• 10 January 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions, US-Iran War

From today’s New York Times:

 WASHINGTON — President Bush deflected a secret request by Israel last year for specialized bunker-busting bombs it wanted for an attack on Iran’s main nuclear complex and told the Israelis that he had authorized new covert action intended to sabotage Iran’s suspected effort to develop nuclear weapons, according to senior American and foreign officials.

White House officials never conclusively determined whether Israel had decided to go ahead with the strike before the United States protested, or whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel was trying to goad the White House into more decisive action before Mr. Bush left office. But the Bush administration was particularly alarmed by an Israeli request to fly over Iraq to reach Iran’s major nuclear complex at Natanz, where the country’s only known uranium enrichment plant is located.

The White House denied that request outright, American officials said, and the Israelis backed off their plans, at least temporarily. But the tense exchanges also prompted the White House to step up intelligence-sharing with Israel and brief Israeli officials on new American efforts to subtly sabotage Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, a major covert program that Mr. Bush is about to hand off to President-elect Barack Obama.

The story went on to confirm that covert actions intended to disrupt Iran’s nuclear programare ongoing. 

Also of note is the news that President Bush never authorized the Pentagon to plan for any attack scenarios beyond basic contingencies, despite what many critics had claimed.  The fears that an attack would make Iran determined to develop a nuclear weapon, along with fears of terrorist reprisals at Tehran’s behest, apparently proved too persuasive for Bush to act militarily on Iran’s nuclear program. 

This revelation poses a serious challenge for incoming President Obama.  He has been extensively briefed on the covert actions since his election, but he is now faced with the difficult choice of either continuing the controversial and dangerous program or abandoning it and opening himself up to charges of being “soft” on Iran’s nuclear development. 

When asked for comment, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said through a spokesperson: “a potential strike on the Iranian facilities is not something that we or anyone else should be pursuing at this time.”

So this raises new and interesting questions for the incoming Obama administration.  It appears that a military strike is off the table for now, but what of the covert actions?  As Seymour Hersh has reported, the US has given extensive support to ethnic militias inside Iran for some time.  And many of these groups are listed as terrorist organizations by the US State Department. 

Also, in light of this news, how does President-elect Obama expect the Iranians to agree to sit down for negotiations if they believe the US is covertly trying to undermine their nuclear program?  And what about all this on top of the efforts by members of Congress to impose a gasoline embargo on Iran as a way of gaining leverage prior to talks?  Trita has written about this extensively, and rightly points out the danger that US actions–even under Barack Obama–could actually lead to Iran’s refusal to sit down for negotiations, even after we agree to sit down with them. 

For more on what Iran’s nuclear intentions might be, check out Paul Kerr and Steve Clemons.


PS.  This is something that’s bugging me…at the end of the article, the Times published this note:

Reporting for this article was developed in the course of research for “The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power,” to be published Tuesday by Harmony Books.

Did the Times release this story today so it would coincide with the release of the book to improve sales?  Could they have avoided the quandary this story poses for Obama if it had been released sooner?  Puzzling…

Posted By Patrick Disney

    2 Responses to “NYT: Bush rejected Israeli request for Iran attack; authorized covert action”

  1. The NYT reports that the Bush admin. “deflected a secret request by Israel last year for specialized bunker-busting bombs…”

    That is true, but it was also reported in September that that decision was reversed and that Bush had agreed to sell 1,000 advanced bunker-busting bombs to Israel.

    This was reported by numerous news orgs in Israel and the US. I never read that there was another about face. Yet, the NYT does not report this. Does anyone have any insights on this?

    Also, I remain very concerned that the Israel/Gaza situation is going to be used to incite an attack on Iran.

  2. Dave Levin says:

    As an Israeli.. I realize a lot of people would get hurt and I am probably going to lose a member of my family or a friend. I also pity the Iranian people who I grew to like as smart and advanced.
    But if we don’t stop the nutcase that took power in Iran it will only get worse as time passes. Better to attack now and acknowledge the retributions to come than to wait for their capabilities to grow. It is coming whichever the case is.

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7,350 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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