ashthomas//blog: August 2006


Monday, August 07, 2006

Hezbollah and Iran

Laura Rozen interviews Magnus Ranstorp in The American Prospect in "Contra Iran". It is an interview that is very enlightening about the nature of Hezbollah and its relationships with nations in the region. The best bits are below:

Some in the U.S. intelligence community have voiced concerns that Hezbollah has the capability to strike abroad; it’s not clear at this point they have the intent. What would their calculation be?

The Israelis know that if they assassinate [Hezbollah general secretary Hassan] Nasrallah, Hezbollah and Iranian intelligence will reach around the world and hit an Israeli embassy or diplomatic mission.

Why that sort of attack? To show they have global reach?

For retribution.


Why does Iran need Hezbollah to conduct terror operations? Their own intelligence operatives have conducted assassinations by themselves throughout Europe.

For plausible deniability. To operate under the cover of plausible deniability.

You’re right, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security is the most formidable intelligence agency in the region, surpassing even the Mossad.

Why is Iranian intelligence so effective?

Well, they have 30,000 employees. They have to survive in a hostile Arab environment. They export Hezbollah. They are at work in the Gulf, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So is the Lebanon conflict a result of Iranian hegemony?

This conflict has to be viewed in a broader geophysical context. The bottom line is that while it has to do, of course, with what’s happening in the Middle East in general, more specifically it has much to do with the brewing conflict, the U.S.-Iranian confrontation.

So you do see the Lebanon conflict as about the United States and Iran?

Without exception; with a great degree of confidence. There has been a lot of background preparation. Iran’s control is more than meets the eye.

Really, if you want to mess with Iran, Hezbollah is the Achille’s heal, the weakest link in the whole matrix. You take them on, not just because you want to mess with Iran, but for many reasons: for Lebanon’s sake, to get some solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, also to tackle Syria, which has been a staunch ally to Iran for 26 years.


Hezbollah has organized, personal, longstanding links with Iran, on a number of different levels. In 1992, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah became the personal representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in Lebanon…

Hezbollah currently has about 100 Iranian advisors in Lebanon. They don’t partake in the fighting. They are more tactical advisors…

[Hezbollah provides the Iranians with] the terror machinery. It’s not used very much anymore. Recently the main focus has been on trying to assist Hamas on a low scale, strategic consultations and kidnapping [the Israeli soldier]. That is coordinated via the Hamas representative in Beirut, Osama Hamdan. He used to be Hamas’ rep in Iran. They have recently been trying to infiltrate foreigners into Israel; people have been arrested for carrying out reconnaissance on Israeli troops.

But the connections with Iran go ever further. The entire Hezbollah collective leadership studied in Najaf [Iraq]. Nasrallah was there between 1976 and 1979, he was there during Khomeini’s rein there. The Iranian clerics were trained by the Palestinians in the 1970s...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Power Line on Bamford Article

Following up on the earlier post about James Bamford's Iran piece in Rolling Stone, Power Line has a very interesting series of posts that refute much of the article.

The first post, titled "Stoned", reprints a letter that Michael Ledeen, one of the major figures in Bamford's story, has written to the editors of Rolling Stone.

The second post, called "Stoned: Bamford Errata", has more from Ledeen. In this post, he takes direct quotes from Bamford and then provides rebuttal.

The third and final post (for the moment), "Stoned: An Addendum", is less persuasive and entirely unnecessary, seeking to further taint Bamford by noting that Rolling Stone has hired Robert Dreyfuss, a writer from the American Prospect who used to work for Lyndon LaRouche.

The first two posts are required reading for the full story. The third, with its guilt by association implications, is a drop in standard.

Lord Vader Being a Jerk

This is the funniest thing I've seen in ages: some guy has re-edited a couple of seconds from The Empire Strikes Back to show Darth Vader being a smartass.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Push Towards War with Iran

James Bamford's article "Iran: the Next War" in Rolling Stone and Laura Rozen's "Three Days in Rome" in Mother Jones should really be read together for the behind-the-scenes story of the push by certain segments of the Bush Administration to go to war with Iran. (If you aren't reading daily Rozen's blog War and Piece for up to the minute updates on international, especially Middle Eastern, security affairs, then you are missing out).

Bamford's piece focuses on the story of the disgraced Pentagon official Larry Franklin, who was arrested for passing intelligence to the Israelis. Rozen looks at the involvement of Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian exile who may or may not have access to information from inside Iran.

Together these articles paint the picture of a small group of Iran hawks in the Pentagon who have gone beyond normal channels in their efforts to gain information in order to shift attention to the growing problem of Iran.

Bamford's article contains the most explosive new facts, detailing a probable double-cross by Ahmed Chalabi in which Chalabi may have tipped off Tehran that the U.S. had broken their communications codes.

The insights offered by Bamford and Rozen are frightening not because they show the movement towards war with Iran -- Iran is clearly one of the most pressing issues that the U.S. needs to deal with, and it is more and more likely that some degree of military action will be necessary. What is frightening is the way the business of international intelligence gathering and influence-peddling is conducted: it is apparent that many of the people that the Pentagon and other U.S. government agencies are forced to rely on are far from reputable. It is frightening that so many lives are held in such dirty hands.