Alleged Iran Assassination Plot Court Documents Suggest A Set Up

We’ve been astonished that anyone is treating the alleged Iranian assassination plot seriously after it has been debunked by Glenn Greenwald and others. Even the New York Times, which usually falls into line, ran an article which made clear that there were pretty large gaps in the official narrative, and CNN was skeptical as well. Yet the NPR is feeding the story (hat tip reader furzy mouse) and one of my sources with good Democratic party contacts says all the faux leftie and even some real leftie groups are supporting the saber-rattling against Iran.

Real News Network has been giving good coverage, and has found yet more chinks in the Administration’s narrative. Please take the time to view both segments of their coverage to date:

Part 1 (from Saturday):

More at The Real News

Part 2:

More at The Real News

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. ratso

    You’d think he’d have learned by now that if you’re gonna sell fear, you shouldn’t don’t steal old Three Stooges scripts.

  2. Cynthia

    The whole thing is complete nonsense. They probably busted the guy smuggling dope and discovered he was not a Mexican but an Iranian and proclaimed, “Whoo Doggie! We got ourselves an Eye-Rainian here boys!”.

    They then proceeded to cook up the only kind of plot a bunch of morons from ICE could think of, and sold it to some stuffed suit with a snazzy powerpoint presentation. So then Mansoor Arbabsiar goes from smoking too much pot then to losing his keys and cell phone to Evil Genius/Mastermind/Public Enemy Number One virtually overnight.


  3. sleeper

    So folks are waking up.

    Here’s how it works –

    DOJ / FBI encourages some impressionable preferably young man to artculate his feelings about US policy and then proceeds to lead him down the path to action all the while providing the training and materials. And they make sure he doesn’t have the means to legally resist – no high dollar lawyers for this guy – no bail either and most likely the DOJ will routinely threaten the suspect with draconian punishment if he doesn’t accept a plea deal. Then DOJ / FBI arrests and charges the person. And in almost all cases the DOJ / FBI then begins a careful campaign of leaks which almost always include sex (of some sort or another usually something different than the missionary position while avoiding any mention of the FBI’s late director Edgar J’s preference for cross dressing) drugs of some sort or another, and violence. And the MSM greedily follows after happily lapping up each new “relevation”.
    The goal is to harass and imprision some sap while sending a message to the world – DOJ / FBI is going to get you – guilty or not !!.

    All the while refusing to prosecute the wall street boys.

  4. timotheus

    This RNN has good guests, but the host should learn how to ask questions and hold the editorializing.

  5. PaulArt

    I listened to the very first report on NPR (Tom Gjelten) and it sounded empty. I think it could be something to warm the cockles of the hearts of the AIPAC true believers and loosen their money purses. Harvey Weinstein and another AIPAC associated leader are mentioned in todays NYT as prime bundlers for Obama.

    1. azusgm

      Great, now the term “anti-virus program” has been automatically converted to a link to an ad for Norton. It was Avast that caught the threat, not Norton.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      We’ve scanned for this already. There is some code in the Wikivest which is giving false positives. We’ve scanned and there are no viruses or malware here.

  6. joebhed

    In the “Amended Complaint”, it is noted that a woman co-worker at the used-car salesroom provided the Iranian salesperson with the connection to the drug-dealer-paid informant.
    Where is the digging to identify and interrogate this person on the part of any of the press?
    Like, what type of connection was being sought and made?

    1. Susan the other

      In this last week Hamid Karzai has opened up new trading ties with India and claims the two countries are great friends; at the same time he claims that the Pakistanis are his country’s “twin brother” but for some reason there isn’t much trade between them being talked about. It is because brothers do everything on the QT including loot the Afghan National Bank, etc.

      When I first heard the Iran-Mexico assassination plot my first thought was Opium.
      My second thought was we were using the “mexican” guy to front for the CIA, not the FBI.
      My third thought was that the CIA wanted to get control of the Opium drug trade here in North America – or maybe keep control.
      My fourth thought was that it was implausible that Iran would “contact the Mexican drug cartel(s)” since there is so much evidence that the US is up to its alligators in the “Mexican drug trade.”
      My fifth thought was that the Saudi Ambassador didn’t really fit into the story,
      but he might be an intermediary drug dealer.
      My sixth thought was that I should ignore everything but the opium connection because it is one of the business ventures keeping us in Afghanistan.
      My seventh thought was that we can expect to see a flood of opium and heroin into the US and other countries very very soon and it will come via India.

