Playing Chicken With Iran


This is precisely how wars get started, an act of aggression by one side followed by an act of retaliation by the other, tit for tat until someone gets nuked. Patrick Cockburn reports that Iran’s capture of 15 British marines and sailors was a direct response to a botched U.S. operation in January, when the military snatched 5 Iranians in Arbil — identified as members of a Revolutionary Guard, or Pasdaran, unit — who were suspected of arming insurgents. (These men are still being held.) Cockburn reports that U.S. forces were actually after two senior Iranian security officials, Mohammed Jafari, the deputy head of the Iranian National Security Council, and General Minojahar Frouzanda, the Pasdaran’s intel chief. At the time, both officials were in Iraq on official business, meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Cockburn writes:

The attempt by the US to seize the two high-ranking Iranian security officers openly meeting with Iraqi leaders is somewhat as if Iran had tried to kidnap the heads of the CIA and MI6 while they were on an official visit to a country neighbouring Iran, such as Pakistan or Afghanistan. There is no doubt that Iran believes that Mr Jafari and Mr Frouzanda were targeted by the Americans.

…The abortive Arbil raid provoked a dangerous escalation in the confrontation between the U.S. and Iran which ultimately led to the capture of the 15 British sailors and Marines – apparently considered a more vulnerable coalition target than their American comrades.

Cockburn also reports that the official rationale for grabbing the Iranians in January, hours after President Bush went public with the accusation that Iran is equipping insurgents, doesn’t quite add up.

US officials in Washington subsequently claimed that the five Iranian officials they did seize, who have not been seen since, were “suspected of being closely tied to activities targeting Iraq and coalition forces”. This explanation never made much sense. No member of the US-led coalition has been killed in Arbil and there were no Sunni-Arab insurgents or Shia militiamen there.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.