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"I think this administration will not leave the office without taking action against Iran," Hersh said. (IOL Photo)

CAIRO — Seeking to weaken the newly-bolstered Iranian role in the region, the wartime Bush administration is sowing a flammable Sunni-Shiite divide and is intent on striking Tehran before the end of its tenure, award-winning American investigative reporter Seymour Hersh has revealed.
"The US is now repeating an old game, using money to sow a Sunni-Shiite divide across the region," Hersh told a galaxy of Egyptian authors, journalists and students at the American University in Cairo on Sunday, February 25.

He said the administration's "redirection" strategy primarily aims at reversing the profound and unintended consequences of the invasion-turned-occupation of Iraq that magnified the Iranian clout in the region.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist expounded the new strategy in a report published in the March 5 edition of The New Yorker magazine.

The plan is based on executing clandestine operations in Iran, Lebanon and Syria, where financial support is given to strengthen Sunni groups and weaken Shiites.

"We are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite influence, and we’re spreading the money around as much as we can," a senior US government consultant told Hersh.

"In this process, we’re financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences. It’s a very high-risk venture," he admitted.

"This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran," Flynt Leverett, a former Bush administration official, told Hersh.

The key architects of the "redirection" strategy are Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser and former ambassador to the US for 22 years.

The US and Saudi Arabia have joined hands because they see Iran as an existential threat, he added.

According to Hersh, Cheney flew to Saudi Arabia last November for a meeting with King Abdullah and Bandar to warn of "the rise of the Shiites."

A European intelligence official to the veteran American reporter that the Saudis "are starting to use their leverage—money."

Hersh's work first gained international recognition in 1969 for exposing the My Lai massacre and its cover-up during the Vietnam War, for which he received the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.

His iconoclastic reports on the US military's Abu Ghraib prison scandal have also gained much attention.

Lebanon Game

The new division scheme is already being implemented in Lebanon.

"Extensive Sunni-Shiite conflict in Lebanon, similar to what is going in Iraq, is one of the main US goals now," Hersh told the tentative Egyptian audience.

"The game is to make sure that Shiites will get no more power inside Lebanon."

Since last summer, the Bush administration has publicly pledged a billion dollars in aid to the Lebanese government of Fuad Siniora, a Sunni.

Hersh said the US was collaborating with other players like "the Jordanian intelligence and Sunni jihadist groups" to undermine Hizbullah.

Political tensions have been running high in Lebanon for months, with the opposition holding an open-ended protest in Beirut aimed at forcing out the Western-backed government.

A brewing political crisis was deepened after the Shiite Hizbullah and Amal groups pulled out their four ministers, along with one Shiite and one Christian ally.

With no representatives of the Shiite population in the government, the opposition insists the government has lost its constitutional legitimacy.

Inevitable War

Hersh, who has maintained a world-wide iconic status in investigative reporting over the past three decades, believes that the Bush administration is intent on striking Iran.

"I think this administration will not leave the office without taking action against Iran," he told Egyptian reporters and students.

"They do not want to compromise."

He said the Pentagon has recently formed a special group to plan an attack against Iran that can be implemented, upon orders from the president, within 24 hours.

"Reports are saying that targets inside Iran have been pinpointed already for the imminent strike," he added, ruling out employing troops for ground attacks.

"The plan will be limited to bombing. On ground battles could bring huge chaos."

The veteran journalist said the anticipated attack will go, as the case was in Iraq, with or without the UN authorization.

"This will go whether it was proved that Iran possesses nuclear weapons or not. This doesn't matter at all."

Senior diplomats at the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency have told the Los Angeles Times Sunday that most of the US intelligence shared with the UN watchdog over Iran's nuclear program was unfounded and inaccurate.

The US and its allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran refutes the charge insisting that its program is for peaceful civilian use.

Washington has been upping the ante against Tehran recently, restoring to the same aggressive rhetoric that preceded its 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Accusing Iran of providing weapons to Iraqi Shiite militias, Bush has beefed up the US military presence in the Gulf to its highest level since the Iraq war.

The Sunday Telegraph revealed Sunday that Washington was secretly funding militant separatist groups in Iran in an attempt to destabilize the regime.

Click hereto read Hersh's report in full.

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GLOBAL UMMAH SOLIDARITY - by moeenyaseen - 08-23-2006, 11:07 PM

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