24/09/2020

The irony is that, when the US first claimed the Iranians were behind attacks on their soldiers in Iraq, they were likely not

In wartime, Churchill famously told Stalin, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies. He said this on 30 November 1943 by chance his 69th birthday in an effort to impress upon the Soviet leader the importance of deception in the planning of D-Day. In fact, the Allies did deceive the Germans, whose Wehrmacht commanders thought the landings would be made in northern France rather than on the beaches of Normandy. 
But the meaning of truth and lies even the very word wartime  have so changed their meaning and usefulness in recent Middle East history that its almost impossible to apply Churchills quotation today. After its anti-aircraft missile destroyed Ukrainian Airways flight 752 this month, Irans initial lie that its loss was due to engine problems was uttered not to attend the truth but to protect the Iranian regime from being blamed in case its people discovered the truth.
Which, of course, they quickly did. 
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There was a time when you could get away with this sort of giant fib. In a pre-technology age, almost any catastrophe could be glossed we still talk about a disaster shrouded in mystery  but phone cameras, missile-tracking, long-range radar and satellites quickly expose a lie. The loss of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 almost six years ago is the only exception I can think of.
True, Mubarak actually surrounded Cairos television headquarters with tanks in 2011 in an antediluvian attempt to stop a revolution powered by mobile phone messages. But the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian military are so computer-savvy that they could hardly have misunderstood what they had done to the Ukrainian aircraft. The idea, still touted by the regime, that there were communications problems (for more than three days, for heavens sake) is preposterous. 
What really happened, I suspect, is that both President Hassan Rouhani and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei both knew within an hour what had happened, but were so appalled that a nation whose very name bears the title of Islamic, and whose supposedly revered if corrupted Revolutionary Guards had been promoted as both God-fearing and flawless, that they simply did not know how to respond. They were faced with The Truth. So they told a lie. Thus the very image of spotless theology which was supposed to sustain Irans image was shattered by error and then by dishonesty.
No wonder Iranians returned to the streets.
Iran made a mistake, but to compound a tragic mistake with a blatant and then admitted falsehood was close to Original Sin. The people are not about to overthrow the regime, as Trumps acolytes and the usual US experts suggest. But Iran has been changed forever.
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1/25
People standing and analysing the fragments and remains of the Ukraine International Airlines plane Boeing 737-800 that crashed outside the Iranian capital Tehran on January 8
2/25 A hole in a part of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752
Iran said on January 11, it “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing all 176 people aboard, in an abrupt about-turn after initially denying Western claims it was struck by a missile
3/25 Tehran
Iranians protested in front of the Amir Kabir University in Tehran after the Iranian military released their statement about the flight
4/25 Debris of the wreckage
Iranian president said a military probe into the tragedy had found “missiles fired due to human error” brought down the Boeing 737, calling it an “unforgivable mistake”
5/25 Tehran
Local newspapers in Tehran carrying headlines such as: “National Mourning”, “Apologize, Resign”, “Unforgivable”, “Great Disaster” … concerning the downed Ukranian jetliner
6/25 Kiev, Ukraine
Ukraine International Airlines President Yevhenii Dykhne stands next to a map of flight PS-752’s departure path at a news briefing about the crash
7/25 Tehran
The Iranian students demonstrated following a tribute for the victims
8/25 The Canadian passport of a victim
9/25 This combination of satellite pictures shows a before and after image of the crash site in Tehran
The image (top), according to Maxar, shows vehicles and personnel (centre) during accident recovery and investigation on January 11, with a wall by the soccer pitch (left) destroyed as well as a wall (top right). The image below was taken on November 27, 2019
10/25 Ukraine
The portraits of victims with flowers and candles at Boryspil International Airport in Kiev
11/25 Holes in the wreckage
12/25 Tehran
