Iran and EFPs

In his columns investigative journalist and historian Gareth Porter has been doing a masterful job of exposing Dick Cheney’s relentless campaign to vilify Iran, build a case for an attack, bomb the country and produce regime change before the administration’s term ends. The campaign as many have noted parallels in several ways the propaganda blitz that preceded the War in Iraq. Cheney and his neocons cabal seek to skew the reports of mainstream intelligence agencies to confirm their allegations (in this case, the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program as an immanent threat to Israel and the U.S., Iranian Quds Force training of Iraqi “insurgents” in Iranian camps, Iranian provision of explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) to these “insurgents,” Iranian contacts with al-Qaeda, etc.). If they fail to do this, they circumvent the intelligence community and find ways of disseminating disinformation through their own announcements, editorials by their supporters, and stories planted in the corporate press.  Since Cheney got Bush to sign an Executive Order giving his office the same powers to classify as the president has, his operations are shrouded in secrecy.

In his latest piece Porter follows the campaign to blame Iran for supplying EFPs to those attacking U.S. occupation forces in Iraq. In January 2007 some military officials asserted that EFPs that could penetrate U.S. armored vehicles were being manufactured in Iran and supplied to Iraqi Shiite militias by the Iranian government. They prepared a draft for a proposed military briefing to announce this claim, which then circulated in Washington and was leaked to the press. However, the document “met with unanimous objection from the State Department, Defense Department, and the National Security Council (NSC) staff, as administration officials themselves stated publicly.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley all wanted to build upon the negotiations with Iranian officials which had occurred in Iraq to that point. These had been based on the desire of both sides to support the Maliki government, which has warm ties with Tehran. The Cheney camp had opposed those talks.

In a press briefing on Jan. 24, 2007, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Department Spokesman Sean McCormack was asked if the government has any evidence for Iranian supply of EFPs to Iraqi forces. He answered indirectly: “You don’t necessarily have to construct something in Iran in order for it to be a threat to the U.S. or British troops from the Iranian regime.” He implied that outsiders might be instructing Iraqis on how to produce EFPs.

On February 2, Hadley distanced the National Security Council from the draft report. “The truth is,” he told reporters at a news briefing, “quite frankly, we thought the briefing was overstated. We sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts.” Meanwhile the intelligence community was preparing a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that did not support the claim about EFPs but merely accused Iranians of training fighters of Mahdi Army led by Muqtada al-Sadr, the fiery nationalist who is not Iran’s favorite Iraqi politician although he may be the most popular man in the country. Rice and Gates both stated their expectation that the planned briefing on Iranian involvement in Iraq would reflect the views contained in the NIE.

Then Cheney made his move. On Feb. 9 presidential spokesperson Dana Perino was asked when the briefing would be held. “Decisions on that,” she replied, “are being made out in Baghdad.” Gen. David Petraeus (whom former CENTCOM commander Adm. William Fallon, a known opponent of an Iran attack, has described as an “ass-kissing little chicken-shit”) had just arrived to assume command of U.S. forces in Iraq.  On February 11 three military officers in Iraq gave a briefing to the press in which they stated that the EFPs could only have been manufactured in Iran and were being supplied to Iraqi militiamen by the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards with the knowledge of the Iranian government.

“Cheney,” Porter writes, “had used the compliant Petraeus to do an end-run around the national security bureaucracy. Petraeus had already reached an agreement with the White House to take Cheney’s line on the EFPs issue and to present the briefing immediately without consulting State or Defense.” This circumventing of normal channels is of course Cheney’s modus operandi, as scathingly documented in the four-part series about Cheney in the Washington Post last July by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, stated that he could not “from his own knowledge” confirm that the Quds Force was providing bomb-making kits to Iraqis, and one of the officers at the briefing backed off the claim of Iranian complicity. Still, the story was “out there,” in the press, and as Porter writes, “Cheney now had a potential casus belli against Iran.” Or one might say, another one to try to foist upon an impressionable public. This, from the only top official who’s never backed off his claim that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9-11.

In September 2007, Congress passed the neocon and AIPAC-backed Kyl-Lieberman resolution designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. In October the Treasury Department designated the Quds Force “terrorist”—“for providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.” Very creative thinking there. Iran’s religious leadership hates the Taliban and almost went to war with Afghanistan when it was led by the group in 1998. It supports U.S.-backed Afghan puppet president Hamid Karzai, who told the Washington Post in January 2008: “We have had a particularly good relationship with Iran in the past six years. It’s a relationship that I hope will continue. We have opened our doors to them. They have been helping us in Afghanistan. The United States very wisely understood that it is our neighbor and encouraged that relationship.”

On May 8 Los Angeles Times correspondent Tina Susman reported from Baghdad: “A plan to show some alleged Iranian-supplied explosives to journalists last week in Karbala and then destroy them was cancelled after the United States realized none of them was from Iran.” Don’t you just love the matter-of- fact tone of that? They planned to lie, but somebody opposed to the lie and its consequences was apparently able to abort the effort. Isn’t it obvious that Cheney and the neocons in general believe it perfectly permissible to lie to the people in order to justify wars?  And they just hate it when somebody gets in their way.

Remember how a member of Bush’s inner circle (Karl Rove?) told the New York Times’ Ron Suskind in summer 2002 the “the reality-based community” had it all wrong, that the world doesn’t “really work anymore” on the basis of “judicious study of discernible reality.” “We’re an empire now,” he boasted, “and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Combine that Nazi-like faith in the Big Lie; the liars’ smug confidence that the system will continue to protect them even as they’re exposed by the “reality-based” folks whom they find laughable;  and the obvious fact that the Congress and media lack the will to call them on their lies. These evidences of system-wide bankruptcy are grounds for profound pessimism in the short term.

NBC’s Keith Olbermann last week talked with former Bush spokesperson Scott McClellan about the prospect for a U.S. attack on Iran.  “So knowing what you know,” he asked, “if Dana Perino gets up there and starts making noises that sound very similar to what you heard from the administration, from Ari Fleischer in 2002, from other actual members of the administration and the cabinet, you would be suspicious?” “I would be,” replied McClellan. “I would be. I think that you would need to take those comments very seriously and be skeptical.”

We Americans are being hit by EFP (Extremely False Propaganda) designed to do much worse than penetrate the thin armor of our media-numbed and infotainment- conditioned brains. It’s designed to hurl us and our children into a Long War against the Islamic world. And those of us who are skeptical—or more than skeptical: aware, disgusted and alarmed—will I fear wake to the fait accompli of an attack before Cheney and Bush hand over power to successors who will patriotically go along with the program.

What we need is not mere skepticism, but the toppling of the liars.

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Gary Leupp is Emeritus Professor of History at Tufts University, and 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 and coeditor of The Tokugawa World (Routledge, 2021). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: