Friday, January 26, 2007

Rolling Thunder

Imagine if news emerged that for more than a year, Iran had been capturing and releasing American saboteurs who had been killing Iranians in territory in which they had a legal right to be. What would be the outcry in all the capitals of Europe? Greater than it would be today, after the Washington Post reported that US troops are now authorized to use lethal force against Iranian agents operating in Iran, after applying a policy of "catch and release" program for a year against Iranian agents sent to kill Americans; a policy it followed because it wanted to send a conciliatory signal to Iran.

For more than a year, U.S. forces in Iraq have secretly detained dozens of suspected Iranian agents, holding them for three to four days at a time. The "catch and release" policy was designed to avoid escalating tensions with Iran and yet intimidate its emissaries. U.S. forces collected DNA samples from some of the Iranians without their knowledge, subjected others to retina scans, and fingerprinted and photographed all of them before letting them go. ...

But, for three years, the Iranians have operated an embedding program there, offering operational training, intelligence and weaponry to several Shiite militias connected to the Iraqi government, to the insurgency and to the violence against Sunni factions. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the CIA, told the Senate recently that the amount of Iranian-supplied materiel used against U.S. troops in Iraq "has been quite striking." ...

Those who continue to believe that "engaging" Iran is the road to bringing stability to Iraq should note that if the WaPo's article is accurate, the US was in fact sending a continuous invitation to talk to the Mullahs by pointedly refusing to escalate the confrontation. An invitation which not only went unheeded but produced the contrary result. Instead of impressing the Mullahs with American moral superiority and seriousness; instead of convincing them that the "adults were back in charge" it encouraged even more aggression. "There were no costs for the Iranians," said one senior administration official. "They are hurting our mission in Iraq, and we were bending over backwards not to fight back." This may not impress the advocates of engagement, who may calculate that the US was not bending backward far enough. A little more "flexibility", a few more "confidence building" measures and there would be light at the end of the tunnel. And now, horrors! the incompetent administration is now thinking about "widening the war" (shades of Cambodia) by shooting back. Well, sort of shooting back.

The White House has authorized a widening of what is known inside the intelligence community as the "Blue Game Matrix" -- a list of approved operations that can be carried out against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon. And U.S. officials are preparing international sanctions against Tehran for holding several dozen al-Qaeda fighters who fled across the Afghan border in late 2001. They plan more aggressive moves to disrupt Tehran's funding of the radical Palestinian group Hamas and to undermine Iranian interests among Shiites in western Afghanistan.

In Iraq, U.S. troops now have the authority to target any member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, as well as officers of its intelligence services believed to be working with Iraqi militias. The policy does not extend to Iranian civilians or diplomats. Though U.S. forces are not known to have used lethal force against any Iranian to date, Bush administration officials have been urging top military commanders to exercise the authority.

Already, steps are in train to control the response, to ensure that Iranians remain aware of America's pacific intentions. Otherwise they might get the idea that the US might respond tit for tat. "The wide-ranging plan has several influential skeptics in the intelligence community, at the State Department and at the Defense Department who said that they worry it could push the growing conflict between Tehran and Washington into the center of a chaotic Iraq war." To prevent that the administration is going to gradually escalate its response. As President Bush put it, "they can't bomb an outhouse without my permission". Oops. That was Lyndon Johnson. Or was it Condoleeza Rice? Those who insisted on comparing Iraq to Vietnam can now call these measured responses "Rolling Thunder", for old time's sake.

Senior administration officials said the policy is based on the theory that Tehran will back down from its nuclear ambitions if the United States hits it hard in Iraq and elsewhere, creating a sense of vulnerability among Iranian leaders. But if Iran responds with escalation, it has the means to put U.S. citizens and national interests at greater risk in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. ...

In meetings with Bush's other senior advisers, officials said, Rice insisted that the defense secretary appoint a senior official to personally oversee the program to prevent it from expanding into a full-scale conflict. Rice got the oversight guarantees she sought ... Officials said U.S. and British special forces in Iraq, which will work together in some operations, are developing the program's rules of engagement to define the exact circumstances for using force.

