With the US-Iran War Ball Now Rolling, Could an “Accident” or “False Flag” Serve as Pretext?

As tensions between the U.S. and Iran threaten to boil over, the probability of a provocation or “accident” that would provoke hostilities between the two countries is higher than ever. U.K. Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, openly stated as much on Monday, telling reporters in Brussels that the U.K. was worried of a conflict breaking out between the U.S. and Iran by “accident with an escalation that is unintended really on either side but ends with some kind of conflict.”

Yet, current and past events make it clear that such an “accidental” provocation is unlikely to be purely accidental in nature, as forces in the U.S. and Israel have been actively pushing for a U.S.-led war with Iran for years and have a track record that demonstrates little inhibition about using an “accident” or “false flag” to drag the country into a war with the Islamic Republic.

Notably, the state of Israel — in an event long since buried by the government and corporate media — has previously staged such a “false flag” by targeting an American naval vessel, killing 34 Americans, in order to blame the attack on Egypt and drag the U.S. into a war with several Middle Eastern nations in 1967. However, Israel is not alone in this, as the CIA as well as neo-conservatives serving in the Bush administration, led by then-Vice President Dick Cheney, have planned “false flags” that involved the murder of American servicemen and civilians in order to justify miltiary action against U.S. adversaries.




In this two-part series, MintPress explores the troubling evidence that preparations for another such “false flag” are well underway. In this first installment, current events in relation to U.S.-Iran relations and the role of Israel in the ratcheting up of tensions will be examined, while the second installment will focus on Israel’s past of conducting “false flags” to goad the U.S. into wars on Israel’s behalf as well as efforts by former Vice President Dick Cheney to conduct a “false flag” pitting American sailors against American sailors disguised as Iranian naval forces to justify a conflict with Iran.

 

Bolton, taking a page from Iraq 2003 playbook, sets ball rolling

Since National Security Advisor John Bolton sent out a dramatic press release announcing the deployment of a U.S. carrier strike group as a warning to Iran on May 5, tensions between the U.S. and Iran have risen dramatically, a development that Bolton — who has long advocated regime change and a pre-emptive war against Iran — likely welcomes. As MintPress recently reported, that press release was intentionally vague, allowing justification for a military response to any number of incidents, whether committed by Iran or alleged “proxies” of Iran, including groups over which Iran’s government has no control.

Furthermore, it has since been revealed that the “intelligence” Bolton used to frame the deployment and the rationale for future U.S. military action against Iran was from the Israeli government — which has long pushed the U.S. towards war with Iran. In addition, several unnamed U.S. officials stated soon after that Bolton and other Trump administration officials had greatly exaggerated the nature of this intelligence and overreacted. MintPress has noted on several occasions Bolton’s history of distorting intelligence to conform with a specific narrative or in order to promote specific policy actions and this tendency of Bolton’s was also recently noted in a New Yorker profile on the current National Security Advisor.

John Bolton speaks at the 2006 American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington. (AP/Caleb Jones)John Bolton speaks at the 2006 American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington. (AP/Caleb Jones)

John Bolton, seen here at a 2006 AIPAC event, has pushing for war with Iran since his days in the Bush Administration. Caleb Jones | AP

It was subsequently revealed that a few days prior to Bolton’s press release, Bolton had made a “highly unusual” visit to CIA headquarters to discuss Iran. NBC News reported that the “extremely rare” choice to hold this meeting at the CIA instead of the White House’s Situation Room likely meant that the purpose of the meeting was “to brief top officials on highly sensitive covert actions, either the results of existing operations or options for new ones,” based on statements from five former CIA operations officers and military officials.

That meeting, as noted by the political and financial news site ZeroHedge, “hearkens back to the Bush-Cheney White House’s direct intervention over Iraq intelligence in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion, which involved the VP and his staff making multiple personal visits to CIA headquarters and the Pentagon to pressure the intel analysts into conforming to a preferred ‘narrative.’” Yet, the emphasis on “covert actions” in relation to Iran suggests that something much more sinister may be afoot.

