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Monday, November 19, 2012

The Twilight War

Anyone who follows the news has to be aware of all the saber-rattling about the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program. Politicians all the way from the Oval Office to back-benchers in Congress who don’t know Shia from Shinola have been all frothy about “red lines” and “nothing being off the table.” I saw a think-tanker on CSPAN speculate that Israel would attack Iranian nuclear sites before the November election because Mitt Romney was trailing in the polls. Gaza has knocked Syria off the top of the news this week, but through it all, there is Iran, intractable and belligerent from a century of Western meddling. The U.S. has been engaged in conflict just short of war there for thirty years.

 So when I saw a copy of David Crist’s “The Twilight War: The Secret History Of America’s Thirty-Year Conflict With Iran” on the ‘new arrivals’ shelf, I picked it up.

Crist, a Colonel in the Marine Corp Reserve, veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Doctor of Middle Eastern Studies, begins his story in the 1970’s as the Shah’s regime is starting to unravel,  but reminds us of the part we played putting the Shah on his peacock throne in 1953. His thirty-year history tracks the establishment of the Islamic Republic, takeover of the Tehran embassy, hostage crisis and the Iran/Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. Here’s a smattering from his book:

“Casey saw the hidden hand of Moscow behind Iran’s leftist opposition and believed that if the party succeeded in overthrowing the mullah’s rule it could lead to Iran becoming a Soviet client like Cuba.” P-67

CIA – “We now had a plan to defend those who didn’t want to be defended against those who are not going to attack.” P-81

On the business acumen of the Lebanonese: “How much is two and two?” the boy replied “Am I buying or selling?” p-106

1981: Algiers Accord to release hostages. US pledges to keep out of Iranian internal affairs.

1982 Sharon invades Lebanon and Phalange fighters slaughter 1000-2000 Lebanese. Reagan sends marines as peacekeepers.

Oct 23rd 1983 truck bomb hits marine barracks in Lebanon killing 241. Another kills 58 French paratroopers.

1985 US sells thousands of missiles to Iran in unsuccessful hostage swap.

Poindexter –“Iran might serve as a bulwark against Soviet expansionism” “help release American hostages in Lebanon and curb terrorism.” “Instead it turned into a swap of weapons for hostages, a political scandal.” “the real legacy of the Iranian arms affair was to scuttle any hope of rapprochement for the next two decades.” –p 202

US plays both sides of the Iran-Iraq war, selling advanced weapons and spare parts for US-made fighter jets to Iran, while arming and providing intelligence to Iraq.

May 17th 1987 Iraqi Mirage fighter hits USS Stark with Exocet missile killing 37 sailors. P-224
July 3rd 1988: U.S.S. Vincennes strays into Iranian waters and shoots down Iran Air flight 655 killing all 290 aboard.

November 4th is called the National Day of Confronting Global Arrogance, commemorating the 1980 takeover of the US embassy in Tehran.

1990: George H.W. Bush spends 29 minutes on the phone with an imposter posing as Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, talking about steps to improve relations. P-380

1992 Iran begins to arm Hamas with weapons and explosives. P-395

1994: Iran mobilizes thousands of troops with surface to air and anti ship missiles after it mistakes U S war games as an impending attack. P-398
1995 New GOP Congress kills Conoco oil deal. Gingrich passes $18 million covert action budget, calling for overthrow of Iran gov’t. Iran parliament votes $20 million to counter

June 25 1996: Iran funds Hezbollah bombing of Khobar towers, 19 Americans dead, 372 more injured. P-404

1997 Operation Sapphire: CIA approaches Iranian MOIS agents soliciting defectors, none join, but many are doomed as their contact with CIA agents throws suspicion on them.p-409

After Sept 11 2001, “Believing that a higher power had placed him as president during this critical moment in history, George Bush embraced Wolfowitz’s goals for the (Iraq) war.” P-427 –By higher power did he mean God or the Supreme Court?

Ayatollah Khamenei endorses openings to U.S. after 9/11 attacks but is rebuffed by U.S.  Iranians go back to calling U.S. "The Great Satan."

Richard Armitage after Sept 11th attacks: “Iran seemed shocked by the scale of the attack.” Iran News calls the attacks “an atrocity.” Thousands of Iranians take to the streets chanting “death to terrorism.” P-428

Iran aided Afghan mujahideen in 80’s, Bosnians in the ‘90’s. p-431

2002: Iran stunned by Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech, withdraw from talks with Ryan Crocker p-441

US stops dialog in favor of ultimatums. Condi Rice effort scrapped  p-443

2002 Bush administration divided on rapprochement or regime change. “The Decider failed to decide, it would be another five years before the administration tried again to formulate a cohesive strategy.” P-447

2002: “Iran agreed to aid the US military by offering details about the Iraq military and its weapons of mass destruction programs, permitting use of it’s airspace to attack Iraq, and providing humanitarian assistance in case of a refugee crisis.” P-457

2004: Iran supplying enhanced formed projectiles to Iraqi insurgentss, used in over 35 attacks in 2005.

2005: Iran Quds forces active in Iraq. Iran supports Shia militia.

2006: U.S. provides $880 million in military aid to Lebanon, along with dozens of Dodge Chargers for Lebanese police, which end up on the black market.

2006: U.N. Security Council and Germany offer Iran light watrer reactor and oil and gas expertise in exchange for Iran ceasing enrichment program. Iran balks at ultimatum.

2007, NSC’s Michael Doran: “If our only options were war or a nuclear armed Iran, we have failed.” P-495

“Various administrations have tried to woo Iran back into the western fold, or talk of replacing the Islamic Republic with one more to Washington’s liking, but the results have been uniformly miserable.” P-571

“Giving a medal to a ship’s captain who just inadvertently killed 290 civilians and then wondering why Iran might harbor resentment is just the most obvious example of American obtuseness.” P-572

“Intervening in Lebanon threatened Iran, Tehran’s leveling a building full of marines and taking hostages still colors American thinking. Punishing Iranian intransigence justifies in their minds the need for a nuclear program. P-572

“Soon it may no longer be twilight; the light is dimming, and night may well be approaching at long last.” P-572


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