When the Bush-Cheney administration was in power, Dick Cheney tried hard to find an excuse for military attacks on Iran. After all, according to Gen. Wesley Clark, the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO from 1997 to 2000, Cheney and other hawks had plans for attacking and destroying seven countries in the Middle East and North Africa over five years in order to transform them into U.S. client states, and he wanted to “accomplish” as much as possible before leaving office. Various options were considered. As reported by Seymour Hersh, in late 2007 the Bush-Cheney administration received congressional approval for its request for $400 million to launch major covert operations against Iran, and a presidential finding signed by Bush authorized a secret program for destabilizing Iran by supporting puppet groups purporting to represent the Iranian Arabs living in the oil province of Khuzestan, the Baluchi people, and other separatist “organizations.” Aside from terrorist operations that killed many innocent Iranians, the program failed. Other venues were also tried, ranging from fabrications about Iran’s alleged interference in Iraq to huge shows of force in the Persian Gulf and a campaign of lies and exaggerations.
Another option that was considered was provoking the Iranians to attack the U.S. forces, hence justifying counterattacks by the U.S. Given the long history of the attacks by the U.S. Navy on Iranian ships and offshore oil installations in the Persian Gulf, and the destruction by the U.S. Navy of the Iranian passenger jet in July 1988 that killed 290 people, creating an “incident” in the Persian Gulf to justify the attacks seemed only “natural.” Then, in January 2008 five Iranian patrol boats supposedly made aggressive moves toward three U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz. Bush called the incident “provocative” and “dangerous,” and it appeared momentarily that Cheney’s wish had been realized. But less than a week later the Pentagon acknowledged that it could not positively identify the Iranian boats as the source of the threatening radio transmission that the press had initially reported coming from the boats. In fact, it had come from a prankster.
Hersh also revealed that in 2008 some administration officials met in Cheney’s office to discuss ways to provoke a war with Iran. As Hersh explained, “There was a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build — we in our shipyard — build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT [patrol] boats. Put Navy SEALs on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Strait of Hormuz, start a shoot-up …. It was rejected because you can’t have Americans killing Americans.” But, the War Party learned a lesson: To gain public support for attacking Iran, create the “right” incident.
Four years later, the idea is surfacing again, with the War Party and the Israel lobby calling for an “Iran Pearl Harbor.” Although under Yukiya Amano, the politicized International Atomic Energy Agency has been highly critical of Iran, it still reports consistently that it has found no evidence that Iran has diverted its enriched uranium to a non-peaceful purpose and, in fact, Iran has recently diverted it to peacefulpurposes — fabricating fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor that produces medical isotopes for 850,000 Iranian patients annually. Senior Obama administration officials have also emphasized over the past several months that Iran is not making nuclear weapons and has not even made the political decision to move forward toward building them. Over the past several years there have been several analyses arguing that the U.S. can live with an Iran armed with nuclear weapons, and that such an Iran will even be a stabilizing factor in the Middle East.
Thus, the War Party’s hope for “justification” for war with Iran based on its nuclear program has been quashed, at least for now. It has therefore revived the idea of creating the “right incident” for provoking a war with Iran and gaining the public’s support for it too.