But in war timing is nearly everything. The difference between a brilliant attack and fiasco might be a few hours and here the counterstroke has been delayed for a year. The real danger to this tentative aggressiveness is that may be too little -- and too late. Just as the Sunni insurgency may have been fueled by the decision to abort the First Battle of Fallujah, Iranian aggression has been allowed to grow to the point where meeting it now risks a serious confrontation. As in the case of a man who has let a scratch become a gangrenous infection, the choices are now between bad and worse. But because the Mullahs have been allowed to run rampant for so long the force required to halt them will be high. An administration which spent its political capital mollifying its critics may now find it has none left to stop the nation's enemies. The patient may refuse the amputation as unnecessary, even as he refused the antibioltics as unnecessary earlier. The sands run out both comically and tragically.

If this cautionary tale is about anything, it should be about the dangers of showing weakness in the face of the enemy. What "catch and release" has been to Iran and the insurgents is exactly what "cut and run" will be to civilization's terrorist enemies. Not a path to peace but a route to catastrophe. The realization will come, but it will come too late.


Blogger Pierre said...

US Troops authorized to kill the Iranians who have been killing them for the past 2 years…we used to just blow kisses to them

1/26/2007 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Pierre said...

Nothing personal but I call bullshit to this notion which has been the stock excuse for years...

In Viet Nam we kept backing off blockading Hanoi, bombing Cambodia etc. because we were (rightfully?) concerned about driving escalated Soviet involvement to perhaps a nuclear confrontation, and that was not acceptable.

And yet Eisenhower ended the Korean war by telling the Chinese and North Koreans that he was going to escalate to full war if they didn't immediately go to the table and discuss a ceasefire. Wussies finish last in world politics...

1/26/2007 03:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Confidence-Building Measures are generally two-sided. Unilateral CBMs are called consessions. A series of unilateral capitulations is generally referred to as capitulation.

1/26/2007 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

What genius came up with this policy?

If we deliberately wanted to entangle the Iranians in an all out war with us we could hardly do better than giving them encouraging signs like this. And some clown on our side thought this was a way to avoid conflict.

1/26/2007 04:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The State Dept, now headed by Condi Rice following Powell.
That's been the main impetus to get us where we are today.
Kind of like having Albright with Brains in charge.
...and now she has insider Negroponte as her number 2.
Number ONE imo.

1/26/2007 07:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ops, no toilet humor, sorry.

1/26/2007 07:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If only they had been listening at,
and to the Hawks here!

1/26/2007 07:58:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

It might not have been too bad. The lack of response may have caused the Iranians to overplay their hand.

1/26/2007 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

I always thought that the correct response for Carter during the hostage crisis would have been to bomb our own embassy and evirons at the height of activity. This would have sent a logical message in the true spirit of MAD, our most successful strategy to date, and it might have eliminated some of the more insane radicals running Iran today.

People are often horrified by this proposal. But I think it would it have been worth the sacrifice of American lives just in terms of lives saved by preventing future attacks.

Your description of the Iranian response to our forebearance convinces me more than ever that I was right.

1/26/2007 11:56:00 PM  
Blogger SarahWeddington said...

jj mollo, completely agree.

i've been a supporter of the President, but when I read this article, it was the end of the road.

This is an impeachable offense in my view. Certainly letting the Pasdaran kill Americans for more than two years while doing nothing about it is as bad as lying about sex and attempting to cover it up.

If this article is true, Bush is a failure as Commander in Chief and it's obvious we'll never win as long as he's in office. This is Clintonesque, and to use that about Bush is shameful. But true.

1/27/2007 12:29:00 AM  
Blogger Tarnsman said...

"Cry Havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!"

Time for some payback. Time for convert Ops deep inside Iran. Time for some of the mullahs to go "missing". Time for some their toys to get broken. Time to make them dread the night and look to the sky in fear. Time to make wish for peace.

