About the escalating conflict with Iran (not *yet* open war)

Summary:  Powerful people in the US and Israel seek a war with Iran.  Offensive operations against Iran have already began (assassinations and sabotage).  Slowly the conflict accelerates, driven by our vast covert warfare machinery and intense propaganda.  This series attempts to see the reality behind the deceptions, perhaps a last grasp at reality before overt war begins.  This is the fourth in a series; at the end are links to the other chapters.

The first article on the FM website about Iran, in November 2007, said that the rumors of war were “almost certainly a bluff”.  The dozen articles since then came to the same conclusion.  That’s no longer true.  Hostilities have began, with strikes by US-Israel (we don’t know who has done what).  History shows that these low-intensity conflicts can quickly escalate, from a combination of the attackers’ momentum and the defender’s eventual resistance.


  1. Already a conflict, but not yet open war
  2. Another in the series of wars started by lies
  3. How do the people in the Middle East see this conflict?
  4. Other posts in this series
  5. Articles and reports about our conflict with Iran
  6. Other posts about Iran

(1)  Already a conflict, but not yet open war

If the war with Iran turns hot and large, historians might see the start as the assassination on 18 January 2007 of Ardashir Hosseinpour (Asst Prof in materials science at Shiraz U).  From “Israeli Covert Operations in Iran“, Stratfor, 2 February 20007:

Hosseinpour was in fact a Mossad target {based on} sources close to Israeli intelligence.

… Decapitating a hostile nuclear program by taking out key human assets is a tactic that has proven its effectiveness over the years, particularly in the case of Iraq. In the months leading up to the 1981 Israeli airstrike on Iraq’s Osirak reactor — which was believed to be on the verge of producing plutonium for a weapons program — at least 3 Iraqi nuclear scientists died under mysterious circumstances.

Since then there have many more assassinations of civilians, often with “collateral deaths” of women guilty of being nearby.  There also have been mysterious explosions, rumors of defective parts sold to Iran, of US support for insurgents in Iran (aka terrorists) and of course Stuxnet (see here for details). 

Our hawks accuse Iran of aggressiveness, of supporting terrorism.  Yet so far Iran has been the target of an aggressive program of assassination and sabotage, probably by the US and Israel (see links at the end).  For some delusional reason, Americans believe it’s not terrorism when we do it

So far Iran has been the restrained party, not — yet — striking back in retaliation.  Quite remarkable, given the number of attacks so far. All they’ve done is demonstrate a capability to fight back (eg, missile tests, recent manuevers regarding the Straits of Hormuz), and warn that they will respond strongly to attacks.  The US  government and pro-war ngo’s describe these as “provocations”, showing the susceptibility of the US public to even preposterous propaganda.

War, of some sort, seems inevitable If our attacks continue. We’re operating outside of the global legal framework that generations of American statesmen worked to erect.  Undermining that regime might be the major result of a war with Iran, as few experts believe we can stop Iran from getting the bomb.

Future historians might emphasize the unique role of America during its years as global hegemon, unleashing on the world the horrors both of atomic war and cyberwar.

(2)  Another in the series of wars started by lies

This series attempts to strip back the thick layer of lies covering the actual story of our relations with Iran.  Hopefully this will not become yet another American war based on lies.  Vietnam War, started by the Tonkin Gulf Incident.  We invaded Afghanistan based on lies about its role in 9-11 (see details here).  We invaded Iraq based on lies about its WMDs and alliance with al Qaeda.  We assisted the Libyan insurgency based on lies about mercs and massacres (see “The Top Ten Myths in the War Against Libya“, CounterPunch, Maximilian C. Forte, 31 August 2011).

(3)  How do the people in the Middle East see this conflict?

Do we hold the moral high ground, often decisive in warfare (eg, how the American Revolution and Civil War were seen in Britain) — and essential when fighting overseas in the age of 4GW?  See the 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll conducted by the University of Maryland in conjunction with Zogby International, 5 August 2010 (this is well-worth reading in full).  More evidence that democracy in the Middle East means far less US influence in this important region, and perhaps even outright hostility to US policy by local government.

