Iran: War Drums Beating

Summary:  Here we repost an article by retired GOP operative Mike Lofgren giving perspective on the looming war with Iran.  He also sees the current situation as similar in some ways to that of Europe in early July 1914.  It’s a disturbing analogy.  As is the obvious similarities between the lies creating America’s lust for war with Iraq, and those today about Iran.

Iran: War Drums Beating“, Mike Lofgren, Truthout, 7 February 2012 — Reposted with the author’s permission, under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 US License.

For most of my three-decade career handling national security budgets in Congress, Iran was two or three years away from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The idea of an Islamic bomb exerts a peculiar fascination on American political culture and shines a searchlight on how the gross dysfunctionality of American politics emerges synergistically from the individual dysfunctions of its component parts: the military-industrial complex; oil addiction; the power of foreign-based lobbies; the apocalyptic fixation on the holy land by millions of fundamentalist Americans; US elected officials’ neurotic need to show toughness, especially in an election year.

The rational calculus of nuclear deterrence, which had guided US policy during the cold war, and which the US government still applies to plainly despotic and bellicose nuclear states like North Korea, has gone out the window with respect to Iran.

It is curious that the world already confronts over 100 Islamic bombs: those possessed by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It is even more curious that Pakistan may have had a maximum of 30 to 50 such weapons at the time of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on this country, which resulted in a shotgun marriage between Washington and Islamabad. A decade of partnership with the United States netted Pakistan about $20 billion in aid money and at least 50 more nuclear devices; anyone who knows anything about the fungibility of money will conclude that the United States partially funded Pakistan’s nuclear buildup, knowingly or not. Pakistan’s government has also been credibly linked to sponsorship of terrorist organizations that have operated outside its territory. But Iran, we are told, is different. A window is closing, and it is closing not in two years, but in six months. And we had better leap through it before it is too late.

In the past, I have been skeptical about imminent war, e.g., in 2003-06, when the neoconservative chicken hawks around President Bush were crowing about how “real men want to go to Teheran,” meaning somebody else’s husband or son should suit up and invade Iran. At the same time, Seymour Hersh was churning out articles in The New Yorker about the possibility of an attack on Iran. After about the third article, I began discounting the possibility of war. But present circumstances have a different quality. During this presidential campaign season, there is, on the GOP side, the most toxic warmongering political dynamic imaginable: one that makes Bush look like a pacifist in retrospect.

President Obama for his part is trying to triangulate à la Bill Clinton among the GOP, a Democratic base that is mostly antiwar but politically ineffectual, Israel, the military-industrial complex and his polling numbers. Obama may feel he can slide through the next nine months with ever-tightening sanctions and a strategy of tension short of war, but the government of Israel is attempting to force the pace with increasingly hyperbolic predictions. It is also evidently manipulating Congress (e.g., the director of Mossad meeting with the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee last week). Whether it is sources in Tel Aviv, sources in Washington, or both, that are feeding Iran stories to the US news media is unclear. Whoever they may be, they are playing much of the press – The Washington Post and CBS News are standout examples – like a Stradivarius. In Pentagon-speak, this is known as “prepping the psychological battlefield.”

No historical analogy is remotely close to being perfect, but in terms of the psychology of the actors, this circumstance bears a passing resemblance to the July Crisis of 1914 and the blank check Berlin issued to its client in Vienna. Germany (per Bismarck’s previous statecraft) was a sated, status quo world power that would gain nothing by war, regardless of what its neurotic and impetuous kaiser thought. Its weaker client, Austria, was always fretting about its relative demographic decline amid a hostile Slavic sea – does that sound familiar? Accordingly, it was constantly egging on Berlin about the “Slavic menace” that was around (and within) Austria’s borders. The assassination of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo was like the Iranian nuclear program – a red line that the Slavic (read: “Iranian”) menace had crossed. Something “had” to be done, and Berlin gave its client a blank check to issue an ultimatum so extreme as to force war, a “preventive” war, the scope of which snowballed because of an unbroken chain of miscalculations into the First World War.

