Thursday, October 13, 2011

Barbara Slavin Takes Iran's Word For It

Barbara Slavin has decided the Iranians arrested under suspicion of plotting to assassinate the Saudi and Israeli ambassadors to the US seem innocent. She's writing for one of my favorite new alternative media outlets, so imagine my disappointment that her bland and factless scribbling made its front page.

To begin with the obvious: Her arguments wrong. She says that Iran, taken as a whole (a rather naïve way to view an ethnically diverse theocracy/democracy) would never try to target the U.S. because it is “focused on political dissidents and theatres of war closer to home” – an odd thing to say about a government responsible for terrorist attacks on three continents that has styled itself as a regional power for decades. She wrongly says that “Iran has not been behind a political assassination in the United States since a year after the 1979 revolution,” which is wrong – it subsidized the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. It also raised a $2.1 million bounty for Salman Rushdie, so it’s not like they aren’t trying.

She quotes someone who has decided Iran is innocent because its agents might have contacted people who are Mexican, and Iran never contacts Mexicans:

"Iran does not use non-Muslim groups or people who are not trusted members or associates of the Quds force," Katzman said. "Iran does not blow up buildings in Washington that invites retaliation against the Iranian homeland."

Though it does blow up Americans in New York, Kuwait, Iraq, and over the ocean.

Here’s an odd one made by this same Katzman:

Katzman speculated that Arbabsiar, a former used car salesman who was apparently in financial difficulties, may have come up with the idea on his own... Mr. Arbabsiar was said to have wired nearly 100,000 dollars to the informant's bank account from Iran in September and to have promised 1.5 million dollars to do the deed.

One of the suspects was in such dire financial straits that he, acting alone, gave a stranger $100,000 just to listen to his idea. Kenneth Katzman seems like a smart guy, and given Barbara Slavin’s knowledge of the world around her demonstrated thus far, I’ll assume she’ll simply forgot what he said in the space between him saying it and her putting her pen on the paper.

Her logic is wrong. She argues that Iran must be innocent because “the timing would be extremely awkward for Iran, which is already facing growing isolation because of its nuclear program and domestic abuses of human rights.” How has “growing isolation” (whatever that means) ever stopped a regime from exercising its muscle? Does anyone remember the Cheonan, or Venezuela’s neighbors?

Her final attempt at an argument, dug out of her Katzman interview, seals it:

It is possible that the Iranian cousin "agreed to support him in some way but was doubtful he could pull it off", Katzman said. "This was not a thoroughly vetted and approved terrorist plot."

I don’t understand the conspiracy theorist obsession that just because a government hatches a plot that it’s going to be a good plot. Iran is not well-governed: who would deny that? Who would argue that the Iranian government is particularly competent at anything other than mere survival?

But at least she has the integrity to admit that “the U.S. government” isn’t just making things up:

Several U.S. intelligence experts expressed scepticism about the expertise of the DEA in evaluating such a sensitive case.

It’s not a very good U.S. government conspiracy if there’s external and internal disagreement, after all – this is the fact that refutes 9/11 denial, so she was wise to ignore it here.

However, Slavin does unquestioningly support and believe the government – Iran’s:

Riedel noted that the complaint refers to "elements" of the Iranian government, "which suggests that the administration doesn't think that all elements of the Iranian government were involved".

An Iranian source, speaking with IPS on condition he not be named, said that the Quds force would investigate the Iranian alleged to have participated in the plot "to find out if there is any personal interest" involved, suggesting an element of freelancing.

"It seems the Americans and Saudis need this propaganda to promote their policy against Iran at this time, given that they have occupied three Muslim countries in the world – Iraq, Afghanistan and Bahrain," the source added.

Of course! Equally expected is that, because all bad things are the President’s fault, that it is his fault, too, for daring to be angry that Iran would try to assassinate some fairly important international civilian personnel:

Both Katzman and Riedel said they were troubled by the way in which the Obama administration has jumped on the case, with a news conference by the attorney general and high-profile statements by the president and secretary of state.

The record skips back to the same un-funny joke, again.

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