What Sort of Greeting Should We Expect in Iran?

Interviewed Feb. 14, 2007. Click here to listen.

Our guest is Wayne White. He is an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute and former deputy director of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Office of Analysis for the Near East and South Asia.

Horton: Welcome to the show, sir.

White: My pleasure.

Horton: Nice to talk with you. Before we get to Iran, which is the topic all this week on Antiwar Radio, I thought we could talk a little bit about the Bush press conference that just ended. I know you just saw it as well. It seemed pretty clear to me, that as far as Iraq goes, Bush is still absolutely determined – and apparently still honestly believes that it is possible and necessary for the Maliki government to succeed in Iraq – for there to be a multi-ethnic single state over that country. He really thinks it would be able to work.

Last week, however, the Council on Foreign Relations released a report that said it was far too late for this.

I wonder, sir, [your] being a former Iraq analyst at the State Department’s intelligence agency, what your perspective on this debate is.

White: I headed the Iraq Intelligence team for my last two years in government until 2005 at State. I am much closer to the Council on Foreign Relations on this. I think a mistake that is consistently made by the administration – and I saw it again in the press conference that has just occurred – is taking what people in the Maliki government (Maliki himself, others) what they say, as being ground truth, as the military calls it. In another words, they [the Maliki government] say they are going to do this, and therefore this is great.

But they are always saying they are going to do something, and their ability to deliver on promises over the last several years, whether it’s the Maliki government, [Ibrahim] al-Jaafari before him, Iyad Allawi before him – the track record has been an utter failure when it comes to extending governments in Iraq to the point where you can actually get a handle on any of the serious problems.

Horton: Right. Now, you have written before that, were Iraq to break into pieces as Yugoslavia did, the result would be horrible, with the various ethnicities and religious differences – people stuck on the "wrong side” of the lines.

What do you think is going to happen?

White: If civil war breaks out in Iraq and… There is a debate over the issue of civil war. You know: is there one? is there not one?

I have a high bar. I don’t think this is one right now, but the only reason there isn’t one is because we are there separating the parties. The fact that the sectarian strife has gotten so severe that some people are calling this a civil war just shows the extent of the blood letting that’s going on.

But to get back to your question, one problem that we have in Iraq is that probably 20 to 25 percent of the inhabited area of the country – much of it is desert and uninhabited – is mixed. In any kind of civil war which is based on ethno-sectarian lines, we are going to have these mixed areas become heavily contested. It is already happening in Baghdad. In fact, Baghdad is thoroughly mixed and, because it contains one third of the population of the country, is the poster child for this kind of problem.

Sure enough the Shia militias in Baghdad have been doing their level best to empty the city of Sunni Arabs, either by putting notes under the door that they [the residents] are going to be killed within the next 48 hours or, better still, killing them outright. Civil war would probably begin if we weren’t there to separate the parties with the Shia militias, Kurdish Peshmerga, which is their version of the militia, a little more legal, and the overwhelmingly Shia and Kurdish army sweeping virtually every mixed area in the country of Sunni Arabs.

Horton: If you agree with the Council on Foreign Relations that it is too late for Maliki to create a multi-ethnic government and hold the country together, but also that if we leave, full-scale war will break out, what do you suggest?

White: Unfortunately, I am going to suggest withdrawal. It is the same thing I said to Soledad O’Brien on CNN American Morning in early December when she asked me the same question. I am fully aware, as a Middle East expert, of the very serious consequences of withdrawal as were so many people in the Iraq Study Group that I was a part of. But as I said to Soledad, to paraphrase Churchill on Democracy, “Withdrawal is the worst possible option, except for all the others.”

Horton: Right.

White: Many people, who oppose withdrawal, are opposing it on the mistaken belief that by staying, we can prevent those consequences from happening. A lot of us believe that, no, we are just going to stay there, bleed more, loose more money, and then leave anyway – with the same consequences.

Horton: Now you’ve written, or were quoted at least in one place, as saying you don’t believe that the civil war – when we do leave, and it does break out – you don’t believe that it will spread outside of Iraq.

Is that right still?

White: You can’t say anything and be definitive, and I wish I had nuanced that slightly, but yes, largely I don’t believe that it will spread outside of Iraq.

I think it will probably mimic to some degree the Spanish civil war of the 1930s. It will get just like hell inside of the country and with outside powers pouring in munitions and money to aid various parties – probably, of course Saudi Arabia, Jordan and perhaps Egypt as well – pouring in money and assistance to the Sunni Arabs to prevent them all from being driven into Jordan and Syria in the face of what I described before.