Fast forward to the present: we have the roiling instability of the Middle East because of the Arab spring (see: Egypt); an unreliable Shiite-run US client state in Iraq; a borderline civil war in Syria; and US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice baiting and hectoring two world powers, China and Russia, over their Syria policy.(1) And finally, the US and Iran are reprising the Gulf of Tonkin in the Strait of Hormuz. All these factors compose a brew potentially so toxic that one would think it would give even the most belligerent chicken hawk pause before quaffing it.

Washington’s political class is apparently counting on the short memory of the electorate: it is barely a month and a half since we withdrew the last combat forces from Iraq, and already we have incessant agitation over Iran. America’s Iraq adventure took seven years, cost 4,500 US military deaths(2) and sent a trillion dollars down the drain. And that one was going to be a cakewalk, remember?

Footnotes

1. Regardless of how heinous the Syrian government’s behavior is, it is not obvious that the United States will better secure the future cooperation of two permanent UN Security Council members by having its ambassador publicly saying these two powers’ votes “disgusted” her. For that matter, how eager will Russia and China be to pull America’s chestnuts out of the fire if our brinkmanship over Iran gets us into unforeseen difficulties?

2. Estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths are unreliable, but are likely well over 100,000. They are here reduced to a footnote because civilian deaths do not seriously enter into American political calculations as to the feasibility of a war.

Other articles by Mike Lofgren

  1. Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult,”, Truthout, 3 September 2011
  2. ‘I Know How to Beat Republicans’: Interview With Former GOP Staffer Mike Lofgren“, Truthout, 5 December 2011
  3. Have the Super-Rich Seceded From the United States?“, Truthout, 10 January 2012

About the author

Mike Lofgren retired on June 17 after 28 years as a Congressional staffer. He served 16 years as a professional staff member on the Republican side of both the House and Senate Budget Committees.

For more information: other posts about our looming war with Iran

(a)  Past predictions of an atomic Iran

  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

(b)  About Iran

  1. Have Iran’s leaders vowed to destroy Israel?, 5 January 2012 — No, but it’s established as fact by repetition
  2. 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
  3. What does the IAEA know about Iran’s nuclear program?, 9 January 2012 — Their reports bear little resemblance to reports in the news media

(c)  What happens if Iran gets nukes?

  1. What happens when a nation gets nukes?  Sixty years of history suggests an answer., 10 January 2012
  2. What happens if Iran gets nukes? Not what we’ve been told., 11 January 2012

(d)  About our conflict with Iran

  1. About the escalating conflict with Iran (not *yet* open war), 4 January 2012
  2. Status report on the already-hot conflict with Iran – and the looming war, 12 January 2012
  3. Has Iran won a round vs. the US-Israel?, 17 January 2012
  4. Is Killing Iranian Nuclear Scientists Terrorism?, 19 January 2012 — By Kevin Jon Heller (Senior Lecturer at Melbourne Law School)

35 thoughts on “Iran: War Drums Beating

  1. Thanks for posting this article! In another note, the western Iran strategy explained: “Iran’s Achilles’ Heel“, Efraim Halevy (a former Israeli national security adviser, ambassador, and director of the Mossad from 1998-2002), op-ed in the New York Times, 8 February 2012.

    The current posturing on sanctions and military strikes are part of a larger stratgic plan. Toppling the Assad regime is the key element in that plan — this is where Western planners hope the wall will crack first.

    For now, the real action is not in the Strait of Hormuz, but in Syria.

    1. You raise a powerful point. We have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Bombed Yemen. Bombed and aided rebels to overthrow Libya. These probably are not isolated events. The US government must have a plan of some sort; something larger is at work

    2. Why does there have to be a larger plan in place? Can’t these actions simply be a series of independent acts, each targeted at putting out smaller fires to the best of ones abilities, whose only link is their geographic proximity?

