Iran reporting trip


Oh, President Bush, you rascal. You do so like to repeat yourself. Now that Iran is, unsurprisingly, number one — with a bullet! — on the “Countries We Don’t Like” list, the question in the White House is, what to do about it?

Why, bomb the snot out of them, of course. I don’t think I need to go into why this is a horrible, no-good, very bad idea, but apparently, “Bush views Tehran as a serious menace that must be dealt with before his presidency ends, aides said, and the White House, in its new National Security Strategy, last month labeled Iran the most serious challenge to the United States posed by any country.) (Page 20)

Sy Hersh also weighs in with a terrifying article full of extra details. Highlights: nukes are desired option, there’s a widespread belief in the Administration that Ahmadinejad is bonkers and that Hezbollah will not sit idly by should Iran be attacked. Hezbollah spokesman Hossein Nabulsi told me late last year that the group is a religious party and it belongs to Supreme Leader Khameini in Tehran. “‘Interests’ does not begin to describe the depths of the links between us,” he said.

Now, the U.S. makes all sorts of plans. I’m sure there plans to nuke Canada or France mouldering away somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon. That doesn’t mean they’ll ever be dusted off and implemented. So the real question is not “Are we making plans to nuke Iran?” but “How likely is it that we will implement plans to nuke Iran?” A friend of mine who follows this stuff closely told me that he doesn’t think Bush has the political capital or time to pull off an attack. As he says, the worst-case/most-likely scenario is that this is a real Bush plan that will never see the light of day after Cheney has little fantasies in the VP bathroom over it. Neo-con porn, in other words. The best-case/least-likely scenario is that this is a feint to convince the Israelis we mean business so they will keep their planes on the ground. Or, alternately, Hersh could be dead-wrong about the whole thing. Maybe he’s just doing that thing he does of dangling sexy rumors with enough meat on them to make them interesting and then seeing what bubbles up to the surface after he’s turned up the heat. It’s a good reportorial strategy to shake things up.

Or it might all be disinformation from the U.S. to get the Iranians to the table. Of course, there’s no reason the buzz can’t be all of these things and, frankly, that’s pretty likely.

At any rate, things are about to get a lot more interesting in the region. I well remember the July 2002 1A story in the NYT outlining the Bush plans to invade Iraq. (4th ID from Turkey! Oops.) As many others have noted, the whole Iranian scenario of WMD, regime change, etc., is stunningly similar to the run-up to the Iraq war.

So if Bush can repeat himself, why not me? I’m in Beirut now for a while, as TIME Magazine and I have decided to start seeing other people. But we’re still friends, and my parting with TIME was most amicable. I’ve not worked with a better organization and I’m happy to still be associated with them, if only on a part-time basis. But I’m now more aggressively freelance. While the URL of this site will probably remain, the focus of the reporting is going to broaden to include all of southwest Asia: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and beyond. So I’m going to open my donations jar back up and start accepting donations again to fund a reporting trip to Iran. (See the button in the sidebar?)

So, if anyone wants to suggest a re-branding campaign, I’m all ears. But for now, I’m going to concentrate on new reporting in Lebanon, and work on getting my ass to Tehran in the coming months. If anyone has advice on visas, fixers, people to contact, groups to connect with, please send them along to chris (at) back (hyphen) to (hyphen) iraq (dot) com. Thank you.