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Spotting The State Department’s Propaganda For Escalating War Against Iran

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*A version of this newsletter written by Shadowproof’s Kevin Gosztola was sent out on January 3.

President Donald Trump’s administration assassinated Iranian general Qassim Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. They were killed in a drone strike near Baghdad’s international airport overnight on January 3.

Viewed as an escalation of war against Iran, Trump officials responded, “If we had not taken this action, and hundreds of Americans were dead, you would be asking me, ‘Why didn’t you take out Soleimani when you had the chance?’”

The propaganda from the Trump administration has been steady since the attack. In fact, Trump himself ludicrously claimed the assassination was authorized to “stop a war.”

Vice President Mike Pence promoted a baseless conspiracy theory that Soleimani “assisted in the clandestine travel to Afghanistan of 10 of the 12 terrorists who carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.”

As noted in the press, the 9/11 commission report found “no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted the assassination of Soleimani was aimed at setting the conditions for “de-escalation.” That prompted Fox News correspondent Trey Yingst to clearly state, “The reality on the ground is what happened last night, the United States assassinating the senior most Iranian military official, is anything but de-escalation.”

Rockets were launched against the U.S. military’s Green Zone in Baghdad on January 4—a little less than 48 hours after Soleimani was assassinated.

But for the most part, the U.S. media establishment appears to accept the Trump administration’s main justification for the assassination—that Soleimani was a bad guy who deserved to be executed.

The State Department’s briefing with reporters on January 3 was loaded with lies, disinformation, and passive aggressive remarks aimed at anyone interested in the truth. Many of the statements from three senior State Department officials on the conference call formed the basis of coverage of the attack.

Officials strongly objected to any reporter who demanded evidence that Soleimani represented an “imminent threat” and invoked the lies President George W. Bush’s administration told to justify invading Iraq in 2003.

“You’re not going to make the Iraq comparison,” the first senior State Department official said. “There’s been so many presidential terms,” since then, and “it’s a failed analogy.”

However, when asked if the Trump administration would ever share evidence that Soleimani posed an imminent threat with the American people, a third senior State Department official replied, “That’s a political decision by – above my pay grade.”

The same official maintained it did not matter. “Whether you’re going to be able to release it to the American people or not is not a criteria in that checklist. The checklist is, are you likely to see American blood if you don’t act? And that checklist was met.”

When a reporter said, “If we just got dragged into a war, obviously the American people are going to want to know.”

“We were heading towards further attacks if we did not act. That is clear to me, and I think it’s clear to the other people briefing you,” the third senior State Department official said.

In 2014, CNN told viewers, “U.S. Treasury officials say Qassem Soleimani was involved in a notorious plot on American soil, overseeing Quds Force officers who in 2011 tried and failed to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States at Washington’s upscale Cafe Milano.”

The third senior State Department official mentioned this alleged plot four times, yet there has been very little independent reporting to confirm whether Soleimani ever pursued such a plot.

‘Something That We Have Done Many Times Over Both Democratic And Republican Administrations’

As one reporter called what happened an assassination, the State Department officials objected.

“I did this for two years in the Bush administration. Assassinations are not allowed under law. Revenge killings, non-judicial executions are not,” the third State Department official argued. “The criteria is do you have overwhelming evidence that somebody is going to launch a military or terrorist attack against you. Check that box.”

The same official added, “The second one is do you have some legal means to, like, have this guy arrested by the Belgian authorities or something. Check that box because there’s no way anybody was going to stop Qasem Soleimani in the places he was running around – Damascus, Beirut. And so, you take lethal action against him. This is something that we have done many times over both Democratic and Republican administrations that I served in. It’s the same criteria. It was applied in this case and all cases.”

Which illustrated how the assassination complex established by President Barack Obama has metastasized under President Donald Trump. The Trump administration apparently does not limit kill list candidates to militant group leaders. They clearly believe they can label a military officer a “terrorist” because they are part of an “enemy” government, and that makes them a “legitimate” target for assassination.

Furthermore, this particular official mentioned there must be overwhelming evidence that the target will “launch a military or terrorist attack” and simultaneously refused to share such evidence.

An American contractor was reportedly killed in the final week of December, and the assassination of Soleimani was supposedly a response. But officials refuse to disclose any information about who died, including which agency and/or firm employed the contractor.

The first State Department official said decisive action was necessary or else “hundreds of Americans would be killed.”

