U.S. military bases surrounding Iran…
Any story we are told has four parts, the main character, the plot, the setting and the ending, and one might add here, who is making it up. It is only through analysis of these components that the reader will decide whether the story is pure fiction, concocted for political capital or not. The story of alleged attempt on the life of Saudi ambassador in Washington is a claim or a story that need to be flushed out.
We are being told that the government in Tehran would use an American citizen of Iranian descent, a second hand car dealer from Corpus Christi, Texas, who has criminal records and been accused of forging checks, well known in his town for being eccentric to say the least, to hatch a scheme with a Mexican drug cartel to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States, involving less than two million dollars. A second alleged conspirator who is in Iran, have not been indicted yet.
Why the Saudi ambassador and not a bigger target? For only one-and-a-half million dollars? Why would the authorities in Tehran take such a risk? What purpose would be served? Honest answers to these and other perplexing questions are hard to come by. Tehran, not surprisingly, rejects Washington’s accusations.
There will be those who will see the latest developments as part of a consistent pattern of U.S. foreign policy conduct in the Middle East, especially with regard to Iran. The motive––to teach Iran a lesson in any way possible. Like the bizarre accusations against Muammar Gaddafi that he was employing mass rape of women as a weapon against opponents, to justify NATO’s war in Libya.
Gareth Porter pointed out last weekend in the CounterPunch site, that “the whole “plot” has the familiar aroma of an FBI sting in which the most outlandish propositions are actually voiced by the DEA informant to Arbabsiar. The supposed plot is certainly wreathed in incidental grandiose absurdities: a side deal between the Quds Force, part of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and Los Zetas to smuggle vast shipments of opium from the Middle East to Mexico, and plans to bomb the Saudi and Israeli Embassies in Argentina.
To repeat: Iran doesn’t want war with the US. Quite the reverse. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently tried to refloat the Tehran Research Reactor nuclear fuel swap. He proposed that Iran suspend production of some uranium-enrichment activities in exchange for fuel supplies from the United States. On September 29 the International Herald Tribune ran an op-ed piece saying the proposal was well worth consideration by the US government. All such hopes of a warming in relations have now been snuffed out, most vigorously by Obama on Thursday, endorsing the Attorney General Holder’s wild allegations and threatening ferocious new sanctions against Iran.
There are two powers in the Middle East that most certainly do want war, or a deepening rift between the US and Iran – namely Saudi Arabia and Israel. And we should not forget the cultish Iranian MEK, beloved by many on Capitol Hill.
Hmmm… and here I thought that Colin Powell’s pathetic claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction before the United Nations (to justify the U.S. led invasion) in 2003 was an intellectual low point of U.S. foreign policy virtually impossible to match. Wrong again!
The US has made swift use of dubious “plots” in the not-so-distant past. In 1981 it flourished charges of a Libyan “hit squad” entering the US through the border tunnel between the Canadian town of Windsor to Detroit, with a plan to assassinate newly elected President Ronald Reagan. No evidence was ever offered for this accusation but it kindled animosities that culminated five years later with the US raid on Tripoli, aiming to assassinate Col Gaddafi in his compound.
In April 1993 former president G.H.W. Bush was visiting Kuwait to commemorate the victory over Saddam in the Gulf War. Detection by the Kuwaitis of a plot to kill him with a car bomb was announced. The FBI duly declared that the wiring of the bomb indicated that the bomb-makers belonged to Iraqi intelligence.
And not forgetting the baby conspiracy in 1990, when Bush the father’s administration concocted an outright lie coached by a major pr firm told under oath before congress in collusion with the President of the United States in order to garner support for war through the deception of the American public.
In June 1993 Madeleine Albright, US ambassador to the UN, denounced the plot in the Security Council and a day later President Clinton ordered the firing of 23 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the HQ of Iraqi intelligence in Baghdad. One of the missiles landed in a Baghdad suburb and killed Layla al-Attar, one of Iraq’s leading artists. This set the tone for relations during the Clinton years.
