Before the Election:
A Pattern of Provocations

The news that the administration has agreed to one-on-one talks with Iran will no doubt be brought up at the upcoming foreign policy debate, with Mitt Romney averring this is yet more evidence of the Obama administration’s “weakness.” Talking, you see, is weakness: killing is proof of strength. That’s the Republican approach to foreign affairs.

On the other hand, both the White House and the Iranians are denying direct talks are in the offing: and while cowardice is a signature characteristic of this administration, especially when it comes to dealing with the phony Iranian nuclear “crisis,” the Iranians have good reason to keep this under deep cover. They are all too aware of the Israel lobby’s ability to squelch efforts to reach a peaceful settlement. According to the Times, Tehran has agreed to talks only after the election, on the grounds that they don’t know whom they’ll be dealing with in the White House come January.

The Iranians reportedly want to link the nuclear question to other outstanding issues afflicting Washington’s rocky relations with Tehran — Bahrain, Syria, and probably the ongoing terrorist campaign being waged against them by both Israel and the United States. The US, for its part, has always refused such linkage: US policy toward Bahrain, for just one example, is not an issue they want to bring to the fore.

In any case, the denials coming out of Washington and Tehran should be discounted, because both have good reason to keep this under wraps. The question is: will those talks ever take place? Because if they don’t, there is reason to believe the next step is war.

We have already entered phase one of a war with Iran: the draconian sanctions we’ve imposed — which are an act of war — are having a real effect, as the President is sure to underscore during Monday’s debate. If this goes on much longer, a naval blockade of Iran can’t be too far down the road — but you can be sure it will be after the election.

It isn’t just the Iranians who want these talks to commence after election day: for if Obama is going to take the path to war, then he can’t signal his intentions before all those peaceniks in the Democratic party — and there are more than a few — get to pull the lever for him.

As to what the administration is thinking, Helene Cooper, one of the Times reporters working on this story, said on Meet the Press Sunday morning: “The belief is that you cannot make any sort of case for going to war if you haven’t exhausted all diplomatic options.” There’s nothing like eagerly anticipating failure: it’s bound to end in the desired result. You’ll notice Bibi Netanyahu has shut up about his “red line” for the moment, and it looks like the administration has lulled them with some sort of promise — was it a promise to start the bombing once The One wins reelection?

I can hardly wait to find out.

What’s interesting is why this came out now, two days before the foreign policy debate and a couple of weeks before the election. Best bet: it was a hostile leak, designed to torpedo the talks before both parties fully agree to them. The Israelis have their eyes and ears all over Washington, and are hardly averse to scooping up highly-sensitive classified information — just ask Larry Franklin: they (or, more accurately, their American amen corner) could well be the source of the Times report (or this one).

In the meantime, the bomb blast in Beirut that claimed the life of a prominent intelligence official has the usual suspects blaming the Assad regime — although why the Syrian despot, who’s having trouble hanging on to his own country, would choose this particular moment to intervene in Lebanon again is a question no one is asking. Whenever a bomb explodes in Lebanon, it’s always the Syrians who are behind it — that’s a rule of thumb assiduously adhered to by Western officials and commentators. As for evidence — don’t be so old-fashioned! Since when does the West need real evidence to justify its actions in the region (or anywhere else for that matter)?

If the Syrians aren’t the culprits, then there are a few other suspects. While the Western media headlines the assassination of an “anti-Syrian” general, this is somewhat simplistic. As the Beirut Daily Star put it:

The late Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan had a number of enemies, and they are the enemies of Lebanon.

Hasan’s job was to uncover those who have been engaged in plotting against the country, and he was a person who didn’t stop at the conventional red lines, whether it was Mossad or the Syrian regime. Because of the post he held, as the head of the Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces, he played a central role in cooperating with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. He also gained fame for overseeing the discovery and dismantling of Israeli espionage rings in the country, and most recently, Hasan acted as the lead player in foiling a plan to destabilize Lebanon once again, through violence.”

This most recent plot supposedly implicates Syrian officials, although — as far as I can tell — Hasan himself never said any such thing. However, as noted above, the general had other foes besides Assad’s regime — most notably the Israelis, whose 25 espionage rings were exposed by Lebanese intelligence partly through Gen. Hasan’s efforts. Although “cui bono?” isn’t the only question to be asked in determining who was behind the Beirut blast, certainly the Israelis benefit from the resulting pressure on the pro-Hezbollah government to step down.

You don’t have to be what is disdained as a “conspiracy theorist” to note the pattern of provocations lighting up the skies over the Middle East and North Africa recently: the Innocence video, the Benghazi assault, the Beirut bombing, and now the mobs storming the Lebanese parliament, with the tumult spreading to Jordan. Viewed in the context of the presidential election — an election in which the Israeli government seems to have a favorite candidate — current events recall what Alice said, as she found herself in Wonderland and suddenly growing much taller:

Dear, dear! How queer everything is today! And yesterday things went on just as usual.”

Someone is working awfully hard to destabilize the Middle East right before a crucial American presidential election. I wonder who that might be.

Curiouser and curiouser!


I was supposed to be a speaker at Saturday’s West Coast memorial for the late Alexander Cockburn, but it looks like I’m still not fully recovered from my “walking pneumonia” diagnosis, and so I couldn’t make it. But I did email the organizers my prepared remarks, which were read at the meeting and which follow:

In practically all the obituaries in the mainstream media that I’ve read, Alex is described as a “left-wing” writer, although some, to be sure, substitute the more accurate term “radical.” And it’s true his history, and certainly his family history, gives this terminology a facile sort of credibility. It is, however, a half-truth, because it only tells us where he started out — it says nothing about where he ended up.

And where was that, exactly?

It’s hard to say because I don’t think we have the words, yet. The terminological tyranny imposed by our political culture — with its right/left red/blue Fox News/MSNBC mindset — doesn’t allow for much deviationism. So what are we to make of a supposedly “left-wing” writer who hailed the right-wing militias of the 1990s and denounced the theory of “global warming” as a fraud? How can we characterize as “left-wing” someone who agreed with the revisionists of the Old Right, who — accurately, in my view — charged Franklin Delano Roosevelt with having advance knowledge of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor?

This view of Roosevelt’s mendacity, by the way, limned that of John T. Flynn, a conservative journalist of the 1930s and forties, who — like Alex — started out on the “left” and was marginalized by the Popular Front left for criticizing their hero in the White House. Like Alex, Flynn — who started out as a writer for the New Republic — was smeared and marginalized by the guardians of political correctness for his many heresies: opposing war being his main sin.

Flynn wound up a conservative, and although I doubt Alex would have walked all the way down that particular path, he was not unsympathetic to us libertarians. What saved Alex from the fate shared by so many lefties and former lefties was that he was an old-fashioned Marxist, whose view of the State as the executive committee of the ruling class forbade him from giving its henchmen and apologists one iota of credence or support. He looked toward Washington DC and all its works with the utmost suspicion, and that saved him from joining the Obama cult and hailing the Democratic party as our one and only savior.

My own relationship with Alex was literary, rather than personal: he wrote for, and we saw each other at various events. He was the luncheon speaker at our first — and only — national convention. I can’t say he was a personal friend: what I can say is that he is one of the few people whom I would have liked to have befriended. Unfortunately, I won’t have that opportunity now. The world is a worse place for his absence.

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Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].