In 2001, the Observer in London published a series of reports that claimed an Iraqi connection to al-Qaeda, even describing the base in Iraq where the training of terrorists took place and a facility where anthrax was being manufactured as a weapon of mass destruction. It was all false. Supplied by US intelligence and Iraqi exiles, planted stories in the British and US media helped George Bush and Tony Blair to launch an illegal invasion which caused, according to the most recent study, 1.3 million deaths.
Something similar is happening over Iran: the same syncopation of government and media revelations, the same manufacture of a sense of crisis. Showdown looms with Iran over secret nuclear plant, declared the Guardian on 26 September. Showdown is the theme. High noon. The clock ticking. Good versus evil. Add a smooth new US president who has put paid to the Bush years. An immediate echo is the notorious Guardian front page of 22 May 2007: Irans secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq. Based on unsubstantiated claims by the Pentagon, the writer Simon Tisdall presented as fact an Iranian plan to wage war on, and defeat, US forces in Iraq by September of that year a demonstrable falsehood for which there has been no retraction.
The official jargon for this kind of propaganda is psy-ops, the military term for psychological operations. In the Pentagon and Whitehall, it has become a critical component of a diplomatic and military campaign to blockade, isolate and weaken Iran by hyping its nuclear threat: a phrase now used incessantly by Barack Obama and Gordon Brown, and parroted by the BBC and other broadcasters as objective news. And it is fake.
On 16 September, Newsweek disclosed that the major US intelligence agencies had reported to the White House that Irans nuclear status had not changed since the National Intelligence Estimate of November 2007, which stated with high confidence that Iran had halted in 2003 the programme it was alleged to have developed. The International Atomic Energy Agency has backed this, time and again.
The current propaganda-as-news derives from Obamas announcement that the US is scrapping missiles stationed on Russias border. This serves to cover the fact that the number of US missile sites is actually expanding in Europe and the redundant missiles are being redeployed on ships. The game is to mollify Russia into joining, or not obstructing, the US campaign against Iran. President Bush was right, said Obama, that Irans ballistic missile programme poses a significant threat [to Europe and the US]. That Iran would contemplate a suicidal attack on the US is preposterous. The threat, as ever, is one-way, with the worlds superpower virtually ensconced on Irans borders.
Irans crime is its independence. Having thrown out Americas favourite tyrant, Shah Reza Pahlavi, Iran remains the only resource-rich Muslim state beyond US control. As only Israel has a right to existin the Middle East, the US goal is to cripple the Islamic Republic. This will allow Israel to divide and dominate the region on Washingtons behalf, undeterred by a confident neighbour. If any country in the world has been handed urgent cause to develop a nuclear deterrence, it is Iran.