The Limits of Gullibility
Is it only in America could the public swallow and take seriously such unmitigated nonsense with hardly a second thought? After all, this is the country where Glen Beck and Russ Limbaugh (or here in Colorado, their local clone, Mike Rosen) can pontificate daily to audiences of millions who take their words as something approaching gospel?
Does gullibility know no limits? Apparently very few!
Is it enough for the likes of Beck and Limbaugh to start the ball rolling, combined with a page 1 piece in the New York Times to assure that allegation, regardless how farfetched, receives the blessing of credibility? Adding fuel to the fire, the next day Hillary Clinton (bowing to AIPAC once again), Joseph Biden and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen joined a chorus of neo-conservatives to add legitimacy to `the cause’.
But all that were simply preludes to the main act; with an eye on the 2012 presidential elections (what else?) on Thursday (October 13, 2011) President Barack Obama picked up the baton from Hillary, buying into the hysteria created over the past few days. Rather than neutralizing the nonsense , Obama only added to the demagoguery with his own intemperate comment that “Iran will pay the price” for the (alleged) assassination attempt.
Obama Joins Hands with Beck and Limbaugh
Metaphorically joining hands with Beck and Limbaugh – and obviously intimated by their war-mongering and sensitive to being tagged as a foreign policy wimp – Obama has concluded that Iran-bashing will help his re-election campaign. A pity, but given how many times and in how many ways this president has disappointed – even those of us who didn’t expect much from him – not necessarily a surprise.
Of course not everyone has swallowed this particular pill. While one or two otherwise thoughtful commentators are taking the bait, there are some pretty sharp skeptics (Jim Lobe, Glen Greenwald, Ray McGovern, even CNN!!– internationally Pepe Escobar) already deconstructing these allegations, nay, ripping this particular Washington created fantasy to shreds. (see links) Certainly more will follow.
It’s all enough for me to scratch my now balding head in wonder. Concerning the allegations themselves, they are rather curious and pretty flakey. They don’t add up but the shadow of suspicion that they cast concerning Iran helps to further poison international relations in a number of ways.
The most disturbing suggestion is that Iran is planning an attack on the United States a la 9-11; suggesting, on this the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The `plot’ tries to link the Iranian government with elements of the Mexican drug mafia – a curious attempt at linkage, about as valid as linking Saddam Hussein with Al Qaeda – spurious perhaps, but nonetheless effective.
Needless to say all this is yet a further effort to de-legitimize Iran before the world and to create the pretexts for further intimidations, sanctions, covert military actions in preparation for the `big one’ – still on the books – to invade Iran and over through the Islamic Republic.
What’s The Deal?
The timing of this particular ideological offensive is rather curious. It comes at a time when:
- the Iranians had recently announced that they would not enrich uranium to anything more than a 20% level. (Weapons’ grade uranium is enriched more than 90%) thus pulling the rug out from under the allegation – once again – that they are enriching uranium for a nuclear weapons (rather than power). Iran’s refusal to develop a nuclear weapons program has been particularly unsettling to U.S. neo-conservatives and Israeli Likudniks. Follow this logic to its end and it suggests that if the Iranians totally abandoned their nuclear program the Obama Administration would consider it an act of war!! Since it is becoming increasingly difficult to make much of Iran’s nuclear program, the Administration has needed to find a different – if convoluted – avenue of attack – the texas-mexican mafia-iranian revolutionary guard `threat’.