Then Iran, quite predictably, will be backing up the Shia in Iraq and feeding them arms, money and what-have-you to hold up their end of the deal.

So you could actually have a severe amount of fighting inside of the country with tens of thousands killed without it necessarily spilling across the border. The parties involved, particularly in supporting the Sunni Arabs, would be providing that aid in order to keep it from spreading back across their border. As long as they can keep the Sunni Arabs inside of Iraq from being rolled by Shia, that will prevent millions of Sunni Arabs from fleeing into areas west and southwest of the country – much as they are now, with already over two million Sunni Arabs and Iraqi Christians in Syria and Jordan.

Horton: You bring up Iran’s arming of the militias. Certainly that is already happening, and yet there seems to be a point of confusion, particularly in the last couple of weeks.

The government is saying that the Iranians are arming the Shi’ite militias with these new high-tech roadside bombs, and that these are what are killing American soldiers. But I’ve been under the impression that for almost four years now, the American soldiers are fighting the Sunni insurgency, and only in smaller, isolated cases, have they warred against the Shi’ites at all. I am thinking of the battles in Najaf in 2004, but since then the Shi’ites are basically the government that the U.S. is backing.

I was wondering if you could help clear up for me whether it is correct that the Iranians are killing American soldiers with these bombs?

White: These are really good points. You have really done your homework. I cannot clear up all of this, but I can put some perspective on it.

First of all I believe the president – even though he cannot pronounce "Quds": the Quds force is the Iranian revolutionary guard’s dirty tricks force. I believe [as does the president] that they [Quds] are feeding these munitions into the country. One reason they would do it, is to provide Shia militias a formidable defensive weapon should we try to take them on, such as in the context of a surge.

But as you observe, I am not speaking to how we are losing people to these things. I find it very perplexing because of the numbers of [U.S.] casualties have been thrown up – that have resulted from these munitions. As you correctly point out, we haven’t been fighting Shia militias since we had two flare ups with Moqtada al-Sadr way back in 2004. This was just as these things [munitions] were beginning to appear, and not when they were really around [in greater numbers].

So the government has got a little explaining to do. How did we lose these people? If we did lose the numbers we are talking about, it was undoubtedly to Sunni Arab insurgents. This means that these [munitions] have made their way into the hands of Sunni Arab insurgents. That raises another question. Would the Iranians give the Sunni Arab insurgents, who loath Iran, this kind of thing? It is not as simple as it might appear.

Horton: I think your first explanation seems most plausible, that they [the Iranians] are arming the Shi’ites in case America turns on them, and not that they’ve been arming the Sunnis all along.

White: Right. The one thing that has to be said though is sometimes these lines are not as clear as they appear.

I was looking at one of the pictures in their show, and it was a government security vehicle from a special unit that had been hit in the town of Hilla, which is deep in the Shia south. It was probably a Shia perpetrator hitting a government vehicle of the unit that was probably largely Shia. So there has been some Shia on Shia militia violence, and to the extent that you give this stuff to them, they can use it on each other.

But that still doesn’t get to the U.S. forces aspect of this. Let me just say two things. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but I am just throwing out two things.

[First] the Quds force, which means Jerusalem force, this elite dirty tricks unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, is viciously anti-American and very bloody-minded. Sometimes things just don’t make sense. They [Quds] like killing Americans, quite frankly, and I would not completely rule out the fact that they have put some of these things into the hands of the Sunni Arab insurgents [just to get more Americans killed].

Second, Moqtada al-Sadr, I learned this still in doing my intelligence, has been in touch with Sunni Arab insurgents, which also seems like a bad fit. But this is true.

Horton: Particularly at the beginning of the war. During the first the battle of Fallujah he sent fighters to go up and help.

White: Right, right, and he maintained contacts after that, not because he liked them, but because they shared his anti-occupation agenda. Could he have slipped them some of these? Perhaps. So the lines are not quite as clear, and I find all this rather hard to sort out. But I do believe the Quds force has been moving this stuff into the country – and very cleverly.

The president talks about hunting down these people, the Quds force – he talks implicitly of doing this. But I don’t think there are that many of them [Quds] in the country.

The Iranians, judging from some of the accounts I’ve read, are rather smart about all of this. [They say to Iraqis,] "You come to the border and get the weapons. We don’t deliver," keeping their people to a minimum inside of the country. This is why, despite all of the great ballyhoo about the Iranian involvement in Iraq, what do we pick up? Five Iranians? That isn’t very much.

Horton: And they [the Iranians picked up] are at SCIRI headquarters. And SCIRI is the most powerful American-backed faction in Iraq, so…

White: Exactly.

Horton: As long as we are talking about this, I would really appreciate your perspective. I had just dismissed this [Iranians killing Americans in Iraq] outright, particularly when last Friday [correction, Saturday – editor] the Los Angeles Times reported that Condoleezza Rice, Robert Gates and even Stephen Hadley had sent this intelligence back to the cook because it wasn’t good enough. I thought, when Steven Hadley is sending intelligence back to the cook, there is something terribly wrong with it.

White: I’ve heard three versions of what happened last week, and I don’t know which one to believe.

One version – it didn’t have personalities attached to it save one of the ones that you mentioned – said, "this isn’t good enough, we need to do it over right." It wasn’t so much – This is what I heard – It wasn’t so much that the information wasn’t good: it was the presentation; the way it was being put forward; how much of it was going to be released; it was not going to be very convincing. That was version one that I heard.

Version two was that there were people in the government, particularly in the intelligence community, who did not want a briefing at all. Remember, the briefing was supposed to be here in Washington, not out there [Iraq]. If it had been done in Washington, it probably wouldn’t have been anonymous and done in this very squirrelly manner that was chosen for the delivery.

But [third] I cannot rule out a compromise between the people who wanted to do it and the people who wanted no briefing at all. It was as if they were saying, "Okay, you don’t want it done so we’ll do it out there [Iraq] and we’ll do it anonymously – behind closed doors." I’ve seen strange compromises in my time in government – particularly over the release of intelligence…

Horton: Well, when you bring up that they didn’t like the presentation, it makes me wonder whether this was drawn up by CIA analysts or by Abram Shulsky and his buddies in the Iranian Directorate at the Pentagon.

White: Well, I don’t know where it was drawn up, although I found it so ironic, so odd that people weren’t allowed to take pictures during the briefing, when in fact, people on a large chat room that I participated in have sent me a link to the entire briefing. I’ve got all the slides. [Laughter] I’ve got the entire thing on a link, so that’s kind of odd.

Anyway, I try to maintain a few contacts inside the government. I get the impression that the one fact: the Quds force – which is part of the Iranian government – supplying this stuff into Iraq is true. I did not want to believe that because I, as you know from what you have read, am very concerned about a major attack against Iran in the context of the nuclear infrastructure there and the concerns of a possible nuclear weapons program there. I am the last person who wants to add more to a possible case for war against Iran. But the information I am getting is that that part [about Quds] was true.

Horton: Although again, I just want to reiterate: you did say, though, that it remains to be shown that these are being used in vast numbers by the Sunni insurgency against the Americans.

White: Well, the casualties that I saw were significant enough to demand an explanation as to how they [munitions] were making their way to Sunni Arab insurgents. I don’t think Shia could have inflicted these casualties, since the only casualties [inflicted by Shia] that were significant are old ones, like you said.

But then we flip to the other side, and you have another view of that casualty figure, which is that it isn’t really that high given the aggregate of casualties overall in this conflict. But in the context of these munitions, it’s significant.

Horton: I’m Scott Horton and I’m talking with Wayne White. He’s the former head of the Iraq desk at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. (That’s their CIA, basically.)

I first found your name in this Reuters article from January the 19th where, contrary to, I think, everything I had read before, you said, “We are not talking just surgical strikes against an array of targets inside Iran. We are talking about clearing a path to the targets.” The article is headlined, “U.S. Plans Envision Broad Attack on Iran.”

I would like to ask you about that. You say the plan includes taking out much of the Iranian air force, their Kilo submarines and anti-ship missiles. So this proposal for air strikes is not just to hit the Natanz and Bushehr nuclear facilities, but hit their entire infrastructure – their military infrastructure.

Is that your understanding?

White: That is my understanding, and I am glad you didn’t misread that Reuters piece and repeat one glitch in it, which was that I just saw this [only recently], or these [plans] are new.

The plan has been oozing out in a series of leaks since last winter. Sy Hersh has been most aggressive in pointing out the fact that these plans exist, and yes, as I understand it, we are talking a huge package of air strikes. We are talking in the neighborhood of 1,500 combat sorties by aircraft and launches of cruise missiles against various targets. This would involve tactical aircraft in theater. It would involve a carrier battle group. It would probably also involve strategic air assets coming from Diego Garcia.