      Iran is not our enemy. Iran’s control over the opium trade is our enemy.

      1. ambrit

        Dear Susan;
        Good train of thought. Any of us out here remember how effective the ‘drug offensive’ was for the North Vietnameese against the U.S.Army? Then there was the Spooks Air America weekly flights from the ‘Golden Triangle’ to Cam Ranh bay. Then the maritime shipping route from Cam Rahn bay to the U.S. West Coast. From there, into the Heartland.
        “Something’s wrong with the Beaver!” “Shut up Wally!”

      2. scraping_by

        In an earlier iteration of secret services control over the drug trade, the CIA allied with the leadership of the Contras, bitter ender Nicaraguan government thugs who introduced crack cocaine to the US to finance their return to control.

        As the late Gary Webb in _Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the crack cocaine explosion_ had it, it was the CIA against the FBI and the DEA. Now, the FBI’s taking its turn with serial illegalities. I suppose that makes them one of the big boys.

        When and if Arbabsiar and his cousin Ali Gholam Shakuri turn out to be CIA assets, the political noise will be there to cover whatever aggression the elite have in mind. Israel or Saudi (or both) elites will spend American lives and treasure.

  7. Barbyrah

    Super helpful, important interview…and once again, many comments left me laughing, so spot on were their characterizations of who the man behind the curtain really is as yet another iteration of the Charade Attempting to be Sold to the Public makes its way onto the stage for the umpteenth time. (Oh, and ratso, BOTH your comments got me giggling…!)

    Big hats off to RNN for doing, and Yves for posting.

    (And special note here: Yves, I’m coming to appreciate your website more and more as it seems others I’ve gone to pretty regularly – it’s like a whole new wave of neoliberal junk is suddenly appearing out of nowhere and/or being ramped up, big time. Remarkable. Changes. In. What’s. Being. Reported. And. How. It’s. Being. Reported.)

    (Translate: At this point there are only one or two other sites besides yours I can truly count on to not get taken in and/or not attempt to stealthily “persuade” its readers to “turn the tide back” into that ol’ neoliberal, “Rah rah Democrats” schtick under the guise of “progressivism.” Grateful for that. As well as for the wide variety of articles and links you offer, which really gives context, gives things a “Bigger Picture” perspective. Truly, a gift to us.)

    1. Barbyrah

      Yves, just read this minutes ago over at FDL (very much doubt they’ll ever go the neolib route!) from a commenter named “jest” in respond to an article someone posted about Rachel Maddow and her now complete Borg-like integration into the Obama cheerleading squad (as have gone the rest of the MSNBC pundits):

      “I can’t watch any of them either. It’s gotten to the point where I get all my news from FDL or nakedcapitalism.”


  8. Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

    Does anyone realize that exactly the same comments could be made about the “politicians-for-the-rich” strident, ludicrous declarations that by some magic, tax increases and spending cuts will reduce unemployment and grow the economy?

    No one knows how this will be accomplished, but by heaven, we’re going to cut programs that benefit the have-less class, like Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps et al, which surely will cure the recession.

    Thus are the mindless followers of mendacious politicians led over the cliff.

    Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

  9. YankeeFrank

    NPR is a woeful tool for neoliberal deception, and now apparently its a line-toer for this wonderful terror-worshiping, war-mongering “president of our hearts*”.

    *stole that one from Fallout3 :)

    1. ambrit

      Mr Strether;
      It could be an attempt to force the hand of the IDF into going after the Iranian nuclear processing sites. Direct action against Iran seems unpopular in Israel proper now. (This from a distance, of course.) So, a Reichstag Fire seems to be in order.
      Just a paranoid thought…

      1. wunsacon

        If meant for US consumption, then this looks like another drumbeat for more military action, on whatever timeline makes sense. (Elections are not the only events to consider. If you’re going to attack Iran, you want to do it during a dip in oil prices. And oil prices have been dipping.)

        The nuke arguments were falling flat. Not enough people were scared of that. Sounded too much like Iraq. And Iran seems in compliance with the NPT. Have to come up with something else to scare the people.

        1. wunsacon

          If this Saudi government falls, production cutbacks might occur. Might see a newer OPEC emerge with one fewer Empire-friendly member eager to undercut prices. Might even see an oil embargo.

          Because the Empire imports 70% of its go-juice, it’s probably working overtime to minimize the foregoing risks.

