This evening, ABC’s World News Tonight reported that the “United States has opened a new front in its showdown with Iran.” According to the report, President Bush has directed the CIA to carry out covert operations both inside and outside Iran “aimed directly at weakening the Iranian regime.”
ABC’s investigative correspondent Brian Ross said the CIA’s “non-lethal” program had received “secret presidential approval.” Officials told ABC the CIA plan “takes the place of proposed U.S. military action against Iran, reportedly advocated by Vice President Cheney.” Watch it:
The Blotter has more coverage:
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.
“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.”
The covert action plan comes as U.S. officials have confirmed Iran had dramatically increased its ability to produce nuclear weapons material, at a pace that experts said would give them the ability to build a nuclear bomb in two years.
Vali Nasr, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said “I think everybody in the region knows that there is a proxy war already afoot with the United States supporting anti-Iranian elements in the region as well as opposition groups within Iran. And this covert action is now being escalated by the new U.S. directive, and that can very quickly lead to Iranian retaliation and a cycle of escalation can follow.”