It would be very, very robust. Why? If the Iranians are hit, they are going to hit back. They are not going to go crawl away and lick their wounds. That’s why you get into the effort to eliminate their retaliatory capabilities in the Gulf.

This includes anti-ship missiles and surface to surface missiles that could be used to attack commercial shipping or American Fleet elements, and by the way – there are a lot of these things. They are on the islands near the Strait of Hormuz, on the land and on the coastal areas near the Strait of Hormuz.

This includes the Kilo class submarines, which could attack, although they are not too hard to detect. You just can’t let them operate.

Then Iran has something that I didn’t bother mentioning because some people think it is funny. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has a very sizable fleet of speed boats. I don’t mean some small 12 foot thing that you water-ski behind. We are talking about speedboats where some of them are 30 or 40 feet long – more like a World War II PT boat, or something larger. They can deliver missiles and other weaponry, and they [the Iranians] have been training rigorously on swarming tactics knowing full well that a lot of them are going to get shot up before they reach the target. They have adopted swarming tactics against merchant shipping or even our fleet elements that they would undoubtedly try under this scenario. This would have to be dealt with.

Another thing that is not mentioned in that article is that Iran has a medium range and ballistic missile arsenal. I cannot believe, if we were going in, we wouldn’t try to take out Iran’s medium range missile fleet, mainly variants of the Scud series, and her enhanced range Scuds that we call Scud-Cs. They have several hundred of these, and they are not all in one place. We would probably try to knock these out. Much of this is not only aimed at trying to protect shipping and protect our own fleet from retaliation, but to protect our Gulf Cooperation Council allies from retaliation.

Horton: So when UPI chief Arnaud de Borchgrave says he believes there is a plan in the works to hit as many as 700 targets, he’s low-balling? That’s a low estimate to you?

White: Well, he may not be low-balling, actually 700 targets may me be roughly accurate.

Horton: So 1,500 sorties may be redundancy to make sure that all the targets are all destroyed.

White: Exactly. You have to be prepared to revisit targets. This is where it gets very dangerous, this is where you really get down to where the rubber meets the road. You are talking about a robust air campaign that could stretch out over several days; I’ve heard even almost a week. Well, what are the Iranians doing with the things that you have not eliminated on day one? or day two? or day three? They know what to use or lose in a situation…

Horton: Or even at the end of the week. I spoke yesterday with a former CIA agent, Philip Giraldi, who said, "what are we going to do after a week? Are we going to say, ‘Okay, we are done bombing you, war’s over now?’"

White: Oh, that’s a great one. This is great, Scott. That’s the problem. There’s no endgame to this thing. The presumption is: well, that’s it. The Iranians lost.

Horton: Well, Hersh has reported that – he calls them the Kool-Aid drinkers – the neoconservatives who are pushing this policy still believe (I don’t know – honestly? Cynically? It’s your guess) that the Iranian people will be bombed into overthrowing their government and installing an America-friendly government.

White: I know…

Horton: They will blame their government for getting them bombed.

White: We have a great historical precedence for this. When I was the Iraq analyst, as opposed to a division chief, over the Iraq account, back from 1979-86, I covered the Iran-Iraq war. It started because a deluded dictator thought he could punch the Iranians in the nose, grab territory, pound the Iranians and not only force the Iranian regime to call it quits – after he had overrun significant amounts of territory along the border, in order to get it back – but also, so humiliate the Khomeini regime that it might actually be overthrown.

Just the opposite happened. The Iranian public, swallowing hard in some cases because they were not revolutionaries, swallowing hard and grimly determined, rallied around the Iranian government and fought through 8 years of war against Iraq. They would have fought for 10 years if the Iraqis hadn’t acquired enough weaponry to finally force the Iranians into a situation where they were losing so much that they had to finally call it quits.

Horton: And that was at the cost of millions of Iranian lives, wasn’t it?

White: Probably about a million. But we’re talking about Saddam, who started the war under the delusion that the Iranians would overthrow their government. … The Iraqis suffered anywhere from 150 to 250 thousand casualties and saw their huge foreign currency reserves completely depleted and racked up 80 billion dollars in debt beyond that. Iraq became so debt-ridden that it led to other developments, such as the Kuwait war when Saddam couldn’t shake the Kuwaitis down for money to help pay for all this.

Anyway, here we face the situation where somebody under this delusion went into Iran, and we saw how Iranians reacted. Quite frankly, we are already seeing shades of how the Iranians would react in the present. Iranians will do the same thing.

Horton: There was a massive rally just the other day in favor of their nuclear program, right?

