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Pompeo’s ‘Blame Iran First’ Propaganda

The false claim that Iran was behind the attack in Kabul is of a piece with the administration's propaganda efforts to tie Iran to anything and everything that goes wrong in the wider region.
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Among the many other misleading and questionable claims Pompeo made earlier this week when he gave a statement about the recent tanker attacks, the Secretary of State absurdly accused Iran of being behind an attack against U.S. forces in Kabul that had been claimed by the Taliban:

The secretary’s vague allegation of Iranian involvement in the Kabul attack surprised regional experts and a former U.S. diplomat, who said it would be unusual for Iran to launch an attack inside the Afghan capital. When asked to clarify the accusation that Iran was somehow linked to the attack in Kabul, the State Department declined to comment.

“If there was clearly a belief that Iran had hit troops in Afghanistan, it would have been huge news right away,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Wilson Center’s Asia program.

“This administration is itching for a fight with Iran,” he said. “Unfortunately, that sometimes entails making some accusations against Iran that are somewhat questionable.”

The administration’s credibility is in the toilet because of false and ridiculous accusations like this one. The false claim that Iran was behind the attack in Kabul is of a piece with the administration’s propaganda efforts to tie Iran to anything and everything that goes wrong in the wider region. If Yemenis are starving because of U.S.-backed Saudi coalition bombing, blockade, and economic war, Pompeo will say that Iran is responsible for it. If there is a random rocket attack in Iraq, Pompeo automatically blames Iran. If the Houthis launch an attack inside Saudi Arabia as part of the ongoing war on Yemen that has been raging for four years, Pompeo treats this as an attack from Iran when the simpler story of Yemeni retaliation makes much more sense. Now we’re supposed to believe that the Taliban is just Iran’s cat’s paw when our forces have been fighting the Taliban for almost 18 years straight. The administration is looking for any excuse to escalate tensions, and they will use any incident anywhere in the region and try to shoehorn it into their anti-Iranian narrative.

Pompeo has also been trying very hard to tie Iran to Al Qaeda in order to provide a pretext for using the 2001 AUMF to apply to military action against Iran. The Secretary of State reportedly claimed that the 2001 AUMF could be used to support attack on Iran as recently as last month in a briefing with members of Congress:

As the Trump administration ratchets up tensions with Iran, escalating fears that the United States is looking for a possible path to another war in the Middle East, several Democratic presidential contenders are standing firm in their rejection of the White House’s attempts to create a legal rationale for war. They were responding to comments Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made in a May 21 classified briefing for members of Congress that suggested that the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, passed by Congress three days after 9/11 could provide a legal basis for a war with Iran.

It should go without saying that Pompeo’s assertion of a connection between Iran and Al Qaeda is a lie, and it should be equally obvious that the 2001 AUMF cannot possibly authorize war with Iran. The fact that the administration would attempt to abuse the 2001 AUMF this way is just one more reason why that old authorization needs to be repealed as quickly as possible. That authorization has served as a catch-all justification for far too many interventions around the world for which it was not intended, but trying to use it to cover a war with Iran stretches it beyond all recognition.

The administration may occasionally accuse Iran of doing something that it actually did, but at this point this is like the proverbial blind pig finding an acorn. The fact that they routinely jump to the conclusion that Iran is guilty of everything that goes wrong and accuse Iran of things that they must know it didn’t do makes it impossible to believe any of their claims. Evidence needs to be interpreted. When we know that the interpreters in the administration are biased and acting in bad faith, we have to assume that the conclusions they reach about what the evidence tells them are predetermined. We have to assume that they will distort and manipulate the evidence to support the conclusion they reached beforehand. This is what happens when the executive branch is run by serial liars and manipulators of intelligence.



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