Cet animal est tres mechant; quand on l'attaque, il se defend. (This animal is very wicked; when you attack it, it defends itself) - French proverb
It is hard not to think of that Gallic witticism when observing recent international events. Aside from almost daily threats from the governments of Israel and the United States to attack Iran -- a violation of the United Nations Charter -- Iran has been subject to sabotage, violations of its airspace by military drones, and assassinations of its citizens. Under the circumstances, it is not surprising to hear news of attempted attacks on Israeli embassies in Georgia, India, and Thailand. Iran may very well be behind them.
Or perhaps all is not as it seems. One might have thought the tradecraft of the clandestine services of the country that invented chess would be better than to launch three abortive operations, one of which appeared spectacularly botched. By contrast, the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 was devastatingly effective. Its perpetrators were likely assisted by Iran both to aid its Shiite allies in Lebanon and to retaliate for U.S. military assistance to Saddam Hussein's Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. Also lethally effective was Iran's assassination campaign against anti-regime exiles living in Europe. The destruction of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 was always suspicious. While the U.S. government fingered Moammar Gaddafi as the perpetrator, my sources suggested he was the front man and stooge left holding the bag. The initiator was probably Iran, in retaliation for a U.S. Navy cruiser having shot down Iran Air 655 six months earlier over the Persian Gulf. The U.S. government had reason not to look too hard at Iran, because emphasizing its motive would have shone a light on the Iran Air incident that the government was eager to consign to the memory hole.
Why has Iran's operational competence suddenly deteriorated so badly, given that our government spokesmen represent it as such a fearsome threat? And why would it seek to hasten a bombing campaign against its own territory as the abortive embassy bombings almost seem calculated to do? And why does the evidence mostly consist of assertions by interested parties?
False flag operations are as old as warfare itself: reflect on the Lavon Affair or Operation Northwoods. In most parts of the world, the people are inheritors of millennia-old cultures and they understand that the false flag is how governments operate regardless of what their state media tell them. But most Americans, who wear self-righteous gullibility around their necks like a millstone and crave simple Manichean dramas, are easy marks for the false flag.
Americans' proud ignorance of geography and history compounds the problem by making self-contradictory narratives sound plausible. We read in Foreign Affairs, the bulletin board of the foreign policy establishment, that Iran is collaborating with al Qaeda. The implausibility of that argument in a Middle East riven by religious schisms -- Iran is a theocratic Shiite nation-state, while al Qaeda is a stateless group seeking a universal Sunni caliphate -- matches the unlikelihood of a secular Arab gangster state like Saddam Hussein's Iraq collaborating with al Qaeda. But Americans -- not all, but enough -- fell for that one, too.
We also read that Iran is doing what it can to support to keep its ally, the Assad regime in Syria, from collapsing. That is plausible enough. But in that case, why did al Qaeda's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, publicly call for Assad's overthrow and the destruction of his "pernicious, cancerous regime" if al Qaeda is in cahoots with Iran? Our foreign policy explainers need to get their stories straight.
But contradictory or not, the propaganda continues and the pressure for war ratchets up. Even the former chief of Mossad. Meir Dagan, is despairing that Israel, supported by the United States, may rush into what he calls "the stupidest idea I've ever heard." On February 16, 35 senators co-sponsored a resolution to declare it U.S. policy not to rely on containment or deterrence against a nuclear-capable Iran (the resolution does not say nuclear-armed, it says nuclear-capable, and leaves "capable" undefined). In so doing, the co-sponsors evidently seek to foreclose options short of war. Far from learning their lesson from Iraq, our Congress appears more irresponsible and subject to mob psychology than ever.
Prime Minister Netanyahu will be in Washington March 4-6. A potential indicator of future events will be whether he gets an invitation from the Speaker to address Congress and push the required emotional buttons. The first new moon thereafter will occur on March 22; even with the existence of radar, combat aircraft still gain tactical advantage by maximum optical concealment. It is worth noting that the invasion of Iraq occurred on March 20, 2003.
On the other hand, perhaps it is all a colossal bluff in an ongoing campaign of psychological warfare. But it is always best to be prepared when children play with matches in a dynamite factory.
Mike Lofgren retired in June 2011 after 28 years as a staff member in the U.S. Congress, most recently for Senate Budget Committee Republicans.