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A Plot by Iran? Or a "False Flag" or "Wag the Dog" Operation?

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In the past week U.S. Attorney General Holder and the F.B.I. announced that a plot involving agents of the Iranian government had been uncovered. It was reported that a member of a Mexican drug cartel had been hired by Mansour Arbabsiar, an Iranian-born U.S. citizen, to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. Soon after, government officials within and without the Obama administration lost no time in beating the drums of retaliation.

A call for retaliation, so quickly after the announcement, with only the barest details and no evidence of any direct linkage to the government of Iran? Of course. The promoters of war don't need hard evidence, they just need the slightest reason to call for war; this is what they do, this is what they are all about. They have been waiting for this opportunity and now that it's here they will lobby heavily to get Mr. Obama and the military to respond.

Already we have President Obama saying, as we have heard him say on numerous occasions, "All options are on the table." Vice President Joe Biden quickly chimed in and declared, "Nothing is off the table." Secretary of State Hillar Clinton proclaimed that "The plot crosses the line" and further added that "This is a dangerous escalation."

Various war hawks in Congress and numerous so-called experts in counterterrorism have appeared in the media trying their best to prove the case for the government. The people of America must resist these reactionaries and let all of the facts be presented before any conclusions are drawn. There is no need to overreact and initiate another march to war that could be even more misguided than one of the biggest military blunders in world history -- the invasion of Iraq by G.W. Bush. Another reckless, massive blunder could set the Middle East on fire.

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Something about this supposed Iranian plot just doesn't seem to be entirely credible since any number of experts, analysts and other qualified observers are highly skeptical. The respected Middle East expert, Juan Cole said, " I am frankly shocked that Eric Holder should have brought us this steaming crock, which is now being used to make policy at the highest levels." And further that, "Anyone in the DOJ or the US foreign policy establishment would take all this seriously is not plausible."

There may well be a plot to actually carry out such an assassination engineered by this used car salesman from Texas and some operative(s) in Iran. But to think that the government of Iran is so dumb and ill-advised to direct such a bizarre, amateurish and brazen attempt in New York City is almost incomprehensible. That's why those experts that know how Iran operates just aren't buying into the accusation.

As we watch this latest crisis unfold, wondering what might happen next, some of us are reminded of a term from the past; "false flag operation." Here are just two examples of many in U.S. history: The Spanish-American War, 1898: a sudden, massive explosion on the battleship Maine, in a harbor in Havana, Cuba, killed 255 of the crew. The Spanish government was instantly accused of being responsible for the attack and war was initiated by the U.S. Later investigations revealed that an explosion caused by conditions within the battleship itself was the cause, and the Spanish were not responsible.

Another striking example of a false flag operation occurred during the Vietnam War; the "Tonkin Incident" in which an American destroyer, the Maddox, was reported to have been attacked by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats in 1964. This event never happened, it was a complete fabrication but the administration of President Lyndon Johnson used it as a justification to expand the war into North Vietnam.

Then there's "wag the dog", a phrase derived from the title of a novel, a political satire, by Larry Beinhart that was later made into a movie. When a U.S. president name pops up in an alleged sex scandal, White House media operatives hire a Hollywood producer to create a fake war with Albania as a diversion while the president was campaigning for reelection.  

The book and the movie inspired a new political phrase, "wag the dog" to describe the use of diversionary tactics such as creating a fake war to take the heat off the president in extremely embarrassing and politically damaging situations. In fact, President Bill Clinton was accused of using that diversion in 1998 when, during the Lewinsky scandal, he launched massive missile strikes against terrorist compounds in Afghanistan and Sudan.

So is this another false flag or wag the dog operation or, perhaps, a variation on that theme whereby the U.S., together with Israel, are looking for another villain in the Middle East that can be presented as a major threat to the world? Saddam Hussein played that role two times in the not too distant past. The first time was during Operation Desert Storm when the elder Bush invaded and attacked Iraq in 1991. That was followed by G.W. Bush and the invasion and attack on Iraq and Saddam in 2003. Is this latest alleged plot a means to go after another villain/bogeyman in the Middle East, namely Ahmoud Ahmadinejad? Are we going to go down that road again?

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Remember the presidential campaign of 2008, during the debates between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, when they were discussing Iran? At that time I recall that candidate Obama insisted that he would meet with the president of Iran even without preliminary discussions by subordinates. Well, that promise was never fulfilled as he quickly came under the influence of the U.S. military and, yes, the government of Israel. From then on there has been no more talk of discussions but "every option", code for potential war, has remained on the table.

This president and this government should think deeply before going forward with any kind of direct attack on Iran unless they have solid evidence of involvement by the Iranian government. It is accurate to say that Iran could not possibly stand up against the power of the U.S. military. However, with a standing army of over 500,000 and a formidable arsenal of numerous types of deadly missiles, including some that could reach Israel, Iran could do massive damage.

In fact, such an attack on Iran, with or without involvement of Israel, has the potential to set the Middle East on fire. Some time ago I read of a U.S. intelligence war game in which the conclusion was basically the same; in a war, Iran could not win but they could bring great destruction to various U.S. installations in the Middle East and rain missiles on Israel. It was also concluded that Iran, by using untold numbers of sophisticated missiles and high-speed attack vessels, would turn the Strait of Hormuz, many oil tankers, and U.S. warships into an inferno. The supply of petroleum to the U.S. and the world would be devastated and the price of oil would go out of sight.

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Michael Payne is an independent, progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues. He is a featured writer on Opednews and Nation of Change and his articles have appeared on many other websites (more...)

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