On Thursday, a suicide bomber walked into a mosque, detonated his explosives and killed and wounded almost 140 people. In the wreckage and confusion afterward, a final death count has not yet been established, but the latest available information puts it at 23.
It is unlikely that you heard about this terrorist attack -- because it took place in Iran. For years, Iran has endured a series of terrorist actions -- suicide bombings, kidnappings, beheadings, open assaults by fanatical gunmen, sabotage, and "targeted assassinations" of government officials, scientists and others. Multitudes have been slaughtered in these operations, whose ferocity and frequency are surpassed only by the atrocities that have been unleashed in the four countries that have been on the forefront of America's Terror War: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia. One shudders to think what Washington's response would be to such a sustained campaign on American soil.
Of course, it is no mystery why the attack on the mosque in Zahedan -- a city situated at the strategic point where the borders of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan converge -- attracted so little attention in the Western press. Every day, we are schooled relentlessly by our political and media classes to regard the Iranians -- heirs to one of the world's oldest and most sophisticated civilizations -- as demons and subhumans, whose lives are of little account. This can be seen in the long-running debate over an attack on Iran, which focuses almost entirely on the advantages or disadvantages such an assault would pose for American and Israeli interests -- and not at all on the thousands of human beings living in Iran who would be killed in the operation.
But There is another reason why the terrorist attack in Zahedan has not been greeted with commiserations from the White House or excited coverage from our government-spoonfed media: because it is highly likely that the United States played a role in fomenting the attack, either by direct or by collateral hand.
As AFP notes, Zahedan is the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province, with "a large ethnic Sunni Baluch minority," which is often at odds with the Shiite-dominated central government. The region -- which is also a prime conduit for arms and drug trafficking across the volatile borders -- has been roiled for years by the militant Sunni extremist group, Jundullah (Soldiers of God). This group, aligned philosophically if not operationally with al Qaeda, has openly boasted of killing hundreds of people in its campaigns, and, as Chris Hedges notes, "has a habit of beheading Iranians it captures, including a recent group of 16 Iranian police officials, and filming and distributing the executions."
You would think that such violent, frenzied zealots -- fellow travellers of Osama bin Laden! -- would be taken up by our Terror Warriors as poster boys for the evils of "Islamofascism." But as we noted here a few months ago, "bombings and beheadings and deathporn videos are not inherently evil; they can also be a force for good -- as long as they put to the service of America's ever-noble, ever-lofty foreign policy ideals."
For Jundullah is one of the several armed insurgent groups inside Iran being supported by the United States. As Andrew Cockburn reported last year:
Six weeks ago, President Bush signed a secret finding authorizing a covert offensive against the Iranian regime that, according to those familiar with its contents, "unprecedented in its scope."
Bush's secret directive covers actions across a huge geographic area – from Lebanon to Afghanistan – but is also far more sweeping in the type of actions permitted under its guidelines – up to and including the assassination of targeted officials. This widened scope clears the way, for example, for full support for the military arm of Mujahedin-e Khalq, the cultish Iranian opposition group, despite its enduring position on the State Department's list of terrorist groups.
Similarly, covert funds can now flow without restriction to Jundullah, or "army of god," the militant Sunni group in Iranian Baluchistan – just across the Afghan border -- whose leader was featured not long ago on Dan Rather Reports cutting his brother-in-law's throat.
Other elements that will benefit from U.S. largesse and advice include Iranian Kurdish nationalists, as well the Ahwazi Arabs of south west Iran. Further afield, operations against Iran's Hezbollah allies in Lebanon will be stepped up, along with efforts to destabilize the Syrian regime.
Thus the attack this week in Zahedan is an integral part of a wide-ranging campaign of American-supported terrorism inside Iran -- even if the "darksiders" in the U.S. security organs had no direct involvement or knowledge of this particular attack. When you are in the business of fomenting terror (see here and here), there's no need for micro-management. You co-opt the armed extremists who best serve your political agenda of the moment; you slip them guns, money, intelligence, guidance -- and then you turn them loose on the local populace.
We have seen this over and over; in Iraq, for example, where American death squads -- such as the ones led by Stanley McChrystal, recently appointed by Barack Obama to work his "dirty war" magic in Afghanistan -- joined with mostly Shiite militias to carry out massive "ethnic cleansing" campaigns and individual assassinations. We saw it years ago, in the American-led construction of an international army of mostly Sunni extremists raised to hot-foot the Soviets in Afghanistan -- then turned loose upon the world. And of course this lineage of terror-breeding as an instrument of American foreign policy goes back for many decades. with one of the earliest, most spectacular successes being the use of religious extremists to help bring down the secular republic in Iran in 1953.
And as we noted here last year:
Bush's directive represents an intensification of the drive for open war with Iran, but it is not a new development; rather, it is a major "surge" in a state terror campaign the Administration has been waging against Iran (among others) for years. As I wrote as along ago as August 2004, the Bushists have openly sought, and received, big budgets and bipartisan support for terrorist groups and extremist militias all over the world. Here's an excerpt from that 2004 report:
If you would know the hell that awaits us – and not far off – there's no need to consult ancient prophecies, or the intricate coils of hidden conspiracies, or the tortured arcana of high-credentialed experts. You need only read the public words, sworn before God, of top public officials, the great lords of state, the defenders of civilization, as they explain – clearly, openly, with confidence and pride – their plans to foment terror, rape, war and repression across the face of the earth.
Last month, in little-noticed testimony before Congress, the Bush Regime unveiled its plans to raise a host of warlord armies in the most volatile areas in the world, Agence France-Presse reports. Bush wants $500 million in seed money to arm and train non-governmental "local militias" – i.e., bands of lawless freebooters – to serve as Washington's proxy killers in the so-called "arc of crisis" that just happens to stretch across the oil-bearing lands and strategic pipeline routes of Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and South America.
Flanked by a gaggle of military brass, Pentagon deputy honcho Paul Wolfowitz told a rapt panel of Congressional rubber-stamps that Bush wants big bucks to run "counter-insurgency" and "counter-terrorist" operations in "ungoverned areas" of the world – and in the hinterlands of nations providing "sanctuary" for terrorists. Making copious citations from Bush's 2002 "National Security Strategy" of unprovoked aggressive war against "potential" enemies, Howlin' Wolf proposed expanding the definition of "terrorist sanctuary" to any nation that allows clerics and other rabble-rousers to offer even verbal encouragement to America's designated enemies du jour....
There's nothing really new in Bush's murder-by-proxy scheme, of course; America has a long, bipartisan tradition of paying local thugs to do Washington's bloodwork. For example, late last month, Guatemala was forced to pay $420 million in extortion to veterans of the U.S.-backed "paramilitaries" who helped Ronald Reagan's favorite dictator, right-wing Christian coupster Efrain Rios Montt, kill 100,000 innocent people during his reign, the BBC reports. The paramilitaries, whose well-documented war crimes include rape, murder and torture, had threatened to shut down the country if they weren't given some belated booty for their yeoman service in the Reagan-Bush cause.
But Wolfowitz did reveal one original twist in Bush's plan: targeting the Homeland itself as a "terrorist sanctuary." In addition to loosing his own personal Janjaweed on global hotspots, Bush is also seeking new powers to prevent anyone he designates a "terrorist" from "abusing the freedom of democratic societies" or "exploiting the technologies of communication" – i.e., defending themselves in court or logging on to the Internet. As AFP notes, Wolfowitz tactfully refrained from detailing just how the Regime intends to curb the dangerous use of American freedom, but he did allow that "difficult decisions" would be required.
[Perhaps some of those measures to prevent people from "exploiting the technologies of communication" to spread discontent with the Imperium are being formalized right now in the new Administration's plans for a "cyberspace command," where "the armed forces [will] conduct both offensive and defensive computer warfare," as the NY Times reports. And since "cyberwar" -- like the Terror War -- "knows no borders" (as the usual anonymous "senior intelligence official" told the Times), the Obama White House is now busying trying to figure out just how you can aim its cyberwar offensives at the Homeland itself. After all, said the official, "how do you fight them if you can't act both inside and outside the United States?" How indeed? Better start training your carrier pigeons for any private messages you might want to send.]
In any case, whatever its provenance, the attack on the Zahedan mosque serves a confluence of interests. For it comes not only at a strategic location but also at a strategic time: just two weeks before the Iranian presidential election, with the hardline incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, facing a strong challenge from two reformist candidates.
Of course, the very last thing that the militarists in Washington and Israel want to see is the election of a moderate in Iran. They want -- and need -- Ahmadinejad, or someone just like him, so they can keep stoking the fires for war. A moderate president, more open to genuine negotiations, and much cooler in rhetoric than the loose-lipped Ahmadinejad, would be yet another blow to their long-term plans. Because the ultimate aim -- the only aim, really -- of the militarists' policy toward Iran is regime change. They don't care about "national security" or the "threat" from Iran's non-existent nuclear arsenal; they know that there is no threat whatsoever that Iran will attack Israel -- or even more ludicrously, the United States -- even if Tehran did have nukes. They don't care about the suffering of the Iranian people under a draconian, repressive and corrupt regime. They are not worried about Iran's "sponsorship of terrorism," for, as we've seen, the militarists thrive on -- when they are not actively fomenting -- the fear and anguish caused by terrorism. This fear is the grease that drives the ever-expanding war machine and 'justifies' its own ever-increasing draconian powers and corruption.
No, in the end, the sole aim of the militarist policy is to overthrow Iran's current political system and replace it with a regime that will bow to the hegemony of the United States and its regional deputy, Israel. There is no essential difference in aim or method between today's policy and that of 1953. (Except that the regional deputy in those days was Britain, not Israel.) What they want is compliance, access to resources and another strategic stronghold in the heart of the oil lands -- precisely what they wanted, and got, with the installation of the Shah and his corruption-ridden police state more than a half-century ago.
