The US Propaganda Campaign Against Iran

The US government has stepped up its rhetoric against Iran this week with a presentation held in Baghdad designed to support the claim that, as worded by President Bush last month, “Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops.”[1] US officials said that weapons were being smuggled into Iraq by an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard known as the Quds Force on orders “coming from the highest levels of the Iranian government.”[2] But, as the Washington Post observed, “The officials offered no evidence to substantiate allegations that the ‘highest levels’ of the Iranian government had sanctioned support for attacks against U.S. troops.”[3] That conclusion was an “inference”, and the defense analyst present acknowledged the inconclusiveness of the evidence, saying, “The smoking gun of an Iranian standing over an American with a gun, it’s never going to happen.”[4]

The reason for the buzz, as the Post also accurately noted, was that, “Although the administration has made many assertions about Iran’s nuclear program, its role in Iraq and its ties to groups on the State Department’s terrorism list, the U.S. government has never publicly offered evidence proving the allegations.” The presentation was the first attempt by the government to offer what it regards as evidence to substantiate the claims being made.

In the spotlight was the “explosively formed penetrator”, or EFP, made from a cylinder pipe. The EFP projects a slug of metal when it explodes and has components that require precision machining, which, according to the officials, links the weapons to Iran, since “We have no evidence that this has ever been done in Iraq.”[5] They offered no evidence it had ever been done in Iran, either, though we may assume Iranians would be capable of doing so.

Of course, Iraqis are likely capable of doing so, as well. An article in Jane’s Intelligence Review last month reported that the required tools “can easily be found in Iraqi metalworking shops and garages.” The author of the article, Michael Knights, told IPS, “I’m surprised that they haven’t found evidence of making EFPs in Iraq. That doesn’t ring true for me.”[6] The existing administration convinced the public of the need for war against Iraq by invoking images of a “mushroom cloud” and said Iraq was close to developing a nuclear bomb. There is no slight irony, as Patrick Cockburn noted in the Independent, that “Washington is now saying Iraqis are too backward to produce an effective roadside bomb and must seek Iranian help.”[7]

Also offered as evidence were mortars and rocket-propelled grenades said to have come from Iran. The argument that EFP components and other weapons ostensibly manufactured in Iran constitute evidence of Iranian government involvement assumes that they can’t be obtained through the black market.[8] This is a dubious assumption. General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged to reporters two days after the presentation that the case “does not translate that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this.”[9]

Iran has consistently denied the charges that it supports attacks against US troops. In response to the most recent effort, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini observed that “The United States has a long history in fabricating evidence.” The allegations are, needless to say, reminiscent of government claims that Iraq possessed of weapons of mass destruction and was intent on collaborating with the al Qaeda terrorist organization to use them against the US.

In the PowerPoint presentation offered to journalists, entitled “Iranian Support for Lethal Activity in Iraq”, references are made to “extremist groups” rather than specifying whether the groups supposedly being armed by Iran are Sunni or Shiite.[10] The US is struggling with a predominately Sunni resistance movement in Iraq. Iran is a Shiite country friendly to the majority population of Iraq whom share that faith. The government propped up by US forces is dominated by Shiites, and the death squads principally target members of the insurgency. As Iranian leaders have noted, it is Iran’s best interest to promote a stable Shiite-dominated government in Iraq. As Patrick Cockburn noted, the evidence presented “implies the Shiites have been at war with the U.S., when in fact they are controlled by parties which make up the Iraqi government.”[11]

What is interesting about the framework for discussion of Iranian support for attacks on US troops in Iraq is the underlying assumption that it would be most heinous for Iran to involve itself with its next-door neighbor. The US, on the other hand, has every right to interfere, politically and militarily, in the affairs of the Mesopotamian country on the other side of the world. This declared right for the US to use violence to meet political ends (which, incidentally, meets the definition of terrorism) is never questioned in Washington or the mainstream media while the conjecture about Iranian involvement in Iraq rages on. An alternative framework for discussion is possible. It could be assumed rather that the same standards must apply to the US as to Iran. But that would be unthinkable. The US is instead absurdly portrayed as the defender of Iraq struggling to keep other parties from destabilizing the country. Iraq is preposterously “the front line” in the war on terrorism as a result of waging a “war on terrorism” against Iraq.

Aside from claims of Iranian support for attacks on US troops in Iraq, the government has also charged that Iran is intent on producing nuclear weapons and the President has declared that “all options are on the table” for dealing with the alleged threat, including the use of military force, presumably in the form of air strikes against targets inside Iran.[12]

Evidence that Iran has military intentions for its nuclear program is scant, however. When Mohammed El-Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, traveled to Belgium this week, the Western media largely noted his comment to that “full transparency” was required from Iran. Ignored were other remarks he made, just the most recent reiteration from the IAEA of the lack of evidence supporting US government allegations: “I don’t see a military solution of the Iranian issue. First of all, as far as we know what Iran has now today is knowledge. We do not know that Iran has the industrial capacity to enrich uranium. We don’t know, we haven’t seen indication or concrete proof of a nuclear weapons program. So I don’t see that people talk about a military solution. I don’t know what they mean by that. You cannot bomb knowledge as I said before. I think it would also be completely counterproductive.”[13]

But then the predicted consequences didn’t stop the US government from invading Iraq, and we should not presume that an attack on Iran is off the table, particularly when we are repeatedly reminded otherwise. Any such attack would certainly be counterproductive. One predictable result would be Iran’s expulsion of the IAEA and withdrawal from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. And if Iran currently has no intention to make a bomb, an attack would virtually guarantee that the effort would get underway, underground and without international oversight, just as occurred after Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981.

But besides being “counterproductive”, like the invasion of Iraq it would also be a crime; in fact, as defined at Nuremberg, “the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” But that’s an inconvenient truth many are reluctant to include in the accepted framework.

__________

[1] President’s Address to the Nation, The White House, January 10, 2007

[2] James Glanz, “U.S. Says Arms Link Iranians to Iraqi Shiites”, New York Times, February 12, 2007

[3] Joshua Partlow, “Military Ties Iran To Arms In Iraq”, Washington Post, February 12, 2007; A01

[4] Partlow

[5] Glanz

[6] Gareth Porter, “U.S. Briefing on Iran Discredits the Official Line”, Inter Press Service, February 13, 2007

[7] Patrick Cockburn, “U.S. heats up rhetoric against Iran”, The Independent, February 12, 2007

[8] Porter

[9] Chris Brummitt, “U.S. general: No evidence of Iran giving arms to Iraqis”, Associated Press, February 13, 2007

[10] The PowerPoint presentation was posted online at TPMmuckraker.com

http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/002534.php

[11] Cockburn

[12] “Bush: ‘All options are on the table’ regarding Iran’s nuclear aspirations”, USA Today, August 13, 2005

[13] Democracy Now!, February 13, 2007

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