If you watched BBC News 24 on Sunday evening, you would have heard it reported that American officials had "revealed" evidence about Iran's involvement in Iraq. There were no caveats, no use of words like "alleged" or "claimed". And certainly no reference to hypocrisy, whereby a country with 150,000 troops unlawfully stationed in another state can then accuse another nation - Iran - of meddling! Back to the "evidence". We've been here before, of course. Before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the "evidence" piled up. Saddam Hussein's Iraq without question possessed weapons of mass destruction - according to the then US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Iraq was buying nuclear weapons material from Niger - according to the then secretary of state Colin Powell, courtesy of disinformation supplied by Jack Straw. This tissue of lies became the pretext for the invasion and the subsequent disintegration of Iraq. Is the same happening over Iran? Soon after Sunday's briefing no less a person than the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff cast doubt on the claims that the Iranian government is supplying Iraqi militias with explosives for use against American troops. Marine Gen. Peter Pace told reporters that he "would not say" that Iran's leadership was aware of or condoned the attacks. The military is known to be fearful of the consequences of US air strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities, believing it would spark a Shia uprising in Iraq that would overwhelm American forces. Neither the White House nor the Pentagon responded to requests by the media for an explanation of the apparent contradiction between the nation’s highest-ranking military officer and his subordinates in Baghdad. And David Kay, who once led the hunt for the elusive weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, said the grave situation in that country should have taught the Bush administration lessons when it comes to intelligence. "If you want to avoid the perception that you've cooked the books, you come out and make the charges publicly," Kay said. Even some Democrats are finding their voice, having been complicit in authorising the attack on Iraq. Silvestre Reyes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, suggested that the White House was more interested in sending a message to Tehran than in backing up serious allegations with proof. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has since denied that Iran was supplying weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq or stirring up violence by majority Shiites against minority Sunni Muslims. The American military presence is to blame for the bloodshed, he said. He also suggested that wiser counsels would prevail in America and prevent an attack on his country. That could prove to be a fatal miscalculation. The Bush administration has its backs to the wall politically speaking and a strike against Iran may be a consequence. Vincent Cannistraro, a Washington-based intelligence analyst who worked for the CIA and the National Security Council, believes that Pentagon planning is well under way. "Planning is going on, in spite of public disavowals by Gates [the new US defence secretary]. Targets have been selected. For a bombing campaign against nuclear sites, it is quite advanced. The military assets to carry this out are being put in place." He added: "We are planning for war. It is incredibly dangerous." Don’t expect to hear too much about this from the BBC, however. They are running scared of the New Labour government and are fast becoming part of the state’s official propaganda machine. More Newspeak than News 24.
Paul Feldman, communications editor