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Targeting Iran and Syria

by GARY LEUPP

Another year over, and we still haven’t seen the widely-predicted U.S. (or U.S.-Israeli) attacks on Syria and Iran. But keep paying attention. The Turkish press reports that in a December trip to Turkey, CIA Director Porter Goss “asked Ankara to be ready for a possible US air operation against Iran and Syria.” Coming hot on the heels of FBI Director Robert Mueller, he brought with him a large delegation and three dossiers laying out the case against Iran. The first purportedly documents the existence of Iranian nuclear weapons, the second of Iranian ties to al-Qaeda and the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), and the third depicts Iran as a mortal enemy of the secular Turkish state. Apparently the PKK issue was central to the discussions. This account follows Philip Giraldi’s report in the American Conservative last July that Vice President Cheney has asked the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) 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.” This would occur in the aftermath of a terror attack on the U.S. which, whatever its origins, would be politically used to justify an attack on Iran, just as the al-Qaeda attack was used to justify the attack on Iraq. Cheney has also declared matter-of-factly that if the U.S. doesn’t attack Iran, Israel might do so. James Petras persuasively documents Israeli intentions.

As Kurt Nimmo notes, the full import of the Turkish story hasn’t been echoed in the U.S. press. http://kurtnimmo.com/?p=164 But inquiring journalistic minds should be asking, “What does it mean for Turkey to be ready for U.S. actions against two more Muslim states?” In March 2003 the Turkish legislature refused to allow the deployment of U.S. troops from Turkey to Iraq in advance of the invasion. The then Prime Minister Abdullah Gul was on board the program, but the parliamentarians backed up by public opinion narrowly voted against it. Goss must have met with current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a bid to avoid more embarrassment in future. Are Turkish rulers being asked to support air strikes from Incirlik Air Force Base? To contain mass protests as the Terror War widens? Are they being offered carrots in return for cooperation, such as a green light to operate against the PKK in Iran, as the German news agency DPP has claimed? Or in Syria and northern Iraq? Are they buying the arguments for attacks?

Turkey seems a country of vital significance to the neocons, as it is for Israel. An overwhelmingly Muslim but secularist state, with strong military and political ties to Israel, it has received two neocon U.S. ambassadors in recent years (former State Department official Marc Grossman and “Scooter” Libby deputy Eric Edelman). It’s been suggested that Valerie Plame was outed to impede her investigation of links between the neocons, the American-Turkish Council, and a Turkish nuclear program. As the only Muslim NATO country, supportive of U.S. policy in Afghanistan if not Iraq, it could play a key role in the planned attacks on Iran and Syria. The CIA, more inclined than before to “fix the intelligence around policy” naturally gets sent to show the Turks that there are multiple reasons to support an expansion of the American war in its part of the world. (This is the CIA headed by Goss, who once pronounced himself unsuitable for the agency chief post, and who a top outgoing CIA official, Robert Richer, told a Senate committee is out of touch with reality.) His argument to the Turks seems to have hinged on the Kurdish issue.

The Turkish regime fears its large (20%?) Kurdish minority, and the Kurds’ kindred in Iraq, Syria and Iran. The Kurds are the largest stateless people in the world and have been oppressed historically in all these nations. A key reason Turkey opposed war on Iraq was the prospect of confronting an autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan on its border that might encourage its own Kurds to demand independence. So naturally the Bush administration argues that Iran is helping both the universal demon al-Qaeda (which in point of fact hates Iran’s Shiite regime) and the totally different, secular, quasi-Marxist PKK. The appeal seems terribly primitive, a repeat of the ridiculous linkages that the neocons drew before attacking Iraq. The charges of al-Qaeda-Iranian cooperation echo the charges about al-Qaeda operatives training at Salman Pak in Iraq, or those about high-level meetings between Saddam or his intelligence agents with al-Qaeda promoted by the neocons before and after the attack on Iraq. All discredited, to anyone paying attention. So too the charges about Iraq’s nuclear program, eerily similar to tales of laptop designs for nuclear missile attacks and satellite “proofs” of nuclear weapons facilities effectively dissected by Nimmo and Gordon Prather and others who may some months from now have to say, “Told you so.”

