There are intriguing new developments in the psychological warfare going on between the United States and Iran.
Last week, ABC News breathlessly reported that President Bush had authorized a "black," or covert Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operation to destabilize the Iranian regime. "Destabilize" has an ominous ring about it, but the project was specifically required to be "nonlethal." In other words, nobody was to be assassinated, but the Iranian regime was to be made uncomfortable by propaganda, newspaper articles, broadcasting, and perhaps some currency manipulation.
ABC caught considerable public flak for exposing a clandestine operation but excused itself by saying that it had given the CIA and the White House six days' notice of its intention to air the report, and there had been no administration plea to withhold it. Instead, there had been only the standard "we don't confirm or deny allegations about intelligence matters."
Over the years, when media organizations have been about to report and possibly jeopardize secret government operations, various administrations have called newspaper editors and TV news directors and urged them to hold off on grounds of national security. There was no such plea in this case, suggesting that the Bush administration may not have been entirely unhappy about the news reaching the Iranians. Indeed, it would not have taken long for the Iranians to find out about a "covert" operation that involved propaganda, newspaper articles, and broadcasting.
Then on Saturday, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry announced that it had uncovered spy rings organized by the US and its Western allies, infiltrating from Iraq and involving "Iraqi groups." These infiltrating elements were said to be operating in western, southwestern, and central Iran. Once again, the White House responded with a noncommittal: "We do not confirm or deny allegations about intelligence matters."
Given Iran's refusal to permit certain United Nations inspections of its fast-developing nuclear program, and its bellicose statements against Israel, it would not be surprising if there were American- sponsored ground operations from neighboring Iraq to gather intelligence and complement satellite surveillance from above. Journalist Seymour Hersh has also written about US special operations units making intelligence forays into Iran.
There have also been extensive US fleet maneuvers off the Iranian coast, which, though blandly dismissed as routine by the Navy, have captured the attention of the Iranians and been interpreted, perhaps correctly, as part of a US war of nerves against them. …