White: Exactly. If you hit them, then you have not hit the regime. You have hit Iran. The Iranians are proud and nationalistic. They will rally around their government. It would make that regime that much stronger. In fact, as we have ratcheted up our anti-Iranian rhetoric, starting with the Axis of Evil formulation, in the 2002 State of the Union Address, we have seen American popularity levels in Iran, in very reputable polling, consistently falling and falling and falling. Believe it or not, before that speech, a majority of Iranians had a positive view of the U.S.

Horton: Well, I remember very well the day after September 11. There was a candlelight vigil where a million people showed up in Tehran.

White: Yeah, you won’t see that now.

Horton: No, certainly not.

White: No, in fact the Arab… Our numbers in the Arab world for many many years have been very bad. This administration has made them much worse. But the Iranian numbers were in stark contrast to Arab world numbers. They are still better, but they are much worse than before that State of the Union with the Axis of Evil comment. They are continuing to slide further and further down because of developments since then.

Anybody who thinks that the Iranian regime is going to be overthrown as a result of a major military attack by the U.S. is delusional.

Horton: And there is another possible consequence of this war. Hersh reported a year ago in his article, "The Iran Plans," that one of his sources said that if America bombs Iran, the south of Iraq will "go up like a candle." Basra could be taken with "10 Imams and one sound truck."

White: Actually, I thought it was that an Iranian official said that they [the Iranians] did take Basra with that [with 10 Imams and one sound truck] – talking about how they undermined the British rule in the south.

But whatever context that exists in, this is the penultimate problem with attacking Iran, [even] if you succeeded in severely reducing their retaliatory options in the Gulf. In other words, if they [Iran] didn’t have much to fire back with even after day one – and I doubt that – all that does is make Iran look more to Iraq as the place for payback. You would have already enraged Shia in Iraq over Iran being attacked, who probably would engage in anti-American and anti-British acts without any direction whatsoever. You might even have the Maliki Government in very severe straights with respect to its credibility if it continued to maintain the relationship it has now with the U.S.

But worse, whereas there probably are almost no Iranian Revolutionary Guard elements in Iraq for the reasons that we discussed before, the Iranians could pour hundreds of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds force elements into Iraq and take revenge right there. There well may be plenty of Shia who would be delighted to hide them and guide them to targets. We could suffer cruelly in Iraq. The place is a mess already and an attack on Iran would make it a lot worse.

Horton: Well, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq [SCIRI] and Moqtada al-Sadr have both said that if America attacks Iran, they will go to war in the south, and again, that [SCIRI] is the [same] Government of Iraq that we are training and equipping every day.

White: Well, Sadr’s people I’m sure would… There are fractures in his organization. It is hard to talk about that organization as a monolithic. I’m not saying you did, but some people do. But even if Sadr tried to sit on them knowing that he and others might suffer by the U.S. in such a scenario, there are elements of the Mahdi Army, which would absolutely lunge out at us. There would be no question about that at all.

Horton: I’m sure you are aware that Newsweek is reporting they believe a third aircraft carrier strike force is on its way. In the same or preceding paragraph, they quote a former Bush administration national security officer, Hillary Mann, saying she believes that the policy is to provoke and provoke and provoke until Iran finally hits us [the U.S.]. Then we can act like it is self-defense when we initiate this war.

Does that sound plausible to you?

White: The more you send out there, the more danger there is of miscalculation. Some colleagues of mine have actually been very concerned and have been writing about that. I am too.

I think the Iranians will do everything they can to sit on their hands to avoid that provocation.

What I worry about is that the more you build up forces out there in the region, the more we are proceeding with our plan to go after the Iranians. My feeling is that this president believes that only he would do this [bomb Iran]. In other words, come 20 January, 2009, the window will close [on chance to bomb Iran] and he would have no faith that a Republican or a Democratic successor would – to be a little vernacular oriented – have the balls to go through with this kind of thing [attacking Iran], something that I might characterize as having the stupidity of going through with this.

He feels it is his mission. It’s on his watch. He takes very seriously – we are told – the existential threat to Israel that an Iranian nuclear weapons capability would pose.

Horton: And again, this is Wayne White. He is the former head of the Iraq Desk at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Obviously very well informed about Iran as well.

Do you believe that they [Iran] are anywhere near the ability to create a nuclear weapon?

