Seymour Hersh's "Shifting Targets: The Administration’s plan for Iran" in The New Yorker
...At a White House meeting with Cheney this summer, according to a former senior intelligence official, it was agreed that, if limited strikes on Iran were carried out, the Administration could fend off criticism by arguing that they were a defensive action to save soldiers in Iraq. If Democrats objected, the Administration could say, “Bill Clinton did the same thing; he conducted limited strikes in Afghanistan, the Sudan, and in Baghdad to protect American lives.” The former intelligence official added, “There is a desperate effort by Cheney et al. to bring military action to Iran as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the politicians are saying, ‘You can’t do it, because every Republican is going to be defeated, and we’re only one fact from going over the cliff in Iraq.’ But Cheney doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Republican worries, and neither does the President.”...'The President Has Accepted Ethnic Cleansing' Interview with Seymour Hersh in Der Spiegel
A senior European diplomat, who works closely with American intelligence, told me that there is evidence that Iran has been making extensive preparation for an American bombing attack. “We know that the Iranians are strengthening their air-defense capabilities,” he said, “and we believe they will react asymmetrically—hitting targets in Europe and in Latin America.” There is also specific intelligence suggesting that Iran will be aided in these attacks by Hezbollah. “Hezbollah is capable, and they can do it,” the diplomat said...
The revised bombing plan for a possible attack, with its tightened focus on counterterrorism, is gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon. The strategy calls for the use of sea-launched cruise missiles and more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps, supply depots, and command and control facilities...
A limited bombing attack of this sort “only makes sense if the intelligence is good,” the consultant said. If the targets are not clearly defined, the bombing “will start as limited, but then there will be an ‘escalation special.’ Planners will say that we have to deal with Hezbollah here and Syria there. The goal will be to hit the cue ball one time and have all the balls go in the pocket. But add-ons are always there in strike planning.”
...Hersh: The Surge means basically that, in some way, the president has accepted ethnic cleansing, whether he's talking about it or not. When he first announced the Surge in January, he described it as a way to bring the parties together. He's not saying that any more. I think he now understands that ethnic cleansing is what is going to happen. You're going to have a Kurdistan. You're going to have a Sunni area that we're going to have to support forever. And you're going to have the Shiites in the South.And Tony Karon, writing at Rootless Cosmopolitan:
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the US is over four years into a war that is likely going to end in a disaster. How valid are the comparisons with Vietnam?
Hersh: The validity is that the US is fighting a guerrilla war and doesn't know the culture. But the difference is that at a certain point, because of Congressional and public opposition, the Vietnam War was no longer tenable. But these guys now don't care. They see it but they don't care.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: If the Iraq war does end up as a defeat for the US, will it leave as deep a wound as the Vietnam War did?
Hersh: Much worse. Vietnam was a tactical mistake. This is strategic. How do you repair damages with whole cultures? On the home front, though, we'll rationalize it away. Don't worry about that. Again, there's no learning curve. No learning curve at all. We'll be ready to fight another stupid war in another two decades....
Finally, also, Arthur Silber (via Wolcott):
...I tend to agree, though, with the assessment of Steve Clemons that the Cheney/berserk position won’t necessarily prevail — but that the posturing and rhetoric from Washington could force the U.S. into an “accidental” war (a prospect that the berserkers have actually been trying to engineer). Its domestic and internal political shape — besides the neocons around Cheney, there’s also the AIPAC warning Capitol Hill that any legislators seeking to restrain the White House from military action against Iran will henceforth be treated as anti-Semites — certainly appears to be dissuading the Administration from sending any signals to Tehran making clear that Washington has no aggressive intent. Indeed, based on what they’re hearing from Washington, the Iranians might well assume that confrontation is inevitable.The key to avoiding a confrontation may be the U.S. military, whose opposition to such a catastrophic blunder remains steadfast. The problem, though, is that the Bush Administration has painted itself into a corner by defining a “diplomatic solution” as simply an Iranian surrender to U.S. terms on the issue of uranium enrichment. But there’s little chance of that — which may help explain the rather cynical French hysteria — nor of any new sanctions any time soon, since Iran is cooperating with the IAEA to address outstanding concerns. That’s going to leave the Cheney berserkers, and the Israeli politicians scrambling to outdo each other in satisfying the public’s expectation of action, entering 2008 with no sign that diplomacy is going to produce the only outcome short of war that they’re prepared to countenance.
...one of the standard objections to the likelihood of an attack on Iran is that it will put American troops in Iraq in grave peril. If you make that objection, I have only one thing to say to you: Wake the hell up. Of course it will put American troops in Iraq in grave peril. A great many of them will probably be killed. But -- and please try as earnestly as you can to get this -- the administration is counting on exactly that happening. [Added, to clarify: this must be true, given the logic of the situation, at least implicitly. In individual cases, it might also be true explicitly, in the sense that a particular person is consciously aware of what must happen.] I'm sorry to be rude, but honest to God, how stupid are some of you? Imagine that 500, or a thousand, or even several thousand, American soldiers are killed in a single engagement, or over several days or a week. What do you think would happen?
The administration would immediately blame "Iranian interference" and "Iranian meddling." They do that now. Every major media outlet would repeat the charge; almost no one would question it. Pictures of the slaughtered Americans would be played on television 24 hours a day. The outrage would grow by the minute. Within a day, and probably within hours, certain parties would be calling for nuclear weapons to be dropped on Tehran. Almost everyone would be baying for blood, and for the blood of Iran in particular....