In public, when it comes to the Iranian question, President Obama is all sweet reason and kissy-face. His recent video message to the Iranian people was just what the doctor ordered. However, this public performance is severely undercut by an ongoing covert program aimed at regime-change in Tehran — or, at least, at undermining the Iranian regime to such an extent that it must respond in some way.
This covert action program, reported by Seymour Hersh last year, was started by the Bush administration and funded to the tune of $400 million. The U.S. is, in effect, conducting a secret war against Tehran, a covert campaign aimed at recruiting Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities — who make up the majority of the population in certain regions, such as in the southeast borderlands near Pakistan — into a movement to topple the government in Tehran, or, at least, to create so much instability that U.S. intervention to "keep order" in the region is justified. Given recent events in Iran — a suicide bombing in the southeast province of Sistan-Baluchistan and at least two other incidents — the effort is apparently ongoing.
A suicide-bomber blast, which occurred inside a mosque in the city of Zahedan, killed at least 30 people: a rebel Sunni group with reported links to the U.S. claimed responsibility. The Iranian government immediately accused the U.S. and Israel of being behind the attack. The violence was very shortly followed up by attacks on banks, water-treatment facilities, and other key installations in and around Zahedan, including a strike against the local campaign headquarters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Add to this an attempted bombing of an Iranian airliner, which took off from the southwestern city of Ahvaz, and you have a small-scale insurgency arising on Iran’s eastern frontier.
The Iranians, confronted with peace overtures from Washington, can be blamed for wondering if the war against them has already begun.
A recent op-ed piece in the New York Times by Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett opines that President Obama’s "Iran policy has, in all likelihood, already failed" due to America’s covert actions in Iran. In the current debate within the administration over what course to take with Iran, hard-liners like Dennis Ross — special envoy for the region — argue that Iran’s lack of a positive response to Obama’s overtures are evidence the whole effort is futile, and that it’s time to start thinking about harsh sanctions and military action. The Leveretts, however, have a different take:
"But this ignores the real reason Iranian leaders have not responded to the new president more enthusiastically: the Obama administration has done nothing to cancel or repudiate an ostensibly covert but well-publicized program, begun in President George W. Bush’s second term, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to destabilize the Islamic Republic. Under these circumstances, the Iranian government — regardless of who wins the presidential elections on June 12 — will continue to suspect that American intentions toward the Islamic Republic remain, ultimately, hostile."
Last year, the same terrorist group behind the Zahedan suicide bomb blast kidnapped 16 Iranian policemen and videotaped their execution. The video was played on al-Arabiya television.
Imagine if, say, the governments of Mexico and the U.S. were engaged in talks aimed at improving relations between the two countries and all the while the former was funding and arming terrorist groups that were sowing death and destruction in America’s southwestern cities. Imagine if these terrorists seized 16 American cops and, when the U.S. refused to negotiate with the hostage-takers, murdered them and posted the grisly proceedings on YouTube. The reaction would be so swift and deadly that the Mexicans wouldn’t know what hit them.
Little wonder, then, that there hasn’t been much of a response to Obama’s peace feelers. In this context, it’s only a matter of time before hard-liners in Tehran gain the upper hand and launch a provocation — aimed, perhaps, at U.S. forces in Iraq — that precludes any negotiating process and sets us on a course for war.
In mounting a campaign to destabilize Iran, the U.S. is allying itself with some pretty loathsome elements. Jundallah, for example, is a Sunni militant organization, created to establish a Baluchi Islamic state in southeastern Iran and parts of Pakistan. One of the founding members of Jundallah was allegedly Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al-Qaeda operational commander of 9/11 attacks, who was arrested in 2003 in Pakistan and is now in U.S. custody.
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.