Washington’s Propaganda Against Iran: Why the US Readies for War

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An Iranian student holds up an anti-U.S. poster as he attends a demonstration to show his support for Iran's nuclear program, before a ceremony to form a human chain around the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF), in Isfahan, 450 km (280 miles) south of Tehran, 15 November 2011. (Photo: REUTERS - Morteza Nikoubazl)

By: Ben Schreiner

Published Friday, December 2, 2011

Washington’s propaganda campaign against Iran is approaching a near frenzied pitch. With daily regularity, the US media, showcasing its best nationalist bent, cries of the increasing menace and threat of Iran. The process of preparing the American public for yet another imperial war, in other words, has begun.

In this latest imperialist propaganda campaign, Washington has chosen to trumpet three recent examples of aggression from what The New York Times deems to be a “belligerent” Iran. (Aggression in the imperial lexicon, of course, connotes unwillingness to comply with the dictates emanating out of Washington.) Each individual illustration, not surprisingly, is tenuous at best.

The first example of Iranian “aggression” loudly reverberating through the American media echo chamber is of Iranian “mischief” in Iraq, which is feared to only heighten in the wake of the looming American troop withdrawal. As the Associated Press states, “American officials…have long feared what they describe as Iranian meddling in Iraq — and its potential to sow unrest across the Mideast.” Needless to say, US “meddling” and “sowing of unrest” in Iraq and beyond is a given, and rather celebrated, state within US mainstream media circles.

The overt consternation over increased Iranian regional meddling, though, stems not so much from a fear of an ascendant Iran—itself a progressively isolated nation—but more out of a fear among American strategic planners that the US is in fact leaving Iraq not in triumph, but in defeat. After all, following the failure to secure immunity for American soldiers, White House officials now concede they will only maintain a force of between 4,000 and 5,000 private security contractors in Iraq to protect American diplomats at year’s end. A far cry from the initial White House goal of over 20,000 American troops. The true fear, then, of realpolitik minded US.planners is that the Iraq defeat will inherently become a de facto victory of sorts for its regional enemies. Or, as twelve American Senators writing soon after President Obama announced plans to withdraw from Iraq by year’s end stated, “the complete withdrawal of our forces from Iraq is likely to be viewed as a strategic victory by our enemies in the Middle East, especially the Iranian regime.” A worse scenario for America’s foreign policy is hardly possible, even if such a strategic humiliation is only in perception.

The second pillar of the Washington propaganda effort to manufacture an Iranian threat came with the revealing of the purported Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US. Washington’s great intelligence coup, however, fell well short of passing the rudimentary laugh test. And the timing of the Department of Justice’s great feat, coinciding with embarrassing revelations of a botched Department of Justice anti-narcotics operation (“Fast and Furious”), only served to raise more questions. Nonetheless, the US media for the most part swallowed it hole. As the Wall Street Journal pontificated—taking the absurd “plot” on face value—had it indeed been successful it “would have constituted an act of terror by the Islamic Republic of Iran on US soil, and arguably an act of war.” Just as, we might say, a successful plot to assassinate an Iranian nuclear scientist (let alone multiple scientists) on Iranian soil would arguably constitute an act of terror, if not war.

And then, of course, the most recent, and most celebrated, example heralded as foolproof evidence of Iranian aggression and intransigence by Washington has come from the latest report from the United Nations International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA). The report, revealing little not already known about Tehran’s nascent nuclear program, has been championed in the US as a near smoking gun that Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapon. But—as has since been widely noted, albeit largely obscured from the US public by the country’s mainstream press—a 2009 leaked diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks casts substantial doubt on the impartiality of the IAEA and its new General Director Yukiya Amano. As the leaked US cable states regarding Amano’s appointment to head the IAEA:

IAEA Director General-designate Yukiya Amano thanked the US for having supported his candidacy and took pains to emphasize his support for US strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded the Ambassador on several occasions that he would need to make concessions to the G-77, which correctly required him to be fair-minded and independent, but that he was solidly in the US court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program.

Iran’s incessant claims of the IAEA being a mere pawn of Washington appear to be not all that far off. Of course, this didn’t stop the Wall Street Journal from editorializing once more on the dire consequences of a nuclearized Iran. As the Journal warned, this all “adds up to a far more dangerous world—in which Iran becomes a regional hegemon, Israel faces a threat to its existence, the Middle East embarks on a nuclear arms race, America’s freedom of action [i.e., the ability to run roughshod over the will of the region’s inhabitants] is curtailed, and the dangers of a nuclear exchange rise to the levels above what they were even during the early Cold War.”

But such cataclysmic rhetoric should not be very surprising. Nor should the dubious nature of the charges conjured up against Iran. This is all rather standard US policy at this point, as the lead up to the Iraq War in 2003 spectacularly showed. But what is indeed perhaps perplexing about the intensification of this latest propaganda effort is its particular timing. With the US bogged down in Afghanistan and facing the specter of harsh budget cuts, including potential cuts to the Pentagon, why has Washington persisted in intensifying its propaganda campaign against Tehran at a time of apparent weakness?

In the end, the drums of war beat because the US is in desperate need of a credible external threat to better quell the intensifying level of internal social unrest (most clearly seen in the burgeoning Occupy Movement). This, in fact, has long been a great concern of the US power elite following the end of the Cold War, and the discrediting of the highly useful communist “threat.” And with the slaying of Osama bin Laden and other top targets, which according to US intelligence leaves only two senior al-Qaeda leaders left on the lam, the boogieman of the last decade seems to be fading.

Enter the orchestrated fear mongering of Iran. And the success of this present campaign, it must be noted, has already been quite extraordinary. A 2010 Gallop poll, for example, found that an astounding 6 out of 10 Americans view “the military power of Iran as a critical threat to US vital interests over the next 10 years.” This number is likely even higher today, with the recent deluge of propaganda directed against Iran. All quite remarkable given that this “critical threat” finds itself at the moment fully buttressed by the maximum might of the US military. The imperial propaganda machine, alas, is indeed truly remarkable. It is actually capable of manufacturing a siege mentality amongst the imperial populace.

So, given this escalating rhetoric and orchestrated public relations campaign disseminated from Washington, can we really expect an imminent attack on Iran? Well, probably not, at least imminently. At the moment, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta continues to warn of “unintended consequences” from any possible attack, and many in the Israeli military apparatus have also echoed this sentiment. For the time being, then, Washington and its clients (i.e., Mossad and various Iranian dissident groups) will likely continue to wage war covertly (already seen in the Stuxnet virus, the campaign of assassinations, and more); in addition to continuing to stoke fear amongst the American public.

But with an intractable economic crisis gripping the US for the foreseeable future (along with the accompanying social unrest), the threat of war shall only hasten. For one must realize that the present crisis of global capitalism can only be resolved via the destruction of capital (i.e., large scale bankruptcies, war, or both, as was the case in the 1930s and ‘40s). This, we can be assured, is a fact not lost on the American power elite. And hence with the intensifying propaganda campaign continuing apace, Iran figures to ultimately come under overt US military attack. In the end, the Washington imperial propaganda machine is not easily shut off.

Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer living in Salem, Oregon, USA.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect al-Akhbar's editorial policy.


I hope and pray we are not being lead down the path to another war. I hope your article is wrong. That said, I'm afraid that its true. God help us all...

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