Unsubstantiated ‘false flag’ story exaggerates Israeli power

Mark Perry’s report on a false flag operation is not only unverifiable, it displays naivety about American foreign policy and bolsters the ludicrous thesis that Israel is the mastermind behind American Middle East belligerence.

By Rafael D. Frankel

The “false flag” operation conducted by the Mossad, as described by Mark Perry in an article published just after another assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist, is an affront to the United States if it is true. The Mossad certainly has no business posing as the CIA in order to recruit a Pakistan-based terrorist group to make hits on Iranian targets. But without one single on-the-record source for this reporting, Perry should not have written the article and Foreign Policy should not have published it.

Reputable media outlets insist on named sources because of accountability. Anonymous sources are accountable to no one. There is no consequence to unnamed sources getting facts wrong, telling half-truths, or outright lying. Anonymous sources can use the media for their own purposes as well. Perhaps one of the people quoted in Perry’s story has a personal axe to grind with the Mossad. Perhaps he or she is an opponent of going to war with Iran and feels that placing such a story in a prominent magazine will diminish those chances. There is no way to know his or her motivation for talking to the author of this article and therefore no way to confirm the veracity of the claims.

Especially regarding something as important as this false flag operation, the burden is on the reporter and the media outlet to substantiate the claim either with a paper trail or with on-the-record quotes. There is no point in having reputable media outlets if anyone who has written a book on a related topic can present “news” as fact even if the facts are non-corroborated. This is exactly the problem with so many blogs today that have become sources of news. Since they don’t operate with the same standards as traditional journalism, rumor and innuendo get treated as facts, are repeated ad infinitum, and eventually become part of the public narrative even if they are false. (To be clear, I am not implying that Foreign Policy generally engages in such behavior.)

In a recent interview with +972, Perry said he’d been working on this story for 18 months. If he was not able to come up with one person during all that time who would talk to him on the record (even someone who is now retired), or provide him with copies of the actual memos he references in the article, then there must be a reasonable doubt as to whether the story he is telling is mostly true.

Perry’s interview also smacked of naivety in his regard for American morals and standards of conduct in executing its foreign policy. He hopes that the United States is not responsible for the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists “because if we [the US] are, then we are a state sponsor of terrorism, and the ‘war on terrorism’ is a lie.” After Guantanamo Bay, extraordinary rendition, and hundreds of “targeted killings” of al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters, during which hundreds of Pakistani and Afghani civilians have been killed, the United States (my country too) is already a state sponsor of terrorism according to Perry’s definition. Killing Iranian nuclear scientists would only be the expansion of an assassination policy the Obama Administration has implemented with cruel effectiveness.

Perry’s false flag story brings to the fore another disturbing trend beginning to emerge. In much the same manner as Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer blamed the Israel Lobby  for the Iraq War despite all evidence to the contrary, a segment of the anti-war establishment is once again propagating a false construct that paints Israel as the party mostly responsible for a coming war with Iran. In this narrative, Israel is either an all-powerful state that has the global dominance to dictate the foreign and security policy of the United States (and a host of other world powers as well), or it is acting on its own to provoke a war while a hapless and uninformed Obama Administration desperately tries to stop the crazy Jews from dragging the United States into a war it doesn’t want.

Both ideas are ludicrous. While the former paradigm presents a drastically exaggerated view of Israeli power, the latter robs the United States and others of any agency and responsibility for their own actions.

Hillary Clinton insisted that Washington did not have a hand in the latest assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists. A high-ranking Israeli official insisted that the false flag story was “absolute nonsense.” Why should the American denial be any more believable than the Israeli denial? Even a cursory reading of US history reveals that American leaders routinely lie about their actions around the world, e.g. the Iraq War, Vietnam War, Iran-Contra Affair, etc., etc. There is no reason to expect that American leaders would have any compunction about concealing the truth this time around if it suited American interests. Nor is there any reason to discount that any number of other actors, including the Iranian regime itself, could be responsible for the latest killing.

Officials from Israel and the United States routinely state that they coordinate on multiple levels and to a degree that is unsurpassed by any other of their respective alliances. If the United States wanted to stop Israel from attacking Iran, there are a variety of means Washington has at its disposal to do so.

There is clearly a covert war being waged against Iran. Israel and the US are probably just two of many states who are targeting the Islamic Republic. If the US becomes involved in a war with Iran, it will not be because Israel forced it to, but rather because many actors across the world—not the least of which are the Obama Administration and the Iranian regime—made decisions that lead to that point. It should be possible to be against war with Iran while acknowledging that basic truth.

Rafael D. Frankel (@rafaeldfrankel) is a former Middle East and Southeast Asia Correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe, and The Chicago Tribune, among other news organizations. He is now a Ph.D. candidate at Georgetown University.