      The idea that there is some sort of overarching strategic plan is somewhat horrifying, given the incompetent flailing in Iraq and Afghanistan that is presented as nation-building. A better question might be: If there is some sort of grand strategic plan for the Middle East, is the US actually capable of successfully creating and implementing it, given its dysfunctional OODA loop?

    3. Of course there does not “have to be” a larger plan. That was sloppy phrasing by me. But there are hints of such a thing. One of the best — former UK PM Tony Blair wote in his memoir A Journey:

      “He [VP Cheney] would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates in the course of it – Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. In other words, he thought the whole world had to be made anew, and that after September 11, it had to be done by force and with urgency.”

  2. Of course there is a grand Plan. Written and archived? Not necessary; when the social psychology of a group is brought to a bright light agreement is almost automatic if you wish to continue to be included. E.G., recall when the JCS refused Ranger help to the CIA staff at Torah Bora? That was part of a plan. Syria? What do they “have”? Nothing…..just part of a Plan.

    Breton

    1. Your confident guessing is interesting, but hardly conclusive. Often decision-makers just muddle along without any overall strategic goals, let alone a long-term plan.

    2. I do think there is a strong case to be made, though, that Syria and Iran are strongly connected in US policy-makers minds. Largely for the reasons Halevy states: Syria offers a lower-cost, lower-risk way to turn the tables on Iran. I really believe that all this talk of attacking Iran is, in the near term, just a ploy to tie them down until we can flip Syria. It looks and “feels” real, because threats have to be credible or they won’t work.

      US planners are betting on a big win in Syria which will lead to further internal Iranian destabilization, be amplified by the sanctions, and eventually allow for a Green Revolution 2.0 which we could support along the lines of the Libya model. If they don’t get this, they might be tempted to strike Iran militarily while it still has a functioning state.

    3. Over the last 60 years of history US planners have been remarkably imperceptive when it comes to destabilizing a country. The Cuban embargo of the last 50 years, for example, strengthened the Castro regime by uniting the suffering people around their government rather than weakening it.

      Similar statements can be made about Vietnam, North Korea, and probably another dozen countries.

      We need to be careful about the law of unintended consequences because we are setting ourselves up for a long-term catastrophe. US citizens may not remember the embarrassing failure of US policy regarding Iraqi nuclear weapons but the rest of the world has not forgotten.

  3. A Plan? Of course, there is one. Are you going to find it in plain sight? Of course not. It is hidden in the assumptions of the dominant social paradigm in the minds of the American elite.
    All you can look for are past reflections and anecdotal insights (And your own assumptions as am American)….see Cheney’s quote above.

    The plan goes something like this:
    We are the biggest guy on the block, we are the best the world has ever seen, we have the ability to take just about anything we need or want, we are the best and brightest and you know that. Step aside or we will just step around you (oops, we stepped on you? Sorry…we warned you) or better yet just step with Us.

    It is great fun to look for the Plan. All the while the World marvels at what an arrogant bunch of jerks/craven violent fools the Americans seem to be. (If you are not ashamed to be an American, one wonders what it would take and how little you pay attention!)

    Breton

    1. Dear Greg,

      Believe me…there are more than a few Americans who *are* paying attention and who have been encouraging other Americans for many years to see the light. Unfortunately, as is stated in the well-known proverb, you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink. Yes, many Americans these days have mistaken nationalism for patriotism…but that doesn’t alter the fact that there *is* still a distinct difference between the two, a difference of which I and other Americans like me are very much aware. With all due respect, I am not and will not be ashamed of being American even though I’m very much ashamed of my government because I can also see that it’s not merely short-sighted and illogical but in fact dangerous to consider a government as being synonymous with an entire nation (yes, even when that government is ostensibly — and I’m using that word deliberately — chosen by the people). My friend, that’s exactly the kind of thinking which makes people susceptible to propaganda (especially in wartime)! Despite the fact that the American government has in many respects — whether deliberately or unconsciously — turned its back on the principles which the Founding Fathers fought and died for in order to establish this country, I nevertheless consider myself a patriot and a proud American because those principles are not only ethically sound but admirable and I (unlike many other people) recognize the foolishness of throwing the baby out with the bathwater or automatically discarding the whole bin of apples because of one or two bad ones.

