“Escalating Tensions” with Iran

The corporate media reports about “escalating tensions with Iran,” implying that Iran is at least partly responsible for such. But in fact, persons in the administration chomping at the bit to go to war with Iran, taking advantage of the moron-president’s mercurial temperament, are (once again) cherry-picking “intelligence” in order to exacerbate tensions and produce a casus belli credible to the ignorant masses—at least temporarily, until their mendacity is (again) exposed, after the damage has been done, and without any consequences to the warmongers responsible.

The effort is so obvious, so transparent. Underlying it is the cynical premise that the people of this country learned nothing from the Afghan and Syrian conflicts, the Libyan atrocity, and most importantly the Iraq War that has killed half a million people based entirely on lies. They think the people (or at least the Congress) might support yet another war based on mysterious bombings of UAE oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, or insignificant missile strikes attributed to “Iran-backed Iraqi militias” on the massive U.S. imperial embassy compound in Baghdad.

“Let’s do the Tonkin Gulf thing again,” they think. “It worked.”

They think they can exploit the enduring, officially encouraged U.S. indignation at the overthrow of the U.S.’s puppet Shah in 1979 and the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by students protesting the U.S.’s grant of asylum to a man regarded by Iranians as a mass-murdering criminal. They assume (perhaps correctly) that few people in this country understand anything about the history of the region, know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites, or realize that Iran has not attacked another country in 300 years.

MSNBC interviewed Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger this morning. He’s a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the subcommittee on the Middle East. He validated the recent provocative military deployment in the Persian Gulf, citing credible threats to U.S. interests. He is an ignoramus, a Mike Pence protege, proud of his “service” in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Air Force lieutenant-colonel, a shameless advocate of U.S. imperialism. He is not alone; nearly 400 members of Congress signed a letter to Trump demanding he keep U.S. troops in Syria, where they’re currently deployed in blatant violation of international law.

The Afghan War now eighteen years old was justified by the Big Lie that the Taliban was the same as al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda was at the time a group of several hundred militants, many of them veterans of the CIA-fueled anti-Soviet war, confined to a remote part of Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden returned to the country in 1996 before the Taliban took power; the new regime in gratitude for his role in the anti-Soviet war accorded him the traditional Pashtunwali hospitality to strangers and allowed him to maintain his camp. But the Taliban wanted to have friendly relations with the U.S., cooperated on the matter of opium eradication, and negotiated with a U.S. firm for the construction of a natural gas pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Indian Ocean. The idea that the Taliban was promoting al-Qaeda and actively complicit on attacks on the U.S. is a myth. For years the Taliban has promised that should it return to power it will prevent terrorist organizations including al-Qaeda from operating in the country. The al-Qaeda forces have long since disappeared from Afghanistan, although some Uzbek militants in a group affiliated with al-Qaeda remain, and ISIL (a direct result of the 2003 invasion of Iraq) is establishing a presence. It is able to do so because the U.S. produced chaos Afghanistan.

The war more commonly recognized as a war based on lies is of course the Iraq War launched in 2003. Some of us at the time realized that the Bush-Cheney team was broadcasting bald-faced lies about Iraq’s imagined weapons of mass destruction, and the ridiculous assertion that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda were in cahoots. But with 70% approval, the smirking chimp Bush got the war he wanted…which continues in that, in the name of defeating ISIL (which repeat, was a direct result of the 2003 invasion and power vaccuum, and the alienation of Sunnis from the Occupation authorities) the U.S. still maintains 5000 troops in the country. You would think that the masses would grasp the fact that the war was a deliberate, calculated crime; but the official line is that there were some regrettable “intelligence flaws,” given the human propensity for error. The official line continues: “Anyway, we got rid of a dictator,” as though the U.S. were ever more prone to topple dictators than to coddle and support them. No monarch of an oil-rich or strategically located Arab country, beheader though he may be, and regardless of his human rights record, is ever targeted; Trump indeed expresses support for Prince Mohammad bin Salman following his intelligence agencies’ determination that he ordered the grotesque murder of a journalist in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