      2. wunsacon

        >> Here’s a way for the Saudi gov to try to mobilize their citizens against an “external threat”.

        This might be a better explanation: This “plot” provides the Saudi’s with a “justification” for a heavy hand with “seditious” pro-democracy protestors. If anyone (at home or, more likely, abroad) criticizes their human rights record, they can say they’re under attack from terrorists from Iran and have to defend themselves.

        1. Nathanael

          I agree. My first thought was “cui bono?” and the answer was “The only beneficiaries from this assassination plot are the Saudi government.”

          It’s just possible that there was some personal vendetta against the Saudi ambassador, but if not, I expect this to be a setup on behalf of the Saudis to gain sympathy for themselves. This plot certainly wouldn’t benefit any other power group, unless Susan’s theory that the ambassador is a drug dealer is correct.

  10. Constantine Porphyrogenitus

    It’s amusing the see the media and Joe Biden, of all people, make the case this is an act of war against the United States. Let us assume that the Iranian government backed this plan. Does it justify retaliation when our own government has funded MEK and Jundallah terrorists within Iran and placed dire economic sanctions upon its people?

    I’ve been hearing about the prospects for attacking Iran ever since I joined the army out of high school back in 2003. I don’t understand how anyone in Washington could even think this is a good idea. The Iranian people are far more nationalistic and less tribal compared to Iraq and Afghanistan, they have a much larger population and a reasonably powerful military. Iran does have enough force projection and missile reserves to at least block the Straights of Hormuz for a very prolonged period of time, thereby sending oil markets into complete chaos.

    How is the U.S. supposed to finance a war with Iran and where are the troops supposed to come from? We’re already drowning in immense debt and in the midst of the worst economic crisis in decades.

    If you figure that there needs to be 1 U.S. soldier for every 20 Iranian citizens, that means the military would need roughly 3.5 million ground troops to occupy the nation. Even attempting to contain Iran with airstrikes and defensive strategies would be an immense undertaking. Are politicians prepared to institute the draft?

    A war with Iran would be our Battle of Adrianople. This would break the U.S. as a global power.

    This nation doesn’t need another imperial war. I’m only 26 and have lost complete confidence in U.S. society and government. These days I feel like I’m living in a United States that’s on its last legs as a superpower… like the Roman Empire around 400 AD and everything is slowly deteriorating into utter madness and incompetence. I’m still astounded at what has happened to our nation these last 10 years.

    1. liberal

      “The Iranian people are far more nationalistic and less tribal compared to Iraq and Afghanistan…”

      Is that really true? I thought that Iran is only about 50% Persian, though maybe I’m remembering wrong.

      1. Constantine Porphyrogenitus

        That’s true but history has show that Iran is fairly nationalistic despite the significant presence of non-Persian minorities. Look what happened when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. He expected to gain support of Arabs living in Khuzestan and never received it. Thousands of Arabs volunteered to join paramilitary battalions and fought to the death.

    2. wunsacon

      I’ll play devil’s advocate (on some points):

      >> The Iranian people are far more nationalistic and less tribal compared to Iraq and Afghanistan, they have a much larger population and a reasonably powerful military.

      So, instead of 2 weeks, it would take …? Yes, we’d have the same guerrilla warfare problems. But, sorry, their uniformed military is no obstacle to us. (Brainstorming: To avoid fighting the guerrilla battles ourselves, maybe we’ll convince the Saudi’s that Iran is trying to attack them and then convince the Saudi’s to commit ground forces?)

      Also, I don’t think US Caesars care much that Iraq turned into a disaster. The more a country destroys itself with more civil war, the less internal aggregate oil demand there is. And the less self-determination they’ll be able to express. When they’re poor and desperate, we can force them to borrow money to buy equipment from us to mine the resources we want and sell to us at favorable prices and then repay their debt. (Don’t recall what he said exactly. But, commentator Michael Parenti has said that what people call “foreign policy failures” are probably viewed internally/cynically as “foreign policy successes”.)

      >> Iran does have enough force projection and missile reserves to at least block the Straights of Hormuz for a very prolonged period of time, thereby sending oil markets into complete chaos.

      For a short time, yes. But, the US destroyed Saddam’s Scud missile sites quite quickly 20 years ago — while we were still working with Intel 486’s. Hasn’t the Empire gotten better at tracking and destroying missiles after 20 years of advances in computer technology? I suspect we can knock our their reserves quickly enough.