1/27/2007 09:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have always felt that Bush’s original war concept was to roll through the Islamo-facist world one country at a time --

I.e. take down the Islamo-facist Taliban in Afghanistan. When that’s substantialy complete, take down the Islamo-facist Baath in Iraq. When that’s substantially complete, take down the Islamofacist Shia in Iran. When that’s substantially complete, … etc.

And “one thing at a time” is a generally good approach, given that the necessary American resources, military and civilian, are not unlimited, and thus must be focused.

But it seems that the Iranian Islamo-fascists figured out the trajectory, and decided that they’d better stop the process before it got to them. So they’ve created as many “obstacles” and “delays” in Iraq as they could.

The Bushies and the military allowed themselves to get distracted by the Iraq rebuilding “process” -- and into trying to appease the “drive-by” anti-American left with its endless stream of dishonest fabrications, and constant exaggerations by its media sock-puppets.

Hence, “catch and release”, PC prisoner treatment at Guantanamo, refusal to seriously prosecute national security leaks; and other “see, we’re not really so bad” foolishness.

However, appeasing anti-American bigots is a fool’s game – even when the anti-American bigots are themselves Americans. Bigots can’t be appeased -- BDS types hate you for who you are, not what you do.

Such appeasement cost the Bushies their support on the right – and congress changed hands.

Maybe they’re catching on to the mistake. I hope it’s not too late.

1/27/2007 10:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! easy on the Persian cats!
I got one, "Graytooth", and he's the nicest thing ever!
(his appetite is a weapon of mass destruction, though)

well, first of all, thanks again wretchard for a great blog (i been a fan for over a year).

The current cabal of neocons
who run the administration including Bush the W have gotten themselves into a fine patch of quicksand (aka
The Middle East), or as my coworker likes to say, "Bush
has a tar-baby on his hands, no matter where he touches this baby he gets himself into a sticky mess".

I'd say, no matter where he touches this baby he gets tarred and feathered, but whatever.

The Tar-Baby was a doll made of tar and turpentine, used to entrap Br'er Rabbit in the second of the Uncle Remus stories. The more that Br'er Rabbit fought the Tar-Baby, trying to get free, the more stuck he got.

of course i'm not being racial here...(from wikipedia)
a "tar baby" is metaphorically any "sticky situation"[1] that is only aggravated by efforts to solve it.

What genius came up with this policy?

If we deliberately wanted to entangle the Iranians in an all out war with us we could hardly do better than giving them encouraging signs like this. And some clown on our side thought this was a way to avoid conflict.

i think it's fairly obvious by now that neocons are not geniuses! and I don't believe for a second that the current cabal wants to avoid conflict.

there is nothing to convince me that avoiding conflict is in there blood, at all.
in fact, it's probably the case that this is a run up to THE conflict with Iran.

Look, we've got iran surrounded on both sides
and the iranians are part of the declared "axis of evil"... some think that Bush's recent state of the union address had war with Iran written all under it.

They're probably right.

I'm not exactly sure how the cabal is exactly planning to carry out that crusade, whether it's some bunker busters here and there, or a full scale invasion, but I get the feeling that Bush is playing for keeps and doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks.

Bush apparently said that he's going to continue in Iraq even if his only supporters are Laura and (their dog) Barney.
I get the feeling that Barney just jumped ship.

Isn't democracy grande!

1/27/2007 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if this policy is in response to the capture and execution of five US soldiers in Karbala? The attack seemed very sophisticated, using several black GM SUV's and american-uniformed assailants. I recall US forces detained 5 Iranian Qods agents in Irbil. Could this be a sequence of escalation between the United States and Iran?

Here's the Irbil link:

Here's a link to the Karbala attack:,4670,SneakAttackSoldiers,00.html

1/27/2007 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...


You should really sign your work. Why don't you?

1/27/2007 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


Democracy in Iraq is a bait the Mullahs will not and cannot afford to refuse. You're right, Iraq is a staging ground for Iran. Where you fail to understand the NEOCON genius, is even if the Iranians stay out they lose, and if they don't stay out they also lose. The difference is just a matter of time. Time, which btw, the Mullahs already know they don't have.

