Its about time – US focus on the real problem

US unit works quietly to counter Iran’s sway, Backs dissidents, nearby nations

[The US has been very ambivalent in its treatment of Iran and support of the dissidents. Hopefully this ambivalence is coming to an end. It is hard to believe the nonsense that the Israel/Palestinian conflict is an any way seminal. Furthermore it is hard to believe that the US will allow or force Israel to retreat from Judea and Samaria while Iran remains a problem. Ted Belman]

WASHINGTON — For nearly a year, a select group of US officials has been quietly coordinating actions to counter the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, including increasing the military capabilities of Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.

The group, known as the Iran Syria Policy and Operations Group, or ISOG, is also coordinating a host of other actions, which include covert assistance to Iranian dissidents and building international outrage toward Iran by publicizing its alleged role in a 1994 terrorist attack in Argentina, according to interviews with half a dozen White House, Pentagon, and State Department officials who are involved in the group’s work.

Pentagon officials involved with the group intend to ask Congress as early as February to increase funding for transfers of military hardware to allies in the Persian Gulf and to accelerate plans for joint military activities. The request, which is still being formulated, is expected to include but not be limited to more advanced-missile defense systems and early-warning radar to detect and prevent Iranian missile strikes.

“There is the perception in the Gulf that Iran is really on the rise,” said Emile El-Hokayem, research fellow at the Stimpson Center, a Washington-based think tank. “Washington wants to prepare for a potential show down.”

The existence of ISOG reflects an intensification of the Bush administration’s planning on Iran. Syria, which has linked itself to Iran through military pacts, is a lesser focus for the group. Its workings have been so secretive that several officials in the State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs bureau said they were unaware it existed.

The United States has repeatedly said its policy is not to overthrow the Iranian regime, but one former US official who attended a meeting during ISOG’s initial phase eight months ago said in an interview that he got the impression that regime change was a key goal of many of the meetings’ participants. CONTINUE

January 3, 2007 | 4 Comments »

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