      >> How is the U.S. supposed to finance a war with Iran and where are the troops supposed to come from? We’re already drowning in immense debt and in the midst of the worst economic crisis in decades.

      The “debt” is our own to print. And the more we destabilize other countries, the more investors won’t want to invest anywhere else other than Rome! That’s right: global instability reduces the interest rates we have to pay investors.

      >> A war with Iran would be our Battle of Adrianople. This would break the U.S. as a global power.

      Minor correction: you say the US is “a” global power? No, we’re “the” global power. (How many bases in how many countries? We’re number one by a large margin.)

      Well, anyway, like you, I wonder whether we’re on the precipice of a change in that status.

      1. Skepticus Maximus

        You’re kidding, right? Do you really think that Saudi Arabia would send forces into Iran? I seriously doubt that any country would send any major ground forces to support a US invasion of Iran.

        I agree that the US could conquer Iran relatively quickly – a few months at most. Then what? Total disaster, that’s what – economic, military, political, social. And a decades-long extension of the increasingly bizarre “War On Terror”.

        I cannot believe the Obama administration is actually thinking of invading Iran. I can imagine some sort of limited bombing attack, but even that is extremely risky and likely to go haywire.

        My explanation for all this: Democrats trying to show that they’re tough, and throwing a bone to AIPAC donors. And it’s not just Obama. I was very surprised to read Elizabeth Warren rattling sabers against Iran as part of her election campaign in MA. I’m just hoping that this is all it is – saber-rattling, and that nobody is actually stupid enough to do anything we’d all regret.


        1. wunsacon

          >> You’re kidding, right?


          >> Do you really think that Saudi Arabia would send forces into Iran? I seriously doubt that any country would send any major ground forces to support a US invasion of Iran.

          I do, too. At the moment. But, in 1991, Stormin’ Norman convinced the Saudi’s that Saddam was going to strike them next. What if we could convince the Saudi’s that Iran is trying to dethrone them? Ok, maybe no ground troops. But, maybe it gives the KSA local political cover so we can launch air strikes on Iran from our bases there.

          >> I agree that the US could conquer Iran relatively quickly – a few months at most. Then what? Total disaster, that’s what – economic, military, political, social. And a decades-long extension of the increasingly bizarre “War On Terror”.

          Total disaster for a colony that dares defy us (and trades directly with China) might be considered a good thing. (Just guessing. And not my opinion.)

          To be sure, after blabbering with myself earlier on, I prefer my explanation @ 1:35 pm. That is, I suspect this plot provides local and international cover for the pro-West Saudi royals to crack down on pro-democracy protestors.

        2. Nathanael

          I actually think a US attempt to conquer Iran with ground troops would fail outright.

          We’d see the first large-scale desertions from the US Army in quite a while. It would ratchet up the calls for overthrowing the US government to a level where they’d have a serious chance of succeeding.

          Meanwhile, the US government would have precisely zero allies. We’d probably see overt support for Iran from Afghanistan and Iraq, and covert support from Turkey, Pakistan, Russia and the majority of countries in the region. An attempt by Saudi Arabia to actively support the invasion would likely be seized by dissidents as an opportunity to overthrow the Saudi government; accordingly, I expect Saudi Arabia would stay out and focus on beating its own residents. I don’t know, I suppose the US could buy the support of the dictator of Turkmenistan, but I somehow suspect the US government would be unable to do even that.

          And the Persian Army isn’t stupid. They’re not going to walk into set-piece battles to be ground up. They fought the Iran-Iraq war (and won it despite US support for Iraq). They’ll be organizing and supporting guerilla tactics.

          The Straits could be shut down very quickly, and would be very hard to bring back up with constant guerilla activity. Regardless of US behavior, oil tankers are *easy* targets. Actually, so are the terminals where they dock.

          And don’t forget that the US military is badly overstretched already. As well as fundamentally incompetent. All the competent generals were forced out under GWB.

          It would indeed be the death knell for the US military. The only question is whether it would lead to WWIII or not; whether other countries would decide that the US was simply too dangerous to leave lying around, and that it was better to risk immediate nuclear war than to risk the US military’s continued blundering.

          Luckily, I think that the US government is not quite insane enough to invade Iran. This plot is just a Saudi ploy for sympathy, nothing more.

          1. wunsacon

            >> And don’t forget that the US military is badly overstretched already. As well as fundamentally incompetent. All the competent generals were forced out under GWB.