In the weeks since that press release and the “highly unusual” CIA meeting, the U.S. has deployed more military assets towards the Persian Gulf and Secretary of State Pompeo has made several abrupt schedule changes in order to discuss Iran with various countries. Notably, the Trump administration announced the end of waivers that have allowed some foreign companies to continue buying Iranian oil without facing U.S. sanctions.

In addition, according to a New York Times report published on Monday, acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan revealed a plan that had been ordered by Bolton to send up to 120,000 US troops to the Middle East in the event that Iran strikes American forces in the region or begin enriching uranium. The plan did not specify where the troops would be deployed and did not call for a land invasion of Iran. However, some officials who were briefed on the plan were reportedly shocked by the high number of troops mentioned by the plan, which is similar to the size of the U.S. force that invaded Iraq in 2003.

The situation has forced Iran to respond, with Iran announcing that it would begin withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal — which the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from over a year ago — as the U.S.’ economic war against Iran shoots to another level.

Perhaps most telling of all is the fact that Western media, particularly U.S. media, have been heavily promoting the Iranian “threat” since soon after Bolton’s Mary 5 press release, in yet another striking parallel to the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Yet, particularly notable in this case is that much of the “intelligence” that has been used to justify these recent moves by the Trump administration has come from Israel’s government, led by the recently re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose desire to goad the U.S. into a war with Iran is an open secret.

 

One potential pretext already in play in the Persian Gulf

On Sunday, reports surfaced that several oil tankers were the victims of “sabotage” while sailing towards the Persian Gulf near Fujairah, one of the seven emirates that comprise the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is located just outside the Strait of Hormuz. Fujairah’s government initially denied that any “sabotage” took place and maintained that its port facilities were operating normally after media reports from Iranian outlet PressTV and Lebanese outlet Mayadeen reported on a series of “explosions” on unidentified ships in the area.

The UAE’s foreign ministry later confirmed an incident in the area but said no casualties or spills occurred and notably did not provide details as to the number or nationalities of the ships involved nor the groups responsible for the alleged attack.

However, Saudi Arabia subsequently claimed that its tankers had been affected by this act of “sabotage” and that the targeted tankers had been approaching the Strait of Hormuz on route to load oil destined for the United States. Saudi Arabia, like the UAE, did not blame any country for the attack. A Norwegian-registered oil tanker experienced hull damage after striking “an unknown object,” potentially suggesting the attack was caused by an explosion of a sea mine or the result of a torpedo or other projectile launched underwater. Notably, the U.S., U.K. and France held a “mine warfare drill” in the Persian Gulf just last month and past Western media reports have characterized sea mines as “Iran’s favorite military asset.”

While the UAE and Saudi Arabia did not blame any country for the attack, the U.S. was the first to cast blame after a group of U.S. military investigators asserted Monday that Iran or Iran-backed proxies were responsible. However, other U.S. officials told the New York Times that while there was suspicion of Iran’s involvement, “there is not yet any definitive evidence linking Iran or its proxies to the reported attacks.” When asked about this conclusion to which only the U.S. arrived, President Trump told reporters on Monday that “It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens.”

Iran rejected any responsibility for the attack and Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi warned against a “conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers” and “adventurism by foreigners.”

MT Andrea Victory MT Andrea Victory

The Norwegian-flagged oil tanker MT Andrea Victory off the coast of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, shows damage that Gulf officials say came from a “sabotage” attack. “May 13, 2019. Photo | AP

However, the timing of the sabotage came right on the heels of statements made by the U.S. and Israeli governments that have led some to blame Iran or suggest Iranian responsibility for the attacks — despite the lack of evidence made public and the decision by both the Saudis and Emiratis, long-time adversaries of Iran, from blaming any country for the incident or describing any specifics about the attack.

