Safe from Attack? or Doomed After Next 9/11?
Is Iran Being Set Up?
By GARY LEUPP
A recent article by Juan Cole depicts Iran as the real victor in the Iraq
War. This is because Iran, which Washington officially designates "evil," has
been able to establish warm relations with the government ushered into power by
U.S. occupation forces in neighboring Iraq.
In his state visit to Iran Prime Minister al-Jaafari was offered
electricity, wheat, pipeline projects, use of Iranian ports to transship goods
to Iraq. Jaafari paid a pilgrimage to the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, one of the
most vilified characters in the history of U.S. foreign relations. He blamed the
Iran-Iraq War (in which the U.S. backed Baghdad) on Saddam Hussein and accepted
Iraqi culpability. He promised that Iraq would not allow any attack on Iran from
Reports about the recent flurry of Iran-Iraq diplomacy must shock the
neocons. Things are not going at all according to plan. Neocon ally Chalabi
should be in power, hosting the Israeli prime minister's official visit and
mapping a common strategy against Iran. Just 30,000 U.S. soldiers should be in
Iraq, living on permanent bases. The privatized oil industry should be paying
for the nearly completed reconstruction of the country. Instead, devout Shiites
who revere Khomeini are in power, Iraq is far from recognizing Israel, 130,000
U.S. forces are bogged down in a guerrilla war, the oil industry hasn't
recovered to pre-2001 levels, and the costs of the war and reconstruction fall
on the American taxpayer. No, this is not at all what the neocons
Not anticipating that Iraqi Shiites would either turn on their "liberators"
or feel sympathy towards Iran (with which Iraq fought a long very bloody war in
the 1980s), the neocons instead expected (or at least, publicly stated that they
expected) a welcoming population that would submit to something like the U.S.
occupation of Japan (1945-52). L. Paul Bremer III, heading the "Coalition
Provisional Authority" in Iraq, said in June 2003 that while the occupation
imposed "no blanket prohibition" against Iraqi self-rule, and he wasn't
personally "opposed to it," it had to occur in "a way that takes care of our
concerns. Elections that are held too early can be destructive. It's got to be
done very carefully" (Washington Post, June 28, 2003). The January 2005 election
was held not because the U.S. came with a plan to quickly establish an Iraqi
democracy, but because Shiite demonstrators rallied by Ayatollah Sistani
demanded both an end to the occupation and free elections early on.
Huge demonstrations in early 2004 forced the U.S. to agree to officially
"turn over authority" to an interim Iraqi government that summer and hold
elections for a new administration in January 2005. Chalabi, fallen from favor
in May 2004 due to charges of espionage, was replaced by Iyad Allawi (another
CIA operative) as the leader favored by the U.S.; he was appointed prime
minister June 1, 2004. He remained the favorite in January 2005, and his party
apparently got several times his expected vote due after receiving U.S. funds,
advice and maybe stuffed ballot boxes. But the lion's share of the vote (quite a
lot lower than expected, suggesting lots of fraud) went to the SCIRI and Dawa
religious-based parties. After ages and ages of behind-the-scenes negotiations,
the present administration under Jaafari was finally announced in April. Quite
contrary to U.S. intentions, it has turned out to be markedly pro-Iranian.
Cole concludes with the observation, "The ongoing chaos in Iraq has made it
impossible for Bush administration hawks to carry out their long-held dream of
overthrowing the Iranian regime, or even of forcing it to end its nuclear
ambitions." He implies that both because the U.S. is militarily overextended and
because the Iraqi authorities will not approve an attack from their soil. I do
want to believe all that! I also want to believe that, following the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization's advice, the governments of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan
will request the removal of U.S. bases from their territory. The local rulers of
these former Soviet republics in Central Asia were willing to help out against
al-Qaeda in Afghanistan but now seem anxious about U.S. use of their soil for an
attack on Iran. Russia is heavily invested in Iran's nuclear industry, while
China needs its petroleum.