At no point did any official specifically articulate what they believed Soleimani was planning, which suggests this is pure fabrication. Plus, as of January 4, it is now known that senior White House officials were skeptical and assassinating Soleimani was initially the “extreme and improbable option.”

‘There Will Not Be Tears Shed In Iran’

Can you talk more about [how] you’re ready to talk with the Iranians? About what’s the off-ramp?” one reporter asked.

To this question about de-escalating conflict, the first State Department official insisted the “off-ramp has been there for three years.” A second State Department official said the ball is in Iran’s court.

“[Iran] typically choose[s] to escalate asymmetrically. It’s the nature of modern terrorism,” the same official added. “We are, again, denying them the fiction that this is some Westphalian country that has, like, a conventional defense ministry and a standard president and a foreign minister.”

“It’s a regime with clerical and revolutionary oversight that seeks to dominate the Middle East and beyond. You’ve heard me say this is a kleptocratic theocracy. And you look at the people of Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, are all rejecting the Iranian model at the same time. And there will be, there will not be tears shed in Iran for the death of Soleimani by so many Iranians. He recently killed 1,500 of them.”

About a day later, the New York Times reported, “Iranians young and old have thronged the streets across Iran, waving national flags and breaking into mass chants of “I am Soleimani.”

A million or more Iranians filled the streets of Ahvaz, Iran, for a funeral procession. The crowd of people extended across a bridge, as they mourned a military leader, who they revere because he protected Iran from attacks by Islamic State militants. He led forces that fought al Nusra in Syria and al Qaida in Iraq.

“I’ve only seen him on TV,” one woman told Al Jazeera English. “But I feel like I’ve lost my father. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Army have to take their revenge. Our hearts are hurting. I express our condolences to his family.”

The hubris of the Trump administration was further illustrated when the first State Department official asserted there will be no retaliation from Iran. “We’re speaking in a language the regime understands.”

One of the most prevalent lies is that Soleimani was primarily responsible for the deaths of 600 U.S. troops in Iraq.

For example, CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto repeated this State Department talking point immediately after the strike was reported. He said Soleimani was “responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Iran shipped in highly sophisticated IEDs responsible for so many of the deaths of U.S. troops there.”

As journalist Gareth Porter
wrote in June 2019, this is right out of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s playbook.

After General David Petraeus took over as commander of coalition forces in Iraq in January 2007, the command went all out to support Cheney’s strategy. Its main argument was that Iran was providing Shiite militias with the powerful roadside bombs called Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs) that were causing increasing number of U.S. casualties in Iraq. But the evidence proved otherwise.”

Porter noted, “Hezbollah—not Iran —had been well known as the world’s most knowledgeable designer and user of EFPs.”

A 2007 military briefing confirmed “Iraqi extremist group members” and not Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were behind the explosives. “Major General Rick Lynch, the U.S. commander for southern Iraq, admitted in a July 6 press briefing, his troops had not “captured anybody that [they could] directly tie back to Iran.”

What Country Seeks To Dominate The Middle East And Beyond?

Journalist Ali Abunimah offered a thumbnail history of the decades-long acts of the U.S. empire against Iran.

The U.S. backed Iraq President Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran in 1980, supplying Iraq with chemical weapons to attack Iran. Afghanistan, Iran’s eastern neighbor, was invaded by U.S. military forces, and they still occupy the country nearly two decades later.

When Obama was president, Iran faced cyber attacks against their nuclear infrastructure. They subsequently cooperated and offered concessions as part of a nuclear deal, which the Trump administration shredded.

Crippling economic sanctions were imposed on Iran over the last twenty years that have resulted in devastating impacts against cancer patients. They increased air pollution, unemployment, and food lines. This constitutes an act of economic warfare against poor and working class Iranians.

U.S. forces have encircled Iran for well over a decade. Even though Iran has engaged in military operations aimed at eliminating the threat posed by the Islamic State, which the U.S. practically created by invading Iraq, it still faces aggression from the Trump administration.

Three days after Trump’s act of war, the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution in favor of expelling U.S. troops from Iraq. State Department officials will say this development was the result of pressure from Iranian proxies. They will express disappointment that Iraq’s politicians are “choosing” to be an “Iranian satellite state” and lean aggressively on the Iraqi government to defy parliament by keeping troops in Iraq.

The leadership of both the Republican and Democratic Parties back the warfare state and its policies against Iran, which is why it is critical that grassroots organization like the ANSWER Coalition, Codepink, and Veterans for Peace are mobilizing people to protest these latest developments.

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