Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Iran, Covert PsyOps And The Media

By Cernig

Tonight ABC have broken the story that Bush has authorized covert action against Iran. Quelle suprise! Who the f**k would ever have imagined that?

The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions.

..."Vice President Cheney helped to lead the side favoring a military strike," said former CIA official Riedel, "but I think they have come to the conclusion that a military strike has more downsides than upsides."
Now some who were paying attention already suspected that the Bush administration's neocons had been using groups like the MeK for proxy attacks on Iran, and that will doubtless continue. But I've bolded what was for me the "leap of the page" part of the story - the use of disinformation and propaganda. I've some immediate thoughts on this.

Firstly, as I understand it, the federal government is prohibited by law from planting propaganda in the U.S. media (but John Yoo's probably already written the classified finding that The Decider Guy can decide otherwise) however there is no such stricture on planting stories designed to mislead in the foreign media and then making sure those stories get attention here in the U.S. from the Republican noise machine of blogs and Benadorian mainstream media pundits.

Which brings today's Guardian dross about a supposed secret plan for Iran to aid both Sunni and Shia groups in Iraq to mount a summer offensive into sharper focus.

It also may explain why mainstream press and rightwing bloggers are repeating as serious a claim by neocon Claude Moniquet that Iran is attempting to draw up plans to strike targets in Europe and has conducted reconnaissance of European nuclear power stations. Moniquet is head of the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center, which is described by the AP as "independent" but is essentially a foreign adjunct of The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a neocon Washington group which counts among its members a virtual A to Z of prominent anti-Iranian figures such as Bill Kristol, Richard Perle, Charles Krauthammer, Frank Gaffney, James Woolsey and Newt Gingritch.

In fact, it explains a heck of a lot about the myriad of "anonymous officials" who have become sources for anti-Iranian stories, many of which have later turned out to be utterly false. And incidentally, explains the entire output of the daily Telegraph's shills-in-residence Con Coughlin and Phil Sherwell. The drums in the deep aren't being beaten by accident or individually but instead in a co-ordinated concerto.

In fact, this story should call into question every single story involving anonymous sources on Iran, whether it be about their nuclear program or about their alleged involvement in Iraq. There's simply no way to know whether the story is true or a propaganda plant without independent, verifiable and named sources backing it up.

Which oddly enough includes The Blotter's story itself.

Remarkably quickly, rightwing pundits have marched in lockstep with a single message about this revelation: blame the leak on the liberals and add that the leak makes an attack on Iran the only option left.
The White House intended on using this plan to keep from having to use a military option to stop the mullahs from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. In fact, ABC reports that Dick Cheney preferred the military option, but that Bush overruled him in favor of the covert action instead. As I have written repeatedly here, a military strike is a lousy choice given the terrain, battleground, and options for targets in Iran as well as the political situation on the ground.

Thanks to the loose lips at Langley and ABC, that option may have to go back to the top of the list. Covert actions that appear on national television tend to lose the element of surprise, after all, and the Iranians can now take steps to block these actions...Someone in the CIA or in the larger "intelligence community" can't keep their mouths shut. Thanks to them, we may wind up with no other option against Iranian nuclear ambitions except the military strike.
and Wizbang's Kim Priestly adds:
Prediction: at some point, the nutroots will accuse Cheney of ordering a member of his staff to leak the President's secret covert action to ABC in order to force the military strikes that Bush overruled.
Given the speed with which the extreme Right has established message discipline and given the admission that the Bush administration was already conducting propaganda operations against Iran, I think that's a perfectly reasonable accusation to make. Interesting that Kim thought of it first. But we may never know what the truth is.

Welcome, once again, to KremlinWatch D.C. The truth in the mirror may be closer than it appears.