University of Maryland in conjuction with Zognby International
University of Maryland in conjunction with Zogby International
University of Maryland in conjunction with Zogby International

For more about this see Glenn Greenwald’s excellent new column “End of the pro-democracy pretense“, Salon, 2 January 2012.

(4)  Other posts in this series

  1. Is the War on Terror over (because there are no longer two sides)?, 3 September 2008 — Rumors of covert ops by us against Iran, including aid to terrorists
  2. Iran’s getting the bomb, or so we’re told. Can they fool us twice?, 16 January 2009
  3. Iran will have the bomb in 5 years (again), 2 January 2010 — Forecasts of an Iranian bomb really soon, going back to 1984
  4. About the escalating conflict with Iran (not *yet* open war), 4 January 2012
  5. Have Iran’s leaders vowed to destroy Israel?, 5 January 2012 — No, but it’s established as fact by repetition
  6. What do we know about Iran’s nuclear ambitions?, 6 January 2012 — US intelligence officials are clear:  not as much as the news media implies
  7. What does the IAEA know about Iran’s nuclear program?, 9 January 2012 — Their reports bear little resemblance to reports in the news media
  8. What happens when a nation gets nukes?  Sixty years of history suggests an answer., 10 January 2012
  9. What happens if Iran gets nukes? Not what we’ve been told., 11 January 2012
  10. Status report on the already-hot conflict with Iran – and the looming war, 12 January 2012
  11. Continuity and dysfunctionality in US foreign policy (lessons for our conflict with Iran), 13 January 2012 — Insights about today from Cold War strategist Colin Grey
  12. What the conflict with Iran teaches us about modern State-to-State war, 16 January 2012
  13. Has Iran won a round vs. the US-Israel?, 17 January 2012
  14. Is Killing Iranian Nuclear Scientists Terrorism?, 19 January 2012

(5)  For more information:  articles and reports about the current conflict with Iran

(a)  About “Our war-loving Foreign Policy Community hasn’t gone anywhere“, Glen Greenwald, Salon, 21 September 2009 — Excerpt:

… The arguments for attacking Iran are so similar to the ones used for Iraq that it’s striking how little effort they make to pretend it’s different (Iran will get nukes, give them to Terrorists, we’ll lose a city, etc.)

(b)  Other articles about the undeclared slow-motion war with Iran

  1. Who’s Killing Iran’s Scientists?“, Reza Aslan, The Daily Beast, 30 November 2010 — “The attack on two of Iran’s leading nuclear physicists is likely the work of a joint American and Israeli covert program to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.”
  2. The ‘silent war’ with Iran“, Stephen M. Walt, Foriegn Policy, 7 December 2011
  3. Will Israel Bomb Iran?“, Patrick Seale (British journalist and author who specialises in the Middle East; Wikipedio entry), 11 October 2011 — “Israel’s greatest fear is that the {Security Council} will reach a compromise with Iran which would allow it to continue enriching uranium for civilian purposes”
  4. We’re attacking, but it’s “Iran on the Warpath“, Joschka Fischer (Germany’s foreign minister 1998-2005), 28 November 2011
  5. Why the US & Israel May Agree to Bombing Iran – Shaping the Popular Psyche in America’s Post-Information Era“, Chuck Spinney, CounterPunch, 12 December 2011 — “The arguments for attacking Iran are crazy, like those for attacking Iraq in response to 9-11. But that does not mean such an attack by the American and/or the Israelis will not occur. Indeed, I think the political pressure for such an attack is increasing. “
  6. Beating the War Drums in Versailles on the Potomac“, Chuck Spinney (bio here), TIME, 23 December 2011 “One would think that our experiences in Iraq & Afghanistan, our problems in Pakistan, and our economic problems would temper our enthusiasm for launching yet another so-called preventative war. But that is not the case …”
  7. Clintonizing Perpetual War“, Chuck Spinney, TIME, 28 December 2011 — “Read Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August and you will get a good idea of how these pressures can take on a life of their own and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

