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Esper Admits No Intelligence for Soleimani ‘Threat’, MSM Still Loyal to Iran Narrative


Patrick Henningsen
21st Century Wire

The dominos continue to fall. Despite repeated protestations and assurances from Trump’s national security clique, the public has yet to see any sign of the much-celebrated ‘intelligence’ which the White House claims it has, and which was supposedly the basis for the double assassination of Iranian Quds Force leader, General Qasem Soleimani, and senior Iraqi PMU commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, on January 3rd.

Yesterday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper joined the growing chorus of Trump officials muttering, I don’t know. Although due to his step down at the end of this month to cash-in with a lucrative board position in the defense industry, Esper now admits that he hasn’t seen any tangible evidence which indicated that Iran was plotting and planning to strike four US embassies in the Middle East, despite Trump’s repeated claims the attacks were “imminent.”

“The president didn’t cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said was he believed,” said Esper to CBS News flagship program, Face the Nation on Sunday. “I didn’t see one, with regard to four embassies.”

When pressed again, Esper conceded that the President didn’t actually cite any intelligence, but that “there probably could have been” some type of threat, although nothing he could cite specifically. That’s shorthand for, there wasn’t any.

From there, things continued to get worse for the Defense Secretary.

“There was intelligence that there was an intent to target the U.S. embassy in Baghdad,” he said. Here, Esper is employing a cheap sleight of hand by claiming there was intelligence which had to do with the US Embassy in Baghdad, but which is probably the same chatter from December 30th in the run-up to the US Embassy protests, likely recycled again to justify the subsequent illegal drone assassinations. Either way, the ‘threat’ was concocted by Trump’s overly enthusiastic advisors.

From there, Esper retreats to the hollowed ground of true believer.

Indeed, there is a certain degree of faith required with most things in this Administration. In this instance, he believes because the President believes, and so therefore it must be true. The empirical fiat is simply breathtaking:

“What the president said with regard to the four embassies is what I believe as well. He said that he believed that they probably, they could have been targeting the embassies in the region,” said Esper.

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The New York Times tried to sum-up the folly as follows:

They had to kill him because he was planning an “imminent” attack. But how imminent they could not say. Where they could not say. When they could not say. And really, it was more about what he had already done. Or actually it was to stop him from hitting an American embassy. Or four embassies. Or not.

Similar fabricated claims of an imminent attack were also made after the fact by recreant US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. During a recent White House press conference, reporters asked Pompeo for specifics on the mystery ‘intelligence’ that the White House claims it has. Pompeo flanked by Trump’s vexatious Minster of Sanctions, Steve Mnuchin, proceeded to stumble though the questions, and looking more and more like a throwback to the Bush Administration. Remember those halcyon days when pathological liars were all the rage?

“There is no doubt that there were a series of imminent attacks that were being plotted by Qassem Soleimani,” said Pompeo to Fox News. “We don’t know precisely when, and we don’t know precisely where, but it was real.”

When pressed by the interviewer who asked, “Secretary Pompeo,” he was asked, “what is your definition of imminent?” Pompeo could be seen on his back heals, before unconfidently snapping back, “This was gonna happen. American lives were at risk.”

In other words, ‘We don’t need to show you anything. You just have to trust us.’

Such open deception by the supposed highest ranking diplomat in the country, should be cause for serious concern. It hasn’t helped that the media have been extremely weak in their pursuit of the truth.

SEE ALSO: Soleimani Was Pompeo’s Gulf of Tonkin Incident

Language is crucial in order to advance their deception. A single word can make or break the facade of a ‘legal justification’ used by Washington’s hawks to wage war. In this case, the key word is “imminent.” As David Welna from NPR aptly points out:

The word “imminent” appears several times in the 1973 War Powers Resolution, a document that lays out the ground rules for presidents seeking to send U.S. forces “into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances.”

How this narrative was spun by the White House and the State Dept is a good example of how Washington’s vaunted “IC” (a reverent abbreviation for the ‘Intelligence Community’) is able to constantly fall back on a familiar scam, one of the more handy tools in its bag of tricks which is used to explain away to an obedient press and a hapless public. This is achieved by nonchalantly conceding that while there was no single piece of intelligence about an attack, there is a compelling array of flotsam and jetsam which collectively constitutes the “mosaic effect” of intelligence that represents a supposed real possibility that such an attack may be on the horizon. The more vague and arbitrary, the better. Such is the nature of ‘intelligence’ in 2020.