1/27/2007 06:19:00 PM  
Blogger lugh lampfhota said...

Anonymous said...."The current cabal of neocons who run the administration including Bush the W have gotten themselves into a fine patch of quicksand..."

Ok son...unless you aren't an American then I'd say that you are in the quicksand with the President and every other American.

Your smarmy comments are a big reason why we're in the quicksand. And unless you, and the rest of the socialist cabal get your heads dismounted from your asses, we will all pay dearly.

So kid, who's side are you on? Want to win? Or have you signed up for defeat?

1/27/2007 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger PIR DAD said...

I think President Bush did the right thing despite the consequences. I don’t think people give him the credit he deserves for making this difficult decision. He had to make a tough choice between "bad" and "much worse" much worse would have been to do nothing about Iraq. I was in Iran in 79 when things went crazy, I literally had to get out of Iran and almost died in Mashad ( Sistani’s home town by the way) . I have a good understanding of the issues, and have kept up on the situation since then. President Bush has a lot more intel/feedback that I do. I am sure he had lots of folks telling him what a mess was going to follow upsetting the balance of power in that region. He made the right call despite the fact things were going to be very difficult. Saddam hated the USA and would have certainly directly or indirectly helped our enemies to unleash radiological or biological weapons on our civilian population at some point. Saddam had the motive, the funds to and opportunity to develop lethal weapons, he had to go. President Bush HAD to act. Has anyone thought of what might have happened if we decided not to invade Iraq, to leave Saddam alone to continue his weapon programs? What would we be saying about Pres. Bush if 20,000 America civilians we killed in a bio attack in LA in 2006, and the weapons were traced to labs in Iraq? I can hear it now, Bush failed to recognize the threat! The world knew he had WMD and Bush did nothing! The fact is that they would have been correct in these accusations. Now the mainstream media is so heavily invested in a US failure in Iraq they are actively distorting everything there that causes the American people to think we are actually achieving things in Iraq. I have a son in the Army, he is an infantryman in a line company, he is currently in harms way, he is on the point, and he knows exactly why he is fighting. This is very personal to me. I have one thing to say to President Bush, win this war, take the gloves off, give our military the go ahead and stop the half measures; protect our country. We need to prevail what ever it takes, our survival is at stake. I do not know what to do about Iran, but I do know we cannot allow them to develop nuclear weapons.
I respect the Iranian people; they have a great cultural history, and have contributed greatly to our world, as a mater of fact my son’s god father is Iranian! He is one of the most honorable men I have ever known. I would like to discuss these issues with people with a background on this. Our current war in Iraq is not just an insurgency, it’s also a proxy war between Iran and the USA, we need to confront this enemy, what is the plan for doing so?

Pir dad

1/27/2007 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger Consul-At-Arms said...

I've quoted and linked to you here:

1/28/2007 08:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well for what it's worth I thought I was signed in when i posted...don't know why i showed up as anonymous...anyway I wrote only once,the post:

"Hey! easy on the Persian cats!
I got one, "Graytooth"

--This blog does not allow anonymous comments.--

uhhh, ok. it seems like it does.

anyway. i am not a socialist.
infact i voted for bush w twice!


1/28/2007 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Carson said...

We should assault on the Iranian Parliament by dropping every one of these agents on the parade ground from 500ft in a show of restrained power, contempt and potential brutality that would resonated across Iran as proof of their government’s incompetence, guilt and weakness to stop us. What exactly are they going to do? Complain to the UN that their terrorist were brutalized? That the offices of those who sent them there are stained with their blood?

Bush’s approval would be at 70% overnight.

1/28/2007 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger Captain USpace said...

This is pathetic, hopefully now that they've started to kill these Iranian terrorist enabling monkees, they will continue to do so.

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
let your enemies shoot first

give them a chance to kill you
before blowing their brains out

1/28/2007 02:29:00 PM  

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