(c)  Articles forecasting war with Iran

  1. What Will Israel Do?“, Michael Hirsh, Newsweek, 20 December 2007 — “A unilateral military strike against Iran is much more likely following the latest intel report about Tehran’s nuke program.”
  2. 6 Signs the U.S. May Be Headed for War in Iran“, US News and World Report, 11 March 2008
  3. Secret Bush “Finding” Widens War on Iran“, Andrew Cockburn, Counterpunch, 2 May 2008 — “Democrats Okay Funds for Covert Ops”
  4. War With Iran Might Be Closer Than You Think“, Philip Giraldi, The American Conservative, 9 May 2008
  5. White House denies Iran attack report“, Jerusalem Post, 20 May 2008
  6. As things look, Israel may well attack Iran soon“, Joschka Fischer, The Daily Star, 30 May 2008 — Fischer was Germany’s foreign minister and vice chancellor from 1998 to 2005, and led Germany’s Green Party for nearly 20 years.

(6)  For more information: other posts about Iran

For links to all posts about Iran see the FM Reference Page Iran – will the US or Israel attack Iran?

Posts about propaganda and info ops building support for war with Iran:

  1. 4GW at work in a community near you , 19 October 2007 — Propaganda warming us up for war with Iran.
  2. The most expensive psy-war campaign – ever!, 13 July 2008
  3. Psywar, a core skill of the US Military (used most often on us), 26 November 2008
  4. More about Iran, things you know that might not be so, 3 October 2009
  5. The Iranian Assassination caper was a complete success!, 17 October 2011 — as an info op to build support for war with Iran

Forecasts by hawks, even eagerness, for a US war with Iran

  1. Will we bomb Iran, now that Admiral Fallon is gone? , 17 March 2008
  2. More post-Fallon overheating: “6 signs the US may be headed for war in Iran” , 18 March 2008
  3. Proposed legislation prepares the way for war with Iran!, 25 August 2008
  4. A militant America, ready for war with Iran , 6 May 2008
  5. Another step towards war with Iran?, 7 May 2008 — About Andrew Cockburn’s article in  Counterpunch.
  6. “War With Iran Might Be Closer Than You Think”, 13 May 2008 — About Philip Giraldi’s 9 May story in The American Conservative (see below).
  7. Another general advocating war with Iran, 18 August 2009
  8. Will Obama attack Iran?, 18 March 2010
  9. The rumors about a US strike are proven wrong, again., 12 July 2010
  10. This is how a nation thoughtlessly slides into stupid wars, 25 July 2010
  11. America takes another step towards war with Iran, towards the dark side, 3 September 2010

Forecasts by hawks, even eagerness, for a Israeli war with Iran:

  1. Will Israel commit suicide? More rumors of a strike at Iran , 22 December 2007
  2. A new story about a possible war with Iran, 21 May 2008 — About the 20 May Jerusalem Post story, originally reported by Army Radio (see below).
  3. “As things look, Israel may well attack Iran soon”. 3 June 2008 — About the Fischer story in the 30 May Daily Star.
  4. “Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable” . 8 June 2008  — War-talk by a former Defense Minster of Israel.
  5. Der Spiegel: “Israeli Ministers Mull Plans for Military Strike against Iran”. 17 June 2008 — Rumors in Der Spiegel of a strike by Israel on Iran.
  6. More rumors of a strike at Iran by Israel, 1 July 2008 — More rumors.
  7. Hot news about a possible strike at Iran!, 3 July 2010
  8. Warning of an imminent strike at Iran by Israel, 4 August 2010
  9. Are Israel’s leaders insane? Jeffrey Goldberg thinks so., 1 August 2010

26 thoughts on “About the escalating conflict with Iran (not *yet* open war)”

  1. Iran has issued warnings about an American aircraft carrier in the Gulf. Things certainly escalating as of now. Oil is also up due to this sabre rattling.

    1. Yes, that’s what the talking heads say. They always have a story to explain the day’s market action. It’s often bogus.

