Selling a US-Israeli war against Iran

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The start of the 2003 US attack against Iraq saw the closure of the pressure groups that had called for the US-Iraq war. Most of the same people who were involved in selling the war against Iraq moved to sell the war against Iran. The formation of the Iran Policy Committee began the drumbeat first with an open call for "regime change", then for the recognition of the Mujahideen-e-Khaq [1] (MEK) -- a discredited armed Iranian group that fought along Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war -- and finally to attack Iran because of its purported nuclear weapons program. The campaign has gone through several phases, each discussed in turn.

"Wiping out Israel"

On 26 Oct. 2005, Ahmadinejad gave a speech quoting ayatollah Khomeni stating that "the regime over Jerusalem should be removed from the pages of time". This statement was duly misinterpreted and embellished to imply that Ahmadinejad called for the destruction of Israel. Prof. Juan Cole has extensively analyzed this incident, and concluded that the translation was intentionally misinterpreted.[2]

No negotiations with enemies

In 2004, the first indications started that the US sought to apply pressure on Iran about its nuclear program. It sought to use the IEAE inspections to suggest that Iran had a nuclear weapons program; coincidentally, Mohamed El Baradei received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. Several European countries sought to allay the escalation of this conflict and called for negotiations. Iran acceded to the negotiations, but the United States refused to attend stating that it "did not negotiate with enemies". Although Iran was forced to jump through many hoops by the Europeans (most likely working in tandem with the US), the negotiations were eventually abandoned because no agreement would guarantee that the US would accept the conditions. If the US is exerting pressure on Iran, saber rattling, building up forces in the Gulf, and then it refuses to negotiate about the principal causes of its dispute, then the only likely outcome is to result in war.

Blaming Iran for Lebanon's "proxy wars"

Israeli cross border attacks ("incursions") have been a constant feature in Lebanon for the past few years. Fighter jet over flights were common, naval harassment of Lebanese shipping and fishing has been common place, in May 2006 Israeli agents assassinated two Hezbollah leaders in Tyre, and it ran a significant spying operation which included assassinations and black propaganda (this unraveled early in 2006, when the principal agents were arrested). Now in July 2006, Hezbollah captured two soldiers and killed a few more. In the ensuing pursuit Israeli forces lost a few tanks and incurred significant casualties. This incident was construed as a justification for an Israeli war against Lebanon; it was a pretext duly parroted by the "western" mainstream media (e.g., BBC, CNN). All the antecedent events were ignored, but the capture of the Israeli soldiers was construed as an attack against Israel with Iran using Hezbollah as a proxy. This construct is patently absurd, but the proxy theme repetition increased as the war progressed. The impression was conveyed that both Iran and Syria were co-responsible for the war in Lebanon, and thus it would be justified for Israel to attack those countries too. Furthermore, if Iran was waging a proxy war in Lebanon, it was further justification for the war of aggression waged by Israel.

And a spot of demonization

In the lead up to the war against Iraq, Saddam Hussein was demonized and portrayed as a new-Hitler. The cover photo of Time magazine digitally cropped his moustache to resemble Hitler's version. In January 2007, the same demonization started about Ahmedinejad who was now labeled a "new Hitler". The demonization was mostly authored by right-wing ideologues, and it didn’t gain much traction in the mainstream media. Furthermore, just like in the lead-up to the Iraq wars, an impression is given that the US is pursuing a single demon: in the case of Iraq it was Hussein, in the case of Iran it is Ahmedinejad. The implication conveyed is that "a single" bullet would settle the issue, rendering an attack more palatable.

Sabre rattling fest

On 21 Jan. 2007, the Seventh Herzliya conference convened attracting senior government officials, military experts, think-tankers, presidential hopefuls, propaganda specialists and zionist cheerleaders. The conference touts itself as a zionist equivalent of the Davos Meeting. When US presidential candidates, US senior government officials, European foreign ministers, and EU senior officials all talk at such an event, it is worth analyzing their statements. This year the unifying theme was the threat posed by Iran and that it was intolerable to countenance a nuclear armed Iran. Several speakers suggested that Iranian nuclear facilities should be bombed and that a broader action was needed (i.e., bombing nuclear facilities was not enough). If any Iranian had made a similar suggestion about Israel, this would in itself have been construed by US-Israel as a casus belli (see how they reacted to the "wiping off the map" quotation).

The danger of the sabre rattling is that Iran may come to think that no matter what it does, the only outcome will be war. If so, it may prepare counter attacks, arm Iraqi-Shia resistance, prepare the blocking of the Straights of Hormuz, and even intervention in Arab peninsula countries with significant Shia majority populations (e.g., Bahrain). Some such defensive preparations can then be used by US-Israel as further justification or pretext for war.

Inevitability of war

By Feb. 2007, two aircraft carrier groups arrived in the Gulf, and a third one is en route and due in Mar. 2007. Once in place, they cannot be removed without obtaining tangible results because that would lead to a loss of face and demonstrate that the US didn't have the "resolve" to reach its objectives. The deployment of troops or naval battle groups implies that either they obtain results or an inevitable war will ensue. The same process took place in the lead up to the Gulf War (1991) and the US attack against Iraq (2003). Prior to the Gulf War, the Russians obtained an Iraqi agreement to negotiate with the US and to remove Iraqi troops from Kuwait. However, the US rejected this stating that their troops were already deployed and had to carry out their mission. In the lead up to the 2003 war, Iraqis also sought negotiations, but the buildup continued. As proof of their intentions, the Americans hypocritically suggested that the UN oversee a destruction of Iraqi "banned weapons" and that the weapons inspections continue -- Iraq acquiesced to both demands. However, even though the Iraqis indicated their willingness to negotiate the US (and CNN "experts") indicated that once hundreds of thousands of soldiers had been deployed at enormous cost, they would be poised to attack. War became inevitable.

Iran arming the Iraqi resistance

In Feb. 2007, the White House accused Iran that it was providing armor piercing explosive devices, and it released photographs of the devices which supposedly were made in Iran. In Iraq, a briefing was given to journalists about the Iranian-made devices, but curiously, the two military officials insisted on anonymity -- they couldn't be identified. Concurrently, the US military press office revealed that Iranian military experts had been captured in Iraq, and they were accused of training Iraqi Shia in planting the explosive devices -- the impression was given that some of the Iranian diplomats were actually covert operatives. What undermined the US accusation against Iran was a statement by Gen. Pace who acknowledged in an interview that he suspected that some devices were made in Iran, but he admitted that he had no information on Iranian involvement in distributing the devices in Iraq.


On 7 Feb. 2007, Israel Archaelogical department initiated excavations near the Al Aqsa mosque, Islam's third most important mosque and religious site. One sure way to provoke an Islamic reaction in general, and Iranian reaction in particular, is to mess with the Al Aqsa mosque. There is a long history of such provocations, but the interesting thing with this provocation is the timing: just before a Palestinian interfactional meeting in Mecca and as a means to provoke Iran.

Another war against Lebanon

A reading of the Israeli press makes it abundantly clear that the Israelis desire to attack Lebanon again in the Summer 2007. Preparations are underway with training, border incursions where swathes of land are cleared of vegetation, etc. The perception is that if Israel attacks Lebanon again it will also target Syria (and that is the reason Israel has repeatedly rejected Syria's calls for unconditional negotiations). Any war against Syria will also trigger an Iranian response because a mutual defense treaty has been signed between the two countries. So, sabre rattling against Hezbollah in Lebanon will likely escalate into a wider area war. The importance of this is that Israel can possibly trigger a war with Iran by creating a pretext for war in Lebanon.

Trial Balloon

On 19 Feb. 2007, the BBC reported that the attack plans of the Pentagon had been released (id did not specify how they were obtained), and these indicated not only an attack on the nuclear sites, but also a blanket attack on militiary sites. This type of document amounts to (1) a means of increasing pressure on the Iranians; and (2) a trial balloon. It is a trial balloon, because it is meant to fathom the level of opposition to such an action. If there is vehement opposition, then the report can always be disclaimed. If there is no opposition, then it is clear that a war could be launched without much initial opposition. The same trial balloons were presented prior to the 1991 and 2003 US wars against Iraq.

In bed with Al Qaeda

On 22 May 2007, a front page article by Simon Tisdall quoted unnamed sources extensively to suggest that Iran was preparing to harass US forces in Iraq, and that for this purpose Iran was cooperating with Al Qaeda and Sunni resistance forces in Iraq. The Media Lens analysis of this article states:

The claim was based almost entirely on unsupported assertions made by anonymous US officials. Indeed 22 of the 23 paragraphs in the story relayed official US claims: over 95 per cent of the story. The compilation below indicates the levels of balance and objectivity:
"US officials say"; "a senior US official in Baghdad warned"; "The official said"; "the official said"; "the official said"; "US officials now say"; "the senior official in Baghdad said" "he [the senior official in Baghdad] added"; "the official said"; "the official said"; "he [the official] indicated; "he [the official] cited"; "a senior administration official in Washington said"; "The administration official also claimed"; "he [the administration official] said"; "US officials say"; "the senior official in Baghdad said"; "he [the senior official in Baghdad] said"; "the senior administration official said"; "he [the senior administration official] said"; "the official claimed"; "he [the official] said"; "Gen Petraeus’s report to the White House and Congress"; "a former Bush administration official said"; "A senior adviser to Gen Petraeus reported"; "the adviser admitted".
No less than 26 references to official pronouncements formed the basis for a Guardian story presented with no scrutiny, no balance, no counter-evidence - nothing. Remove the verbiage described above and a Guardian front page news report becomes a straight Pentagon press release.[3]
Edward Herman commented to us:
"I saw that story and was amazed that what we call here the 'Judy Miller syndrome' has caught on in the UK 'liberal media.' Pretty amazing, after the overwhelming evidence of the past five years that the U.S.-Bush government is in the very business of disinformation, and their steady and obvious desire to demonize the Iranians, that this unconfirmed propaganda is treated as news (and not news pathology)." (Email to Media Lens, 22 May 2007)
Juan Cole, Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History at the University of Michigan, dismissed Tisdall's "silly article", describing the anonymous sources as "looney in positing a coming offensive jointly sponsored by Iran, the Mahdi Army and al-Qaeda". (Juan Cole, parliament-building-shelled-iraqi.html formed Comment blog May 22, 2007;
The holes in the story were obvious, Cole added: "At a time when Sunni Arab guerrillas are said to be opposing 'al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia' for its indiscriminate violence against Iraqis, including Shiites, we are now expected to believe that Shiite Iran is allying with it."
He concluded:
"US military spokesmen have been trying to push implausible articles about Shiite Iran supporting Sunni insurgents for a couple of years now, and with virtually the sole exception of the New York Times, no one in the journalistic community has taken these wild charges seriously. But The Guardian?" (ibid.)
Noam Chomsky described the Guardian cover story as: "Disgusting, but not far from the norm," adding that, in any case, "the whole debate is utterly mad." (ibid.)

The Apparatus

Irani Exiles





  1. ^There are several spellings or transliterations of the MEK's name.