When I called Seymour Hersh last month, he was rewriting his next piece for The New Yorker. That story is online now, and it happens to deal with the first question I asked in the interview: Does he still believe President Bush is gunning for Iran?
Yes and no, Hersh writes. The U.S. is no longer looking to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. Instead, the attacks will be more tit for tat regarding Iranian meddling in Iraqi bloodshed and the killing of American soldiers.
Now the emphasis is on âsurgicalâ strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq. What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism.
The shift in targeting reflects three developments. First, the President and his senior advisers have concluded that their campaign to convince the American public that Iran poses an imminent nuclear threat has failed (unlike a similar campaign before the Iraq war), and that as a result there is not enough popular support for a major bombing campaign. The second development is that the White House has come to terms, in private, with the general consensus of the American intelligence community that Iran is at least five years away from obtaining a bomb. And, finally, there has been a growing recognition in Washington and throughout the Middle East that Iran is emerging as the geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq.
Hersh was on Wolf Blitzer this morning, embedded below, talking about these “shifting targets.” As for handling Iraq, Hersh told me: “There are only two issues: Option A is to get out by midnight tonight, and Option B is to get out by midnight tomorrow.”