People gathered for a candlelight vigil at the gate of Amri Kabir University
13/25 People standing and analysing the fragments and remains of the Ukraine International Airlines plane
14/25 Protests against war with Iran took place in London
The demonstration was co-organized by the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament and the Stop the War Coalition, an activist group formed in 2001
15/25 A hole in a part of Ukraine International Airlines Flight
16/25 Labour Party leader spoke at the event
Jeremy Corbyn posing with an anti-war banner during the demonstration against the threat of war on Iran, in Trafalgar Square
17/25 A rose rests on a page featuring photographs of people who died in Iran
Iranian Americans from across California converged in Los Angeles to participate in the California Convention for a Free Iran
18/25 A young boy protests against a possible war with Iran in London
19/25 Holes in the wreckage
20/25 Rescue workers search the scene on January 8
21/25 Rescue workers search the scene
22/25 Debris of the Ukraine International Airlines
23/25 Debris of the Ukraine International Airlines
24/25 One of the engines of the plane lies among the wreckage
25/25 Debris of the Ukraine International Airlines
1/25
People standing and analysing the fragments and remains of the Ukraine International Airlines plane Boeing 737-800 that crashed outside the Iranian capital Tehran on January 8
2/25 A hole in a part of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752
Iran said on January 11, it “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing all 176 people aboard, in an abrupt about-turn after initially denying Western claims it was struck by a missile
3/25 Tehran
Iranians protested in front of the Amir Kabir University in Tehran after the Iranian military released their statement about the flight
4/25 Debris of the wreckage
Iranian president said a military probe into the tragedy had found “missiles fired due to human error” brought down the Boeing 737, calling it an “unforgivable mistake”
5/25 Tehran
Local newspapers in Tehran carrying headlines such as: “National Mourning”, “Apologize, Resign”, “Unforgivable”, “Great Disaster” … concerning the downed Ukranian jetliner
6/25 Kiev, Ukraine
Ukraine International Airlines President Yevhenii Dykhne stands next to a map of flight PS-752’s departure path at a news briefing about the crash
7/25 Tehran
The Iranian students demonstrated following a tribute for the victims
8/25 The Canadian passport of a victim
9/25 This combination of satellite pictures shows a before and after image of the crash site in Tehran
The image (top), according to Maxar, shows vehicles and personnel (centre) during accident recovery and investigation on January 11, with a wall by the soccer pitch (left) destroyed as well as a wall (top right). The image below was taken on November 27, 2019
10/25 Ukraine
The portraits of victims with flowers and candles at Boryspil International Airport in Kiev
11/25 Holes in the wreckage
12/25 Tehran
People gathered for a candlelight vigil at the gate of Amri Kabir University
13/25 People standing and analysing the fragments and remains of the Ukraine International Airlines plane
14/25 Protests against war with Iran took place in London
The demonstration was co-organized by the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament and the Stop the War Coalition, an activist group formed in 2001
15/25 A hole in a part of Ukraine International Airlines Flight
16/25 Labour Party leader spoke at the event
Jeremy Corbyn posing with an anti-war banner during the demonstration against the threat of war on Iran, in Trafalgar Square
17/25 A rose rests on a page featuring photographs of people who died in Iran
Iranian Americans from across California converged in Los Angeles to participate in the California Convention for a Free Iran
18/25 A young boy protests against a possible war with Iran in London
19/25 Holes in the wreckage
20/25 Rescue workers search the scene on January 8
21/25 Rescue workers search the scene
22/25 Debris of the Ukraine International Airlines
23/25 Debris of the Ukraine International Airlines
24/25 One of the engines of the plane lies among the wreckage
25/25 Debris of the Ukraine International Airlines
No longer can its religious leaders claim papal infallibility. If they can lie about killing innocents on a Ukrainian airliner most of them Iranian  then surely their jurisprudence might prove equally flawed. Those who demand obedience from their loyal followers cannot expect their audience to accept their future pronouncements on Trump or God with the same sacred trust. For quite a while, the Revolutionary Guards who hitherto presented themselves as potential martyrs for Islam are going to be known as The Guys Who Fired the Missile. 