      Oil was up. Silver was up even more (biggest one-day move in years). But so were stocks — like Goldman Sachs and Agrium (fertilizer), both up 5%. I doubt the threat of military escalation in the Middle East would boost the price of risk assets – across the board.

  2. I heard Kephart interviewed on the radio today regarding this article. My husband thinks that this is yet another in the path to war with Iran. I’d love to hear your take: “Court: Iran, Hezbollah partly responsible for 9/11″, Washington Times, 30 December 2011 — Opening:

    On July 23, 2001, a former senior Iranian intelligence officer, Abolghasem Mr. Mesbahi,learned that Iran’s plan to strike the United States had been activated. Mr. Mesbahi knew it was important and real because he had worked on this plan previously, when he had helped set up Iran’s intelligence service, the MOIS, as far back as the mid-1980s. Mr. Mesbahi – known outside Iran as one of a core of “Assassins”- told German intelligence, which had given him protected status as a key witness in German prosecutions of brutal Iranian assassinations of dozens of dissidents.

  3. If Iran lacks the capacity to infiltrate the Shia regions of Saudi Arabia, where the Saudi oilfields lay, and to sabotage those fields, then its covert abilities are poor.

    And its covert capabilities are reputed to be good.

    It seems to me that Iran is therefore positioned to institute some sanctions of its own – should matters come to a head.

    1. 1) World oil prices would react violently to almost any scale of sabotage to Saudi oil prices.
      2) Effective sabotage does not necessarily require mass scale uprisings.
      3) Saudi Shia have already demonstrated, expressed disenchantment, etc.
      4) Passive support for a small, pro-Iranian 5th column would do very nicely.
      5) Your guess about disinformation vs. reality is as good as mine – but markets generally respond to such perceptions anyway.
      6) An upsurge in oil prices would damage the US economy – even if this upsurge had been provoked by a bluff.

  4. http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2012/01/02/analysts-say-we-could-see-5-a-gallon-for-gas-in-2012/



    I can industrial civilization not collapse when people cannot even affored to drive to work and everything else like food will skyrocket in prices as it doing now. Hopefully cooler heads prevail but I doubt that. I expect a stike on Iran before the fall presidential elections in November to try and boost Obamas approval rating.

    1. This just in: we had two wars in the near-past. With effects much worse than $5 gas. Entire cities leveled. Nations laid waste. Mega-deaths. But civilization did not end.

      You have a very bad case of the rich person’s disease (most Americans are awesome rich by historical standards, and rich to much of the current world’s people). Every hangnail is the worst disaster ever in the entire history of the universe! Will life continue? Get a grip. Become part of the solution, not another whiner.

    2. Whirlwind,

      you can come and demonstrate outside the US Embassy, London on Jan 28 th 2-4 pm. This is organised by the Stop The War Coalition. You could also bring sandwiches, bottle of cold tea, warm clothing, a banner showing that picture of the naked girl running from the napalm and a placard of Munch’s The Scream. Also need to attract media attention, so bring lady gaga, david beckham and a baby unicorn.

      1. Nicely said. While I like the idea of bringing a baby unicorn to get publicity. But it only works using a real one. A fake just indicates play-acting, a lack of seriousness (like the Occupy Wall Street festivities).

  5. This is just speculation, but could the Iranians be trying to lure the carriers back to the Persian Gulf, so that they are away from Mediterranian coast of Syria?

    “Oh, please, please, whatever you do, don’t return to the gulf!”

  6. Thank you for the analysis and the links. Re: Glenn Greenwald’s article on the pro-democracy pretense– I am not so sure about his assessment of US intentions in Egypt. To me it seems unlikely that the US actively supporting the military regime at this point, and that the ongoing protests are a spontaneous popular reaction against this interference. It seems much more likely that the US at the moment is opposing the current military regime to prevent it from consolidating power, and ensure that any future ruling coalition in Egypt is weak enough for us to control.

    It seems to me that the greatest threat to US interests in Egypt is not a democratic government, but an independent one. Because an independent government will tend to side with the will of the people even if it has authoritarian tendencies, while a weak democratic government can be enticed to serve foreign interests in exchange for support.