  4. With all due respect, Mike, you know what the difference between Iran and Pakistan just as well as I do — and probably much better. For one thing, Pakistan has no oil to speak of — and neither does North Korea, for that matter — but according to our own government, Iran is one of five countries with the largest proven oil reserves on the planet. Not only that, but it’s the only one left of the five which we have not either befriended or invaded and turned into (in your words) a “client state”. (The other four countries on the list are Saudi Arabia, Canada, Iraq — accident? coincidence? I very much doubt it — and Kuwait). As you yourself pointed out, our country is dependent on oil to such an extent that could truly be called an addiction — and there have been a number of reports over the past five years or more indicating that the era of cheap oil is over. I think you would agree that there are plenty of people in the military and the government who would consider that ample reason to agitate for war with Iran (and we haven’t even touched on the subject of the Military Industrial Complex, which needs to maintain a market for its products).

    For another, a plausible argument can be made for the idea that most of our present-day problems throughout in the Middle East can be traced back to Iran … and for reasons which actually have little to do with terrorism or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (although the American government has tried to claim that one or both of these issues is at the heart of the matter in an attempt to convince the American people that Iran is a rogue state which represents a serious threat to this country).

    Many of our problems with Iran can be traced back to 1953 and Operation Ajax, when we subverted democracy in Iran for our own purposes and instigated a coup which overthrew the newly-elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh and reinstated the Shah … primarily because Mossadegh believed that the Iranian people deserved a larger share of the profits from their country’s oil. If the positions had been reversed and another country had done something like that to us, would we have forgiven and forgotten it? I very much doubt it. (For that matter, it could be argued that another country — Great Britain — did do something a bit like that to us when they dissolved the House of Burgesses in the Colonies, which is one of the factors that eventually led to the American Revolution.)

    In 1979, President Carter (unwisely, although with good intentions) offered refuge to the exiled Shah which only served as a reminder of what we had done. Of course, when Iranian students seized the American embassy in Iran and the hostage crisis began, nobody in our media or in our government dared mention the fact that this was related to what we had done in 1953…of course not, because it was not exactly our finest hour. When Saddam Hussein declared war on Iran, we provided him with assistance because “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”…which is actually not an especially reliable strategy for foreign policy, as we eventually found out since it is thought that Hussein’s war with Iran contributed to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, leading to the first Gulf War. To cut a long story short, the fact is that most Americans are being kept blind to the fact that a lot of our problems with Iran are of our own making — and when we point fingers at Iran and accuse it of being a rogue state, it is to at least some extent an example of the pot calling the kettle black!

    1. FM Note: The story of the 1953 Iranian coup d’état and Operation Ajax should be must reading for all Ameericans. Instead it’s history put down the memory hole, another example of the ignorance about our history that makes it difficult for America to understand the world and produce effective foreign policies.

      Wikipedia is a good starting place — as always, with the links as its most useful resource. See the entry here.

  5. “You raise a powerful point. We have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Bombed Yemen. Bombed and aided rebels to overthrow Libya. These probably are not isolated events. The US government must have a plan of some sort; something larger is at work.” — Fabius Maximus

