Your Secretary of Defense
According to CNN, Donald Rumsfeld has claimed that the Iranian government may have aided Taliban and al-Qaida agents to escape from Afghanistan into Iran, in a desperate attempt to justify Bush’s inclusion of Iran in the
axis of evil with Iraq and North Korea.
What CNN has not reported, nor has the New York Times, nor TIME (who first broke the story), is that the Iranian government has angrily denied the administration’s allegations (this was reported in the British paper, the Guardian), and pointed out what our own press had been saying (TIME, MSNBC) earlier: Iran hates the Taliban and al-Qaeda and has no desire to have ties with them or help them out (
We hated each other and we never had any commonalities, the head of Iran’s powerful Guardian Council, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, said Friday). Why? Because:
- Iran’s government, and most of Iran’s populace, are Shi’ite Muslims, whereas the Taliban and al-Qaeda are Sunni, and have participated in persecution and massacres of Shi’ites
- Iran’s strategic interests in Afghanistan have traditionally been head-to-head in conflict against those of Pakistan. Iran backed the Northern Alliance against the Pakistan-backed Taliban for years before the US ever got involved.
- Iran nearly went to war with the Taliban after ten Iranian diplomats and a journalist were murdered during the Taliban conquest of Mazar-i-Sharif
So, where did Rumsfeld get the ludicrous idea that Iran is helping out the Taliban and al-Qaeda? From that extremely reliable source, Ismail Khan, the brutal warlord of Herat province (see the TIME report). The main interesting fact of all this is that Khan has historically been backed by Iran, and took refuge in Iran twice while the Taliban was in power. However, Afghan Prime Minister Karzai wants to negotiate with Khan about concerns over Iranian influence [Afghan Radio]. Khan has long been in conflict with other powerful United Front anti-Taliban fighters such as Gul Agha Shirzai, the warlord of Kandahar, and Abdul Rashid Dostum, a northern warlord. There may be reason to believe, then, that Khan wants to solidify his position within the new government by cutting his ties with Iran, which have traditionally been a source of friction between him and the rest of the mujahedeen.
The real issue here is that Rumsfeld thinks we are stupid enough to swallow this ludicrous report. Or if the report does turn out to be true, he doesn’t think he needs to give any kind of explanation for such a bizarre turn of events. He just assumes people will think
Oh, Iran, yeah, they’re terrorists, so naturally they’ll help out anyone else who commits terrorism against the US. And the US newsmedia are doing their best to help ensure that happens, since they refuse to report on Iran’s statements or to provide any background on the conflicts between Iran and the Taliban.
Ever since Iran revolted against the US-installed Shah in 1979 and established an anti-US government, many on the Right have been chomping at the bit to conquer Iran and install a new pro-US government. Here is their perfect opportunity. If they can make this story stick, the Bush administration has a sure-fire reason to insist that Iran is a state which harbors terrorists the United States is trying to apprehend — the same reason they used to wage war on the Taliban. And the Right-wing hawks have a sure-fire way of expanding the
war on terror into Iran.
Don’t let Rumsfeld take you for a fool. Contact the Department of Defense and demand further explanation of the basis for their allegations against Iran. Contact national media outlets, particularly CNN, and demand that they do responsible research into the background of claims made by the Department of Defense and Afghan warlords, particularly when another war is on the line and everyone is asking where we will start bombing next.
For further reading:
- Dump the Rumsfeld Junta keeps a watch on Donald Rumsfeld
- Although I will oppose any US attempts to exert military control in Iran, I am no fan of the repressive regime in power. For more on its crimes, see GT 8/30/2001: Repression of Dissent in Iran and GT 5/17/2001: Guardian Council of Iran suppresses women’s Presidential bids.
- For more on mainstream media and its problems, see Journalism, Diversity and the Promise of the Internet (an open letter to Yahoo! News), GT 1/30/2002: Corporate Elites Meet & Greet, New York Times Makes Shit Up, GT 11/13/2001: Media Punditocracy Cuts Women out of the Discussion over Afghanistan, GT 5/29/2001: Fighting for a Grassroots Media on the Internet, and GT 3/09/2001: Scandalous Bush Sr. Pardons Unmentioned in Coverage of Clinton.