By Theodore Shoebat
Intelligence experts recently declared that there is no evidence that Iran bombed the tanker on the Gulf of Oman, as we learn from Newsweek:
The video was released a few hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared in a statement: “It is the assessment of the U.S. government that the Islamic Republic of Iran was responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today.”
Pompeo said the assessment was based on “the intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”
But independent intelligence experts say the video provides no proof whatsoever of Iran’s alleged responsibility for the attacks, a charge Iran denies. That’s not to say Iran did not carry out the attacks, these experts hasten to add, noting that as the Trump administration tightens economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic, Tehran has ample reason to carry out such hard-to-trace terrorism against tankers, if only to raise the price of the dwindling amount of oil Iran is selling these days. But amid the rising tensions in the Middle East, these experts say, there are numerous other players in the region with compelling motivations to carry out such attacks.
“One has to keep asking the question, well, if it isn’t Iran, who the hell is it?” Anthony Cordesman, a strategic analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Newsweek. “You come up with the possibility that ISIS carried out the attack as trigger to turn two enemies — the United States and Iran — against each other. Or you’re watching Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates create an incident that they can then use to increase the pressure on Iran.”
Ayham Kamel, the head of Middle East analysis for the Eurasia Group, an international risk analysis consultancy, said recent attacks by Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels on Saudi oil installations are now threatening the kingdom’s core security concerns.
“The Saudis are alarmed,” Kamel told a conference call Friday. “Their response is going to be to try to pressure the U.S. into action.”
Others have pointed to the possibility that Thursday’s attacks, as well as the attacks on four tankers in the same waters a month ago, were so-called “false-flag” operations carried out by Israel, another arch foe of Iran, to make Iran appear responsible. And some observers have even suggested the attacks may have been directed by hawkish members of the Trump administration as a pretext to launch military operations against Iran.
“The U.S. track record on ginning up evidence for war is not good,” William Church, a former military investigator for the United Nations Security Council. “It lied in the run-up to the Vietnam war [by inventing a North Vietnamese attack on a U.S. Navy ship in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964], and it lied about WMD [weapons of mass destruction] before the Iraq war. So when these tanker attacks happen, we have to ask why and what’s the motivation in addition to examining the evidence.”
Church pointed to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last May, its reimposition of economic sanctions on Tehran and Trump’s recent denial of sanctions waivers to eight of Iran’s biggest oil customers under the president’s policy of “maximum pressure,” aimed at forcing to negotiate a new nuclear deal under terms more favorable to the United States. Church also noted that Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, has openly called for regime change in Iran.
With regard to the video, Church said much more needs to be known before any conclusions about Iranian responsibility can be drawn. “The video means nothing,” he told Newsweek. “We need to know how it was taken, when was it taken, what was the total sequence. Then you’d have to talk to the people in the video to get their view of what happened. I would check to see if the video was doctored. You would need to do everything that a trained investigator would do.”
Church, who also served for many years as a U.S. intelligence officer in the Middle East and East Africa, acknowledges that the Iranians have the Gashti-class patrol boats. But he notes that Iranian Navy, not the Revolutionary Guards, have the closest naval base to the site of the attacks, suggesting a possible discrepancy in the U.S. Central Command’s description of the Iranian craft’s affiliation. He also points out that the video does not make it clear which of the two stricken tankers is depicted.
In addition, Church said it’s not clear whether limpet mines caused the explosions in either tanker. Limpet mines are usually attached by divers to the hulls of ships at the water line. There have been some reports that crew members aboard one of the tankers saw a flying object, possibly a drone, heading toward the ship before the explosion occurred, raising the possibility that a drone delivered the explosives.
“Drones and limpet mines are a dime-a-dozen out there in the Middle East,” he said. “Everybody has them. So we need to know a lot more that what the video shows us.”
Church also says it’s not clear why, in the latest attacks, Iran would target tanks belonging to Norway and Japan, two of Iran’s best oil customers. “They’ve been shipping to these countries for decades,” he said. “Why would they do that?” Church says an independent investigation of the attacks is needed to determine responsibility.
