I can confirm, through military and intelligence sources, part of Steve Clemons’ account of Cheney’s crazed bellicosity regarding Iran. In fact, having just received a second-source confirmation of the following story, I was intending to post it today:
Last December, as Rumsfeld was leaving, President Bush met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in “The Tank,” the secure room in the Pentagon where the Joint Chiefs discuss classified matters of national security. Bush asked the Chiefs about the wisdom of a troop “surge” in Iraq. They were unanimously opposed. Then Bush asked about the possibility of a successful attack on Iran’s nuclear capability. He was told that the U.S. could launch a devastating air attack on Iran’s government and military, wiping out the Iranian air force, the command and control structure and some of the more obvious nuclear facilities. But the Chiefs were–once again–unanimously opposed to taking that course of action.
Why? Because our intelligence inside Iran is very sketchy. There was no way to be sure that we could take out all of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Furthermore, the Chiefs warned, the Iranian response in Iraq and, quite possibly, in terrorist attacks on the U.S. could be devastating. Bush apparently took this advice to heart and went to Plan B–a covert destabilization campaign reported earlier this week by ABC News. If Clemons is right, and I’m pretty sure he is, Cheney is still pushing Plan A.