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Obama’s Assassination Problem – OpEd

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In a column that appeared in the Jerusalem Post a few days ago, Avi Perry made this prediction about “The looming war with Iran”:

Iran, just like Nazi Germany in the 1940s, will take the initiative and “help” the US president and the American public make up their mind by making the first move, by attacking a US aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

The Iranian attack on an American military vessel will serve as a justification and a pretext for a retaliatory move by the US military against the Iranian regime. The target would not be Iran’s nuclear facilities. The US would retaliate by attacking Iran’s navy, their military installations, missile silos, airfields. The US would target Iran’s ability to retaliate, to close down the Strait of Hormuz. The US would then follow by targeting the regime itself.

Elimination of Iran’s nuclear facilities? Yes. This part would turn out to be the final act, the grand finale. It might have been the major target, had the US initiated the attack. However, under this “Pearl Harbor” scenario, in which Iran had launched a “surprise” attack on the US navy, the US would have the perfect rationalization to finish them off, to put an end to this ugly game.

Unlike the latest attempt at an Iranian revolution, this time the US would not shy away, rather, it would go public, openly calling for the Iranian people to join in with the US in working to overthrow the corrupt Islamic fundamentalist regime. The Iranian people would respond in numbers.

Spring would reemerge, and the Iranian people would join the rest of the Middle East – this time with the direct support of the US.

The greatest irony behind this most significant episode in 2012 is that the Iranian regime would affect their own demise. Attacking the US navy in the open seas is equivalent to carrying out a suicide bombing.

Is there any reason to take Perry’s prediction seriously?

He is described by the Jerusalem Post as having “served as an intelligence expert for the Israeli government.” Keep in mind though that in Israel, intelligence experts come a dime a dozen.

In Perry’s case his intelligence expertise does not seem to extend further than the experience he gained as a youngster serving in the IDF during the 1967 Six-Day War. Perhaps it’s of just as much relevance that he also served as an accordionist and comedian in an army troupe that entertained the soldiers. And probably even more telling is the fact that he is now a novelist who enjoys fiction because it allows him to “play god.”

So why would I bother quoting from Perry’s column?

Firstly, because some readers who have looked no further than the biographical information the Jerusalem Post provided, believe that his prediction provides confirmation that some kind of Gulf of Tonkin Incident is about to trigger a war with Iran.

But whether Perry has any credibility is besides the point — the risk’s of such an event are very real. Unlike Vietnam, where Washington was looking for a pretext to escalate the war, this time it looks much more likely that Israel will try and drag the U.S. into a war — a war which Israel is incapable of fighting on its own.

Perry implausibly conjures up a Pearl Harbor-like trigger for war. More likely might be a USS Cole-type attack. Were such an attack to take place, given Israel’s willingness to recruit members of the terrorist group Jundallah to conduct attacks in Tehran, might it not also be willing to instigate a war-triggering incident in the Strait of Hormuz?

Secondly, the fact that a column such as this would garner any attention is in some measure a reflection of a wider problem: that few if any of the statements currently coming out of Washington can be taken at face value.

Following the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “I want to categorically deny any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said: “We were not involved in any way — in any way — with regards to the assassination that took place there…. that’s not what the United States does.”

In the Foreign Policy report, “False Flag,” an American intelligence officer is quoted saying: “There’s no question that the U.S. has cooperated with Israel in intelligence-gathering operations against the Iranians, but this was different. No matter what anyone thinks, we’re not in the business of assassinating Iranian officials or killing Iranian civilians.” And a recently retired intelligence officer says: “And we don’t do political assassinations.”

The United States does not conduct assassinations.

Really?

Why exactly should the Iranian government take Clinton and Panetta at their word when it is common knowledge that President Obama has authorized multiple assassinations?

Does anyone believe that the Navy SEALs operation that resulted in Osama bin Laden being shot in the head and his body dumped in the ocean, might instead have resulted in him being arrested and put on trial? “This was a kill operation,” a U.S. national security official told Reuters.

And in Yemen in September the killing of the U.S. citizens, Anwar Awlaki and Samir Khan, both of whom operated as al Qaeda propagandists — was this not the definition of a political assassination?

The official line is that Awlaki had an operational role in planning terrorist attacks and that he could therefore be killed as an “enemy combatant” on the “battlefield,” but these are merely terms of political and legal convenience. It remains a matter of debate whether Awlaki did much more than preach — as unpalatable to American ears as much of his preaching might have been. As for Khan, when he was investigated by the FBI they couldn’t gather sufficient evidence to indict him. Neither was he on the hit list of individuals that Obama claims a right to execute.

It isn’t — as leading members of the current administration now claim — that the United States doesn’t do assassinations, but rather that it generally follows guidelines dictating who can or cannot be assassinated. Iranian nuclear scientists are currently not deemed suitable targets — at least that’s the administration’s stated position, but there are others with a more expansive view.

Even before the terrorist attack that resulted in the latest death of an Iranian nuclear scientist, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum declared in November that he favored “sending out a very clear message to nuclear scientists who work on that program that they are enemy combatants similar to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.”

In the latest development, Iran says that it sent Washington evidence of the CIA’s role in this week’s assassination. Even so, given the sanctions strategy Obama is pursuing, the method of the attack, and the indications that Israel wants to provoke Iran in order to create a pretext for war, there seems to be much more reason to assume that Mossad, rather than the CIA, was behind Roshan’s killing.

But rather than implausibly assert that the U.S. is not in the assassination business, perhaps all that Obama can honestly say is that it is not currently the policy of his administration to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists.

At the same time, anyone who wants to try and probe that policy a bit more deeply should request some amplification on a phrase that officials never hesitate to repeat: “all options are open.”

Since it’s generally understood the “all options” includes the option to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, why exactly would we infer that it precludes assassinating nuclear scientists? Are we to understand that the bombing would only take place outside office hours?

A U.S. president, however inspiring his rhetoric might sometimes be, should be in no doubt that at the most critical moment the power of his word hinges on its truthfulness. The president who promised hope, dialogue, transparency and an end to the mindset that took us to war, has a serious credibility problem. Since he’s willing to joke about his ability to assassinate people, why should his administration’s denials now be taken seriously?

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Paul Woodward - War in Context

Paul Woodward describes himself by nature if not profession, as a bricoleur. A dictionary of obscure words defines a bricoleur as “someone who continually invents his own strategies for comprehending reality.” Woodward has at various times been an editor, designer, software knowledge architect, and Buddhist monk, while living in England, France, India, and for the last twenty years the United States. He currently lives frugally in the Southern Appalachians with his wife, Monica, two cats and a dog Woodward maintains the popular website/blog, War in Context (http://warincontext.org), which "from its inception, has been an effort to apply critical intelligence in an arena where political judgment has repeatedly been twisted by blind emotions. It presupposes that a world out of balance will inevitably be a world in conflict."

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