White House considering covert operations against Iran



By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
One of the major strategic objections to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the near-certain prospect that removing the Sunni-dominated Ba’ath Party from power would increase Iranian-Shiite influence in the country. As the US military exit strategy gradually unfolds in Iraq, the administration of US President Barack Obama is faced with precisely this prospect. While US troops are leaving Iraq, Iran is doing what any logical regional power would do: namely strengthening its clandestine footprint inside Iraq and preparing Tehran-allied Iraqi groups for the impending showdown with Sunni power centers. An article that appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal notes that “growing concern [about regional] influence from Iran” has prompted the Obama administration to explore covert ways of countering it. According to the article, US intelligence agencies have detected “increased arms smuggling [by Iran] to its allies” in Iraq, Bahrain and Syria (and, one would suppose, Lebanon, though this is not mentioned in the piece). The administration has therefore “pushed the military and intelligence communities to develop proposals to counter Tehran”, says the Journal. The push has prompted American intelligence and military planners to request “greater authority to conduct covert operations to thwart Iranian influence in neighboring Iraq”. This essentially implies an appeal for a Presidential “finding”, a secret executive authorization that —under the National Security Act— would provide the required legal basis for covert operations conducted abroad. The Journal piece says that its sources are not at this point willing to specify the precise nature of such covert operations against Iran; but they did note that “the current proposal is limited in scope”, aiming to counter Iranian influence (notably weapons smuggling) in Iraq, rather than the entire region. The article mentions paramilitary operations (what the CIA calls “special operations”) conducted by Special Forces teams under CIA command (the CIA is the only US government agency legally permitted to conduct covert action). But the article does not specify whether such operations would be conducted on Iraqi or Iranian soil, nor does it mention non-paramilitary-type covert operations, such as propaganda campaigns, economic warfare, exfiltration of agents, etc. Watch this space for more on this subject, as it becomes known.

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