    I wouldn’t really call it a plan as such…but the fact is that the Bush administration (especially at the top levels) was dominated by the neoconservatives. All you really need as proof of this is to visit the website for the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) — a prominent neoconservative think tank — and look at the names of the signatories under the Statement of Principles…Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld being two of the most prominent. It’s not exactly a secret that the neoconservatives in general (and PNAC specifically) are convinced that the United States has virtually a divine right — perhaps even an ethical imperative — to establish what effectively amounts to a global empire. They’ve even made occasional references to “Pax Americana” (which is reminiscent of the Pax Romana of the Roman Empire). What far too few Americans realize is that neoconservatism is in at least some respects not much more than the 21st Century variation of the White Man’s Burden. (Yes, I know that there’s some controversy over whether Kipling intended that poem as satire or not…but if you read it, you’ll realize that there are still plenty of people in this country and in our government who’d actually agree with the overt sentiments contained therein.) Yes, the Bush administration is no longer in power…but especially these days, the fact that there’s a Democrat in the White House now doesn’t necessarily mean everything else — or even much else — has changed significantly.

  6. A little historical foot note. Kaiser Wilhelm like to dress up in gaudy uniforms, make bombastic statements, and would also disappear for months at a time, inaccessible to even his highest staff. One of his sons committed suicide over a broken love affair. Sounds like a classic case of bi-polar disorder though I have never seen it written up in that way.

  7. Is the master plan the one that Wesley Clark referred to 1/2 decade ago when he talked of regime change by the Bushies in 7 nations after 9/11? See youtube to see what Wesley had to say.

    1. What I notice Clark didn’t say (perhaps because he probably did not know this himself when he had the conversation to which he refers) is that the neoconservative think tank Project for a New American Century was advocating regime change in Iraq as far back as 1998. In fact, in September of 2000, PNAC published a white paper on its website entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” (http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf) presenting PNAC’s argument stressing the necessity of US military expansion. It contains the following direct quote:

      “Any serious effort at transformation must occur within the larger framework of U.S. national security strategy, military missions, and defense budgets…Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor.”

      Now go to PNAC’s website (www.newamericancenttury.org), click on the tab entitled “Statement of Principles”, and take a look at the list of names on that page. Two (actually more like three or four) names in particular should positively leap off the page at you…can you guess which two I mean? That’s right…Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, the same two men Clark says he met with on the day he describes. To say the very least, you have to admit that 9-11 represented an incredibly convenient and fortuitous opportunity from PNAC’s perspective — so much so, in fact, that you can understand why some people speculate that it was not coincidental since it very obviously provided PNAC with their “new Pearl Harbor.”

  8. Iran has friends , even if its neighbours descend into anarchy . There is the little matter of Russia , China and the Umnah . There are other ways to retaliate apart from war .

  9. Most of this just repeats Matthew Kroenig’s article in Foreign Affairs, another demonstration of how easily ideas become established wisdom in US geopolitical circles. But that does not mean that Kroenig’s views are not shared by Israel’s leaders.

    Why Israel Might Believe Attacking Iran Is Worthwhile“, Michael Hirsh (chief correspondent of the National Journal), The Atlantic, 12 February 2012 — “Do the potential costs of an air strike really outweigh the benefits?” — Opening:

    A barely perceptible but hugely important shift has occurred in recent months. Israel now appears to believe that the benefits of attacking Tehran’s nuclear sites outweigh the costs. As Iran builds an enrichment complex underground near the city of Qom, the timing has also become critical. All of which may mean that, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reportedly told a Washington Post columnist, Israel will probably strike Iran in April, May, or June. (Panetta wasn’t quoted directly, and a Pentagon spokesman tells National Journal that the secretary has “refused to comment” on the story.)

    Western powers had thought that a preemptive strike on oil-rich Iran could have devastating implications for the region and the world. It could undermine the global economy (especially at a time of high oil prices) and peace in the Middle East. It could rain rocket fire on Israeli towns and possibly shift global power balances. But now, some American and Israeli experts–both inside and outside their governments–argue that Iran is less likely to retaliate in a serious way. An attack, in other words, may have fewer drawbacks than the skeptics first thought.

