Speculation over the possibility of a US military attack on Iran is increasing amid reports the Bush administration has drawn up plans to strike Iran's nuclear facilities. In a major piece in the New Yorker, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh says there is a growing conviction in the defense and diplomatic community that the Bush administration's ultimate goal in the nuclear standoff with Iran is regime change. A high-ranking former defense official said the Bush administration's military plans are premised on the hope "a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government." The official went on to say: "I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, 'What are they smoking?' "
US Exaggerating Zarqawi Role in PR Effort
The Washington Post is reporting the Pentagon is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of al-Qaeda figure Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. Some military intelligence officials believe the campaign may have exaggerated Zarqawi's importance and helped the Bush administration link the Iraq war with the September 11 attacks. The propaganda effort has also been reportedly used to build sentiment against non-US foreigners in Iraq. One military briefing was entitled: "Villainize Zarqawi/leverage xenophobia response." Another document lists "U.S. Home Audience" as a target audience for the campaign.
White House Defends Bush Intelligence Disclosure
The White House has publicly admitted President Bush authorized the disclosure of pre-war intelligence on Iraq. But White House spokesperson Scott McLellan said the disclosure wasn't illegal because information disclosed by the President is considered declassified. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, has testified that President Bush authorized him to leak a highly classified intelligence document on Iraq to the press in an effort to defend the administration's decision to go to war.
Specter: Bush "Owes" Public An Explanation
Critics said the administration's response has been inadequate. In an interview with Brit Hume of Fox News, Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said: "I think that it is necessary for the president and the vice president to tell the American people exactly what happened... I think too often we jump to conclusions before we know what all of the facts are, and I'm not about to condemn or criticize anybody, but I do say that there's been enough of a showing here with what's been filed of record in court that the president of the United States owes a specific explanation to the American people."