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Ray Close

From Ray Close, via Larry Johnson, and posted by me. Ray Close is a former CIA analyst in the Near East division and a member of the steering group for Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

(Susan's Note: Ordinarily, Larry would post this missive from his friend Ray Close here at Daily Kos, but he's unavailable and sent it to me for posting.  I felt this important enough that I should go ahead and post this today for your reading.)

FROM RAY CLOSE: A few days ago, I received a report from a friend in Washington who has very close connections to high-ranking intelligence analysts at the Pentagon. I will omit the names of the individuals identified, but will summarize the information that this excellent source provided to me. (Please note: This source is NOT the one who told me a couple of days ago that the US would indeed be prepared to send a contingent of American troops to serve in southern Lebanon as an incentive to others, if necessary, to join an international force to impose and then help maintain a ceasefire between Israel and Hizballah.)  

RAY CLOSE CONTINUES: My source confirmed in detail the fact that intelligence being produced for the Bush Administration by the Pentagon strongly supports the thesis that Hizballah operations are directly controlled and closely managed from Teheran. My source considers this an exaggerated picture of the real situation. He believes that this assessment contributes to an unhealthy and even dangerous mindset in Washington, leading to potentially serious miscalculations and errors of judgment by President Bush and his closest advisors at this very critical time.  

From Ray Close, via Larry Johnson, and posted by me. Ray Close is a former CIA analyst in the Near East division and a member of the steering group for Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

(Susan's Note: Ordinarily, Larry would post this missive from his friend Ray Close here at Daily Kos, but he's unavailable and sent it to me for posting.  I felt this important enough that I should go ahead and post this today for your reading.)

FROM RAY CLOSE: A few days ago, I received a report from a friend in Washington who has very close connections to high-ranking intelligence analysts at the Pentagon. I will omit the names of the individuals identified, but will summarize the information that this excellent source provided to me. (Please note: This source is NOT the one who told me a couple of days ago that the US would indeed be prepared to send a contingent of American troops to serve in southern Lebanon as an incentive to others, if necessary, to join an international force to impose and then help maintain a ceasefire between Israel and Hizballah.)  

RAY CLOSE CONTINUES: My source confirmed in detail the fact that intelligence being produced for the Bush Administration by the Pentagon strongly supports the thesis that Hizballah operations are directly controlled and closely managed from Teheran. My source considers this an exaggerated picture of the real situation. He believes that this assessment contributes to an unhealthy and even dangerous mindset in Washington, leading to potentially serious miscalculations and errors of judgment by President Bush and his closest advisors at this very critical time.  

My source, who is much more of an expert on Iran and Hizballah than I am, believes that, dangerous and damaging as Hassan Nasrallah's actions may be to U.S. interests in the region, he and his movement are not totally under Iran's direction and control. He holds the view that although Hizballah, Hamas, al-Qa'ida, and the Salafi elements of the Iraqi insurgency (among others) may have many important interests and objectives in common, they should not all be regarded (and dealt with) as if they were tightly interlocking parts of a single worldwide conspiracy. This is apparently how the intelligence experts in the Pentagon tend to assess the phenomenon called International Terrorism, most particularly and immediately in the case of Hizballah's relationship with Iran.  

When I received today's report, I wrote the following message back to my source. This is exactly what I said:  

I agree with your estimate that Nasrallah makes his own decisions, and would not necessarily ask for approval in advance or accept direction from Iran on all operational matters. That would not fit my experience with any Arab who recognizes that a foreign party (Western or Persian) was trying to control and manage his affairs.

I also fully agree with your estimate that the enthusiastic acclaim that Nasrallah is receiving from both Shiite and non-Shiite Arabs across the region will intensify his natural tendency toward self-importance and independence of action. (His logistical dependence on Iran is not enough of a handle; Iran's leaders could not now succeed in imposing their will on Hizballah's leader any more than they could successfully challenge the authority and independence of the most prominent Shiite leaders in Iraq. In both cases, events have proceeded too far for that.) Nasrallah will, I'd guess, become increasingly more secular -- less the Shiite religious cleric, and more the pan-Arab and pan-Islamic leader in a bid to become the primary champion and action hero of both Arab and Muslim nationalism. (A European friend of mine, who lived in Damascus for several years studying the Palestinian rejectionist movement based there, tells me that for the past five years or more, when he walked into any Palestinian office in Damascus, from PDFLP to Hamas, the picture he saw on the wall was that of Hassan Nasrallah, not Assad or Arafat or anyone else.)  

Nasrallah's charismatic popular appeal goes considerably beyond his Hizballah and Shiite constituencies, and recent "glorious victories over the Zionist enemy" cannot help but inflate this image further. Worrisome as that may be, our ability to influence the course of events will not be helped if we fail to understand what motivates him and who controls his agenda. He is not, and never will be, a little puppet of the Persians.  

I am fascinated to hear your opinion that analysts in the Pentagon are such strong advocates of the view that Nasrallah is primarily an agent of the clerics in Teheran, and I am disturbed to learn that this analysis enjoys so much credibility at the senior levels of the USG. This is, of course, the point of view being pushed so hard by both the Israelis and the neocons in Washington.

I was equally upset to hear this view repeated unanimously (and identically) by a variety of people on national TV yesterday, coming from Senators McCain, Schumer, George Allen and John Warner as well as official spokespersons from State and the NSC. It was as if they were all reading from the same artfully crafted briefing sheet handed to them by some staffer who got it straight from either JINSA or the Washington Institute.

It is a dangerously one-sided point of view that furthers Israel's long-standing objective of luring the US into a violent confrontation with Iran. The ultimate consequence could be that everyone in the USG --- Democrats as well as Republicans --- from the President on down --- will, by such dangerously oversimplified logic and careless rhetoric, accelerate America's momentum toward:  

(1) officially defining and treating Hizballah's actions against Israel just as if they were atrocities by international terrorism aimed directly at the people of the United States, and thereby:  

(2) making it almost inevitable that both political parties in the US will talk themselves into a "moral" commitment to aggressively confront those who encourage, support and harbor Hizballah terrorists (i.e. Syria and Iran), and thereby:  

(3) making impossible the establishment of any constructive dialogue with either Iran or Syria in which other critical issues, such as Iraq and nuclear proliferation, for example, might be dealt with by means short of violence.  In other words, this widely-supported urban legend is rapidly becoming another potentially disastrous conflation of biased intelligence analysis, simplistic political bombast and lunatic fringe right-wing Christianity that could drive us toward another major military confrontation --- whether or not that was really our carefully considered and intelligently reasoned objective.  

I do not think I am overstating the danger here. Once momentum starts moving in that direction, we might soon find ourselves in another situation where stubborn pride, as much as anything else, would make it hard for us to modify our rhetoric and admit our inability and that of our Israeli allies to disarm and dismantle the military arm of Hizballah. It's a proxy war right now, but if our surrogates (the Israelis) fail to achieve their objectives, they will attempt very purposefully to broaden the conflict into a much larger one directly involving the United States and Iran.

We may be thoughtlessly maneuvering ourselves into another situation in which critical United States national interests are subordinated to the much narrower interests of Israel.

-- Ray Close