            LOL. So, given those latter two statements, who’s talking our retarded policy makers down off the ledge?? Who’s convincing Bachmann (on the “intel” committee) that “one more straw will break our back”??

            You’re not doing a great job convincing me our rulers won’t steer the ship of state onto the rocks! ;-)

          2. Constantine Porphyrogenitus

            I would believe that. If I was still in the army faced with the prospect of being immediately deployed in Iran, I’d just take whatever I could from my place and drive down to Mexico.

            The military is meeting its recruitment goals thanks to a terrible economy not because people are itching to fight. The overall morale is not great. Too many soldiers are stressed out. Invading Iran would be the breaking point.

  11. Frank

    Administration desperate.
    1.) They will fabricate anything to get in front of the OWS movement in the press.
    2.) Global economic crisis = world war. Need to set the table for their justification. This will continue until we get our next Colin Powell moment with photoscope pictures. Military industrial complex foaming at the mouth.

  12. ajax

    From the Amended Complaint, page 19:

    Chevrolet was the agreed-upon codeword for the plot,
    according to the complaint. If car == plot, why would
    Shakuri want to tell Arbabsiar about “another car?”, i.e.
    “another plot?”. In fact, if there were “another plot”,
    Arbabsiar probably should not be informed of this.
    If Shakuri is an Iranian spook, he ought to know
    about the “need-to-know” principle.

    The affidavit by the FBI Special Agent provides no
    interpretation for Shakuri’s words:
    “[UI] brought me another car” …

    (a) Who or what is [UI] ?
    (b) what is the meaning of “brought me another car” ?

  13. wunsacon

    Looks like nothing but a “great game”:

    – China buys Iranian oil.
    – US wants to control Iran.

    – NYT mentions a million ethnic Chinese work in Africa.
    – US becoming more active militarily in Africa.

    – Russia’s only Mediterranean base is in Syria.
    – US publicly stresses Syria (and does who-knows-what privately) for its human rights abuses but not Bahrain or Saudi Arabia.

  14. Paul Tioxon

    One of my fondest routines is watching Sunday morning political PR broadcasts. I flip from channel to channel, avoiding the most nauseating of the lying sacks of shit, but still, dutifully engage with what the next round of policy, PR and general movement out of DC portends for me, my community and fellow citizens. This is all to even more extreme nausea of my friends who clamp their jaws shut and let me indulge myself when I reference these shows in serious politico analysis.

    And of all the shows, my routine never loses its desire to watch the McLaughlin Group from beginning to end. I have grown fond of, to the point of savoring the sentimentality and affectionate ball busting between Eleanor Clift and Pat Buchanan. Of course, there is John McLaughlin himself, the aged, sometimes seemingly doddering Mr Magoo of the panel of varying pundits, who have come and gone, but he remains, like baseball, the one constant in the endless stream of change from the last few decades of 20th century America to the 2nd decade of the 21st.

    Which brings me to the Iranian Plot. The hallmark of a superpower is it’s international relations, it’s ability to dominate the system of nations through leadership, coercion, in every dimension of power thinkable. Mclaughlin’s blood never races faster then when the great game of nations provides global power scheming and our government’s response to any such initiative. It is the type of event that sharpens the blade of the saber that is always threatening to be unsheathed, much less rattled. This story and its details were absurd on its face, the facts pointing to an over reaching Walter Mitty, than to a James Bond, that no one on the panel could make much sense out the reaction of AG Holder to a seemingly ridiculous overture by a loser who could not keep his life in order, much less the tactic command details between the Mexican Drug cartels and the Iranian intelligence service. Did I mention the Iranian individual was a Texas used car dealer. Maybe the acumen of intrigue attributed to him was due to a confusion with a republican Congressional Committee Chairman. But I digress.

