Robert Dreyfuss

Tea Party Pentagon? How a Rick Perry Win Could Sweep Neo-cons Back to Power

The following article first appeared on the Web site of The Nation. For more great content from the Nation, sign up for its e-mail newsletters here. 

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What You Need to Know About the Muslim Brotherhood

As the revolutionary upsurge in Egypt builds toward its conclusion, some of the key questions involve the role of the Muslim Brotherhood—the Islamic movement that has been characterized as anything from a benign prodemocracy force to a terrorist-inclined radical group with designs on establishing a global Caliphate.

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Are We Secretly Fighting a Cyberwar Against Iran?

For several years now, there have been reports that the United States has been waging what amounts to technological warfare against Iran, using sophisticated industrial sabotage measures to weaken and undermine Iran’s nuclear industry -- and, according to the New York Times, these efforts began during the Bush administration but accelerated under President Obama. And, for the past several years, there have been widespread reports that Iran’s nuclear program has been slowed or crippled by some unexplained malfunctions that have, among other things, caused Iran to spin far fewer centrifuges at Natanz, its enrichment plant, than earlier.

Now, it appears, there is a serious computer worm affecting Iran’s nuclear industry, along with other Iranian industrial facilities. Called Stuxnet, the worm appears to be a case of outright industrial sabotage or cyber warfare, created and unleashed not by rogue hackers but by a state. According to the Seattle Times, the time stamp on the Stuxnet virus reveals that it was created in January, 2010, meaning that if the United States is behind it, it’s Obama’s doing, not Bush’s.

If so, and if the United States is behind it, then Obama is already at war with Iran. Cyber warfare is no less war than bombs and paratroopers. Besides the United States, of course, Israel is high on the list of countries with both motive and capability. Iran’s PressTV, a government-owned news outlet, quotes various Western technology and cybersecurity experts saying that either the United States or Israel is behind Stuxnet.

The Seattle Times reports that Stuxnet is highly specific, aimed “solely at equipment made by Siemens that controls oil pipelines, electric utilities, nuclear facilities, and other large industrial sites.”

The Stuxnet infection was detected by VirusBlokAda, a Belarusian computer security company, in July. Like other forms of warfare, the Stuxnet attack is causing collateral damage, spreading to computer networks outside Iran.

The Seattle Times notes, somewhat obliquely, that while President Obama talks often about spending huge sums to protect the United States from computer warfare, it also spends a lot of money to develop an offensive capability against other countries:  “President Obama has talked extensively about developing better cyberdefenses for the United States, to protect banks, power plants, telecommunications systems and other critical infrastructure. He has said almost nothing about the other side of the cybereffort: billions of dollars spent on offensive capability, much of it based inside the National Security Agency.”

The Stuxnet virus has also affected Iran’s nuclear power plant at Bushehr, constructed by the Russians. According to the Tehran Times, Iranian officials have admitted the attack and they’re working to contain it. “Iranian information technology officials have confirmed that some Iranian industrial systems have been targeted by a cyber attack, but added that Iranian engineers are capable of rooting out the problem,” reported the Tehran Times. The paper also quoted a top Iranian official saying: “An electronic war has been launched against Iran.” The same official, Mahmoud Liaii of the Industries and Mines Ministry’s tech office, added that the virus “is designed to transfer data about production lines from our industrial plants to (locations) outside of the country.”

Haaretz, the Israeli daily, quoted the European firm Kaspersky Labs thus: “Stuxnet is a working and fearsome prototype of a cyber-weapon that will lead to the creation of a new arms race in the world.”

Make no mistake: This is serious stuff. I'm not one of those naive, Pollyannish types who believe that Iran is merely interested in peaceful uses of nuclear power. (For one thing, it doesn't have a nuclear power industry that needs fuel, and it won't have one for at least 15 years.) 

Iran would never suffer the painful sanctions and international isolation that it faces merely to defend a theoretical right to develop a civilian nuclear industry. Perhaps its leaders see the nuclear program as a giant bargaining chip or as a way to gain attention for itself. No one wants to see Iran get the bomb, including Russia, China -- and, yes, the author of this article. However, Iran is not very close to having that capability: So far it hasn't even tried to enrich uranium to the highly enriched state needed to build a bomb. If and when it does, the world will know. And, if bombing Iran's nuclear facilities is not the answer, neither is launching war by other means.