Now lets remember that we in the West have grown so used to our own dishonesty and being caught out that we scarcely flinch at the word lie. Let me ask a frank question: save for the flies around Trump, is there anyone who actually believes the intelligence information about Qassem Suleimanis plans to attack or blow up four US embassies (or five, or six, or whatever)? 
Maybe its true. Maybe its not. But given the sloppy replies of US defence secretary Mark Esper and his chums, Id hazard a bet that this stuff was a Trump potboiler, a mix of Hollywood, haze and an early morning tweet. Who cares if its true or not? Suleimani was a bad guy. Hands up who in the West was really upset that hed been murdered (let us at least use this word once today)? Even Boris Johnson said he wouldnt mourn Suleimanis passing, though no one had actually asked him to. He would say the same and probably will say the same if America or Israel, or both, assassinated the Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
The problem is that weve grown so used to lies on Brexit, on the Middle East, you name it that we hardly care any more.
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If we can go to war on WMD, 45-minute warnings, promises of democracy for Iraq and half a million deaths, or a million, or a quarter of a million see how we can play with the souls of the dead in this part of the world? then we dont safeguard truth with a bodyguard of lies: we search for a simple truth to protect us from the lies. Isnt the world better without Qassem Suleimani? Isnt the world better without Saddam?
But this only works up to a point. Does anyone really think that Boris Johnsons hodgepodge about a new nuclear deal with Iran is anything more than a sop to Trump? There was a deal and in theory, as the Iranians keep reminding us there still is a deal. And the Iranians are prepared to go back to it. Or, as we must remember now, so they say.
And clearly, the Americans are going to suffer in the days and weeks and months to come. Those bases in the Iraqi desert are looking less and less like the lily pads that Donald Rumsfeld once called them and more and more like potential death traps.
The odd thing is that when the Americans originally claimed the Iranians were behind the guerrilla assaults on their occupation troops after the 2003 invasion, Iraqis knew this wasnt true. Iraq itself was awash with weapons and very skilled weapons experts all newly available from Saddams old and abandoned army and didnt need Suleimani and his chums to teach them what they already knew.
No one should doubt Suleimanis encouragement, but to suggest that he was effectively running the Iraqi resistance another of the reasons produced for assassinating him was ridiculous. The irony is that when the US claimed the Iranians were behind the attacks on their soldiers in Iraq, they were likely not. And now the Americans have killed the Revolutionary Guards Quds force commander, the Iranians are indeed behind the attacks on the American bases. They even said so: a remarkable truth, uttered even as they lied about their own destruction of the Ukrainian airliner.
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You can see why Trump might find all this confusing. For until now, the Americans have had a monopoly on deceit. Just look at the plans for what the Arabs still call Palestine the deal of the century, as we journos like to call it which effectively destroys any chance of giving the Palestinians a nation-state of their own. It is the antithesis of the Oslo agreement, always supposing Oslo was really intended to give the Palestinians a country of their own in the first place. Trumps policies, if they can be called that, will lead inevitably to the permanent Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the dispossession of the Palestinians.
Yet we are supposed to believe and the Arabs are supposed to believe, even the Palestinians themselves that the further colonisation of the West Bank, not to mention the existence of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, is intended to bring peace to the region. Merely by discussing this absurd scenario, we are helping to propagate a lie.
Oddly, in a world where the assassination of a military commander is not regarded as an act of war, we are beginning to accept these lies. They have become normal, even acceptable in a routine kind of way. The west, of course, is hoping that the liar-in-chief will depart next year. But I wouldnt be too sure. And what about the other nation which feasts upon lies? Im talking about the state which never, ever, sent its special forces into Ukraine, which never had any hand even in the remotest way in shooting down another airliner, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17.
Set against all this, the Iranians might look squeaky clean. After all, the sacred regime did fess up in the end. But before they did so, they discovered Original Sin. Quite an experience.