    Other than a key fact of actual money being transferred to this guy from known Iranian funding sources for intelligence operations, if it is true at all and can be proven, (but let’s just assume that this might be the case to continue this exercise in doping out what is going on), the panelists did not seem to lend much credence to this rising to the threat level of an actual, well, an actual threat. I mean, maybe the Iranian spymasters wrongly wired the funds. Maybe, intra political feuding attempting to discredit or weaken one faction or another within Iran, wired the money in such an amateurish manner that even our FBI caught it. But the main point is, it does not seem that way even to the militantly right wing conservatives, who always welcome a war, they did NOT seem to welcome this Gulf Of Tonkin Gambit. And not because, as even they said, Obama could use some military adventure to boost him over the finish line for a 2nd term. What was startling, was how agitated Mclaughlin, pushing 85, appeared to this whole notion of ginning up a pretext to attack Iran. Forcefully arguing that they are one of dozens and dozens of countries that have nuclear power plants, for energy, and that the Russians who appear to be supplying them in this endeavor would have no basis what-so-ever for seeing the Iranians become THEIR equal with nuclear weapons, much less Israel’s or anyone else. He faced down Mort Zuckerman, billionaire owner of the US News and World Report, a frequent regular, and demanded to know if he was listening to Netenyahu about Iranian threat levels.

    And why does this mean anything at all? When it comes to intelligence services it is important to understand first and foremost that these are secret organizations, not just organizations with secrets. We never know what is going on with them because they lie. They lie about the lies. They lie about the truth. They lie about the known knowns, the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. In other words. Don’t try to really figure out the facts. You can’t. Sable rattling, more than likely. Why? as it has been pointed out in the past when the US government lies about some military skirmish that is used as a pretext for an act of war, really, why would a country like, say, Libya send its jets to shoot at the US Navy? Are they crazy? Why would a couple of PT boats from N Viet Nam attack the US Navy? Are they crazy? All of the governments of the world know full well just how powerful the US is. Furthermore, they know just how easy it could launch target practice on their nation, if need be, to provide that after burner ummph to poor polling numbers to sitting US President. The N Viet Namese timed moves with the American political calender. We are not that hard to understand for the rest of the world.

    There is a complex and overlaying grouping of power networks that seek to manipulate and make things happen to the material benefits of those in power and with privilege here and in Iran and around the world. The world wide social movement in the streets show that people world wide have had enough and are building up to a show of real resistance that could bring changes to those in power. This plot, to what ever extent it is real, is a crime that has not been committed, but was in the discussion stages. At worst, a conspiracy to commit a crime, but not the criminal act. It is not enough to distract the population but it is a chance to put the screws to the Iranian economy.

    The Saudi’s will use their soft power to disrupt the Iranians in anyway they can, and it weakens sympathy for Iranians within Saudi Arabia, for any American diplomatic initiatives to further cripple the Iranian economy. It further isolates Iran, with hopefully, Russia and China getting on board with us, with a little arm twisting, to do the Iranians in, by cutting off any political support that they may offer. John Mclauglin, for all of his being woefully out of touch with important domestic concerns of state, still has that dinosaur brain for international politics, that is still operating, outside of the signal reach of Rush Limbaugh, out where national leaders have not taken Grover Norquist’s pledges. The Westphalian World of Real Politik does not give a shit about what the Baptists think about Mormons. They do care about what Obama wants from them, when he really wants something bad enough to make them feel the rewards or the pain if they do help him.

    The goal seems to be weakening the Iranian grip on power, short of a military strike which will just strengthen their position at home and in the view of global Islam and with the Russians, the Chinese and the rest of the world that is sick and tired of the US using the stick so often, when it is rich enough to use the carrot, and be a lot less disruptive.

  15. Kevin de Bruxelles

    The incredulity of this story points to its intended audience. Instead of being aimed at a domestic American audience to justify military action, it seems this story is being used more to push international leaders towards further sanctions. In that sense it is a sort of foreign policy “MacGuffin” which in the filmmaking world is the name of a plot device meant to drive the action of the film forward. The actual details of a MacGuffin are irrelevant, as they are in this story. The US use of this device is to drive forward another round of sanctions against Iran (this time targeting their central bank) which must be agreed first and foremost by China and Russia. Of course it is not the validity of this story that will decide the final shape of the deal. No, in the case of at least China, the outcome will be determined by how many trade concessions the US will make. Since these countries do not have a domestic population deeply engaged in either foreign policy or a vigorous and inquisitive press (who does nowadays?) the details of Iran story matter little.

    The US goal is of course putting the finishing touches on a global empire. The model of US domination is ironically enough the Achaemenid (First Persian) Empire. The US rules through the various Satraps (individual foreign leaders) and has little direct influence over the individual people of any nation (except their own). The amount of influence a government has over its people is known as “penetration”. On one side of the penetration scale would be George Orwell’s “1984” which is an example of almost total penetration and that is the direction many rich nations are moving towards. The opposite end would be Somalia where there is almost no government penetration and this is the direction many non-rich countries are going. On the global scale the US has limited day-to-day penetration and so it relies on its Satraps. However, if needed, especially thanks to the internet and other technological innovations, the US in specific instances can penetrate deeply into almost every country on earth.