Cordesman, who believes the Iranians are probably behind the attacks, says under Iran’s increasingly dire economic circumstances, attacking long-standing customers makes perfect sense. “You push your customers into realizing that their supplies are threatened and then have them react against the United States,” he said. “So to get that reaction, you provoke it.”
False flag attacks in the Middle East are nothing new. In 1954, Israeli agents tried to bomb numerous American government offices to try to make it as though they were done by Egypt in order to cause conflict between Washington and Cairo.
While there has been much talk about Iran being a threat to the United States, a British military official, Major General Chris Ghika, has said that the threat level of Iran has not changed at all. He told reporters at the Pentagon:
“No, there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria. … I am not going to go into the detail of it, but there are a substantial number of militia groups in Iraq and Syria and we don’t see an increased threat from many of them at this stage.”
But the US military government immediately reacted towards Ghika’s statement. Captain Bill Urban responded by saying that Ghika’s words are contrary to US intelligence, stating: “Recent comments from OIR’s Deputy Commander run counter to identified credible threats available to intelligence from US and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region”.
After what the US did to Iraq and its use of false evidence to justify the 2003 invasion, it is difficult to see anyone hear about “US intelligence” being used to push another war in the Middle East and not have just a little bit of suspicion. Before the second Iraq War was launched there was a whole conspiracy of manipulating evidence that took place to justify an invasion of Saddam’s country. Scooter Libby (who Trump pardoned from a 30 year prison sentence for lying to investigators), a major Neoconservative was a part of the endeavor to manipulate evidence to justify the Iraq War.
Libby paid visits to the CIA numerous times, pressuring them for analysis that could point to evidence that could serve as a pretext for an invasion of Iraq. Libby also partook in a 2003 statement on the “threat” coming from Iraq. This statement was pushed on Colin Powell to get him to support the war. Powell’s deputy, Richard Armitage (according to Bob Woodward), “was appalled at what he considered overreaching and hyperbole. Libby was drawing only the worst conclusions from fragments and silky threads.” Reading these words reminds us of what we wrote in one of our prior articles, that “Every tyranny has the use of political exaggerations about national security as its foundation for unjust policies.” While Powell did not use the outlandish claims in Libby’s briefing, he did use the other information that he provided when giving his presentation at the UN. Powell later admitted that his speech was riddled with errors.
The Neoconservatives pushing for war in Iraq would also use intelligence coming from Israel, and another source that they utilized for this was one Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella organization of the opposition groups against Saddam. The Office of Special Plans, a Pentagon unit formed by Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, used both Israeli sources and Chalabi and other Iraqi opposition operatives as their evidence to justify a war in the Middle East. According to the New York Times reporter James Risen, “Israeli intelligence played a hidden role in convincing Wolfowitz that he couldn’t trust the CIA,” and this would lead to Wolfowitz turning to Chalabi and also creating the Policy Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group. Chalabi was fully embraced by his Neoconservative allies in the United States. The Jewish Institute for National Security in America (JINSA) had Chalabi frequently in their events and board meetings. He also cultivated close ties with AIPAC, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Hudson Institute and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). Chalabi was lavished with compliments and praise.
Bernard Lewis affirmed that the new leader of Iraq after Saddam’s downfall should be Chalabi, while Max Singer, the cofounder of the Hudson Institute, elevated Chalabi as “a man of the West.” Chalabi was given the excessive acclamation of the “George Washington of Iraq”. Chalabi also tickled the ears of the Israelis with promises of an oil pipeline from Haifa to Mosul, according to Douglas Feith’s former law partner, L. Marc Zell. The Guardian quoted a former CIA agent as saying: “It has long been a dream of a powerful section of the people now driving the Bush administration and the war in Iraq to safeguard Israel’s energy supply. Rebuilding the old Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline would transform economic power in the region, cutting out Syria and solving Israel’s energy crisis at a stroke.” So while the cabal for war was talking about attacking Iraq for the cause of “survival” and “national security,” a bunchy of greedy politicians, lobbyists and corporatists were thinking about profit and gain, and their destructive policy was carried out on the backs of over a million dead people.
