Saturday, February 24, 2007

Get Your WAR On! Says Telegraph, Israel Denies Story

The UK's Daily Telegraph, beloved of American neocons because it can always be relied upon as a plausible overseas placement for all their propaganda (which can then in turn be cited by US rightwing pundits), is ready - I would say eager - for war with Iran.

It has its "imbed" aboard the USS Eisenhower ready to send back pictures and stories if, as the Telegraph fervently hopes, the US decides to begin its third regional war in a decade.

It has its obligitory "wooly liberal" (that's how another Telegraph reporter describes her) naysayer so that it can pretend to be fair and balanced - but don't worry, she's a lightweight.

And it has Con Coghlin, the Telegraph's main neocon shill and defense correspondent, of to Israel to file a report on how that nation is preparing for war with Iran (bold emphasis is mine - C):
"The amount of effort we are putting into this single issue is unprecedented in the history of the State of Israel," said a senior Israeli security official who works on the strategic committee that has been set up to deal with the Iran threat, which is personally chaired by Olmert.

The committee's main function is to ensure the closest possible liaison on the latest intelligence and military developments. It is also responsible for maintaining a close dialogue with countries supportive of Israel's concerns, particularly the United States, which has seconded officials to work alongside the Israelis.

The committee has yet to have any contact with Britain, although it is hoped that a dialogue will begin "in the not-too-distant future".

...On the military side, Olmert has also taken the significant step of handing responsibility for preparing Israel's response to the Iranian challenge to the commander of the Israeli Air Force, Eliezer Shkedi.

Shkedi, a former F-16 fighter pilot who saw active service in Lebanon during the 1982 invasion and shot down two Syrian MiG fighters, is in charge of Iran Command, the unit responsible for dealing with any possible threat the Iranians might pose to Israel's security.

...the Iran Command team's task is to demonstrate that Israel has the capability to act unilaterally.

"No one is going to take this threat seriously until the State of Israel can demonstrate to the outside world that we have the ability to deal with this menace on our own," said a senior security official who serves on Iran Command.

"The only way we can put pressure on the outside world to deal effectively with Iran's nuclear programme is to demonstrate that we can do this ourselves.

''Of course, we hope it doesn't come to a military solution, and we hope that this can be resolved through diplomacy. But Iran's track record is not good."
Has Congress been briefed on this? How senior are the US officials helping an ally plan an attack on a nation with which there has been no official US declaration of war?

Then there's this jawdropper, also from Con Coghlin:
Israel is negotiating with the United States for permission to fly over Iraq as part of a plan to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

To conduct surgical air strikes against Iran's nuclear programme, Israeli war planes would need to fly across Iraq. But to do so the Israeli military authorities in Tel Aviv need permission from the Pentagon.

Senior Israeli defence official said negotiations were now underway between the two countries for the US-led coalition in Iraq to provide an "air corridor" in the event of the Israeli government deciding on unilateral military action to prevent Teheran developing nuclear weapons.
If true, then this report alone explains a lot about why the US mission in Iraq has turned into a quagmire. By the looks of it, no-one has thought to ask the Iraqi government's permission. There's your "sovereignty" right there.

Update The Israelis have denied everything, and this actually manages to make the story intruiging rather than just a crazy report that was then found to be false. The Washington Post reports:
Asked if Israel had turned to the U.S. to use Iraqi airspace in any possible attack, Ephraim Sneh [Israel's deputy defense minister] told Israel Radio: "No such approach has been made -- that is clear."

"Those who do not want to take political, diplomatic, economic steps against Iran are diverting attention to the mission we are supposedly said to be conducting," Sneh said.

"(They) are anxious to spread the idea that we are planning to attack Iran in order to absolve themselves of the need to do the things that have been requested of them," he added.
The idea that the Daily Telegraph and Con Coghlin might carry water for those who don't want to "take steps" against Iran is ridiculous, laughable, ludicrous. It's like suggesting Bill Kristol would shill for Howard Dean. You don't have to be more than a casual reader to figure that much out.

But the dpa German Press Agency (via Raw Story) also reports Sneh as saying the Daily Telegraph's story was ""being propagated by those in the West wanting to avoid directly dealing with the Iranian matter." Now that could be taken as a slap at those who don't want to try peace at all and would rather go right to war with Iran - the American and Israeli extreme rightwings. That, in the context of anything written by Coghlin, makes far more sense.

So what really happened? I see two possibilities - because Coghlin doesn't actually make stuff up out of whole cloth, he's just extremely careful about who his sources are and how he spins both their importance and their words. Either the neocons of both nations arranged for Coghlin to quote an anonymous Israeli zealot and overstepped the mark, or Coghlin's report was an Israeli agitprop story plant - in both cases the story was designed to ratchet up the pressure on Iran as well as provide just a little more grease on the slippery slope to war.

Update Here comes the uber-right noise machine. Jules Crittenden, who never ever saw a war he didn't like:
If another aircraft carrier group in the Gulf and a couple of detentions in Iraq made Ahmadinejad sound like a flower child, this news ought to make him start sounding like Gandhi...I highly doubt the Israelis are going to do this. But you never know. Meanwhile, it should be interesting to see what the affect will be of telling the Iranians the Israelis want to do this.
This, apparently, before he's seen the reports of Israel's denial. That's uncommonly perceptive of Jules. One might suspect he knew in advance...

Above I said there were two possibilities. It occurs to me that both could be right. The Israeli government could well have known that a swift denial would defuse any political fall-out between Iraq and the US while still allowing the possibility that the story was true to ratchet up pressure on Iran and help grease the wheels for the war narrative - and the US neocon machine may well have known this to be the case all along. Coghlin and the Telegraph are the perfect vehicle for such a gambit as, in the main, those outside the UK (especially Americans) haven't cottoned on to the fact that he's an utter shill and his paper is a tabloid rag that used to be a real newspaper. If they had used, say, Bill Kristol and the Weekly Standard to float this story, few would have been fooled.

Update The Booman isn't fooled at all:
The U.K. Daily Telegraph has emerged, in the Bush years, as one of the least reliable papers in the Western world. They routinely publish unsourced or poorly sourced rumors or even rank propaganda. Today, they seem to be breaking some kind of big story, but it is much more likely that this is more of a psychological campaign that is aimed at the Iranian leadership.

...leaks of this sort are what stand in for the ordinary diplomacy that the neo-conservatives eschew. Rather than sit down with the Iranians and negotiate, and rather than threaten them directly, the neo-conservatives seed the press with dire threats of airstrikes, invasion, infiltration, etc.

This is not to say that the administration is not carrying out infiltration and sabotage, nor to deny that war plans have been drawn up for a variety of missions and contingencies. What I am suggesting is that the reason this particular article has appeared, and appeared now, is to frighten the Iranians. In its own twisted way, this is an example of the Bush administration engaging the Iranians in negotiation.

...The Iranians need to see an attack as credible in order for them to be incentivized to make concessions. Since an attack isn't credible, at least not without causing Congress to go ballistic, the neo-cons are relying on articles like this to try to raise doubt in the Iranians' minds.

Someone should really document all of these psy-ops that have been run throught the Telegraph, starting in 2002, and use it to teach a high school course on 'how to read the papers'.
Well, not since 2002, but over the last year or so I've been posting about more than a few.

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