    If one looks at a map of the world, the vast majority of nations now fall under US hegemony. In other words they are loyal Satrapies. Besides the irrelevancies of North Korea and Cuba, the only region not totally under US control is the Middle East. Difficult invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have helped turn the tide but only regime change in Iran and Syria will really US power really be cemented. With the recent Arab Spring we see the favoured US model of Islamist / pro-American governments coming to power in Egypt and Libya. Some Americans may find the idea of the US favouring Islamist governments as surprising but it shouldn’t be so. Saudi Arabia is the archetypical model of a pro-American Islamist regime. The US is helping Turkey evolve into this mold. The US-imposed Islamist governments in Iraq and Afghanistan certainly fit this model. The new governments in Egypt and Libya certainly will as well.

    The growing civil war in Syria (between pro-American Islamist rebels on one side against the pro-Iranian socialists of the current regime on the other side) gives the US the chance to both add another loyal Satrapy if Syria falls to the Islamists and to further isolate Iran. We already see Hamas in Gaza switching out of the Iranian / Syrian camp towards the US / Saudi Arabia / Egyptian axis with recent deal for the Israeli airman.

    But one thing getting in the way of regime change in Iran is economic growth. The country has been growing and is projected to continue along at around 4% a year. Not great numbers for a second world country but too much to expect an Occupy Tehran anytime soon. So the latest sanctions target is the Iranian Central Bank which for one reason or another is being credited in Washington with helping maintain Iranian economic growth.

    But why would China want to help the US achieve their goal of a United Nations of US allies? Perhaps the Chinese instead of seeing themselves as adversaries of the US, actually see themselves as heirs? In other words they may anticipate that any Empire a declining US manages to pull together will fall eventually into Chinese hands. Perhaps the handover will happen in 30 – 50 years time when the US completes its metamorphoses into a third world country while China manages to become an authoritarian world power.

    1. Kathleen4

      I detest that you throw in an erroneous assumption of China wanting to take “Our” place. US Corporations, with the blessing of “Our” gov have been doing greatly profitable biz deals with the Chinese gov(Yes, it is still communistic) for decades. When ignorant people say the Chinese are going to take over, please remember that China is just a larger North Korea. Most Chinese people are famished and destitute as in North Korea, with the exception of the few who are Officially reported with uprisings of 10,000 times a year. You, in your ignorance, seem to forget that at the present moment “We” are looting the world in paranoia of “Final” profits before all empires(the Triumvirate of USA, Russia, and China) collapse in on themselves. What makes you think a World War can be won in terms of Black and White. Please, go enlist for your final glory to save “Our” Empire. Methinks this is not so clear as you make it.

      1. Because

        Wrong, China is purely capitalistic. The party members are the capitailsts. They run big companies privately. It would be like the Republicans running big companies while being your Congressman.

        You don’t get it at all and the Li’s who run China. It is why the Corps got the great deal. Of course now, the deal is running downward. What is leftover of the “communist” party in China wants better living standards for its people and the Corps and Li’s are struggling with it. Wage inflation is starting to take off globally.

      2. Skepticus Maximus

        Huh? Have you visited China recently? I have, multiple times and different parts. Yeah, they have all kinds of problems, some serious poverty in some areas, and are probably heading towards significant (but temporary) economic dislocations.

        But no way on God’s green Earth can you say that China is just a larger version of North Korea. That’s just a ludicrous statement. It’s like calling New York City just a larger version of Newark, NJ.


    2. Nathanael

      What you describe is a reasonable possible American Imperialist goal.

      But if you’re right (and I don’t think you are — I think the people involved are stupider than that –) it won’t work. The key nations which will not sign on to further sanctions against Iran are Turkey and Azerbaijan; the other key nations which, even if they sign on, will not enforce sanctions are Pakistan, China, and the five ex-USSR Central Asian countries.

      That means Iran’s trade routes are completely open. With an essentially self-sustaining economy — they’ve had since 1979 to get used to sanctions — further sanctions cannot be effective. Sanctions weren’t even very effective against Cuba, and it’s an *island*. Iran would just be irritated; the sanctions would make zero practical difference to them.