    Partly, this has to do with Iran’s internal problems. Its government is mired in chaos and infighting, its military is weak and disorganized, and its economy is crippled. Iran’s main proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, are not eager to attack Israel, and the United States is less vulnerable in Iraq now that its military has withdrawn. Tehran’s lone ally in the region, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, is fighting a civil war.

  10. The Ticking Clock“, Robert Haddick (Editor of the Small Wars Journal), Foreign Policy, 10 February 2012 — “Four reasons why — this time — you should believe the hype about Israel attacking Iran.” Excerpt:

    Washington Post columnist David Ignatius created a tempest last week when he reported U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s prediction that Israel will attack Iran and its nuclear complex “in April, May or June.” Ignatius’s column was as startling as it was exasperating. When the sitting U.S. defense secretary — presumably privy to facts not generally available to the public — makes such a prediction, observers have good reasons to pay attention. On the other hand, the international community has been openly dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue for nearly a decade, with similar crescendos of anticipation having occurred before, all to no effect. Why would this time be different?

    Further, an Israeli air campaign against Iran would seem like an amazingly reckless act. And an unnecessary one, too, since international sanctions against Iran’s banks and oil market are just now tightening dramatically.

    Yet from Israel’s point of view, time really has run out. The sanctions have come too late. And when Israeli policymakers consider their advantages and all of the alternatives available, an air campaign, while both regrettable and risky, is not reckless.

    Here’s why: …

  11. U.S., European security officials discount Iran-Al Qaeda links“, Reuters, 22 February 2012 — Excerpt:

    U.S. and European officials are downplaying allegations that Iran and al Qaeda have recently stepped up cooperation in preparation for possible attacks on U.S. and other Western targets.

    The officials, who are familiar with security issues, and private experts, discounted recent news reports about a possible new deal between Iran and what remains of al Qaeda’s core leadership, now headed by Ayman al Zawahiri, long-time deputy to the late Osama bin Laden. “This should not be overblown,” said one U.S. official, who asked for anonymity when discussing a sensitive subject. “This has been a very strange relationship for a decade or more,” the official added. “We’re not seeing any change in that relationship at the moment.”

    There have long been reports of on-again, off-again tactical cooperation between Tehran’s leaders and al Qaeda. The two share an adversary in the United States, yet follow different sects of Islam. Iran is overwhelmingly Shi’ia Muslim, whose followers are viewed as heretical by al Qaeda’s strict Sunni Muslims.

    Several recent developments brought the question of improving relations between al Qaeda and Iranian government entities or proxies into the public spotlight. This month, the U.S. Treasury announced that it was imposing sanctions on Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security for human rights abuses and for “its support of terrorist groups.”

    A Treasury statement alleged that Iran had provided support to three violent militant groups: al Qaeda, the Lebanese Shi’a militia Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas. U.S. and other officials and experts have long alleged close relations between Iran and Hezbollah and less-extensive dealings between Iran and Hamas.

    The Treasury alleged that in the case of al Qaeda, the Iranian intelligence agency had “facilitated the movement of al Qaeda operatives in Iran and provided them with documents, identification cards and passports.” The Treasury also charged that Iran had helped to finance and arm al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq and to negotiate the release of Iraqi al Qaeda prisoners.

    Britain’s Sky News reported that Iran had reached a deal two years ago with al Qaeda’s core leadership, led by Zawahiri, to provide militants with advanced explosives training, some funding and safe haven. This, in turn, sparked reports in other British and U.S. media that Iran’s improved relationship with al Qaeda could somehow heighten the threat of possible attacks on the Olympic Games in London this summer.

    … But U.S. and European government experts said their best available information suggested that relations between Iran and al Qaeda’s central leadership remained fraught and tenuous at best. While greater cooperation could not be ruled out, evidence of a real improvement in relations was thin, they said.

    “The relationship between al Qaeda and Iran is best described as complicated,” one U.S. official said. “The Iranians keep watch on what al Qaeda facilitators are up to. Sometimes the Iranians crack down on their activities; other times they don’t. Al Qaeda moving fighters or money is one thing, while planning major terrorist attacks against the West from Iranian soil is probably something they won’t allow.