They play the long game, our militarists. For example, they agitated openly -- and plotted covertly -- for the invasion of Iraq for almost 10 years before they finally got their way. They have worked for 30 years now to restore a client regime in Iran, and today, with the relentless bipartisan demonizing of the Iranians -- and the "mushroom cloud" fearmongering over a non-existent nuclear weapons program -- they are as close as they have ever been to their goal. To lose a fear-raising (and fundraising!) asset like Ahmadinejad now would be a bitter disappointment.
And what better way for an incumbent president to stand tall before the voters than to rally the nation around him in the face of a horrible terrorist attack? A mosque full of Shiite worshippers, blown to pieces, with photos showing the blood of the innocent martyrs splattered on the ruined walls? This serves the interests of all the major players in the great geopolitical game: the Iranian hardliners, the American and Israeli militarists, the Jundullah extremists. Of course, it doesn't serve the interests of the murdered dead, or the Iranian people -- or the American people, for that matter. But this too is nothing new. As we noted here in 2007, in a piece about an earlier escalation of state terror by the American government:
There are really no words to describe how morally depraved and monumentally stupid this policy is. It is of course not all that surprising that it springs from a family whose political fortunes are founded, at least in part, from the financial fortunes it reaped from helping build the Nazi military-industrial complex; a family that continued trading with the Nazis even after Americans were in battle against Hitler's forces. The Bushes and their outriders have always been attuned to the kind of brutal realpolitik that is willing -- at times eager -- to see American blood shed in order to advance their elitist agenda. (Which they have of course internalized as being identical with the "national interest.")
But as we've also noted many times, this political "philosophy" is by no means unique to the Bush Family faction. It is resolutely bipartisan, and deeply embedded in the mindset of the American Establishment. The Bushes are nothing but second-rate camp followers, empty shells and non-entities, originating nothing, ignorant and cynical in equal measure, their only unusual trait being how open they are in their scorn for the worthless rabble and the bullshit Constitution that the crypto-Commies like Madison and Jefferson foisted on the proper rulers of the country. Otherwise, they simply regurgitate the unprocessed prejudices, unexamined assumptions and vulgar ambitions of the clique that spawned them.
Of course, at times the idiot George W. Bush and the criminally ignorant crew that surrounds him have brought the inherent lawlessness, greed, brutality and incompetence of the American elite to what seem like new heights -- although even the sick-making murder of the Iraq campaign has still not approached the genocidal fury of, say, the bipartisan bombing of Indochina, and the millions of dead that the "best and the brightest" left behind there. Nor have Bush's domestic repression and flagrant abuse of authority -- as bad as they are -- yet approached the toxic and all-pervasive level of the "Red Scares" launched by Democratic icons Woodrow Wilson and Harry Truman. (Joe McCarthy merely took the ball that Truman put into play and ran with it.) But sufficient unto the day is the trouble thereof; the crimes of the Bush Administration are not any less heinous -- and the people they have murdered are not any less dead -- just because these crimes are not some aberration of the idiot and his crew but are instead continuations and at times accelerations of long-standing Establishment thinking and policy.
But with each passing decade, the technological tools of repression and militarism grow more overpowering and far-reaching. With each passing decade, the pernicious after-effects and blowback from past depredations build up and compound, breeding new evils. With each passing decade, the societal rot engendered by the rapacity of the elite spreads deeper, eating away at the foundation of the Republic and the fabric of our communities, and weakening or destroying the social and institutional counterbalances to unchecked greed and ambition.
Thus in one sense it doesn't matter if the Bush Faction is any more or less criminal and destructive than other administrations. The world in which they are blundering around killing people is far more unstable and dangerous than before, because it is filled with the compounded evil and folly of previous times.
Of course, that was written a long time ago, back in those dark days when Bush Family factotum Robert Gates was still running the Pentagon and operators of death squads and torture shops like Stanley McChrystal were given high commands; back when the government was going to court to protect warantless spying on Americans and seeking to strip all rights from Terror War captives held indefinitely at the arbitrary will of the president, and devising "legal" justifications for these exercises of authoritarian power; back when the Pentagon and CIA were expanding their operations in Pakistan and intensifying the civilian-shredding air war in Afghanistan; back when we had militarist leaders who considered the mass-murdering war crime in Iraq to be "an extraordinary achievement;" back when cynical and hypocritical presidents would travel to harsh dictatorships in the Middle East to deliver "major speeches" on America's great commitment to freedom and democracy in Muslim lands; and back when the president and his secretary of state routinely ignored all contrary evidence to insist that the Iranians were developing a nuclear arsenal that would soon threaten the whole world with destruction, while U.S. covert agencies were funding and fueling the death and suffering of Iranian civilians in terrorist operations.
Thank god everything is different now, in our glorious new era of Progressive
Continuity. Too bad those people in Zahedan can't tell the difference.