- the House Foreign Relations Committee is considering further sanctions against Iran. AIPAC’s point-woman on that committee, committee chair Ros-Lehtinen was quick to jump on the band wagon claiming that “the multi-faceted threat posed by Iran becomes more severe with each passing day.” Lehtinen, whose main base of support includes Cuban anti-Castro elements and Likudniks, is introducing legislation which, if approved would include banning all transactions with Iran’s Central Bank. The `plot’ will help Lehtinen pass the punitive legislation a little more easily
- Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran had temporarily subsided, the Saudi’s being consumed with freezing and reversing the democratic regional surge triggered by the Arab Spring throughout the region for fear the monarchy is next in line. To show how liberal and reformist they have become, the monarchy in an act filled with human pathos and solidarity intervened to stop a public lashing of a woman who had, the nerve of her, challenged Wahhabist Islam by taking to the steering wheel of an automobile. Apparently there are some in Washington that feel that the Saudi’s have `lost focus’…giving too much attention to Arab developments and not enough to the `anti-Iranian’ coalition that the Obama Administration has being doing everything in its power to keep afloat. It was amusing how in the first days after `the plot’ was revealed, it was the U.S. and not Saudi Arabia who began to make a big deal out of this incident. Until prodded by Washington the Saudi’s apparently didn’t understand their national honor was under assault.
- The Israelis can only welcome Washington’s effort to refocus political momentum away from Israel’s growing regional isolation (with Turkey, Egypt and the upcoming UN vote over Palestinian statehood) and mounting unpopularity. Netanyahu’s American supporters, long confusing U.S. national interests with those of Tel Aviv, can now breath easier about contributing to Obama’s presidential campaign. I mean how bad can he be for Israel if he’s returned to the drumbeat of attacking Iran?
Mohammed Bouazizi Derailing U.S. Regional Plans
All the above is true enough and probably adds fuel to the fire, but I would venture that the heart of the matter is somewhere else. Since the Arab Spring burst forth in the Middle East with the self-sacrifice by immolation of the young Tunisian, Mohammed Bouazizi, U.S. Middle East policy has been thrown into disarray. Still is in large measure. The approach to the region was to build an anti-Iranian alliance among such diverse allies as Israel and Saudi Arabia with the goal of undermining and eventually overthrowing the Islamic Republic of Iran one way or another.
At the heart of this offensive was the U.S. ability to portray Iran as a destabilizing influence in the region; not merely a destabilizing influence but THE destabilizing element. The Arab Spring itself undercut Washington’s main assumption. It isn’t a threat of some form of Shi’ite political fundamentalism emanating from Iranian mullahs which has been stalking the region but poverty, political oppression and corruption of regimes which for decades had been propped up by the United States and its allies.
The Arab Spring, the Second Arab Revolt, took the wind out of the sales of the anti-Iranian coalition, its constituent elements scattering to the winds. Although not entirely clear where it is all headed the Arab Spring has already upset the U.S. shaped political apple cart. U.S. Middle East policy has yet to recover. Alignments are shifting; there is uncertainty in Washington, nothing short of panic in Israel as to how it will all play out. But one thing is pretty clear – to a great extent, the United States has lost control of the process (if it ever had it)!
Cryonic Suspension and U.S. Middle East Policy…
How to regain the political initiative?
- Put the brakes on the Arab Spring especially where it concerns the oil producing countries. It’s one thing for little Tunisia bereft of oil and natural gas to democratize, quite another for Saudi Arabia’s neighbors Bahrein and Yemen to do likewise.
- Try to patch up (unsuccessfully so far) the spats between Israel and Turkey, Israel and Egypt
- Freeze any momentum on Palestinian statehood and the creation of an independent, viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with a capital in E. Jerusalem
- Gain a foothold in oil and resource rich Africa through taking advantage of the Libyan events
- Assemble as many countries as possible into the U.S. led NATO alliance against whomever (Russia, China, etc)
- And last but not least attempt to re-establish the dead fish that is the anti-Iranian alliance to bring those former silent partners in crime (Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Emirates, etc) back into a working relationship.
Reviving the `Iranian Threat’ is not old wine in a new bottle. It’s more akin to thawing a body that has been in a state of cryonic suspension. Problem is that patient died months ago and cannot be revived by normal means. Only a miracle can revive it… or a surrealistic pretext like a Texas used car sales man being run by an Iranian secret service spy in cooperation with the Mexican drug mafia. If reality won’t work, why not try fantasy? And since denial is as much a part of the American political tradition as football or apple pie, who knows, maybe it will work.