    “Al Qaeda is not necessarily friendly to Iran,” the official continued, noting that for years Iran has reportedly held a number of top al Qaeda officials, including relatives of Osama bin Laden, in off-again, on-again conditions of detention or house arrest.

    … A European official said there is reason to believe that Iranian authorities have and do act as “facilitators” for al Qaeda elements form time to time, turning a blind eye as operatives move to and from Pakistan’s tribal areas. The Iranians also arrest and recapture al Qaeda prisoners from time to time, the official said.

    But the official said there was no evidence of Iran linking up recently with al Qaeda’s fugitive senior leadership nor that they planned attacks together. Al Qaeda’s senior leadership is “not in a position to do that and Iran would not want to cozy up to a Sunni terrorist group that kills Shia.”

    Bruce Riedel, a former CIA Middle East expert who has advised President Barack Obama on policy in Southwest Asia, said that he did not take recent reports about improved relations between Iran and al Qaeda very seriously. The history of their dealings, he said, remained “murky.”

    1. Classic propaganda technique– apparently taking one position, in order to boost the credibility of your actual message. “Oh sure, don’t overplay it, not too big a deal, nothing certain, you know. Just Iran helping Al-Qaeda. Personally, I doubt it, but some very good sources have been saying some very interesting things about it. You might want to look into it. Iran helping Al-Qaeda.”

    2. (1) I don’t believe that is a “classic propaganda technique”. Can you provide a cite for this? It sounds like something you just made up.

      (2) What’s you basis for believing that these officials are not being straightforward with us? You’ve waving their statements away for no visible reason.

      (3) I have looked into it and see no “very good sources” saying anything beyond the basic facts that have been public knowledge for several years. Plus, as usual, rampant and often wild speculation.

      (4) Many experts — and many non-experts (like myself) — long ago predicted that our broad attacks on Islam would push our enemies into some degree of operational alliances. Much like that between the US-UK and USSR in WWII. So far that has not happened on a significant scale, more evidence of their incompetence.

      (5) Pointing to a specific link is more useful than making an assertion and telling us to “google it” for evidence. Esp since I usually find statements like that to prove false on examination. People making accurate statements are more likely to cite a source (often vaguely stated, unforturnately).

    3. Get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? I did not ask you to, nor do I think you need to, google anything. Regardless of the veracity of the officials’ claims, this press release comes to us in a certain strategic and geopolitical context, in which American officials are building a case for further sanctions and possibly military strikes against Iran. In this context, it is highly unlikely that a press release such as this one would occur without coordination with higher headquarters, and the most likely purpose of this press release is to further build the above-mentioned case.

      Given this context, a headline like “US, European security officials discount Iran-Al Qaeda links” is a clever way to increase the effectiveness of the intended message. The effect of the article is to keep Iran-Al Qaeda cooperation in the headlines. The face that the article APPEARS to be taking the opposite tack will make certain audience groups more receptive to the message and increase its effectiveness.

      And, for your information, this is a classic “persuasion” technique.

    4. (1) I have no idea what you are saying. The simple assumption is that they are stating the situation as the believe it to be. IMO guessing at intentions is just hot air without some factual basis.

      (2) “And, for your information, this is a classic “persuasion” technique.”

      You already said that; repeating it does not make it more convincing. I’ve not seen mention of such a technique, and — as I said — it reads like something you made up. Hence I asked for a cite, as is standard practice on the FM website. It’s the only way to maintain some reliability in comments; otherwise threads degenerate into the cacophony that dominates the internet.

      (3) “I did not ask you to, nor do I think you need to, google anything”

      You said “You might want to look into it. Iran helping Al-Qaeda.” Other than by Google (ie, search engines), how do you suggest we veryify your assertion that “very good sources have been saying some very interesting things about {Iran-AQ}”? You gave no clues.

