How close is war with Iran?
The prospect of war with Iran appears to be getting greater with each passing month – perhaps ratcheted to its highest threat in years last week with this comment from U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, who said: “Israel can and should do whatever they need to deal with [Iran] and we’ve got their back.”
That was a break with the longstanding public posture of the U.S., which had been to try to (publicly, at least) tap the brakes anytime Israel suggested it was revving the engines of its Iran bombers. That Nides made the comment with a new, almost-indescribably-far-right government in power is all the more concerning.
My colleague Ken Klippenstein has added a disturbing new piece of reporting on the U.S. war posture toward Iran, finding that as Jared Kushner was putting together the Abraham Accords and moving Israel under the jurisdiction of CENTCOM, the Trump administration secretly funded an Iran war plan operation code-named “Support Sentry.” (Presumably it’s a reference to Israel being our sentry in the Mideast? You would think they’d be more obscure in their secret code names.)
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From Ken’s article:
As major U.S. attempts at diplomacy with Iran collapsed under Trump, the Pentagon quietly moved Israel into its Central Command area of responsibility, officially grouping it with the mainly Arab countries of the Middle East. The reshuffling, which occurred in the final days of the Trump administration and has remained under President Joe Biden, is the military corollary to the financial and diplomatic alliances laid out by the Abraham Accords, a normalization agreement negotiated by Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy, Jared Kushner, between Arab Gulf states and Israel. The accords were touted as a peace deal, but in fact served to align these countries against a common enemy: Iran.
The U.S. and Israel have also collaborated on a growing number of military exercises in recent months that Israeli leaders say are designed to test potential attack plans with Iran.
Contingency plans such as Support Sentry provide “the general outline—the overarching ‘concept’—of a plan to take some major action against an enemy,” Dakota Wood, a senior research fellow for defense programs at the Heritage Foundation and retired U.S. military planner who served as a strategist for the Marine Corps’ Special Operations Command, told The Intercept in an email.
For instance, in June 1994, the Pentagon requested a CONPLAN for military operations in Haiti; by July, U.S. forces invaded and deposed Haiti’s democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The manual also notes that Support Sentry is a “COW,” or cost of war item.
Though conventional wisdom might be that the military has contingency plans for everything, CONPLANs are, in fact, quite limited since preparing them is time consuming, Wood explained. “Since staff, time, and resources are always limited, no military command at any level would develop CONPLANs … for every conceivable contingency.”
The existence of Support Sentry, then, suggests that the U.S. military takes the possibility seriously enough to prepare a strategic framework for it. CONPLANs also lead to consequences short of war, like military exercises.
“CONPLANs serve as the intellectual framework or context when developing military exercises because it makes sense for units that are honing their skills to have that work be relevant to likely tasks,” Wood said.
The full disturbing story is worth a read.
Last week my wife and I went to a 4-day Phish concert in Mexico (it was heavenly, put it on your bucketlist) and I had some time poolside to read a forthcoming book on private equity called Plunder, which gave me the idea for a private-equity explainer segment on Breaking Points that uses Monopoly money to make clear how much of a scam it is and how illegal it ought to be. I don’t think anybody needs any sophisticated understanding of high finance to get it.
So here’s me, playing the part of a private equity mogul, with Saagar Enjeti playing the role of the owner of Shopko. The owner did fine; Shopko, its workers, and the communities it served all got wrecked.
I don’t typically promote my podcast in this newsletter because I assume if you want to listen to it, you know how to subscribe to it directly. But the recent ones on The Villages and the one on AIPAC were both different, much more narrative-focused, and I’m curious for feedback. Today I posted a more traditional one, an interview with Mehdi Hasan, who was the previous host of the podcast. He’s out with a new book that’s full of lessons on how to win debates. I played clips of some of his greatest hits, and had him talk about what went into each one.
By the way, if you’re not among the 10 million people who’ve seen his legendary Oxford Union debate performance, do yourself a favor and watch this. It’s mesmerizing.
Let's face it, how can the defense contractors maintain their rising stock prices unless we are "nearly" at war with multiple countries. Lobbying money doesn't grow on trees!
Goodness I loved this Private equity segment. Sending it to my adult kids. I dashed off and bought it from the link. I'm happy to support Bookshop.org. Shipping timelines suggest getting into it just before the July 4 holiday. Have you heard the audible audio?