But the U.S. is applying pressure. Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, said "It looks to me like two very large countries were
trying to bully some smaller countries." Rumsfeld has echoed that, stressing
that the U.S. makes agreements with nations, not the Shanghai Cooperation
Organization. Yesterday Rumsfeld was back in Kyrgyzstan, suddenly, for the
second time in four months, obviously concerned about the issue of Manas Air
Base. Newly elected president Kurmanbek S. Bakiyev, who while campaigning for
office called for an end to the U.S. presence, says his government will "do its
best to avoid spoiling relations with Washington." In any case, the U.S.
presence in Azerbaijan (not a SCO nation) may be important for war making
purposes. Scott Ritter wrote last month that in "Azerbaijan, the US military is
preparing a base of operations for a massive military presence that will
foretell a major land-based campaign designed to capture Tehran."
Meanwhile, my pessimism deepens as I read an online excerpt from an article
by Philip Giraldi, in the American Conservative. It indicates that:
(1) the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) has been asked
to draw up concrete, short term contingency plans for an attack on Iran, to
involve "a large-scale air assault employing both conventional and tactical
nuclear weapons" and
(2) that Vice President Cheney's office has specifically
told the Pentagon that the military should be prepared for an attack on Iran in
the immediate aftermath of "another 9-11." That's "not conditional on Iran
actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United
States," notes Geraldi.
Can it get madder than this? The neocons' plans for a total reorganization
of the "Greater Middle East" have been plain for some time now. Many have been
warning against the prospect of an expansion of the Iraq War into Syria and
Iran. You'd think that reality would smack these guys in the face and they'd
call off anything so stupid. But they apparently think that by using
conventional and nuclear weapons (first time any nation will do that since
Nagasaki); by employing the Mujahadeen Khalq; by activating agents in place to
organize demonstrations (as the CIA did so successfully in Iraq in 1953); by
attacking from Azerbaijan they can actually pull this off. Do they even realize
that southern Iraq and Iran constitute the heartland of historical Shiism, and
that an attack on Iran will negate any goodwill among Shiites U.S. forces have
acquired in Iraq?
Maybe, here and there within the military itself, the madmen meet with
quiet resistance. "Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning,"
writes Giraldi, "are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are
doing---that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack" That's
encouraging, surely. Good that senior Air Force officers should be appalled at
their orders. Surely they must ask questions, such as:
What do they mean by "another 9-11"? Could any, even
small-time terrorist act in the U.S. (say, killing 52 in the Boston subway) be
the signal for us to start bombing Iran?
Does the Vice President's office anticipate this second
9-11 sometime soon?
Would it be moral to attack Iran in the aftermath of a
terrorist attack if Iran had nothing to do with it?
Actually, why would Iran ever give the U.S. pretext for
Am I going to be complicit in war crimes if I'm involved
in this planned attack? What will this do for my long-term reputation?
Will our troops in Iraq suffer as a result of the hatred
for the U.S. another unprovoked attack is likely to generate?
Am I going to be a part of a military project which will
have no support anywhere in the world, except maybe in Israel?
But the sentence finishes "---but no one is prepared to damage his career
by posing any objections."
That could change quickly, of course, if the Bush administration starts to
sink under the weight of accumulating scandals. But the plan for the Iran attack
is for it to come quickly, while the nation is in a state of shock---apparently
in some near-future scenario---so that all those brewing scandals get placed on
the back burners. The propaganda set-up's already been performed as well as
possible. There's a list of charges against Iran, just like there was against
Iraq. If they happen, President Bush will explain the Iran attacks as strikes
reluctantly undertaken, as a last resort, to protect Americans from terrorist
threats emanating out of Iran. The STRATCOM guys will know that's not true, and
have to live with the knowledge.
Or else they can do what some have apparently done so far: speak out, if
anonymously, and just maybe force their commanders to abort this criminal war
Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct
Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and
Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of
Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men
and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's
merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial