Every few months, there is a sudden and intense uptick in traffic to my blog due a heightened interest in Iran, which, as Gary Sick points out, ultimately builds up to the issuance of some new sanctions. But the media campaign of the last few weeks to scaremonger about Iran seems particularly intense, and I'm sure more than a few PR guys earned some fat paychecks to get the ball rolling on this one. But at the end of the day, while all of this is quite entertaining, you have to wonder, so what? How much longer can we have such flim-flam subtitute for a real policy?
I'd like to recap the campaign thus far, for fun and future reference.
So this time around, the circus began with the disclosure of the laughable "Saudi assassination plot" - for which no one can explain any possible benefit to Iran. No doubt quite coincidentally (wink wink), the disclosure of that plot had the effect of distracting public opinion from two rather inconvenient contemporaneous events: First, Ahmadinejad's repeated offer to cease 20% uranium enrichment was ignored to death by the US (sharing the same fate as Iran's other nuclear compromise offers, because the US needs to keep the nuclear pretext alive) and second, the news that the Iraqis were insisting on a full withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.
The latter event led to a lot of argument over whether Iran had "won" Iraq. The conservatives, who have been pushing for a war on Iran, insisted that Iran would fill the vacuum in Iraq and was winning the Arab Spring, thus implicitly bolstering their position that Iran should be attacked. Their opponents, who want to merely "contain" Iran (but not engage it) argued that Iran had not won, rather Turkey was winning and Iran was slowly falling apart. And for good measure we saw multiple articles which attempted to play-up an Iran-Turkey conflict, going as far as to suggest that Iran was supporting Kurdish terrorists groups against Turkey.
As fruther evidence that Iran was "not winning" Iraq, the New York Times carried an article which featured a quote from the Governor of Najaf, stating that Iraqis had grown to "hate" Iranians:
“Before 2003, 90 percent of Najaf people liked Iranians,” said the governor, Adnan al-Zurufi, who has lived in Chicago and Michigan and holds American citizenship. “Now, 90 percent hate them. Iran likes to take, not give.”
Naturally the NY Times didn't see any potential for bias in reporting what an Iraqi official with American citizenship has to say about Iran (would that have been the case if he had Iranian citizenship?) and thus entirely left out the fact that Al-Zurifi was actually appointed by the US as Governor, and is himself not terribly popular in Iraq. Indeed, his tribe, the Bani Hasan, while Shi'ite, are disliked in Iraq because they had supported Saddam's regime and were complicit in his suppression of the Shia rebellion of 1991. But hey, if you've got a narrative to sell about how Iran is "losing" then you sometimes have to be picky about what you report!
And while all of this was happening, we've had the regular background noise about
1- Iran sending IEDs to Iraq, which never seem to quite pan out,
We have commented previously on the Western proclivity to see any kind of contestation over positions and policies in Tehran—the kinds of contestation that, in virtually any place else in the world, are routinely described as “politics”—as a sure indicator of systemic “crisis” in the Islamic Republic.
3- articles cueing the public about a particularly damaging IAEA report that is due to be issued soon - which as I have written before will probably be little more than the rehash of the usual "Alleged Studies" claims, which the previous IAEA director had refused to include in the organization's reports because they were inadequately verified. (This is part of longer term campaign to undermine the 2007 NIE conclusion that Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program, something that got stuck in the craw of the Iran warmongers, including the Obama administration, and which they've consistently tried to undo since then. )
4- The continuous and ceaseless speculation about a US/UK/Israeli plans to bomb Iran whcih go back several years.
Oh, and lets not forget
5- the Congressional hearings about Iranian terrorism in the US dominated by pro-Israel analysts.