As it turned out, all of the praise for Chalabi was vanity. Chalabi was providing the Americans with false evidence about Iraq. This in fact was acknowledged by the CIA and the State Department who deemed Chalabi as both dishonest and unreliable (see Mearsheimer, Israel Lobby, ch. 8, pp. 250-252). Former CIA officer Bob Baer said: “The CIA doesn’t trust Chalabi because he has a long history of making arrangements with other countries… [and] not telling anyone about them.” Chalabi was a huge scammer, being found guilty by a Jordan court of major bank fraud. Regardless of all this, Chalabi was considered by the party for war as a Pentagon intelligence asset. He used his position to inculcate the idea that Saddam had a secret stash of weapons of mass destruction.
While Chalabi was helping to scam the American People, he was also accused of providing Iran with classified information. This would make sense given that Iran wanted Saddam out of Iraq so as to enable more Iranian influence in that region; and the policy that Chalabi and the Neoconservative gang wanted did just that, it gave more of an advantage to Iran. “Ask yourself: who has most benefited by [Chalabi’s] actions of the last five years? Where does he own a house? What languages does he speak?” one former intelligence official said. The answer is simple: Iran. If anything, the situation of Iran was helped brought about by the US’ actions in Iraq. Lets not forget that Saddam’s regime was a thorn on the side of Iran.
While Chalabai denied these allegations, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, told reporters that Tehran had maintained “continuous and permanent dialogue with Chalabi and other members of the Iraqi governing council”. But he added that spying charges were “unfounded and baseless”.
Numerous of these think-tanks were created prior to the Iraq War and yet virtually none of them exist today, since they served their purpose and were all created by the same network and were really not formed separately but as collectively part of the same group. The reason for these organizations was to bypass the people within American and Israeli intelligence who were hesitant about accepting the propaganda for the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. The Guardian reported that the Office of Special Plans “forged close ties to a parallel ad hoc intelligence operation inside Ariel Sharon’s office in Israel specifically to bypass Mossad and provide the Bush administration with more alarmist reports on Saddam’s Iraq than Mossad was prepared to authorize.”
The Department of Defense’s inspector general put out a report in February of 2007 that said that the Office of Special Plans was spreading “alternative intelligence assessments” that “were, in our opinion, inappropriate given that the intelligence assessments were intelligence products and did not clearly show the variance with the consensus of the Intelligence Community.”
The Office of Special Plans was headed by Abram Shulsky, a scholar on Leo Strauss, a philosophical figure looked up to by Neoconservatives. It is not surprising that Shulsky has also been a part of the same circle that has been pushing for regime change in Iran. For example, Shulski’s Office of Special Plans collaborated with James Woolsey, the former head of the CIA who was also tied with the Coalition for Democracy in Iran (CDI) which for years pushed for regime change in Iran. Before people start waving their American flags praising a war in Iran, remember that the very people who orchestrated the Iraq war are the same who have been pushing for a war with Iran.
The people who pushed for the war in Iraq have also been backing a terrorist organization to be the leading opposition group against the Iranian regime. The Office of Special Plans began working to strengthen the People’s Mujahideen of Iran (MEK) back in the early 2000s and even started negotiating for it to receive arms even though at the time it was deemed a terrorist organization. The major Neoconservative organization that was the biggest think-tank for the Iraq War, Project for the New American Century, expressed support for a policy against Iran back in the year 2000 in their book, Current Dangers. It was signed by the former head of secret actions in Iran for the CIA, Reuel Marc Gerecht (alias Edward Shirley). This is very interesting given that this same Gerecht, in 2011, lobbied for the US to catapult Turkey as the leading Islamic country of the Middle East. He did this in a 2011 conference for the Washington Forum where he was accompanied by Soner Cagaptay, a Turkish-American think tank analyst of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Turkish research program. As we read in a report from the conference:
Turkey plays an increasingly important role in the new Middle East, said Soner Cagaptay, who directs The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Turkish research program.
