Bill Clinton has now clarified his policy on the Middle East. It's called "Saddam in a Box". It sounds like a new Tyson Foods product that one might find in the supermarket next to the frozen chicken parts. And the policy's logic is about as compelling as the latter would be appetizing.
Let's begin with the assassination of Rabin in Israel. Implicated are Israeli security agencies connected to Ariel Sharon. (Sharon's agents are run out of the U.S., including the Mossad's most valued asset in Chicago, who has his legs broken with a baseball bat.) Despite evidence of their involvement in the assassination, Likud wins the election and begins to dismantle the peace agreement partly worked out with Yassir Arafat and Hafez Assad. (Sharon is rewarded with a cabinet post in the new Likud government.)
The U.S. and France, meanwhile, put intense pressure on Syria to give up any claim to the Golan heights. Hafez Assad sends out a "don't tread on me" statement: Syrian- trained terrorists cause the Western states blackout in the U.S., and shoot down TWA Flight 800--a flight from New York en route to Paris, carrying both U.S. and French citizens. Both governments (via the FBI in the U.S. case) are warned in advance. Clinton is advised to strike back by taking out a handful of top Syrian government officials.
But it is not going well for Clinton. The Starr investigation is looking increasingly ominous. Clinton fears an October Surprise. Democrats in his own party, including a group led by Robert Strauss, urge his resignation for the good of the country. Other (national security) agencies, concerned with his increasingly coke-induced erratic behavior, place even more pressure on him to resign. So Clinton decides to divert attention with a military operation in the Middle East. He wants something in the news headlines every day--a war, not a covert operation. He is advised that to bomb Syria would result in a U.S. domestic terrorist nightmare. So Clinton looks at Iran, an easy bombing target, and one whose agents have not shown the same skills in guerrilla warfare.
First, he secretly orders units from the 101 Airborne at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, to Saudi Arabia. William Perry shows up in the Middle East and announces Iranian terrorists may be behind the Dhahran bombing ("Perry Predicts 'International Connection,' Possibly Iran, to Saudi Arabia Bombing," The Washington Post, August 3, 1996) Newspapers publish lavish charts showing the location of "Iranian terrorist camps". Various commentators beat the drums for an Iranian connection to both the Dhahran bombing and the downing of TWA Flight 800. But then Clinton is shown an article in Janes Intelligence Review describing Iran's control over the Straits of Hormuz, and its ability to cut off the flow of oil. A world oil crisis would be bad for the stock market and the up-coming election. Clinton pauses to reflect, and to look for another bombing target.
Then Clinton takes a choo-choo ride to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and arrives just in time to be pounded by the Dick Morris resignation--the same Dick Morris depicted in Time as Clinton's closest advisor, his brain. (Hillary announces that she is afraid that Dick Morris is "depressed" and "suicidal", because she is secretly plotting with I3 to assassinate him.)
Saddam, meanwhile, noting the U.S. rattling its saber at Iran, takes the opportunity to move into the Kurdish zone, to put down an Iranian-supported Kurdish faction, and also some CIA-supported ones. Clinton says, Aha! The White House announces that the U.S. is watching Saddam's actions with grave concern, and are thinking of sending more troops there (even while more units of the 101 Airborne are secretly dispatched to Saudi Arabia). All the U.S. allies, excepting Britain and Kuwait, refuse to go along with this charade. The U.S. bombs a few targets anyway, expands the no-fly zone, and pronounces the action a success.
The nation cheers, then realizes nothing has actually happened, except a U.S.-assisted boost to Saddam Hussein's power, and deteriorated relations with Turkey, France, and Saudi Arabia. Bill decides to escalate again, sending over a contingent of F-117 Stealth fighters to Kuwait, along with all their expensive support equipment and personnel. There they sit on the ground, doing nothing. He announces soldiers from Ft. Hood, Texas, will be arriving in Kuwait, without clearing the action first with Kuwait. (They read about it in the paper.) Then Saddam says he will not oppose the expanded no-fly zone, cutting off Clinton's legs. Clinton is all dressed up for war, with nowhere to go.
The Middle Eastern phase of Clinton's re-election campaign has turned into a military and international relations disaster. Meanwhile, on the home front, while Syria deploys troops to the border with Israel, Clinton has more meetings with security agencies and Starr representatives. Clinton is informed he either resigns soon, or will suffer extremely nasty consequences. The ante is upped the longer he attempts to stay. Leaving will not spare him prosecution. But it will probably spare him some of the time, and the conditions under which, he vacations in the slammer. Clinton, however, is paranoid. He will lose much (not all) of his Secret Service protection if he resigns.
So Clinton's in a box. If he stays he may be dead, and if he resigns he may be dead. He wants a guarantee that if he resigns the same thing doesn't happen to him that happened to Ron Brown.
Will he go or will he stay? Either way, a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
September 19, 1996
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