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Oct 24, 2011

Switching Focus from Iraq to Iran

Exclusive: President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is a
blow to the neocons who had long dreamt of permanent military bases. But
the neocons are now trying to spin the Iraq disaster into another excuse to
confront Iran, writes Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

You might think that by now I would be so used to infuriating neocon drivel
that, to preserve my own sanity, I would avoid looking at the Washington
Post or at least its editorial pages.

I have tried. But it seems that after almost a half century in Washington, and
particularly after the recent rash of “wars of choice,” it is simply not possible.
One has to keep an eye on what bloody mischief the neocons are devising.

The Post’s lead editorial on Sunday is ostensibly about Iraq and blaming
President Barack Obama if things get worse after U.S. troops leave in
December. But these days Iran is the main concern of the neocons who
infect that editorial page.

In the wake of Obama’s withdrawal announcement on Friday, the Post’s
neocon editors are worried that:

“Mr. Obama’s decision to carry out a complete withdrawal [of troops from
Iraq] sharply increases the risk that … Iran will be handed a crucial strategic
advantage in its regional cold war with the United States; and that a
potentially invaluable U.S. alliance with an emerging Iraqi democracy will

The bugaboo of Iran is raised no less than six times in the five-paragraph
editorial. One is prompted to ask an innocent question: Which country did
the neocons think would profit if Saddam Hussein, Iran’s archrival, were
removed and his army destroyed?

America’s neocons apparently hoped that Israel would be the beneficiary,
with a U.S.-occupied Iraq serving as a land-based aircraft carrier for applying
military pressure on neighboring Iran and Syria. But you don’t start a war on

That Iran would almost surely benefit the most from the U.S. invasion of Iraq
was a no-brainer. And that is precisely why, before the attack on Iraq, Israeli
leaders were insisting “we do Iran first.”

But the U.S. neocons thought they knew better and that sequencing Iraq
before Iran would be an easier sell with the American people. After all, they
had already been trained to hate Iraq’s Saddam Hussein because of the first
Persian Gulf War in 1990-91. In the early part of the last decade, Iran’s
leaders were a much more amorphous target.

The neocons also thought the conquest of Iraq would be easy with American
military might crushing not only the Iraqi military but the country’s will to
fight. “Shock and awe” would pave the way to a “cakewalk.”

In 2003, the joke circulating in neocon-dominated Washington was whether
the next U.S. target should be Iran or Syria with the punch-line: “Real men go
to Tehran.”

Also, the neocons’ top allies in the Bush administration – Vice President Dick
Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld – understood Bush’s
personal animus toward Hussein. Bush once called Hussein “the guy that
tried to kill my dad.” Cheney and Rumsfeld knew an open door when they
saw one. Bush, an impressionable fundamentalist Christian-Zionist, was
bereft of strategic understanding.

However, eight-plus years later – with nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers dead and
about $1 trillion spent, with Iraq torn by sectarian and political violence and
with the Iraqi government essentially ushering the U.S. forces out by
refusing to extend immunity from Iraqi laws for any U.S. troops who would
remain – the neocons must finally face the hard truth: their grandiose
scheme was a flop.

Chicken Hawks

It is not only American soldiers who will be coming home from an immoral,
illegal and ill-thought-out war. The chickens, too, are coming home to roost.
And, without admitting they were really dumb, the neocon chicken hawks are
inadvertently admitting soto voce, that they didn’t have a strategic clue.

And they still don’t. It is a safe bet that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu and his Likud associates are admonishing the neocons who still
hold great sway in Official Washington: “See? We told you we should have
done Iran first. But it’s not too late.

“Now we have another compelling reason to put the ‘military option’ on Iran
right in the middle of the table — and, finally, exercise that option. Or you can
go down in history as a bunch of wimps.”

The new compelling reason for war is that Iran’s influence in the region has
zoomed in this zero-sum game between “evil” Tehran and the Tel Aviv-
Washington “axis of good.” In the words of this Sunday’s Post, “Iran will be
handed a crucial strategic advantage,” ironically, because of the disaster in

So, there’s no time to waste. To warn still-gullible Americans about the
dangers of Iran’s new strategic advantage, it’s imperative to enlist the
neocons in the U.S. news media, those running the foreign policy shops for
the leading Republican candidates, and the neocon holdovers inside the
Obama administration.

Time, also, to revive the specter of Iran getting a nuclear weapon. Let’s see
if neocon favorite CIA Director David Petraeus can twist enough arms of his
subordinates to reverse the unanimous judgment of the U.S. intelligence
community that Iran stopped work on a nuclear weapon in 2003.

Petraeus has always risen to the occasion when the neocons have wanted to
accuse Iran of meddling in Iraq — evidence or no evidence.

Let’s have him issue warnings about the possibility that Iran will take
potshots at U.S. troops as they leave.

And, oh yeah, let’s get him to provide the kind of “intelligence” that will turn
a cockamamie plot about Iran supporting an assassination attempt on the
Saudi ambassador from admittedly “implausible” status to that of plausible —
well, plausible enough for the neocons who dominate the Fawning Corporate
Media (FCM). [See’s “Petraeus’s CIA Fuels Iran Murder

Chalabi Made Us Do It

Speaking of which: One of the Post’smost prominent neocon columnists,
David Ignatius, sought out the neocons’ beloved charlatan Iraq War
propagandist Ahmed Chalabi, whom Ignatius describes as “the most
effective lobbyist in favor of the 2003 U.S. invasion.”

“You will not be surprised,” wrote Ignatius, “that Chalabi offered no
apologies for a war that cost many thousands of American and Iraqi lives and
more than a trillion dollars.  Quite the contrary, he lauded the United States
for its role in overthrowing Saddam Hussein,” though he criticized the follow-
through of the occupation.

Ignatius, too, raised the obligatory specter of Iran, asking Chalabi about
reports that he has become “an overly enthusiastic supporter of Iran.” The
slippery Chalabi replied that he favored good relations with Iran and “wanted
Iraq and Iran to be ‘a meeting ground rather than a battle ground.’”

Is Ignatius, at this late stage in the U.S. history with Chalabi, not yet aware
that he tends to play both ends … and then goes with the side that appears
to be winning?

Ignatius wants us to believe that the mess in Iraq was pretty much all Chalabi’
s fault, ignoring the painful reality that Chalabi could have accomplished
zilch if not for the neocon-dominated FCM that eagerly promoted his self-
serving lies.

Many of the Iraqi “walk-ins” who lied to U.S. intelligence and the FCM about
Saddam Hussein’s supposed WMD and alleged ties to al-Qaeda had been
scripted beforehand by Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress.

Knowing Chalabi (all too well), Ignatius says it should come as no surprise
that Chalabi remains adamantly unapologetic for the war on Iraq. But why
should Chalabi be subjected to any accountability when almost none of his
willing collaborators in the press have been?

Chalabi may have been, as Ignatius claims, “the secret instigator of the Iraq
war.” Even so, he would have accomplished little without a mountain of
intentional gullibility at the Washington Post and other top U.S. news outlets,
a pattern that continues to this day.

Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical
Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served as an Army
infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years and
is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).