Bolton’s ‘Nefarious Plot’ to somehow go to War with Iran!



by Selvam Canagaratna

"The art of war is like the art of the courtesan – indeed, they might be called sisters, since both are the slaves of desperation." – Pietro Aretino in letter to Amgbrogio

Eusebio, 1537.

John Bolton, Donald Trump's National Security Advisor, has gotten away with a dangerous deception, writes investigative journalist Gareth Porter, winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. Bolton’s recent announcement that the Pentagon has deployed air and naval forces to the Middle East, which he combined with a threat to Iran, points to a new manoeuvre to prepare the ground for an incident that could justify a retaliatory attack against that country.

Bolton’s claim was a response to alleged intelligence about a possible Iranian attack on US targets in the Middle East. But what has emerged indicates that the alleged intelligence does not actually reflect any dramatic new information or analysis from the US intelligence community. Instead, it has all the hallmarks of a highly political case concocted by none other than Bolton himself, wrote Porter.

Further underscoring the deceptive character of Bolton’s manoeuvre is evidence that senior Israeli national security officials played a key role in creating the alleged intelligence rationale for the case.

The new initiative follows an audacious ruse carried out by Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in February, to cast the firing of a few mortar rounds in the vicinity of the US embassy and a consulate in Iraq as ‘evidence of an effort by Tehran to harm US diplomats. Bolton exploited that opportunity to press Pentagon officials to provide retaliatory military options, which they did, reluctantly.

Bolton and Pompeo thus established a policy that the Trump administration would hold Iran responsible for any incident involving forces supported by Iran that could be portrayed as an attack on either US personnel or US "interests."

Bolton’s recent one-paragraph statement considerably broadened that policy. It repeated the previously stated principle that the United States will respond to any alleged attack, whether by Iranian forces or by what the administration calls "proxy" forces. But it added yet another major point to Trump administration policy: "a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force [emphasis added]."

That language represents an obvious move by Bolton to create potential options for US retaliation against Iran for a real or alleged attack by "proxy forces" on Israeli or Saudi forces or "interests." Such a commitment to go to war with Iran over incidents related to Israeli or Saudi conflicts should be the subject of a major debate in the press and in Congress. Thus far, it has somehow escaped notice.

Bolton is an old hand at using allegedly damning intelligence on Iran to advance a plan of aggressive US war. In 2003-04, he leaked satellite photographs of specific sites in Iran’s Parchin military complex to the
press, claiming those images provided evidence of covert Iranian nuclear weapons-related experiments – even though they showed nothing of the sort. He then tried to pressure International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei to insist on an inspection of the sites. When ElBaradei finally relented, he found nothing in that inspection to support Bolton’s claim.

Bolton’s deceptive manoeuvre has the effect of increasing the range of contingencies that would trigger a US strike on Iran and represent a major advance toward his long-declared intention to attack it. More alarmingly, however, some media outlets have reported his claims without any serious questioning.

Given the violent struggles in Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Israel itself, Bolton and the Netanyahu government will be able to portray an incident as an attack by Shiite militias, the Houthis or Hamas on Israeli, Saudi or US "interests," just as Bolton and Pompeo did last fall. That, in turn, would offer an opportunity for urging Trump to approve a strike against one or more Iranian military targets.

Even more alarming is that both acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and new CENTCOM Commander, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, have signed up for the Bolton initiative. That means that the Pentagon and military leaders can no longer be counted on to oppose such a war, as they did in 2007, when Vice President Dick Cheney pushed unsuccessfully for a plan to retaliate against a future Iraqi militia attack on US troops in Iraq.

The United States is in danger of falling for yet another war ruse as malignant as those that led Congress and the mainstream media to accept the invasion of Iraq or the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.

Bolton and his staff claimed to the news media that what he characterizes as "troubling and escalatory indications and warnings" are based on "intelligence." Media reports about Bolton’s claim suggest, however, that his dramatic warning is not based on either US intelligence reporting or analysis.

Significantly, on a flight to Finland recently, Pompeo repeated the threat he made last September to respond to any attack by "proxy forces" on US "interests." He made no reference to possible attacks against "allies".

Citing US officials, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the alleged intelligence "showed that Iran drew up plans to target US forces in Iraq and possibly Syria, to orchestrate attacks in the Bab el-Mandeb strait near Yemen through proxies and in the Persian Gulf with its own armed drones."

But in the very next paragraph, the report quotes an official saying it is "unclear whether the new intelligence indicated operations Tehran planned to carry out imminently or contingency preparations in the case US-Iran tensions erupted into hostilities."

The timing of the alleged new intelligence also suggests that Bolton’s claim is false. "As recently as last week there were no obvious sign of a new threat," the Wall Street Journal reported. The New York Times similarly reported that "several Defence officials" said "as recently as last Friday they have had not seen reason to change the American military’s posture in the region.

Normally, it would require intelligence from either a highly credible source within the Iranian government or an intercept of a sensitive communication from Iran to justify this kind of accusation. But no news outlet has brought word that any such spectacular new intelligence has found its way to the White House or the Pentagon.

Bolton and his staff claimed to the news media that what he characterizes as "troubling and escalatory indications and warnings" are based on ‘intelligence’. Media reports about Bolton’s claim suggest, however, that his dramatic warning is not based on either US intelligence reporting or analysis.

"We now know, in fact, that the sources behind Bolton’s claim were Israel’s national security adviser and intelligence agency. Axios published a report by leading Israeli journalist Barak Ravid, who covers national security for Israel’s Channel 13, revealing that a delegation of senior Israeli officials had given Bolton ‘information╩╝ about "possible Iranian plots against the US or its allies in the Gulf" two weeks earlier.

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