Two weeks ago, a prince of the Kuwaiti Royal family received a phone call from an aide to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asking if the complex was available. The prince already suspected it was needed for one of those secret meetings, which Washington has taken to holding in the Gulf.
The next day a Hercules transport landed at Kuwait’s international airport. From it emerged a group of pale-faced, middle-aged men in drill shirts and chinos. They carried laptops and bulky briefcases.
To a casual observer they were just another delegation from Washington involved in post-war Iraq. But these men were the forward planners for the next war—the one against Iran.
Within an hour of installing themselves in their palatial surroundings—securely guarded by U.S. forces—they had unloaded their maps of Iran, downloaded their computer images of its terrain and set about planning “Target Iran.”
Secure communications lines had been established and tested with Washington. One was to the CIA, another to the Pentagon. Down those lines and on to their secure computers, the Kuwaiti task force would receive the latest intelligence from inside Iran.
Some of that intel would come from Israel—from Mossad deep cover agents in Tehran.
They will ensure that “Target Iran” being planned in that royal complex would lack nothing in information. The men based there are a Pentagon think tank for the next war.
They are some of the “neo-cons”—a new breed of “conservative” intellectuals who are determined to steer the Bush administration toward an even more aggressive, go-it-alone posture. They are headed in Washington by the hard-liner, John Bolton, the under-secretary of state for arms control.
The day the “neo-cons” landed in Kuwait, Bolton, a political mirror image of Rumsfeld, had issued a new warning about a supposed nuclear threat posed by Iran.
Bolton did so in a speech to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington. His theme was the nuclear dangers “this administration intends to confront once the war with Iraq is over.”
He concluded: “In the aftermath of Saddam, dealing with the Iranian nuclear weapons program will be of equal importance to dealing with the threat that North Korea continues to pose.”
His powerful audience—many of them key lobbyists for Israel on Capitol Hill—gave him a standing ovation. This was what they had come to hear. After Iraq—Iran.
They knew that Bolton, a grey-suited saturnine man with a colorless speaking style, was there as the front man for other powerful men in the Bush administration. They include Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. They are the most senior Pentagon officials after Rumsfeld.
Other members of this group include Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney and Elliot Abrams, in charge of Middle East policy at the National Security Council. All are key supporters of Israel. They also form the very core of advocacy for Bush’s “muscular democracy.” This is dedicated to attacking America’s “enemies” head on.
Former CIA Director James Woolsey, in a recent speech in Los Angeles, said: “The Iraq campaign is really just the start of the Third World War and one that may well last for decades.”
The neo-cons in their Kuwait redoubt had brought with them to the hot desert sands a list of targets. They included Pakistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Burma, Cuba, North Korea and eventually China.
In their briefcases was a copy of what has become their leitmotif: the briefing paper CIA Director George Tenet prepared for Bush on overall global strategy.
“By 2015 China will have deployed many missiles with nuclear warheads targeted against the United States, mostly more-survivable land and sea mobile missiles,” states the paper.
To prepare for the attack on Iran—expected in early 2004, less than a year from now—the team of analysts, logisticians and support specialists gathered in the Kuwait holiday complex. They have been ordered to get their plans for an assault on Iran up and running.
“Target Iran” will follow the same ruthless, all-consuming path as the destruction of the Saddam regime.
Already, in the plans to rebuild Iraq, the Pentagon has earmarked Saddam’s military airfields for its use against Iran.
U.S. bases in Afghanistan will provide the most powerful air force in the world with the ability to launch a pincer air attack.
This will be supported by U.S. carriers and missile-launching battleships in the Gulf.
Turkey will be dragooned into allowing its air space to be used for northern air attacks.
The neo-cons estimate that Iran can, in the words of Bolton, be “rolled-over” in double quick time, “probably quicker than it took to wrap up Saddam.”
The mullahs of Tehran are, in comparison to Iraq, poorly equipped. Their aircraft, in modern terms, are nearly vintage. They have nothing to match America’s F-18s or its tank-busters.
True, on the ground it can put into the field a substantial army. But again, it is ill equipped to fight a modern tech-war.
The neo-cons press on—ignoring the warning of seasoned diplomats in the State Department.
Two of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s advisers wrote a memo to him stating there was a growing risk that the policies advocated by Bolton and his group are “spreading growing resentment around the world.”
A copy was faxed to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. It would not have influenced her. She is the hard-liner closest to Bush. She is the soft-spoken and articulate voice of the architects of American military might.
In the early days of the Bush administration, she kept the peace between Rumsfeld and Powell.
In a memorable phrase about this part of her work, she said: “my job is to let Colin talk people to death while allowing Donald to say he is going to hit him over the head if they didn’t listen.”
But now she is firmly in the Rumsfeld corner. Powell, for all his brave words about the war in Iraq being essential, is still becoming increasingly marginalized. His personal relationship with Rice has been reduced to frosty smiles at cabinet meetings.
At the meetings Bolton holds with his key Pentagon officials, with Rumsfeld sometimes sitting in, Powell is excluded.
The key element of their plotting is that Iraq is the natural “road map” to dealing with Iran.
Which road will Bush finally take? The answer almost certainly lies in the Washington calendar for action.
Another U.S. election year approaches. The all-powerful Israeli lobby in the United States will press hard for action so that Iran can no longer pose a threat to Israel.
And just as hard-line Zionists like to say, “next year in Jerusalem,” so its hawkish Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has started to murmur “next year in Tehran—God and Mr. Bush willing.”