CIA Black Op to Destabilize Iranian Regime
CIA sources have leaked to ABC News an alleged covert plan to destabilize the Iranian regime through non-lethal means.
The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com. The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a “nonlethal presidential finding” that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran’s currency and international financial transactions.
The sources say the CIA developed the covert plan over the last year and received approval from White House officials and other officials in the intelligence community. Officials say the covert plan is designed to pressure Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment program and end aid to insurgents in Iraq. “There are some channels where the United States government may want to do things without its hand showing, and legally, therefore, the administration would, if it’s doing that, need an intelligence finding and would need to tell the Congress,” said ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism official.
Current and former intelligence officials say the approval of the covert action means the Bush administration, for the time being, has decided not to pursue a military option against Iran. “Vice President Cheney helped to lead the side favoring a military strike,” said former CIA official Riedel, “but I think they have come to the conclusion that a military strike has more downsides than upsides.”
There’s not much meat to the alleged plan laid out in the piece, so I’m less concerned than Ed Morrissey or AllahPundit that these revelations necessarily derail it. After all, the working assumption has long been that we’ve got covert ops going on in Iran for both intelligence collection and counter-regime purposes. Indeed, it’s quite possible that these “leaks” are part of an authorized psychological warfare campaign aimed at bolstering diplomatic efforts and/or strengthening the resolve of anti-regime players in Iran.
If that’s not the case, however, and these are rogue agents going to the press over internal policy disputes, they should be rooted out and put in jail for a very long time. We simply can not have people entrusted with classified mission going to the press when they don’t like their orders.
That’s true regardless of the merits of the plan. The details outlined in ABC’s report are sketchy at best and I don’t have the expertise in ops planning or the Iranian situation to effectively assess it, anyway. Offhand, I’m skeptical at plans to “destabilize” regimes unless there’s a pretty good answer to “And then what?” at the ready.
Still, that’s a call that the president gets to make, not the hired help.
UPDATE: In the comments below, Dave Schuler draws attention to Dan Drezner‘s remarks on this, with which I largely concur. Money quote: “If I have to choose between a 20% chance at regime change (I’m being generous) or an 80% chance of Iran’s current regime agreeing to suspend its nuclear weapons program (equally generous), I’ll take the latter option.” I would put the odds at something closer than 2% and 30%, but yes.
Steven Taylor‘s comparison is also apt: “[T]his news is about as shocking as a headline that states: ‘Jerry Sloan Authorizes New Plan to Slow Tim Duncan for Game 3’—of course the administration has covert processes in place to try and destabilize Iran.”