Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
Nobody knows better than CiA veteran Paul Pillar how the road to war can be paved with artfiul lies.
When Pillar served as the agency’s seniorintelligence analyst for the Middle East from 2002, the Bush administration declared with absolute certainty that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had armed his country with weapons of mass destruction.
Pillar and some other CIA analysts believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction but doubted some of the evidence produced by the White House and advocates of war. Their caution was discarded by CIA director George Tenet who told President George W. Bush that it was “a slam dunk” that declared Iraq had nuclear, chemical and biological weapons capability.
In fact, Iraq had no WMD. The U.S. invasion, launched on a false premise, destroyed a functioning country, killed a million Iraqis, and turned another 4 million into refugeess The politicization of intelligence produced a bloody fiasco.
The relationship between U.S. intelligence agencies and policymakers was “turned upside down,” Pillar told PBS Frontline, “with the decision comign first and the intelligence being look to support a decision already made [rather] than to inform a decision yet to be made.”
Now Pillar sees a similar strategy of deception unfolding with the Trump administration and Iran.
On Tuesday, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley gave speech a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, home to many neoconservative policymakers who supported the Iraq war, declaring that Iran has violated the 2015 international agreement limiting its nuclear program.
The speech followed publication of an article by former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, also a supporter of the Iraq war, calling for repudiation of the agreement. Earlier this year, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an Iraq war veteran, called for the White House to formally adopt a policy of “regime change” toward Iran, the largest country in the Middle East with 80 million people.
In short, the repudiation of the 2015 agreement is the first step toward a declared U.S. policy of overthrowing the government of Iran.
But why should the United States, beset with natural disasters and racial division, a losing war in Aghanistan, the folly of Iraq, and the emergence of ISIS, actively provoke another war in the Middle East?
The short answer is that U.S. allies in the region–Saudi Arabia and Israel–are Iran’s chief rivals. Neither is strong enough to attack Iran on their own. Both fear the Islamic Republic’s growing power in the region, so they hope to lure the United States into a war with Iran that will serve their interests. Saudi Arabia and Israel were the first foreign countries Trump visited as President.
Pillar sees deception paving the path to war–again. In a piece for the National Interest, he identified six dishonest techniques that Haley used to justify the first step toward the war on Iran that the Saudis and the Israelis want.
1) Lie about the nature of the agreement.
The 2015 agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), “gave Iran what it wanted up-front, in exchange for temporary promises to deliver what we want,” Haley claimed.
“The truth,” Pillar notes, “is that Iran had to fulfill most of its obligations first—including disposing of excess enriched uranium, disassembling enrichment cascades, gutting its heavy water reactor, and much else—before the agreement was fully implemented and Iran got even a whiff of additional sanctions relief.”
The agreement prevents Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons for at least ten years. If the world had an agreement with North Korea like the Iran agreement, the world would be a much safer place.
2) Sow confusion about exactly what Iranian compliance entails.
Haley said that Iranian compliance involves the JCPOA, UN Council Resolution 2231 (which was the international community’s formal endorsement of the agreement) and legislation sponsored by Senators Rober Corker (R-Tenn.) Ben Cardin (D-Md.) that governs the relationship of Congress to the president on Iran policy.
The problem with Haley’s formulation, notes Pillar, is that Iran is a party to only the JCPOA. UN Resolution 2231 does not impose any additional obligations on Iran. And Iran never agreed to obey the terms of the Corker-Cardin legislation.
3) Confuse Iran’s missile arsenal with its nuclear activities.
“Missile technology cannot be separated from pursuit of a nuclear weapon,” Haley claimed. In fact, they can be and the 2015 agreement specifically did that, Pillar notes.
“Given Iran’s experience in the war launched against it by Iraq [in 1981], and its situation in facing neighbors today with superior air forces, it is unrealistic that Iran ever would accept curbs on its development and possession of missiles without similar restrictions on others in the region,” Pillar writes.
4) Sow innuendo about unreported Iranian violations.
In her speech Haley sought to generate suspicion that there are Iranian violations that somehow, despite the intrusive inspections, the world idoes not know about.
“The international community has powerful incentives to go out of its way to assert that the Iranian regime is in ‘compliance’ on the nuclear side,” she claimed
“But Haley—who presumably has access to all the classified information on the subject—gave no evidence of any violations, or even any hint of what such an Iranian violation would look like,” Pillar said. Not only has Iran not violated the agreement, there are no credible allegations that it has.
5) Add innuendo about unseen violations at other sites
Haley’s speech “strove to create the impression that Iran is denying access to suspect facilities,” Pillar writes. “It is not.”
Haley said nothing about the carefully-defined procedure that the agreement lays out for inspection of non-declared sites. If the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is given reason to suspect prohibited activity at any such site, it can request a visit.
“If the IAEA and Iran cannot agree on such a visit,” Pillar points out, “the matter is ultimately decided in the Joint Commission—where Iran can be outvoted, and the inspection authorized.”
“There has been no Iranian denial of access, and again Haley provided no reason for suspecting any violations,” he said.
6) Use straw man arguments to suggest supporters of the agreement misled the public.
“We were promised an ‘end’ to the Iranian nuclear program,” Haley said, but all we got was “a pause.”
Haley did not identify anyone who made such a promise, Pillar notes. Negotiators for the United States and five other countries knew from the beginning of the negotiations with Iran that eliminating Iran’s ability to enrich uranium was not feasible, “and that the agreement would be a limitation on a peaceful nuclear program and not the elimination of it.”
“The agreement is working,” Pillar concludes,” Iran is complying with it.”
That’s bad news for those who want war with Iran so deception is their response.
Jefferson Morley is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent. He is the author of the forthcoming biography The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton (St. Martin’s Press, October 2017) and the 2016 Kindle ebook CIA and JFK: The Secret Assassination Files.