“The view from Ankara is that Turkey is the region’s leader.” “Turkey’s role in the Arab Spring can be boiled down to Turkey’s role in Syria,” Cagaptay said, noting that Syria—unlike the other Arab Spring countries of Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya—shares a border with Turkey, bears an Ottoman imprint, and has economic, social, and historical connections to Turkey. As the first country in the region—outside of the Gulf States—to have a successful, middleclass Muslim society, Turkey can serve as an economic model for the Mideast.Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at FDD and former CIA Iran operative, agreed. Turkey represents the “possibility you can be devoutly faithful and you can be rich,” said Gerecht. “The best thing for Turkey is to have it become a democratic inspiration and to actually trumpet its own economic success.”
Perhaps the US’ policy towards Iran is ultimately to catapult Turkey.
In 2004 the American Enterprise Institute organized a conference entitled, “Iran’s future: Mullahcracy, Democracy and War on Terrorism”. Sponsoring for the event came from the Hudson Institute and James Woolsey’s Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. This latter foundation has ties with the industrialist Bob Shillman who has been the main source of finance for the Right-wing Horowitz Freedom Center and also for the political campaign for the nationalist Dutch politician, Geert Wilders. Shillman is on the honorary committee of the Washington Forum which is under the FDD, or the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. In 2011, for the conference of that year, the Washington Forum released a document, entitled Ideology, Power, and Alliances in a Changing Middle East, in which Shillman is mentioned as a member of its honorary committee. The meeting was all in support for military intervention and regime change in Syria. Basically, the continuation of the very CIA policy of destabilization in the Middle East.
Now it is quite fascinating that Bob Shillman, a funder for the Horowitz Freedom Center, is also tied to this organization which has been lobbying for regime change in Syria and Iran. For while the Horowitz Freedom Center has been at the forefront for the “Counter-jihad” movement, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies has been backing Islamist rebels. For example, a collaborator with the Defense of Democracies is Syrian opposition leader Ammar Abdulhamid. In 2012, the year after the beginning of the Syrian revolution (2011), Ammar and two other Syrian opposition leaders, took a trip to Kosovo to learn from leaders of the Albanian Islamist and nationalist terrorist group, the Kosovo Liberation Army (the KLA) to learn how to successfully carry out a revolution. Ammar told the Associated Press in an interview: “We come here to learn. Kosovo has walked this path and has an experience that would be very useful for us … In particular, we’d like to know how scattered armed groups were finally organized into KLA.”
So people like Shillman back the Counter-jihad but at the same time will have ties with an organization that supports destabilization in the Middle East which is only flaring the Jihadist problem. It is the same thing with Iran. While the party for war is trying to make a military attack on Iran look like a cause for American national security, they are also backing the People’s Mujahideen of Iran (MEK), which is an Islamist and Marxist cult. Bolton, Giuliani, Gingrich and numerous other American officials have been backing the MEK. According to a 2004 report from Voltaire:
“The Office of Special Plans re-established contacts with Peoples Mujahedeen, though the State Department considers it a terrorist organization. In fact, Myriam Radjavi’s group has perpetrated numerous attacks against the Mullah’s regime not only in Iran, but also around the world, even killing five American citizens.
To arm the Mujahedeen the Office of Special Plans turned to Manucher Ghorbanifar. This Iranian arms dealer had been an intermediary in the transactions organized by Michael Leeden during the Irangate. This summer, Ghorbanitar met with Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin, from the Defense Intelligence Agency, (DIA) at the Pentagon.”
The United States worked with an Iranian arms dealer to arm the MEK, an Islamist-Marxist death cult. So how can all of these people complaining about Islam and communism support a war with Iran when the US is going to be supporting an opposition that is a violent cult and is ideologically Islamo-Marxist? Do the funders and financiers and think-tank analysts want terrorism so they can then make nationalist propaganda? Shilman is with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies which backs the violent Syrian revolution, and he also funds the nationalist Horowitz Freedom Center and bankrolled the campaign for Geert Wilders. So this observation is not really at all far-fetched.
In the summer of 2003, Iran had Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in custody and was willing to give him to the Americans in return for some high-ranking MEK terrorists. But this did not happen because Larry Franklin, Harold Rhode and Michael Ledeen intervened to protect the MEK. In 2004, Zarqawi became a focus of the media for his very violent terrorist actions. The US did not take Zarqawi into custody because it wanted to protect the MEK. So is the US really interested in a “war on terror” or is it really just protecting its own terrorists for its own interests?