This past Thursday, the U.S. Maritime Administration — a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation — stated that “Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or U.S. military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait or the Persian Gulf.” The U.S. Department of Transportation is currently headed by Elaine Chao, who was paid $50,000 for a five-minute speech to the Iranian exile group, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), known to actively seek regime change for Iran. Other top U.S. officials, such as Bolton, have also been paid hefty sums for appearances at MEK events, where they have openly advocated for the overthrow of the Iranian government.

In addition to warning from a U.S. department headed by an official with links to an Iranian opposition group actively seeking regime change, Israeli officials “leaked” information on Israel’s Channel 13 on Saturday that Iran was allegedly planning to target Saudi oil assets in the region. According to the unsourced report, as cited by the Times of Israel, the Iranians were “considering various aggressive acts” against American assets or those of its regional allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. The report also claimed that Iran had considered targeting American bases in the Gulf, but rejected it as too drastic and instead had decided to target “Saudi oil production facilities.”

In light of recent events, as well as the corporate media’s willingness to suggest Iranian culpability despite little to no publicly available evidence, it appears that this recent attack — regardless of who was responsible — could be seized upon by officials in the U.S. or Israel eager to see tensions between the U.S. and Iran escalate.

 

Netanyahu: “America is easily moved”

It is an open secret that Israel’s government, particularly under Netanyahu, has been eager to see the U.S. engage in hostilities with Iran. The main driver for this is the fact that, while Israel has since forged alliances with several Arab-majority nations such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, Iran and its regional allies — namely Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Syria — oppose Israeli objectives for the region and those of its allies. More crucially, Iran is arguably the country that is most supportive of Palestine and the major barrier to Netanyahu’s plans to annex Palestine’s occupied West Bank, a promise on which Netanyahu rode to reelection last month. Now more than ever, Netanyahu wants Iran’s government out of the way.

Netanyahu has openly stated that he views the U.S. government as a vehicle for fulfilling Israeli objectives and believes that Americans are easily manipulated, by Israel in particular. For instance, in a video recorded in the early 2000s — later broadcast on Israeli TV and subsequently reported on by Consortium News — Netanyahu “brags about how he deceived President Bill Clinton into believing he [Netanyahu] was helping implement the Oslo accords when he was actually destroying them. The tape displays a contemptuous attitude toward, and wonderment at, a malleable America so easily influenced by Israel.”

In the video, Netanyahu states:

America is something that can be easily moved. Moved in the right direction. They won’t get in our way; 80 percent of the Americans support us. It’s absurd.”

Israeli journalist Gideon Levy later asserted that the video reveals Netanyahu to be “a con artist who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes” and that the current Israeli prime minister’s attitude is unlikely to “change over the years.”

Benjamin Netanyahu | IranBenjamin Netanyahu | Iran

Netanyahu holds up his script as he derides the JCPOA to Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 3, 2015. J. Scott Applewhite | AP

Now, with the Trump administration having shown its willingness to favor Israeli interests in the Middle East, Netanyahu has apparently sensed that the hour has come to push the U.S. towards war with Iran. For instance, the Trump administration organized a summit aimed at securing “peace and security in the Middle East,” to which Iran was not invited. The New York Times described that summit as follows:

…Leaders of Israel and Arab states met publicly again, at an international conference in Warsaw staged by the Trump administration. But the goal of this meeting, drawing officials of some 60 nations, was not peacemaking. It was to rally support for economic and political war with Iran, for which the United States has found little enthusiasm among allies since withdrawing from the 2015 deal that restricts Iran’s nuclear program.”

Notably, during that meeting, Netanyahu wrote in a since deleted tweet that the summit was “an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran.”

In the wake of the Warsaw summit, Netanyahu has since claimed that he was responsible for the Trump administration’s decision to label Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terror group, a move that dramatically increased the risk of a military confrontation between the U.S. and Iran, especially given that Iran subsequently responded by declaring the U.S. military’s Central Command a terrorist organization.

