A few times in the last year I have happened upon the blog of Juan Cole
, professor of history at Michigan. He didn't make a strong impression on me; I vaguely remember that he was left-wing, and not enthusiastic about American campaigns in the Middle East, but was intelligent and wrote well.
I now spend a fair amount of time on a political discussion mailing list at Google -- one reason why I haven't posted here. Someone sent out a link to an article at Dissident Voice
which turned out to be written by Juan Cole -- and was about 100% antiwar moonbattery. Had I misremembered Cole, or was he playing to his audience? I went back to his blog and saw that if reason had ever resided there, it had snuck out the back door a long time ago:
Why is Iraq a bigger priority for Cheney than is fighting al-Qaeda? Because there are corporate profits to be made in Iraq. There are virtually none in Afghanistan or the Pakistani tribal regions. Cheney wants to crucify the Bill of Rights on the cross of "national security," but has avoided doing the one thing that would make us both free and safe. That is developing a serious counter-insurgency plan for the Middle East that wins hearts and minds and deals effectively with asymmetrical threats. All his emphasis has been on dealing with governments, like that of Iraq, which can be defeated militarily, and the defeat of which unlocks national resources for American companies to exploit.
But anyway ... back to Dissident Voice. It's time for a Fisking. I'm out of practice, so bear with me.
The same techniques used to get up the Iraq war are now being applied by the political Right in the United States,
Yay, we got a capital letter!
including President Bush, to Iran. These include innuendo, guilt by association, vague fears, and hyped capabilities. If Bush gets a second term, it seems very likely that his administration will make war on Iran
The current round of sabre rattling by Washington against Tehran began with some passages in the report of the 9/11 commission, leaked to Time magazine, that revealed that 8 to 10 of the largely Saudi "muscle" or "newskin" hijackers sent by Bin Laden (to help control the flight attendants and passengers for the al-Qaeda pilots) had passed through Iran on their way to the United States over a period of several months. This passage would be unremarkable in and of itself.
Of course it would be. Because Iran is on the way to the United States from Saudi Arabia, and inhabitants of the two countries speak the same language.
Oh wait. It isn't and they don't.
So I guess it is kind of remarkable.
The 9/11 commission maintains, however, according to Time magazine, that Iranian officials had issued specific instructions to facilitate the passage of al-Qaeda members across Iranian borders, beginning in October, 2000.
The commission also alleges that Iranian officials came to al-Qaeda after the bombing of the USS Cole and suggested they team up to attack the US, but that Bin Laden turned down the offer for fear of alienating his Wahhabi supporters in Saudi Arabia by associating himself with Shiite Iran.
One problem with all these allegations is that they are sourced only to al-Qaeda detainees, Iranian defectors, and NSA electronic intercepts. It is the same as with Iraq in 2002. For all we know, there is an Iranian Chalabi who is behind these reports, hoping to get the US to overthrow the regime in Iran so that he can take over.
Those are pretty good sources, aren't they? Given that Al Qaeda and Iran probably don't do their terrorist planning sessions on a reality TV show?
And which al-Qaeda detainees would represent an Iranian Chalabi? I mean, Camp X-Ray ain't exactly the fast track to premiership in Tehran.
As for the al-Qaeda detainees or those under electronic surveillance, the letter of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has already made it clear that some radical Sunni elements that fought in Afghanistan dream of provoking a Shiite-American struggle. Al-Qaeda detainees are notorious for providing the US with disinformation aimed at furthering their plots. Iran is a notorious enemy of Wahhabism and al-Qaeda and the Taliban. How sweet it would be to provoke a war between the US and Iran by hanging 9/11 on Tehran! (It should be remembered that NSA intercepts also showed that Saddam had biological and chemical weapons, presumably because Saddam ordered his officers to talk them up in the vain hope of deterring a US attack).
In real life, unlike the movies, such a silly uncoordinated attempt by Al-Qaeda detainees to pin the blame on Iran would be found out as inconsistent in about five minutes.
Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin has already admitted that a) the US has known for a long time that al-Qaeda operatives travelled through Iran, and b) that there is no evidence that Iran knew beforehand about the 9/11 plot.
I tell you, I cry out, the sun rises in the East!
Why is a) relevant in the slightest?
Iranian officials have acknowledged that the al-Qaeda men passed through its territory, but point out that Iran's borders are long and porous, and insisted that the al-Qaeda operatives came through "illegally." Iran’s intelligence minister, Ali Yunesi, said on Saturday that "The Intelligence Ministry has identified and dismantled all the Iranian branches of the Al Qaeda movement . . . We have stopped the terrorist acts of Al Qaeda. If we had not done so, we would have had security problems.”
Iran's claim that the pre-9/11 al-Qaeda agents that came across its territory did so illegally should be easy to prove, right? If the operatives had come through Iran legally, there would have been Iranian stamps in their passports. But there weren't. If there had been, that would have triggered Immigration and Naturalization Service interviews with them and made it more difficult for them to get into the US. Ipso facto, Iran did not officially allow them through its passport control.
Here is what I thought immediately upon reading the above paragraph: "I don't know if Cole is really this naive, or thinks that his readers are idiots. Maybe ... a high Iranian official allowed the agents to transit its territory without
stamping their passports?"
No, no, no. That would be illegal and said official would be arrested immediately. It's about the rule of law
But, as usual with these things, there is a counter-argument.