Links between the PKK and Iran? Maybe, at points in the past. But its leftist ideology doesn’t jibe very well with Shiite Islamism, and in 2003 Iran listed the PKK as a “terrorist organization.” Last summer Erdogan and then-Iranian President Mohammad Khatami signed a series of strategic accords, including one directed against both the PKK and the Iraq-based Iranian opposition movement, the Mujahedeen e-Khalq (MEK). (The latter, while listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization, is favored by the neocons in the U.S. as a tool to use against the Iranian regime.) In recent years the PKK seems to have received more cooperation from Syria, where captured Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan has reportedly told Turkish prosecutors (under who knows what circumstances) the PKK owns property. But Abdullah Gul, currently Foreign Minister, describes Turkey’s relations with Syria as “excellent,” adding “we don’t want any new war in the region… all of us have been harmed by Iraqi war.”

The U.S. response seems to be, “You don’t know what’s in your own best interest. You’ll be more harmed by not respecting your commitment to the NATO alliance, not showing appreciation for our aid all these years and our support for your EU entry. We plan to remake the whole region, damn it, and so you’d best get on board the program. We and our Israeli friends are using the Iraqi Kurds for our own purposes, while trying to keep your Kurds in the border areas from attacking you. It’s in your interest to work with us and our good Kurds against your bad Kurds who-believe us-are being supported by the big bad Syrians and Iranians. Now’s your chance to kick some butt, and when we’re finished we’ll all be happy.”

I don’t know how this cowboy logic might go down in Ankara, as neighboring Iraq becomes a “democratically””established Shiite Islamist state aligned with Iran but also friendly with Iran-allied secular Baathist Syria. Ali Topez, a leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party, charges that the Goss and Mueller visits were intended to “soften up” Turkey and make it accept Washington’s demands. But he argues, “If they want to end terrorism, they should catch” the PKK forces in northern Iraq. The neocons all along have relied upon lies, shifting rationales, fear-mongering and essentialist portraits of “terrorism” to manipulate American public opinion and to cow foreign leaders into cooperation as they pursue their New American Century goals. They’ve done better on the first score, although the U.S. public has lost trust in the administration and the corporate press has become somewhat more inclined to raise questions. On the other hand it has scored significant successes in obtaining the unprincipled September IAEA vote against Iran and (with much French assistance) building the case for UN sanctions against Syria. Maybe such “diplomatic” activity including the Mueller and Goss visits to Turkey will pay off with the expanded war Gul says the Turks don’t want.

Nimmo plausibly describes the likely outcome of strikes against Iran and Syria. Intensified Hizbollah attacks on Israel; Iranian attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, utterly justified by the U.S. act of war; the collapse of Shiite Iraqi support at low ebb as it is for continued U.S. military presence in their country; the Yugoslav-like fracturing of Iraq into an Iranian-aligned Shiite state, a Sunni state, and a Kurdish state. Over this last, the interests of the U.S., Israel and Turkey might converge. Seymour Hersh has reported that Israel, disillusioned by the U.S. failure to produce an Israel-friendly regime in Baghdad, now feels itself best served by an Israel-friendly Kurdistan sharing its own antipathy to Arab Muslims. The warmongers play a complex game, and just as things haven’t gone entirely as they hoped so far, they may careen way off the charted path in the hear future. “That’ll serve them right,” one might want to say. But how much suffering for Arabs, Kurds, Persians, Turks and others must occur before rational Americans (and Israelis) take firm measures to stay the hands of those calmly planning more attacks?

* * *

Some people have emailed me asking if, now that the UM-Dartmouth Mao-book story has been exposed as a hoax, I will “retract” my piece posted December 19. Some have ridiculed it, the original Standard-Times article by Aaron Nicodemus, a Boston Globe op-ed by Sen. Edward Kennedy, and other published references to the story, and accused all who credited it as gullible fools. But no, actually, I have nothing to retract, having merely trusted Nicodemus, and the student’s two quoted professors, and specifically doubted a general effort to intimidate Mao-readers. “I can’t see the feds,” I wrote, “really interviewing everybody who checks out Mao’s works published in Beijing or anywhere from the library. They might keep some record, but surely they have other priorities.”

I noted that the article mentioned the student having spent time in foreign countries and speculated: “One way this story might start to make a little bit of sense (from the agents’ point of view) is if the student’s ‘significant time abroad’ was spent in a country with a significant Maoist insurgency, like Nepal, the Philippines, or India.” That was, I submit, a rational response to the newspaper story in this country with its COINTELPRO history, governed by people who view Maoists as terrorists, and with a fascist element that would indeed like to criminalize dissent. (I noted on one blog someone drawing attention to my mention of owning the book myself, as though this was inherently damning.) The story, hoax that it was, was unfortunately not incredible.

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 Crusades.

He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu

 

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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