinejad says:

    That Squire with his 3 wenches: he must have been a closet Muslim.

  55. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think that Sa’adi would have disagreed with you about the desirability of truthfullness under all circumstances. At times, it might be better to lie than to tell the Truth.
    Also, in regards to the fellow’s homosexulaity, a Rabbi could argue that by outwardly conforming to the Law, he was at least making an effort in the right direction.
    Wife: “Do you think my ass is large?”
    Husband: “Well – yes it has become rather unattractive.”
    Evening News: ” The wife is in custody and doctors say that the husband is in critical condition.”

  56. bambi1950 says:

    Col. Lang.
    You can’t be serious, it’s up to the decider? I guess it is time to build bomb shelters and get prepared. Oh, never mind, we are already liberated, it is the rest of the world that needs to worry about liberation. This administration scares me to death. My biggest fear is that Bush will have some special ops guy assasinate al-Maliki and blame the Iranians. Then declare war on Iran. If he doesn’t do it by disinformation in the press.

  57. bambi1950 says:

    Ok, I can’t take any more. They’re being saved to death? I think that they don’t need any more saving, don’t you?

  58. nonny says:

    after reading the transcript of your interview, then reading Gen Clark’s interview
    , you 2 certainly have the insight. since you have never mentioned about wanting to be president, i would surely like to see Gen Clark run and WIN the 2008 election

  59. Hannah K. O'Luthon says:

    I would be interested in hearing
    evaluations of
    this and
    (scroll down to “Death and Dishonor etc.), both of which emanate from sources of the type more likely to be demonstrating against the war than waiting for our congressional leadership to act. It’s been a long wait, and seems not to be finished.

  60. confusedponderer says:

    I was being sarcastic. Of course they would never say such a thing, err, aloud, no matter that it effectively may turn out that way. If you like my sense of humour you’ll enjoy this:
    According to Bush: “… when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is — my point is, there’s a strong will for democracy.”
    Because history takes a long view, three and a half years of lost opportunities, blundering, incompetence, death and destruction, poor judgment, escalation and, uh, corruption are minor details that will be easily overlooked over a long-term triumph.
    At the end of the day all Americans, the whiny Euros – and especially the Middle Easterners will be grateful because it was Bush’s bold leadersip that led them into a better world. Whoa. Almost believed it myself.

  61. bg says:

    COL Lang,
    Did you see this article in the NY times this morning, I would like to hear your thoughts on it.
    I find it very interesting, Iran admits that the Iranians arrested by the US in Irbil were in fact security agents (not a big relevation). More importantly, it appears that Iran wants to take over the US involvement by opening a bank, offering both economic and military help to defeat the insurgency (which of course, they are fully backing). What a smart move by Iran, they can negotiate with Iraq to have the US leave (meet one of thier goals), and then promise to stop the insurgency (of course, this means they will simply stop ordering attacks and stop supplying insurgents), and they will get credit for rebuilding the mess that the infidel crusaders created (thus meeting their 2nd goal of a friendly next door neighbor).

  62. confusedponderer says:

    I clearly see your point.
    I am not so much condemning the neo-cons for not being truthful under all circumstances. As your example underlines, little white lies are inevitable in everyday life.
    That the neo-cons made lying a virtue and a principle makes them so hard to get at. You can argue facts all day with them. In the end they will end up saying: All fine and well, but I don’t believe it anyway.
    When Decider babbles about Liechtenstein being a dire threat to the national security of the US, Liechtenstein being a threat becomes a political, ableit fictional, issue in the US.
    And I have to give them a nod for being right. They do shape the perception of reality by calculated disinformation. Fictional WMD were as good a reason for war as real ones.
    But that is not healthy. It has cost the US dearly in terms of credibility. Already everybody has a feeling of deja-vu of over Bush’s accusations and slow build-up towards Iran. A policy based on fictional and imaginary threats may sell at home, but the price the US have to pay beyond their domestic audience is devastating.
    I read a nice article by Scooter Libby’s best school buddy, where he delves into Lynne Cheney’s article on the use of the word ‘truth’ in today’s US english departments.
    “This difference came into sharp focus when I happened to read an article by Lynne Cheney, the wife of his boss. As an English professor, I couldn’t resist its title: “The Roots of Today’s Lying Epidemic: The English Department Virus.” In it, Cheney claims that lowly English departments are “a primary source of the epidemic of lying currently upon us.”
    Cheney begins by claiming correctly that most English professors believe that “knowledge and power are always intertwined.” But she goes on to assert that as a consequence of this belief, we also maintain that “there is no such thing as truth.” This is false, and I suspect that she knows it’s false. Certainly it’s illogical. Cheney’s error, possibly deliberate, is her sleight-ofhand removal of the definite article the from its crucial place beside the noun truth. Yes, most English professors and intellectuals today do believe that knowledge and power are intertwined. But no, we do not maintain that there is no such thing as truth. We believe, rather, that there is no such thing as the truth, no such thing as truth conceived of as an eternal verity standing apart from power and outside the push and pull of human history.”
    I think she had to say that, because if there are ‘separate truths’, it devalues the political truth you’re holding, or trying to sell. It causes doubt, which corrodes national resolve (which clearly is an issue with wars of choice).
    When you know, to pick up my previous example, that Liechtenstein is evil and must be regime-changed, any empathic or empiric approach that comes to a different, or ambiguous result is a threat. That’s why they couldn’t care less about regional expterise for the Middle East, and actively ignored people who had this expertise. There can only be one truth, their truth, the official story. That this may be essentially arbitrary or imaginary is beside the point as long as it only does deliver ‘moral clarity’ and helps justify the policy that has been decided.
    I think this is what Ron Suskind’s senior official meant when he said:
    “The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'”

  63. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Thanks and understood – you are preaching to the choir about Truth.
    Your point about lying of high government officials is quite significant – that used to be a common feature of third-world countires.

  64. walrus says:

    Confused Ponderer, I agree with you about how the neocons think. The trouble with their worldview is the same trouble as all liars finally confront – an obvious inconsistency between their prior and current statements.
    It is perfectly feasible to have multiple truths, and to revise “truth” over time, provided you are continually seeking it. What is not permissible is to cleave to obvious untruths in the face of fresh evidence.
    What scares the hell out of me is that the American “Worldview” was already heavily skewed under the Clinton Administration, but Bush and his allies have taken the collective American worldview to a totally new level of unreality.
    Ultimately this is going to create disaster for America as a nation and in my darkest hours, I wonder if America will even survive. Think hurricane Katrina and multiply it by 1000.
    The delusional thinking operates on many many levels as visits to Europe, Asia and elsewhere will quickly prove to someone with an open mind who ventures outside their hotel.
    While everyone is entitled to their delusions, and we all have them, some delusions are more dangerous than others.
    The dangerous ones include:
    That Iraq is susecptable to “Nation Building”.
    That muslims will take over the world, led by Iran.
    That climate change isn’t happening.
    That the Americans need large gas guzzling cars…..
    That the American electoral and political system isn’t broken.
    I could go on.

  65. pbrownlee says:

    This may be a shade petty but has anyone seen Wolfowitz’s Turkish sock problem?
    Are Wolfowitz’s toes the new Achilles heels? This man is a clod.

  66. johnf says:

    >Are Wolfowitz’s toes the new Achilles heels? This man is a clod.
    C’mon, thus guy thinks he is one of the world’s leading intellectuals. He’s got an image to live up to . Of course he’s going to have holey socks and sucks his own comb.
    I notice all you (edited out as ad hominem) don’t ask questions about Noam Chomsky’s underwear or Arianna Huffington’s eyeliner.

  67. Chris Marlowe says:

    Today there was a story about all the fraud and waste which has occured in Iraq under American contractors:
    The only country which has been forthright in offering reconstruction aid to Iraq is its neighbor Iran.
    This shows how the American contractor corruption and outright fraud has contributed directly to the expansion of Iranian influence in Iraq.
    The US corporate media misses all this; it takes a political satirist to speak the truth:
    What a miserable US media we have; now we get more honest truth from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than Katie Couric and Brian Williams!
    We live in a true idiocracy!

  68. pbrownlee says:

    I don’t actually recall Noam Chomsky’s underwear or Arianna Huffington’s eyeliner being on public display — or, when I last looked, were they the subject of the BBC’s most emailed story, juggling first and second place with Berlusconi’s latest idiocy —
    But at least now I really have seen everything — someone who seems actually to DEFEND Wolfowitz’s slovenly little ways as if this grubby clown were the Scholar Gypsy rather than one of those self-deluding buffoons who helped put the “con” into neocon.

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