    This is why I think the US is sincere in its calls for “democracy”. Because if the first choice for American interests is a friendly despotic regime, then the second choice is a completely open democratic system that is vulnerable to manipulation. In fact, this latter option may have moved to first choice status now, because it may be seen as easier to sustain in the court of public opinion.

    Left to its own devices, it is easy to see the transitional military regime in Egypt forming a pragmatic alliance with the mainstream Islamist parties, because that would be a stable way to govern Egypt without the need for constant foreign intervention to prop up the regime. And this is exactly what the US is probably working to avoid. A completely open democratic system with no restrictions on the US’s ability to fund and support political factions of its choice will allow the US to create a situation where the minority secularists always have some voice and the political system is always off-balance and in need of a foreign arbiter. Perfect.

    I’m not saying I think this is necessarily a sustainable policy for the US to pursue, but it’s probably what we are up to.

  7. Looking at a map, everybody can easily see that Iran occupies a key, even vital position for Russian security. If I were in Mr. Putin’s shoes, I’d be very busy working hard against this new step in an old scheme, Mr. Brzezinski’ “Anaconda Plan” (encirclement of Russia), which apparently this American Presidency has been consistently enforcing since its beginning. (“Working hard” might mean many unpleasant things).
    About Iran, I’ll just say that its restrain shows that they are seriously meaning to resist: at home they do not need to warm up their internal public opinion, abroad they are trying to gain the moral upper hand, and to gain some time to prepare, of course.
    I wish them good luck, and hope (against hope) that my country’s Armed Forces will not be involved in this aggression. What have we become!

    1. Iran is important to Russia’s security? There’s quite a lot of break-away ex-Soviet republics between Russia and Iran. What little I know of those countries suggests that they do not share Iran’s religeous passions and that they’d resist any incursion from the south with fanatical strength. The British discovered during WWI that there are no good land routes through that area to Russia so I don’t understand your statement.

      I’m sure that Mr. Putin IS planning on genially resisting any US moves in the UN because it will win Russia some cheap points in the game of Nations. China, which has major trading ties with Iran is likely to be a bigger obstacle to a US move against Iran.

      Do you suppose that the US has a new weapon to demonstrate? The current official “airstrikes and propaganda” plan does not seem sufficient to me to achieve the US goal. There must be something that we don’t know about the US plan. Perhaps the US expects spontaneous uprisings once we strike. That won’t happen but it is very much in keeping with the lies Washington tells itself to justify such actions.

  8. Russo-Persian Treaty of Friendship (1921)

    I believe this treaty is still basically in effect. I remember reading somewhere that the Russians and the Iranians are basically not hostile to each other in the Caspian Sea these days. Maybe the Russians might be theoretically concerned by the remote possibility of the USA bombing Iran and installing Shah: The sequel, or some other US sympathetic dictatorship, but like, come on. That’s hard to imagine. There’s that Nagorno Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijan. Could an Iran war spread to the Caucuses? I think the Armenians are actually pretty close to the Iranians, actually, but I don’t know. Hard to imagine. The ‘hate the Muslims’ political factor in the USA works against this.

    I think ultimately, the ability of the USA to affect much of anything politically in the mid-east aside from killing random Muslims guys is going to be near zero within a decade. Maybe how it goes, is that the USA becomes another random cause of death. We rant about strange conspiracies that only exist in the US press, we bomb a bunch of people and cities, and then these places bury their dead and rebuild their destroyed homes, much like how they recover from a flood or a quake. Nothing changes politically.

    1. “I think ultimately, the ability of the USA to affect much of anything politically in the mid-east aside from killing random Muslims guys is going to be near zero within a decade.”

      I agree. But first we might have a decisive effect on the Middle East — providing a common enemy against which they can unify. We might be a Persia to them as Greek city states.

  9. Army chief warns US carrier not to return to Persian Gulf“, Islamic Republic News Agency, 3 January 2011 — “Commander of Iran’s Army Major General Ataollah Salehi on Tuesday warned the US aircraft carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf region.”

