A Manhattan trial has produced a few more documentary fragments from Osama bin Laden’s computer, and, among other things, they show he was in regular contact with the group’s terrorist commanders until shortly before we killed him. And guess what? AQ was working in cahoots with Iran all along.
So how come we didn’t hear about that when we were fighting AQ in Iraq and Afghanistan? How was Obama able to talk about “decimating core AQ” without dealing with the Iran link? Didn’t we know it?
It’s a big question, and the answer is bigger than “because Obama.” The documents presented at trial in New York go back to the Bushitlercheney era, and the cooperation between AQ and Iran goes back to the long runup to 2001. Is this yet another intelligence failure?
Remember that the 9/11 Commission famously called for deeper investigation and analysis of precisely that link between Sunni al Qaeda and Shi’ite Iran. Did the “intelligence community” do it? If so, what are the results? If not, why weren’t they all fired?
I was a very passionate kibitzer of that game, having worked on things Iranian ever since the 1979 revolution, and I had some great Iranian sources, as events demonstrated, first in late 2001, and then again in 2003 and thereafter.
In December 2001, one of my Iranian friends arranged for a top intelligence official to fly from Tehran to Rome to meet with me and two Pentagon officials. Among the things he gave us was a particularly dramatic claim: that the regime had sent a team of assassins to Afghanistan to operate against American special forces. He gave us detailed information about the would-be killers, including their orders and likely location. We passed the information to the appropriate special forces people, who found it was accurate. The assassins were decisively dealt with.
You might think that the powers-that-be in Washington would have been pleased, and that our spooks would have maintained contact with the proven source high and deep in the Iranian regime. Not at all. They—including CIA chief George Tenet and Secretary of State Colin Powell–were furious (saying they hadn’t been informed about the meeting). They ordered an end to all contact with the Iranian intelligence officer, and fed all manner of nonsense about the meeting to friendly journalists. Not one of those officials and journalists has shown the slightest remorse. Meanwhile, we were being told that the Iranians had been most helpful in resolving the unpleasantness in Afghanistan.
A similar pattern unfolded around the invasion of Iraq two years later. My Iranian sources told me in considerable detail about the Iranian preparations to fight our troops in Iraq, and I passed on the information. It soon became clear, above all to anyone fighting or working on the ground in Iraq, that the information was solid. But the (Bush) administration was not interested. I knew a high-ranking Pentagon official who was repeatedly told by his CIA counterparts that the stories weren’t true. They were so intent to gainsay my sources’ claims that, even as hundreds of Americans were blown up by IEDs that were tracked back to Iran, they denied the evidence.
Not to put a fine edge on it: there was good information showing Iranians were arranging for the killing and maiming of Americans on the battlefield, and our intel and military people were not willing to say that, let alone take action against our killers. This continued even after it was proven that parts of the IEDs came from Iran, and training of the terrorists who used them against us was conducted in Iran.
How can this be? The answer is: politicizing intelligence. But with rare exceptions, nobody much talks about it, since that “politicizing” is the opposite of what the phrase has been taken to mean. In Washington parlance, “politicizing intelligence” means that Bush and Cheney demanded certain things—designed to support the war effort– from the intelligence community, which dutifully provided it, whether true or false (think WMDs). This is the mirror image: this is intel that calls for aggressive action against our worst enemy. And it was suppressed, just as the contents of bin Laden’s computers have been suppressed.
Why? The answer is: because Bush was never, ever prepared to take serious action against Iran. He, and the cast of losers around him, wanted to do Iraq first. Then they’d worry about Iran, never seeing what was in front of their noses, namely that you could not ever have decent security in Iraq so long as Ali Khamenei and his beturbaned henchmen ruled in Tehran.
If you need any confirmation, look at the computer documents.
Only a miniscule quantity of bin Laden’s documents has dribbled out into public view, and even the best press coverage invariably implies that the bulk of the documents are still unstudied. That is false. Indeed, some of our smartest people have worked very hard on the documents, and have reached some conclusions that should be brought to public attention, and vigorously discussed in Congress. Why? Because unless we get this straight, we are doomed in that part of the world.
Oh yeah, where are those Bushies today? From Rice and Hadley on down, their names adorn the list of Jeb’s team of “experts.”
Some candidate will get to this; there’s no escape, any more than we can escape the showdown with the Iranians.
Don’t hold your breath.