'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Thursday, February 02, 2012

No, No, Please Don't! 

David Ignatius of the Washington Post provides yet another in a seeming proliferation of stories to the effect that the US really doesn't want Israel to attack Iran:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has a lot on his mind these days, from cutting the defense budget to managing the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But his biggest worry is the growing possibility that Israel will attack Iran over the next few months.

Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June — before Iran enters what Israelis described as a zone of immunity to commence building a nuclear bomb. Very soon, the Israelis fear, the Iranians will have stored enough enriched uranium in deep underground facilities to make a weapon — and only the United States could then stop them militarily.

Ignatius reveals himself as a skilled practitioner of political comedy with the conclusion of what the Post characterizes as an opinion piece:

U.S. officials see two possible ways to dissuade the Israelis from such an attack: Tehran could finally open serious negotiations for a formula to verifiably guarantee that its nuclear program will remain a civilian one; or the United States could step up its covert actions to degrade the program so much that Israelis would decide that military action wasn’t necessary.

Serious negotiations? Of course, Ignatius knows that this is the last thing the US wants, he is just using it as a capstone to one of the funniest propaganda pieces in recent memory. After all, Iran has sought to negotiate with the US several times since 9/11, but has been rebuffed every time, most recently when it accepted a US proposal put forward through Turkey and Brazil. Naturally, the US thereafter abandoned it when the objective of demonstrating the intransigence of Iran failed to materialize. But, oops, I forgot to mention that the Iranian nuclear program is a civilian one, something that Ignatius no doubt knows as well. Just goes to show how easily one can start internalizing the imperialist narrative when it comes to Iran.

Beyond this, the notion that the US could degrade the Iranian research program covertly is farcical. The objective of Ignatius' humorous propaganda is obvious, to distance the US from any Israeli attack while reaping the anticipated reward, regime change. And, keeping his options open, Ignatius relies upon the indirectly quoted US officials to put forward rigged alternatives that justify a military attack. In other words, we tried to stop it, but, there was really no alternative, anyway.

When things get too politically hot, characterize the action as a unilaterial Israeli one, like, for example, when Israel sold weapons to South Africa or trained the militaries of South American dictatorships. In both instances, there was a serendipitous coincidence between the purported unilateral action and the objectives of US foreign policy. In this instance, it appears that the disinformation campaign was launched by a Mark Perry article in Foreign Affairs to the effect that Israeli intelligence agents had posed as CIA agents to assist Jundallah in carrying out violent attacks inside Iran. The whole thing sounds implausible, all the way down to Perry's reportage to the effect that Bush was outraged when he heard about the operation because it might put Americans at risk. Bush spent his entire presidency putting Americans at risk, regardless of whether they wore uniforms or not.

Indeed, one gets the impression that a secondary purpose of the Foreign Affairs article, beyond distancing the US from covert operations consistent with foreign policy objectives, is to establish plausible deniability for Bush and Obama. For example, consider this howler:

Since Obama's initial order (scaling back joint US-Israel intelligence programs targeting Iran), U.S. intelligence services have received clearance to cooperate with Israel on a number of classified intelligence-gathering operations focused on Iran's nuclear program, according to a currently serving officer. These operations are highly technical in nature and do not involve covert actions targeting Iran's infrastructure or political or military leadership.

We don't do bang and boom, a recently retired intelligence officer said. And we don't do political assassinations.

Israel regularly proposes conducting covert operations targeting Iranians, but is just as regularly shut down, according to retired and current intelligence officers. They come into the room and spread out their plans, and we just shake our heads, one highly placed intelligence source said, and we say to them -- 'Don't even go there. The answer is no.'

Right. We don't do bang and boom . . . we don't do political assassinations. Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries around the world are littered with the victims of bang and boom and political assassinations, and, yet, we are supposed to believe that Bush and Obama objected to it when Israel proposed to subject Iran to similar treatment, assuming that Israel had to propose it at all.

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