Now, with Netanyahu feeding Bolton “intelligence” that Bolton has greatly exaggerated in order to justify their common goal — a U.S. war with Iran — and also “predicting” dubious “sabotage” attacks near the Persian Gulf, Israel’s government has revealed itself to be a driving force behind the spiking tensions between the two countries.

Equally troubling is the fact that world leaders are now openly positing that an “accident” or “false flag” provocation will be used to provoke such hostilities.

 

For Netanyahu, it’s now or never for a U.S.-Iran war

With the Iran nuclear deal in tatters, one consequence of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran has been to push Iran to renege on aspects of the deal, from which the U.S. has already long since withdrawn. The goal, by all appearances, is to use Iran’s plan to breach parts of the deal as justification for further aggressive actions against the country by claiming that such breaches, instead of a response to U.S.-led economic warfare, are a sign of an intention to develop nuclear weapons.

With waivers for the purchases of Iranian oil now ending and Iran’s president announcing that Iran will end compliance with some aspects of the deal if Europeans do not find a meaningful workaround for U.S. sanctions, the Trump administration — and the Iran hawks within — seem to have their ducks in a row.

While there has long been concern about a U.S.-Iran conflict, several situations have arisen that have made this push for a regime-change conflict with Iran of extreme importance to both U.S. and Israeli interests in the region.

For instance, Syria’s government is set to take the Idlib province, after which Syria will turn its attention towards the Israel-controlled Golan Heights and the U.S.-occupied area of northeastern Syria. Israel was revealed to be the “brains” behind the Syria conflict and has been actively preparing for hostilities with Syria and nearby Lebanon since last year, following the failure to overthrow Syria’s government. Syria holds a mutual defense pact with Iran, meaning that it will join a conflict with Iran if Iran is threatened, thus preventing Syria’s government from focusing its efforts on retaking areas occupied by the U.S. and Israel.

If the U.S. and Israel wait until Syria consolidates control over Idlib, they will be facing a much stronger adversary in Iran’s closest regional ally than one distracted by a pocket of Al Qaeda-dominated terrorist groups in its north.

Yet, the clearest indicator that the push for war is very much in earnest is the intention of Netanyahu to effectively destroy Palestine. Several analysts, including ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern, have long maintained that Israel’s and Netanyahu’s main reason for wanting a war with Iran is to “have Iran bloodied the same way we did to Iraq” so that Iran “would no longer be able to support Hamas and Hezbollah in Gaza, Lebanon, and elsewhere.” In other words, Netanyahu wants Iran out of the picture so it can no longer provide material or financial support to groups that resist Israeli occupation.

Having won reelection in part because of his promise to annex the occupied West Bank, Netanyahu worries that Iran and its regional allies will strongly oppose that annexation and may even go to war over it, particularly if the fate of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem is threatened. Now, with the Trump administration’s “Deal of the Century” also set to be made public in less than a month, that deal’s push to enable the annexation is also threatened by the regional bloc led by Iran that still supports Palestine. If Netanyahu is able to eliminate Iran as a regional power, he will have eliminated the greatest single threat to both his plans for complete annexation and the enactment of the Trump administration’s “Deal of the Century.”

With top officials in the U.S. government and much of the media failing to push back, Netanyahu finally has a window of opportunity — albeit one that is shrinking — to push the U.S. to war with Iran and it appears that he, along with his allies in the Trump administration, plans on taking it.

As Part II of this series will show, Israel’s government and Bush-era neo-conservatives have a track record of enacting and planning “false flag” attacks to embroil the U.S. in foreign wars and that playbook would include provoking the U.S. into a war with Iran.

Update | This article was updated with relevant information regarding U.S. government statements regarding the alleged “sabotage” incident near the Strait of Hormuz and a New York Times report published Monday about plans to send up to 120,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East to counter Iran.

Feature photo | The U.S. Navy, the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group transits the Suez Canal in Egypt en route to the Persian Gulf, May 9, 2019. U.S. Navy via AP

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

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