U.S. intervention in Syria, beginning while Goldwater Girl Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, has been based on the lie that the Syrian people, inspired by the U.S. model of democracy, are rising up against the evil regime of Bashar al-Assad. In fact the opposition is largely foreign in origin; this has not been a mere “civil war.” Religious minorities in Syria (especially Christians) , bazaar merchants, academics, in fear of radical Islamism and its destructive potential (recall the heartbreaking destruction in Palmyra) unite with the government. The Syrian Arab Army (mostly Sunni, but secular) has remained loyal to the government, spurning U.S. efforts to suborn it. The fact is, Washington wants regime change in Syria to gratify Israel and is perfectly willing to conjure up lies to justify it.

The U.S.-NATO rape of Libya was based upon the lie that Muammar Gadhafy was sending troops to Benghazi to commit “genocide” to suppress a popular uprising, and that the “humanitarian” threat was such that the benevolent NATO alliance headed by the U.S., along with the most repressive Gulf states, needed to bomb the hell out of the country. Hillary Clinton’s gleeful cackling response to Gadhafy’s savage death and anal knife-rape by a member of the opposition: “We came, we saw, he died!” says it all. It was not a humanitarian mission. It was a regime-change mission that has led to extreme misery not just in Libya, once the most prosperous of North African countries, but in neighboring Mali and Niger.

The historical meaning of that 2011 UN resolution authorizing the “humanitarian” mission in Libya is this: Russia and China agreed, accepting the western power’s explanation; but when it became clear it was a regime-change effort, they protested. They have noted the catastrophe that followed, and will probably never again concede to similar resolutions. The U.S. lies and cannot be trusted.

Now the U.S. administration, mired in mendacity, alerts the people to supposed Iranian threats. These are mainly threats to U.S. troops in Iraq, where as you know—or maybe don’t know because the corporate press can’t reveal such embarrassments—the parliament wants to expel them, because they are not wanted or welcome in the country they ruined in their war-based-on- lies. The fact is, Iran is much more popular in Iraq than the U.S.A. There are Iraqi militias incorporated into the national army that are trained by Iranians and committed to the Shiite form of Islam which unites most Iraqis with their coreligionists in the neighboring country. They have played the leading role in defeating ISIL. Yet the U.S. vilifies them as “Iranian proxies” and deplores the presence of “foreign forces” in Iraq. (As though the U.S. presence is just family.)

The stupidity of the very concept of attacking Iran should be obvious. A country of 80 million, four times the size of California, never colonized, proud, independent, with a strong, experienced military. Iran would receive the sympathy of the world, and the U.S. even more widely abhorred. Because you can’t keep waging these wars-based-on-lies without consequences. (Among those consequences is World War III involving Russia and China, who want to maintain trade relations with Iran, as is the norm, but are commanded by the imperious U.S. to cut all ties or face the wrath of the U.S. Treasury Department.)

But Trump continues to threaten. He is perhaps simply posturing, responding to pressure from Bolton to talk tough. Maybe he’ll take a step back as he did after threatening North Korea with destruction. It is rare for a modern leader to threaten the annihilation of an entire nation. Trump has done so twice. Kim Jung-un responded intelligently to Trump’s bluster, flattered him, used the threat of what would be not just North Korean annihilation but the ruination of the entire Korean Peninsula to establish a cordial relationship with Seoul, and through southern intermediaries arranged a summit with Trump. Trump now asks Tehran to call him. He’s even said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is “a lovely man.”

But Rouhani responds that now is not the right time for talks, but rather for resistance. Perhaps there are back-channel discussions; you’d assume so. But the theme for the moment is: escalating tensions. Military leaders including top allied generals in the region say there has been no accelerated “Iranian threat.” But John Bolton wants to keep you tense, anticipating that moment when Iran “does anything” requiring its destruction, perhaps by U.S. and Israeli nukes.

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: gleupp@tufts.edu