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Pretexts and Provocations


Patrick Clawson, Director of Research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), attracted some attention last month for his remarks during a briefing on U.S. policy toward Iran. Clawson said,

I frankly think that crisis initiation is really tough, and it’s very hard for me to see how the United States president can get us to war with Iran, which leads me to conclude that if in fact compromise is not coming [i.e., if the Iranians will not shut down their nuclear program], the traditional way America gets to war is what would be best for U.S. interests.…

To clarify his point, Clawson cited Fort Sumter, the USS Maine, the Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, and the Gulf of Tonkin as examples of provocations that proved successful in drawing a reluctant United States into war. He concluded, “So, if in fact the Iranians aren’t going to compromise, it would be best if somebody else started the war.”

He went on to suggest that a mysterious sinking of an Iranian submarine could provoke an Iranian military response that would then justify an American war effort

Look, people, Iranian submarines periodically go down. Someday one of them might not come up. Who would know why?… We are in the game of using covert means against the Iranians. We could get nastier at that.

That a political insider would feel comfortable musing openly about intentionally provoking a war speaks volumes about the moral climate in Washington, DC. Policy wonks in think tanks now openly talk about “crisis initiation” and the possibility of false-flag events. As Bob Dole might say, “Where’s the outrage?”

For several years now, warmongers in Washington and Tel Aviv have been trying to make the case that Iran is an aggressor nation and poses a threat to national security, despite the fact that the country has very weak offensive military capabilities and hasn’t invaded another nation in centuries. Moreover, Iran is export dependent and has no interest in initiating a conflict that would cause the immediate closure of the Straits of Hormuz.

But the warmongers argue that the Iranian threat may derive not from Tehran’s paltry conventional military forces but rather from its alleged ambition to acquire nuclear weapons. The problem with this argument is that twice in the past five years the U.S. intelligence community has determined with a “high degree of certainty” that Iran canceled its embryonic nuclear-weapons program in 2003. This view is supported by the fact that Iran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has been found to be in compliance with that accord by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In 2008, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported that the staff of Vice-President Dick Cheney had drawn up a plan involving the use of fake Iranian boats and U.S. troops disguised as Iranian sailors in order to stage a false-flag attack on American ships and trick the public into believing that the Iranians had attacked the United States. While Hersh’s story was dismissed as hearsay by the U.S. government and largely overlooked by the mainstream media, it struck a disturbing chord for those familiar with how the Johnson administration used the fabricated Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 to provide justification for widening the Vietnam War.

Last year, the U.S. Justice Department claimed to have foiled a plot directed by elements of the Iranian government to assassinate a Saudi diplomat in the United States using the services of a Mexican assassin. The far-fetched plot initially made headlines, but when it was revealed that the “hit man” the Iranians had supposedly hired was a paid informant for the Drug Enforcement Agency, the story quickly withered away.

The warmongers are now attempting to pin the blame for various bombings and so-called cyber attacks on Tehran, although they have provided no evidence to back up their accusations.

Meanwhile, the United States has deployed a powerful armada to the Persian Gulf.

These actions come on the heels of the crushing economic sanctions that are wreaking havoc on Iran’s economy by preventing the nation from engaging in international commerce. The United States and her allies have imposed an effective economic blockade, which is causing untold suffering for the Iranian people and is considered an act of war by international law.

Of course, the accusations of aggression, terrorism, and cyber warfare by the United States and Israel against Iran carry a heavy whiff of irony; Washington and Tel Aviv are indeed guilty of committing the very acts they accuse Tehran of.

The United States has invaded and occupied two of Iran’s neighboring countries (Iraq and Afghanistan), established bases to her north in central Asia, and, as mentioned above, deployed warships to the Persian Gulf. In short, the U.S. has encircled Iran. So who’s the aggressor?

The U.S. and Israeli governments have also been supporting the terrorist group Mujahedeen e-Khalq (MEK) for years as part of their proxy war against Iran. MEK has long been recognized as a violent and extremist organization that has shed innocent Iranian and American blood. Indeed, the MEK is included on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, although there is now a well-financed campaign to have the terrorist group de-listed in order to allow the U.S. to legally expand its proxy war. So who’s supporting terrorists?

And last year it was revealed that Stuxnet — the computer virus that shut down Iran’s IAEA-approved uranium-enrichment program — was developed by the United States and Israel. According to various credible sources within the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities, Stuxnet was part of a secret program to wage “increasingly sophisticated attacks” on Iranian infrastructure. So who’s waging cyber warfare?

An objective observer of these events could conclude that it is indeed the United States and Israel who are the aggressors and Iran who is the victim.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the “bipolar” era of the Cold War, the U.S. government has not been confronted with a peer competitor. Rather than declaring victory and coming home, however, the U.S. government seized the “unipolar” moment to become a global hegemon.

The simple fact is the Iranian “threat” derives from Tehran’s rather token defiance of Washington’s attempt to impose global domination. Empires brook no defiance.

The Cold War was like any other war in that it resulted in the transfer of power and wealth to the government. It solidified networks of bureaucratic, financial, and corporate special interests that had been developing since before America’s entry into World War I. The “arsenal of democracy” of the World War II–era developed into the “Military Industrial Complex” of the Cold War era. Firmly in place, that complex has refused to dismantle itself even though its raison d’étre evaporated two decades ago.

That should not be surprising for anyone with a basic understanding of economics and human nature. After all, spending hundreds of billions of dollars year in and year out on weaponry and other “national-security” items was bound to have a distorting effect on the politics and culture of the nation. This problem, of course, was recognized as early as 1961 by President Dwight Eisenhower in his farewell address.

One would think that those political figures baying for yet another war would be tossed out of office by a war-weary and increasingly impoverished electorate. But the truth is the vast majority of Americans are ignorant of foreign-policy realities.

For those Americans who do see through the bellicose propaganda being pushed by the imperial schemers and war profiteers in Washington, it is our duty to inform others of the true nature of U.S. foreign policy and convince them of the imperative of avoiding yet another disastrous war.

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    Tim Kelly is a columnist and policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Virginia, a correspondent for Radio America’s Special Investigator, and a political cartoonist.