    “The Islamic Republic of Iran will not repeat its warning,” stressed the army chief while speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the military march held in Iran’s southern waters. The US carrier, patroling the area of naval drills, was identified by an Iranian warplane. Iran’s army commander also said the country will not adopt any irrational move but it is ready to severely react against any threat. Salehi said the recent naval drills were aimed at maintaining the country’s strength and safe guarding the national interests.

    I was wondering about this threat thing, and here it is, right off the Iranian news service website. To me, it does just seem like an odd thing to say. The USA won’t stop sending carriers to the Persian Gulf because of a warning like this. I wonder if something tha happened during the Iranian exercises that neither side is talking about. When a US carrier returns, maybe Iran does nothing, and then they just look like idiots. Or maybe the carriers return and they attack and give Obama a Gulf of Tonkin incident. I don’t get it, really.

  10. FAIR: "NYT Misleads Readers on Iran Crisis"

    Misleading is a nice way to refer to outright lies, cooperation with government propaganda.

    (1) From Europe Takes Bold Step Toward a Ban on Iranian Oil“, New York Times, 4 January 2012:

    The threats from Iran, aimed both at the West and at Israel, combined with a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran’s nuclear program has a military objective, is becoming an important issue in the American presidential campaign.

    From “NYT Misleads Readers on Iran Crisis – Paper disappears some inaccurate reporting“, Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), 6 January 2012:

    There is no such International Atomic Energy Agency assessment. The IAEA report the Times is mischaracterizing raised questions about the state of the Iranian program, and presented the evidence, mostly years old, that Iran’s critics say points towards a weapons program. … But the IAEA report made no firm conclusion that Iran had a nuclear weapons program, and noted that its inspections of Iran’s facilities continue to show no diversion of uranium for military purposes.

    (2) From Oil Price Would Skyrocket if Iran Closed the Strait of Hormuz“, New York Times, 4 January 2012:

    Various Iranian officials in recent weeks have said they would blockade the strait, which is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, if the United States and Europe imposed a tight oil embargo on their country in an effort to thwart its development of nuclear weapons.

    From FAIR (same article):

    Iran has said repeatedly and emphatically that they are doing no such thing. Interestingly, the Times has changed the Web version of the Erlanger article, removing the relevant paragraph–but without noting the error.

  11. NYT: "Facing Cyberattack, Iranian Officials Disconnect Some Oil Terminals From Internet"

    Facing Cyberattack, Iranian Officials Disconnect Some Oil Terminals From Internet“, New York Times, 23 April 2012 — Excerpt:

    Iran disconnected several of its main Persian Gulf oil terminals from the Internet on Monday, local news media reported, as technicians were struggling to contain what they said were intensifying cyberattacks on the Oil Ministry and its affiliates.

    Iranian officials said the virus attack, which began in earnest on Sunday afternoon, had not affected oil production or exports, because the industry is still primarily mechanical and does not rely on the Internet. Officials said they were disconnecting the oil terminals and possibly some other installations in an effort to combat the virus. “Fortunately our international oil selling division has not been affected,” said a high-level manager at the Oil Ministry who asked not to be mentioned for security reasons. “There is no panic, but this shows we have shortcomings in our security systems.”

    There were some reports that the virus had forced widespread Internet shutdowns. “The ministry has disconnected all oil facilities, operations and even oil rigs from the Internet to prevent this virus from spreading,” said another Oil Ministry official who asked to remain anonymous, because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the attack. “Everybody at the ministry is working overtime to prevent this.” His assertion about the extent of the shutdowns could not be independently verified.

    … While officials here emphasize that both production and sales of oil are continuing as normal, the semiofficial Mehr News Agency said that the attack was intensifying and that access to the internal communications systems of most prominent oil and gas companies had been intentionally cut. A special crisis center has been set up where experts from across the country are assisting in the fight against the virus, it quoted one such specialist working for the Oil Ministry as saying.

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