Monday, January 26, 2009

Q&A: "U.S. and Iran Share an Equal Monopoly on Violence"
Omid Memarian interviews former CIA operative ROBERT BAER

California, Jan 23 (IPS) - "Obama is going to have continuous pressure
from Israel to attack Iran and, in some way, their nuclear facilities,
and this is going to be tied up with Gaza and Lebanon," according to
Robert Baer, a former top Central Intelligence Agency operative and the
author of "The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower."

an interview with IPS, Baer discussed the regional implications of the
Gaza conflict and his take on Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Hamas and
Hezbollah, three major groups in the Middle East which have been called
terrorist organisations.

Excerpts from the interview follow.

IPS: Some analysts believe that attacking Hamas in Gaza, two years
after the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah, is a part of a
bigger plan which will end with attacking Iran's nuclear facilities. Is
Israel walking this path?

Robert Baer: No. I think that there is a military veto in attacking Iran. It's just not possible.

IPS: Why is that impossible?

RB: Well, for one thing, we know there will be an Iranian
reaction in the Gulf. Iran will not be attacked like Hamas and just
respond locally. It will respond internationally. It has no choice.
This is their deterrence power. In Iran, it is very important to
understand a lot of lessons.

If you look on the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps]
website, you see the lessons they learned from the Iran-Iraq War. These
wars are wars of attrition; they go on forever. You just can't win
them, especially against the United States. So they have developed
secondary asymmetrical warfare ability, guerilla warfare, which is very

You know some of the best minds in Iran went into the Pasdaran
[Revolutionary Guards], and they weren't necessarily fanatics. In a
sense, they were much more nationalists. And in my experience, these
people in the Pasdaran, in the operational level, are probably the most
capable, intelligent/guerilla force/political thinkers in the Middle
East, including Israel and Jordan. And they knew exactly what they were
doing. And they do not clearly fit in to any political definitions in

IPS: Is the possibility of a limited attack on Iran's nuclear
facilities by Israel also out of question? Especially given what we
learned in a recent New York Times article that last year, Israeli
leaders asked President Bush to carry out such an attack, though the
president did not accept.

RB: Totally out of the question. Even Bush understood
this. The New York Times is right when it says that Bush vetoed an
Israeli attack, simply because there is a balance of power in the
Middle East between the U.S. and Iran, and it's a fairly even balance
of power. I mean not in terms of aircraft tanks or submarines, but in a
monopoly of violence, there is equality.

There is no question there is equality. We could bomb Tehran,
but what does that get you? Nothing. It's sort of like bombing the U.N.
compound in Gaza by Israel. What does that give the Israelis? Nothing.
Yeah they could destroy it, but what does that give them? Hamas still
is going to exist.

You can bomb all military bases in Iran over a period of two
weeks, but Iran is still there - it still has the ability to project
power, project its will and maybe even come out of that type of
conflict even stronger. And Iran's power is so economical, the price of
oil is not going to make any difference, simply because the idea of
arming Hezbollah or supporting Hamas in Damascus is nothing in terms of
money. I mean the price of oil could go down to 10 dollars, and it's
still an affordable defence for Iran.

IPS: Obama has repeatedly mentioned talking to Iranian leaders and
bringing change to U.S. foreign policy. How could the designation of
Dennis Ross as a key advisor on Iran policy contribute to his promises?

RB: Dennis Ross - the important thing is the Israelis are
comfortable with him. If a dialogue with Iran occurs, they know he
won't betray them. I mean they have had years and years of testing this
guy. He's Jewish, he's been honest with the Israelis; he's gone along
with their projects, even the crazy ones. If a dialogue is open, the
Israelis know they won't be surprised. If Obama had brought someone new
in, some professor from Harvard that the Israelis didn't know, they
would immediately freeze him out and there would be huge political

IPS: Regarding Ross's positions on certain issues in the Middle East
and particularly Iran over the past decade, how will Obama be able to
adopt a new foreign policy path in the region?

RB: Well, he [Obama] needs the backing of the Democratic
Party to get these things through politically, and that's why he has
brought in people like Dennis Ross and Denny Blair, the Director of
National Intelligence, simply because he needs that political backing.
He cannot bring in untried people and run them against the Democratic
Party, because if there is an opening with Iran, there will be a
connivance of Israel, maybe a silent one, simply because the Israelis
have to go along.

In American politics, you can't do anything in the Middle East
without the approval of Tel Aviv, at least on some level. It's
impossible. I mean, I cannot think of a country that is so beholden to
a small country like this, even a superpower, in all of history. I
can't even think of it.

IPS: And why is that?

RB: Look at New York City. Look at the major newspapers.
They have a Zionist agenda. They do. I'm not Jewish. I'm not anything.
I don't care about the Israelis. And I'm not anti-Semitic. It's just a
fact. I suggested to my publisher writing a book on Israel, and he said
forget it. You can't talk about the reality of Israel. The only place
you can talk about the reality of Israel is in Israel. They tell you
things you will never hear in the United States.

IPS: Like what?

RB: For instance, why are people on Gaza so unhappy? Well, if you had
to live in a prison, wouldn't you be unhappy? You would never get that
in the New York Times. Look at the New York Times; it's almost an
extension of Israel.

IPS: What is the impact of the Gaza conflict on the future of
Iran-Israel and United States relations? Have the recent attacks
destroyed Hamas entirely?

RB: No, it's impossible. Hamas is an idea. Hamas is not an
organisation. Hamas is an idea, and unless the Israelis go in and force
1.5 million people into Egypt, they will never subdue Gaza. They can go
in and they can slaughter the leadership and put 10,000 people in jail,
and Hamas will come out stronger. The losers in this will be Fatah.

IPS: What are the main characteristics of Hamas and Hezbollah's military and political behaviour?

RB: They redefined the idea of warfare in geography. The fact that
Hezbollah dug into caves or the fact that they use fiber optics to
communicate shows enormous sophistication and primitive warfare in
combination. I mean, what army in the world uses fiber optics except
Hezbollah? You can't intercept fiber optics. There is nothing you can

You look at [Hebollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah, and he has
redefined Islamic politics because he's gone into an alliance with a
Christians. Bin Laden wants to kill Christians; I'm going to reduce it
to that. Nasrallah is looking at them as allies.

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