A leading pro-Israel lobbyist from a prominent American think-tank has suggested that "crisis initiation," in which the United States deliberately and secretly attacks Iran in order to provoke a war, could be in Washington's best interest.
Business Insider reports that Patrick Clawson, director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), spoke with candor rarely seen in public about ways in which the United States could provoke a war with Iran if diplomatic negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program fail.
Clawson's remarks came at a September 21 WINEP policy forum luncheon called "How to Build US-Israeli Coordination on Preventing an Iranian Nuclear Breakout."
"I frankly think that crisis initiation is really though," Clawson opined. "It's very hard for me to see how the United States president can get us to war with Iran."
"The traditional way that America gets to war is what would be best for US interests," Clawson continued.
By "traditional way," Clawson was referring to the duplicitous means Washington has repeatedly utilized in order to initiate or escalate crises.
"Some people might think that Mr. Roosevelt wanted to get us into the war... you may recall we had to wait for Pearl Harbor. Some people might think that Mr. Wilson wanted to get us into World War I; you may recall we had to wait for the Lusitania episode. Some people might think that Mr. Johnson wanted to get us into Vietnam; you may recall we had to wait for the Gulf of Tonkin episode. We didn't go to war with Spain until the USS Maine exploded. And... Mr. Lincoln did not feel that he could call out the Army until Fort Sumter was attacked, which is why he ordered the commander at Fort Sumter to do exactly that thing which the South Carolinians said would cause an attack."
"So if, in fact, the Iranians aren't going to compromise, it would be best if somebody else started the war," Clawson continued.
"We could step up the pressure. I mean look people, Iranian submarines periodically go down. Some day, one of them might not come up. Who would know why?" he suggested, eliciting hearty laughter from the audience."
"We can do a variety of things, if we wish, to increase the pressure (I'm not advocating that) but... we are in the game of using covert means against the Iranians. We could get nastier at that."
Indeed, there is already a covert war, most likely waged by the United States, Israel, or both, against Iranian nuclear facilities and scientists in which bombings, sabotage, cyber attacks, support for and training of terrorists who carry out attacks against the Iranian regime, and targeted assassinations of Iranian scientists have frequently occurred. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta coyly admits that he has "some ideas" who is responsible for these attacks, which would surely been seen as acts of war subject to severe retaliation if committed against the United States or Israel. Crippling economic sanctions are also seen as US provocation by the Iranian government.
Washington claims that this latest aggression against Iran, part of a long history of US meddling and hostility toward Tehran, is an effort to prevent the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons. But all 16 US spy agencies concluded that Iran is not trying to develop such weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli military chief Gen. Benny Gantz, who called Iran's leadership "very rational," all agree that Iran is not currently trying to develop nuclear weapons.
Under such circumstances, and despite an ongoing campaign of demonization in the US corporate mainstream media, making the case for war with Iran presents difficulties that Clawson suggests could be overcome by "crisis initiation."
It wouldn't be the first time "crisis initiation" has been considered as a means of stoking war with Iran. During George W. Bush's tenure, senior administration officials met in Vice President Dick Cheney to discuss carrying out a "false-flag" operation in which US Navy SEALs would set out in small boats disguised as Iranian vessels to attack US Navy ships in the Straits of Hormuz.
"False-flag" attacks were also considered during Operation Northwoods, a secret 1960s plan to carry out terrorist attacks in US cities and against US military targets and blame them on Cuba in a bid to initiate a war that would oust Fidel Castro from power.
WINEP, the organization Clawson represents, was founded in 1985 by members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the nation's most prominent pro-Israel lobby group. WINEP's stated mission is "to advance a balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East and to promote the policies that secure them."
But WINEP's allegiance has been questioned, with prominent critics accusing the think-tank of being under AIPAC's control.
More about Clawson's examples of "crisis initiation":
Many Civil War experts assert that President Abraham Lincoln deliberately manipulated the South into firing the first shot of the Civil War by sending ships to resupply Fort Sumter, South Carolina. If Confederate forces fired on those ships in defense of their newly-declared sovereignty, the public outrage it would cause would rally Northerners to the defense of the Union.
"The attempt to represent us as the aggressors is as unfounded as the complaint made by the wolf against the lamb," Confederate President Jefferson Davis argued. "He who makes the assault is not necessarily he that strikes the first blow."
Conspiracy theorists assert that USS Maine, which sunk after a mysterious explosion in Havana Harbor in Cuba in 1898 killing 261 American sailors, was a false-flag attack designed to stoke public outrage and provide Washington with casus belli for declaring war on Spain. There is no evidence to support this claim, however.
In the case of the Lusitania, a British ocean liner sunk by a German U-boat off Ireland after sailing from New York in 1915 resulting in 1,198 deaths, the German government claimed the passenger ship was a legitimate target because it was carrying war materials. Britain and the United States vehemently denied this, and the attack helped propel the United States into World War I. It turned out that the ship was carrying millions of US-manufactured rifle bullets along with civilian passengers.
"It is most important to attract neutral shipping to our shores, in the hope especially of embroiling the US with Germany," Winston Churchill, who was first Lord of the Admiralty at the time, frankly stated.
In the case of Pearl Harbor, while President Roosevelt did receive repeated warnings that a Japanese strike was in the works. The most alarming was a coded diplomatic cable that warned of a "surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor." But due to a combination of dismissal as rumor, disbelief and a lack of intelligence sharing-- a foreshadowing of the warnings about a massive al-Qaeda attack dismissed by the Bush administration prior to 9/11-- US officials were caught by surprise on the morning of December 7, 1941.
During the Gulf of Tonkin incident, after which Congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to escalate the simmering conflict in Southeast Asia into an all-out war, the US fabricated a North Vietnamese attack on US warships in order drum up support for escalation.