    5. “Get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?”

      That’s a perceptive observation. Yes, every day. I read several news aggregators: World Politics Review, Milnet, etc. Each morning’s basket overflows with propaganda, as the American people become increasingly foolish and passive — and hence more easily manipulated. Bad news proliferates like lice, while the foundations of the Republic rot away. As does our public infrastructure, while tax dollars are squandered on surveilance at home and wars abroad.

      The question is why you — and Americans everywhere — are not alarmed. Smell the smoke and act. Don’t wait until you see the flames.

    6. Let’s make a deal: In the future, you will try to pay better attention to which parts of my posts are “in quotes,” and I will make an effort to always place long quoted passages “in italics” to set them off more clearly. That way we will always be on the same page about whether a particular sentence is me stating my own opinion, or me sarcastically paraphrasing the opinions of someone else.

    7. We have here a massive miscommunication. Not unusual in comments.

      1. It did not look like sarcasm to me. But then I’m not good at reading such things.
      2. In your response you did not explain that it was sarcasm. That would have been helpful.
      3. The convention of putting sarcastic paraphrases in quotes is inherently confusing. Using /sarcasm is much clearer, IMO.
      4. I don’t understand how the quote as sarcasm or mocking makes sense in terms of your describing a classic propaganda technique.
    8. My apologies. If not this time in particular, I have certainly made wild conjectures and used confusing language here in the past. And in this particular case, well, the burden of being understood lies mostly with the speaker.

      My only point is that, while I don’t really know what the top Western military and intelligence officials were thinking when they authorized their experts to speak to the press on this specific occasion, it seems reasonable to assume that it is somehow connected to the current crisis with Iran. The way that I read it, the main point of the article is that Al Qaeda is cooperating with Iran. No matter how much the article rhetorically plays this point down, in itself this adds significantly to the public case for hostility towards Iran.

      The article rhetorically plays down key allegations while at the same time either affirming their veracity or failing to deny it. These allegations could be completely bogus, or they could be completely true, or maybe a mixture. But allegations of cooperation with Al Qaeda were one part of the case for attacking Iraq, so I don’t think such allegations against Iran should be taken lightly.

      To me, it seems like pretending that you don’t want what you want has got to be one of the most basic persuasion techniques known to man. It’s how I got $1200 taken off the price of my current car. Or maybe the salesman was doing it to me?

    9. You are IMO overthinking the article. Nobody is playing 12 dimensional chess here. There are hawks pushing for war with Iran. There are more cautious folks in the government, who are mildly but clearly disputing the hawks statements. Imagining more complex dynamics without evidence is usually wrong, in my experience. I see no evidence anyone is “pretending they don’t want what you want.”

      Also: Occam’s razor.

    10. You’re probably right– there may not be any calculation that far-sighted behind these statements to the press. But I will say this– consciously or not, these kinds of moderating statements actually add legitimacy to the overall hawkish narrative. The article puts a slightly different spin on the official Pentagon interpretation of the facts, upholding and agreeing with all of the most important points.

      In related news, last week top military and intelligence officials held press briefings on increasing Al-Qaeda influence in Syria, which have continued to reverberate through the media and have produced spin-offs like this news story: Congressman: Iraq War’s end gives al-Qaeda opening in Syria

      I might be over-thinking this one, too, but I find it hard to believe that these statements (Al-Qaeda in Syria) were not coordinated and purposeful. To what purpose, who knows?

    11. “To what purpose, who knows?”

      No guessing necessary. It’s just another in the decade-long propaganda effort supporting the war on terror. Al Qaeda is in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Indonesia, and America. It’s everywhere. It’s under your bed!

      Al Qaeda might not even exist in meaningful form, except as nationalist (ie, local) organizations borrowing the name. And the name has potentcy due to the massive US propaganda campaign. Organizations borrow the name, which validates the propaganda. Self-buttering bread.

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