Ali Nourizadeh, an expatriate Iranian journalist in London, published a piece in the London Saudi daily, Ash-Sharq al-Awsat, claiming that al-Qaeda fighters were given safe passage through Iran and allowed to avoid passport stamps by a sympathetic general of the Revolutionary Guards. Thus the lack of Iranian passport stamps in their passports, which would seem to exonerate Iran, is here used as proof of Iranian collusion!
Well what do you know -- great minds think alike!
Yes, it is suggestive of collusion when members of Al Qaeda transit Iran with no stamps on their passports. Because there is no reason why we should take the regime's snivelling about "porous" borders at face value.
In fact, I consider Yunesi a less believable source than captured Al Qaeda, dissidents, and NSA intercepts.
Some close US allies assert that Iran's role in fighting terrorism has been positive. Iraq's current ambassador to the United States, Rend Rahim Franke, said recently that Iran had prevented some 200 fighters from transiting its territory from Afghanistan to flood into Iraq and carry out terrorist attacks in her country, according to the Boston Globe:
Well that was nice of them. Maybe Saddam should thank Rumsfeld for preventing thousands of US Reserve troops from entering Iraq on March 19 of last year.
The rightwing media in the US used to hang on Franke's every word when she was promoting a war against Iraq, but now that she is serving as witness for Iran's good behavior, they are completely ignoring her important testimony. (Franke seemed to be contradicted Tuesday by the Sunni ex-Baathists in the caretaker government, who worry about Iran supporting militant Shiite militias).
Crap! First it was Right, a single word and capitalized. Now "right" is in lower case and jammed in there with some other word.
I demand my Rights!
As always in Middle East politics, we should begin with the Common Sense test and then go on to the "In who's Interest is this Odd Allegation?" test.
How true. Common sense tells us that no one would be crazy or cruel enough to fly an airplane full of innocent people into a skyscraper.
And "In who's Interest" is it for a Palestinian splodeydope to turn himself into scraps of meat?
What's the next of Cole's brilliant rules? "Ignore religion when looking for explanations of Middle Eastern behavior?"
When the Taliban took Mazar-i Sharif, they massacred Iranian intelligence ("diplomatic") personnel in that city. Iran mobilized for war against the Taliban at that point, and a war was narrowly averted.
Pakistan's Sunni fundamentalist-dominated military, especially its Inter-Services Intelligence or military intelligence, had more or less created the Taliban and heavily supported them with equipment, training, fuel and other goods.
So in 1996-2002 there was a behind the scenes war between Shiite Iran and Sunni jihadis, with Afghanistan and Pakistan being the main battlefields. At one point in the late 1990s, it almost became a real, hot war.
So then you come to me and say that in 2000 and 2001, Iran was actively helping al-Qaeda and was trying to ally with it. And I say, that sounds to me like complete gibberish and I would only accept it if you show me excellent documentary proof.
So then you come to me and say that Iran was engaged in a cold war with Al Qaeda, but some Al Qaeda operatives were able to enter the country at will?
The second test is Who is Helped by these Crazy Allegations?
* The Likud lobby in Washington, especially Michael Ledeen, Michael Rubin and other warmongers. They want the Tehran regime overthrown in part because it stands in the way of an Israeli annexation of southern Lebanon, with the Litani river as the long-sought prize. Iran is allied with Hizbullah in southern Lebanon, which forced the Israelis back out of Lebanon with a nearly 20-year long guerrilla struggle. They also want to force Hizbullah to pull back its support of the Palestinian uprising. Since Iran has substantially cut back on its support for Hizbullah, however, overthrowing Tehran would have little effect on such local political dynamics.
This is just hysterically funny. Lebanon is the puppet of Syria which is adjacent to Lebanon, not Iran, which is separated from Lebanon by two countries. If Iran could not vanquish Al Qaeda in adjacent Afghanistan, it is not going to do a thing about an Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon.
(The Likud's Ariel Sharon should never have invaded Lebanon in 1982, which is what created Hizbullah, suicide bombings as a tactic, and radicalized Lebanese like 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah).
Even better. Was Jarrah under the impression that he would crash into a skyscraper in Tel Aviv?
He must have been surprised at the speed with which he crossed the Atlantic.
Old-time US intelligence and diplomatic officials who have a grudge with Iran over the Hostage Crisis and other Iranian actions against the US in the 1980s.
And people who hated the "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" song.
The US military-industrial complex, which is frustrated at not being able to extract money from the potentially wealthy Iranian market.
What money is the "military-industrial complex" going to "extract" from Iran in the event of a war? Do they expect to be allowed to sell them weapons?
Iranian expatriates from families formerly allied with the deposed Shah of Iran, who are enormously wealthy and influential and are eager to play Chalabi in Tehran. Watch them as key sources of disinformation.
There is nothing more disgusting than the way the Left smears the victims of dictatorship. Watch for expatriot Iranians to be demonized like Miami Cubans, southern California Vietnamese, and as we saw recently, expatriot Iraqis.
Iran is 3 times more populous than Iraq, however, and its population is highly mobilized and nationalistic. A US invasion force there will be greeted in a way that will make Iraq seem tame.
It took America three weeks to conquer Iraq. Is Cole suggesting that a conquest of Iran would take nine weeks?
Moreover, the fallout from Shiites in Lebanon, Bahrain and Iraq itself (who will almost universally side with Iran against the US in any war) will put US troops and citizens in enormous danger.
But then the Sunni would like us more, right?
No, in ColeWorld anything America does engenders hate, but never the opposite.
And Who is Helped by that?
People who write articles for "Dissident Voice?"