  16. Because

    I gotta laugh at this thread:
    1.Who cares about Obama. The guy is weaker than Bush who was weak. He is irrevelant. The Iranian stuff has little to do with him. Move on,except and deal. This runs through the para-government, the same one that took down JFK(remember the bloodlines).
    2.The “plot” was driven for the Saudi’s, who the US want to bump oil production. Period. My contacts have pretty much described this in detail.
    3.In the end, more to do about nothing. Maybe a few cents less in gas prices.

    Yves, do a better job man.

  17. Don Lowell

    My protection wants to shut you out. maybe bad guys are trying to hijack your site. Keep up the good work Yves.


    1. bob goodwin

      Hey Yves,

      This post confuses me a little bit. I certainly hope that Iran is not escalating to the level reported, but I think it is plausible that they are. But to accept the premise of your post I have to believe one of three things. 1) That the governments corporatist interests would make them want to escalate the conflict with Iran, 2) That the top levels of the government are willing to misconstrue the facts in a way that could easily backfire, or 3) there is serious incompetence at intellegence and/or messaging.

      Of course all three of these things have been exactly true on the bank beat, so I can certainly see the willingness to accept these bad tendencies to extend to foreign affairs, but this is where I get confused. I actually don’t see a particularly good outcome for the corporatists in a conflict with Iran. I don’t see it helping elections (all the polls show voters weary of war drums.) I don’t see it helping Wall street (the uncertainty thing), and I don’t see it helping anyones messaging.

      I get that the evidence could be misinterpreted from incompetence, but Dianne Feinstein (not infallable, but pretty steady) says there are tape recordings of a top iranian minister being involved. So I believe that this thing is either real or fabricated, and not a misinterpretation. I just am having a hard time buying the conspiracy theory.

      1. Yves Smith Post author


        The idea that the alleged mastermind was a serious threat is just implausible. And as for the officialdom taking on bad belligerent initiatives which could not possibly turn out well, just look at the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

        Also Google the “iron law of institutions” This may make this behavior make more sense. I saw a presentation at a Financial Times conference on US power, at which the military types were basically mapping out a path with no military cutbacks (and then the only ground they were willing to give was cutting military healthcare and pensions!).

        Martin Wolf said he thought they were nuts. US federal tax receipts are about 15% of GDP, the deficit is about 10%, the military budget is about 5% of GDP. He argued that the country is going in a direction of lower deficits (duh) and not much willingness to increase taxes, so the Federal budget is soon going to be at most say 18% of GDP. He said no way is the military going to be 1/3 of the Federal budget.

        The panelists were convinced it would be, they kept arguing that military expenditures were popular. Regardless of whether you believe them or not, a war with Iran assures a continued high level of military spending. One of my Dem buddies called it the Romney jobs plan.

        1. rotter

          I used to think the US was going to quietly rot into third world oblivion now im convinced its going to immolate itself in spectacular fashion. None of these fools (to give them the benefit of doubt)seem to realize that a war with Iran would be a strategic disaster for the US. I guess they assume that the rest of the world will go along becasue they are making money too. These are very very evil, sociopathic people if they arent enormous fools.Of course they could be both.

        2. bob goodwin

          Thanks Yves,

          I certainly think it is possible for the military to find ways to keep itself relevant. And I buy the Gulf of Tonkin argument that arrogance can lead to stupid overreach.

          I also agree that military costs are going to drop. None of that says that their aren’t bad actors in Iran using bad judgement. (I know you weren’t claiming otherwise). But I do disagree with you that although (if true) there was no direct threat, I think that (if true) it is a real escalation in hostilities.

          But I am not 100% convinced that the corporatists are as interested in overseas adventurism. It is my impression that people across the political spectrum view both Iraq and Afganistan with less enthusiasm then they did initially. But it is clearly plausible that the military industrial complex has a full seat at the corporatist table.

        3. bob goodwin

          “Romney jobs plan”

          I confess I cannot find that much difference between Obama and Romney on substance, as I see them both as being corporatists, with similar solutions to most problems despite different rhetoric.

          That being said, I was not aware that Romney was a much of a hawk. I get that there are more hawks on the right than the left, but think that has been tempered by the revulsion from government overreach in the tea party.

  18. rotter

    Oh thank GOD the for the “vigilance” of the FBI. If not for the ever “vigilant” FBI, one of their own plots to blow something up might succeed and then we would be force to drone Switzerland. Im not falling for that “neutral” song and dance.

Comments are closed.