Is Iraq On the Brink of Civil War?

Seven years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq toppled Saddam Hussein's government and pulverized the Iraqi state, voters will go to the polls on March 7 in an election that most Iraqis hope will continue their country's uneven progress toward political stability. But a new crisis, provoked by an anti-Baathist purge in mid-January by Tehran's allies in Iraq, has threatened to unravel Iraq's fledgling democracy. At best, a backroom deal at the last minute could restore some semblance of normalcy to the election, but the purge has poisoned the atmosphere, perhaps fatally. At worst, the crisis could reignite the sectarian conflict that brought Iraq to the brink of all-out civil war in 2006.

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Obama Readies Afghan Escalation

Don't look for surprises from President Obama on Afghanistan. During the two year campaign, and since taking office, he's been consistent. For Obama, Afghanistan is the right war, and he's staked his presidency on winning it. In order to placate the liberal-left and its allies in Congress, Obama is putting out the word (from the National Security Council) that he's willing to listen to all points of view, including those who believe that it's time to cut and run. Listen, he will. Cut and run, he won't.

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Iraq Explodes

The news from the war capitals isn't good. In Kabul, the Taliban is carrying out attacks at the very center of Afghanistan's capital, rocketing the grounds of the presidential palace, launching suicide bombs at Kabul convoys, and last week setting off huge bombs on the heavily guarded road between the US embassy and the presidential palace.

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Talking to Ahmadinejad

President Obama has gone about as far as he should go in condemning the government of Iran for its crackdown and repression of a popular movement for change in Iran. Since the election on June 12, his rhetoric has become harsher by the day. Yesterday, he said:

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Is This Last Gasp for the Israel Lobby and the Neocons?

Is the Israel lobby in Washington an all-powerful force? Or is it, perhaps, running scared?

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Are Key Obama Advisors in Tune with Neocon Hawks Who Want to Attack Iran?

A familiar coalition of hawks, hardliners, and neoconservatives expects Barack Obama's proposed talks with Iran to fail -- and they're already proposing an escalating set of measures instead. Some are meant to occur alongside any future talks. These include steps to enhance coordination with Israel, tougher sanctions against Iran, and a region-wide military buildup of U.S. strike forces, including the prepositioning of military supplies within striking distance of that country.

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Did the Raid Into Syria Signal the Death of International Law?

A parallel new Bush doctrine is emerging, in the last days of the soon-to-be-ancient regime, and it needs to be strangled in its crib. Like the original Bush doctrine -- the one that Sarah Palin couldn't name, which called for preventive military action against emerging threats -- this one also casts international law aside by insisting that the United States has an inherent right to cross international borders in "hot pursuit" of anyone it doesn't like.

They're already applying it to Pakistan, and this week Syria was the target. Is Iran next?

Let's take Pakistan first. Though a nominal ally, Pakistan has been the subject of at least nineteen aerial attacks by CIA-controlled drone aircraft, killing scores of Pakistanis and some Afghans in tribal areas controlled by pro-Taliban forces. The New York Times listed, and mapped, all 19 such attacks in a recent piece describing Predator attacks across the Afghan border, all since August. The Times notes that inside the government, the U.S. Special Operations command and other advocates are pushing for a more aggressive use of such units, including efforts to kidnap and interrogate suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders. Though President Bush signed an order in July allowing U.S. commando teams to move into Pakistan itself, with or without Islamabad's permission, such raids have occurred only once, on September 3.

The U.S. raid into Syria on October 26 similarly trampled on Syria's sovereignty without so much as a fare-thee-well. Though the Pentagon initially denied that the raid involved helicopters and on-the-ground commando presence, that's exactly what happened. The attack reportedly killed Badran Turki Hishan al-Mazidih, an Iraqi facilitator who smuggled foreign fighters into Iraq through Syria. The Washington Post was ecstatic, writing in an editorial:

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