Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Neo-Cons planted the Iran story

In looking for the possible retraction by Amir Taheri, the author of the National Post story which clearly stated that Iranian religious minorities would be required to wear zonnars, or color-coded badges, I shouldn't have been surprized to discover that Taheri is part of an exclusive group of neo-cons responsible for past propaganda and mis-information campaigns.

Taheri's story has been debunked, yet in his press release of 22 May, he stands by his contention even though he has dubious or unattributable sources. Curiously, it is also an obvious attempt to mollify an editor for producing a story so widely off-the-mark as to embarrass the National Post. But the most interesting part of the release is not in the words but the organization from which it originates.

Amir Taheri is a member of Benador Associates, outwardly a New York based publicity firm which is, in fact, a neo-con think-tank, speakers bureau and a notorious ultra-right-wing propaganda organ with clear links to the Project for the New American Century.

Benador Associates, founded by Peruvian-born Eleana Benador, advertises a list of members that reads like the who's who of neo-con ideology: James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, Michael A. Ledeen; a key figure in Iran-Contra among other shady involvements; Richard Perle, dubbed "The Prince of Darkness" while serving in the Pentagon and, along with Ledeen, considered one of the architects of the US invasion of Iraq; and Richard Pipes, a former anti-Soviet crusader who brought Paul Wolfowitz into the neo-con fold and has handed over his virulent interventionist activism to his son, Daniel Pipes.

Taheri falls in with a specially identified few on the "A list" of speakers and writers from Benador separated by a comma from Richard Perle and amongst a short list of public figures who advocate immediate military action against Iran. Benador herself comes with a credential which cements her neo-con relationship, having founded Benador Associates after serving as director for Daniel Pipes' Middle East Forum, a hardline anti-Arab think-tank and foreign policy group.

Daniel Pipes, a signatory of PNAC, was more than a little vocal in his demand for the overthrow of mideast governments before 9/11. It has been said that if he had been heeded 9/11 would never have happened, but the US would have been at war with the entire Arab world.

Benador, established in early 2001, also represents Khidhir Hamza, an Iraqi nuclear scientist who, in a 2000 book, Saddam's Bombmaker, stated that Saddam had nuclear weapons. Benador circulated Hamza until he was challenged on his claim when he admitted that Saddam did not have a nuclear bomb.

Benador was also heavily involved in arranging speaking engagements, media appearances and newspaper articles promoting the 10 Downing Street "dossier" entitled "Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception, and Intimidation", a 16 page document which turned out to be a verbatim plagiarization of articles written by Ibrahim al-Marashi and Robert Rabil in 2002. Those articles had appeared in the Middle East Review of International Affairs, a publication soley owned by Dr. Barry Rubin, an American-born Israeli citizen. Rubin was one of Benador's speakers promoting war with Iraq.

At this point it is worth asking, why the selection of Canada's National Post to plant a deliberately misleading article intended to discredit Iran?

There are several reasons, but primary among them is the knowledge that the National Post has past affiliations with some of the same people in Benador's stable, most notably Richard Perle. Perle, a former co-chair of Hollinger International Inc. (Conrad Black's former company), had used the National Post from his Benador position, along with other Hollinger publications, in the run up to the invasion of Iraq to propagandize the evils of Saddam Hussein. The National Post, already a right-wing publication and controlled by the Israeli-friendly Asper brothers was more likely to view an article discrediting Iran in a favorable light. Amir Taheri has a history of publishing in the National Post's pages and is considered by that journal to be an expert.

What would not have worked would have been publishing the article initially in the Chicago Sun-Times or the Jerusalem Post. Benador and Taheri would have been acutely aware that any such article originating in the US or Israel would raise immediate suspicion.

Publishing in a Canadian newspaper also brought with it some air of respectability. Most people outside Canada are unaware that Canadian media ownership has undergone the same convergence and mass-market ownership as the US. The article therefore, would appear to have some credence if only because it came from a large Canadian publication operating in an unrestricted political environment with an assumed high level of editorial credibility.

The path of least resistance for such a story is the Asper brothers' CanWest-Global Communications Corp, owners of the National Post. CanWest-Global owns 50 percent of the Jerusalem Post plus media outlets in Australasia, Europe and Turkey. The mix of Canadian newspaper, Iranian ex-pat journalist (who lives in Europe) and outrageous legislation would be attractive to news outlets along the CanWest News Service wireline plus those who would acquire the story after publication.

In short, it was a neo-con's wet dream. It was a bonus that Canada's Stephen Harper decided to comment on the similarities of the legislation as reported by Taheri as something akin to Nazi Germany.

Except that Taheri's story was based not on the actual Iranian legislation but on unattributable and unverifiable sources. The convenience of confidential sources inside the Iranian government covered the fact that, without evidence to the contrary, Taheri's article remains a gross exaggeration written by a person who's overwhelming desire to see a complete regime change in Iran and whose affiliation is with the same group who lied to sell an invasion of Iraq colors his view.

Newspapers and media outlets around the world picked up the story and ran with it. To them, the research and verification had been done. They attributed the story to the National Post assuming that paper's editors had done due diligence.

What should have been evident to most other outlets was the lack of official information. Most countries would have intelligence at some level, particularly if there was to be marginalization of religious groups and particularly if any law was even close to resembling the acts of Nazi Germany. And it wouldn't have been difficult to find. It would be regarded as open source intelligence. There was none.

By the time newspapers in New York were carrying the story, Stephen Harper's comments were now a part of it, lending even more credence to its veracity.

So was it a deliberate neo-con plant?

You bet it was. It had one purpose: spread a rumor. Take a law, which is bad enough in its own right, and Hitlerize it. Get the world on side.

Too bad it backfired.

And what of the National Post? What does that make them?

How about a whore? If the National Post was an unbiased news organ and less inclined to unquestioningly sweep up anything with a right-wing bent, this story would never have been published. Instead, they have colluded with and been abused by their neo-con buddies, first with Iraq and now with Iran. If the National Post has lost credibility with this story, they have gotten exactly what they deserve.

And the story? An intentionally planted piece of mis-information from the neo-con propaganda machine.

And I will retract that if anyone can provide me incontrovertible proof to the contrary.

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