White: No. Everyone seems to be pretty well on the same page except the Israelis. The Israelis, when I was in government, consistently hyped… If we thought something was going to develop within 3 or 4 years, they thought it was 1 or 2, [especially] if it was an Arab weapons system. They [Israel] are out there. It’s in their face. They have to be more pessimistic and prepare for the worst.

But no, I think most of us are on the same page with respect to Iran. We think Iran is 3-8 years away from acquiring a nuclear weapon. There is time to play with.

The trouble is, if this president is as determined as I fear he might be to get this job done – figuring no one else will – the 3-8 years don’t matter to him. The only thing that matters is the remainder of his Presidency. He feels he has that much time to get the job [take out Iran] done.

Horton: I’ll let you go here, but I wanted to ask you quickly.

In Ken Silverstein’s thing at Harper‘s, you are the most optimistic person. You say that perhaps the Iranians will go ahead and suspend their enrichment before the February 21st United Nations deadline and maybe this thing [war] can be avoided.

As an adjunct question to that, I have the idea, which I would like to believe in, that George Bush is basically doing his best Richard Nixon impression, which is to send Henry Kissinger out to tell them [Iran] that he [Bush] is drunk, crazy and ready to use nukes so that they [Iran] will back down. The good cop – bad cop kind of thing, and they [the Bush administration] really don’t want a violent solution to this.

What do you think?

White: I think there is a little bit to it. It’s funny, I’ve never been described as an optimist before.

Horton: Well, on Ken Silverstein’s page, you are the most hopeful one there.

White: [Laughter] Well, the Iranians are getting more fearful of what is to come.

Ahmadinejad, who has enabled the U.S. to rally significant sectors of world opinion and government toward the taking of a tougher stance against Iran, has been a catastrophe for his country. He has come, just in the last few weeks, under a tremendous amount of internal criticism, most notably from the most conservative regime-affiliated newspaper in the country. People don’t realize that Ahmadinejad is the president in a very jury rigged government inside of Iran. He is not in charge. He would not have his finger on the button. The decision to stop enrichment for negotiations is not his call. It is the call of the supreme leader, Khamenei, and his inner circle.

But I would not eliminate the fact that the Iranians might do that [halt enrichment], because they have nothing to lose. A little face, yes, but suspending the little bit of enrichment they are now doing for a few months [to allow] for talks is more the symbolic gesture than anything else.

In fact, I was sorry to see the suspension of enrichment get into the UN resolution, because people really do need to sit down and talk. Now there is no way for the Europeans or the UN to talk to the Iranians unless Iran suspends its enrichment. It has become a major obstacle to negotiation even though it’s only of symbolic value at this point. The enrichment, the number of cascades and centrifuges they have working, are minimal.

Horton: Right, and they have suspended their enrichment in the past when they were dealing with the E-3. They only started again a year ago, right?

White: Exactly.

Horton: One last question. An article in the Asia Times suggests that the more [people like] you and I talk about the disastrous consequences of an American attack on Iran – forget about influencing Bush and Cheney since they have already discounted our concerns – the more we are making it seem to Khamenei that Bush might be able to push his luck, when in reality the U.S. is in no position to do anything. We might actually be making war more likely accidentally.

White: Well, I can’t rule out any of that. That’s like the argument I hear all the time that any criticism of the administration’s policy in the States means we are hurting the troops in the field and encouraging our enemies – this kind of stuff. History tells us that by the time you are getting such criticism, the situation on the ground has already degraded so far that you need to take a second look at it.

Horton: Yeah.

White: So, it is possible, but I don’t think so.

I think the Iranians are not looking at the critics. They are looking at Bush. I really am hoping that he scares them into suspending enrichment, because if that doesn’t happen, this thing could get very, very ugly along the lines we have been discussing.

Horton: Everybody, Wayne White, he is an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute, former deputy directory of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Office of Analysis for the Near East and South Asia. Thank you again.

White: OK, Bye-bye.

(Transcribed and edited by Chris Meyer)

Author: Scott Horton

Scott Horton is editorial director of Antiwar.com, director of the Libertarian Institute, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from ScottHorton.org. He’s the author of the 2021 book Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan, and the editor of the 2019 book, The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019. He’s conducted more than 5,500 interviews since 2003. Scott’s articles have appeared at Antiwar.com, The American Conservative magazine, the History News Network, The Future of Freedom, The National Interest and the Christian Science Monitor. He also contributed a chapter to the 2019 book, The Impact of War. Scott lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, investigative reporter Larisa Alexandrovna Horton. He is a fan of, but no relation to the lawyer from Harper’s. Scott’s Twitter, YouTube, Patreon.