02 March 2007

Sy Hersh

Sy Hersh has a new long article in The New Yorker and again it's a doozy. (There's also a good interview with Hersh on CNN, where he hits the highlights.) Hersh reports that the White House is driving toward a sweeping change in US alliances in the Middle East, pointing toward (suprise, surprise) an air attack on Iran.

There's been lots of commentary in the blogosphere.

Digby, of course, is on the case, with a long post that includes key quotes from Hersh and others. Digby rants:

Think about this for a moment. The crackerjack Bush administration—which failed to anticipate the rise of Iran once they removed its dangerous enemy from the scene—is supposed to be able to recognize who's who among these various Muslim players and deftly play all the factions against one another in a very discrete and high stakes game in which they finesse a final outcome that brings about peace and security.

Joshua Micah Marshall points to the bottom line in this new set of alliances.

the US has essentially decided to get out of the al Qaeda/Sunni-jihadist fighting business and redirect our efforts toward fighting the Iranian peril. The real war we're in the midst of now, it turns out, is the trans-Middle Eastern Sunni-Shi'a civil war. And we're going to side with the Saudis, who will in turn enlist a bunch of al Qaeda type groups to work on our behalf against Iran.
But wait ... Only a short time ago we were told that Cheney and his crew at the White House wanted to take the side of the Shi'as in Iraq's burgeoning civil war. In other words, for all the attention to who we're going to attack and how and how many soldiers we need to do it, there appears to be a basic debate (to be generous) or confusion (to be less generous) within the administration over which side we're even on.

Does that even make sense? Kevin Drum has an explanation.

Having never really believed in the threat of non-state terrorist groups like al-Qaeda in the first place, the Bush administration may now have come full circle from 9/11, tacitly teaming up with Sunni jihadists in the hope that they'll help us take out the state-based terrorist threat of Iran—after which, presumably, the jihadis will all go home to watch TV and raise their families. Just like they did after the Afghanistan war.

And for those who didn't quite follow that last comment from Mr Drum, let me explain. He's not talking about the recent Afghanistan war in the wake of 9/11, he's talking about the one in which the Afghans resisted the Soviet invasion in the late '70s and early '80s. The US kept the Afghan jihadis well-supplied, and as a result they eventually succeeded in fighting off the Soviets.

A lot of those guys were hardcore and did not retire, but went on to get involved with a range of jihadist movements, many of which survive to this day. Among those guys: Osama bin Laden.

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