I know, you are probably like me thinking, “what complete and utter bullshit,” but know that one man’s bullshit is another man’s mosaic masterpiece. Sadly, this is what often passes for bona fide ‘intel’ in Washington these days.

Careful not to alienate or admonish the IC, the New York Times authors Peter Baker and carefully construct a soft landing for Pompeo and chums here, skillfully explaining away what is an obvious fraud in a way only ‘national security’ journalists can do:

“Intelligence officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive data collection, have said there was no single definitive piece of information about a coming attack. Instead, C.I.A. officers described a “mosaic effect,” multiple scraps of information that came together indicating that General Suleimani was organizing proxy forces around the region, including in Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq, to attack American embassies and bases. Several officials said they did not have enough concrete information to describe such a threat as “imminent,” despite the administration’s assertion, but they did see a worrying pattern. A State Department official has privately said it was a mistake for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to use the word “imminent” because it suggested a level of specificity that was not borne out by the intelligence.”

So we can safely conclude that there was no intelligence, and no “imminent threat,” and therefore, the assassinations of Soleimani and al-Muhandis were carried out under a false pretext. In any normal country, this would be a scandal, but the United States is anything but a normal country, and certainly not the kind of normal country which Pompeo imagines Iran will blossom into one day. Combine this with what we now know – that Israeli intelligence provided Trump with the key location data which was used to carry out the state-sanctioned murder of Soleimani and al-Muhandis, and a disturbing picture quickly emerges – one where Washington is carrying out international actions on ever specious grounds.

SEE ALSO: CONFIRMED: Israeli Supplied Key Intelligence for US Assassination of Soleimani

The coverage of this story also makes for a good case study of how ‘national security’ journalism becomes co-opted. Even a seemingly conscientious mainstream reporter will still fall-back on the safe side, possibly thinking that, ‘Well, we think it might be bullshit, but still have to respect the ‘intelligence’ anyway, no matter how spurious it appears to be. As mainstream journalists, we must always adhere to the core narrative, for fear of losing access to our valuable sources inside the IC. At the end of the day, it’s our impressive black book of IC sources that keeps us employed as mainline journalists.’

In other words, this is the perfect example of a self-licking ice cream cone.

Once the story is laundered through the various mainstream oracles, then the American public are left with the idea that White House and the State Department might be guilty of “fudging” the intelligence, but because its classified matter, then there’s no way of really knowing if there was no intelligence. Unfortunately, for gallant Resistance leaders heading the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, such war crimes do not rise to the level of high crimes by the Executive Branch, and therefore, not worthy of impeachment. Alas, for Democrats, only contrived, non-existent offenses are impeachable.

So here we are, back again to square one, with yet another tenuous drive to war, backed by dodgy dossiers, riddled with sexed-up or nonexistent intelligence.

In this current hyper-partisan environment, the issue of war can also morph into a political wedge issue, especially if it’s being framed as a “clash of civilizations” conflict between the West and a Muslim country. Already, social media is awash with Trump loyalists deriding Democrat dissenters as ”aiding the Ayatollah” of Iran. In this divisive environment, partisan journalists who are normally sympathetic to the antiwar cause but who identify as part of political right, will be afraid to defend Iran and also careful not to push too hard against the White House for fear of being labelled as unpatriotic. At this point, partisan antibodies start to kick in, causing journalists to invoke a pseudo ‘objectivity’ whereby they will equate the behavior of an imperial superpower like the US, with a much smaller and less powerful nation like Iran. “Unlike the traitorous Democrats, we’re not afraid to call out the crimes of the Mullahs!”, is the battle cry heard across America’s  conservative talk radio spectrum. In the end, this all serves to preserve American grand strategy for the Middle East and Central Asia. Similarly, their journalistic counterparts on the left may pursue Trump to up to a point, but not beyond where it undermines Beltway’s prevailing Middle East policy directives – currently driven primarily by Israeli and Saudi money and influence. Until journalists and media outlets break free of proscribed partisan boundaries and institutional loyalties, there remains very little hope for a change in Washington’s worldview.

Of course, the media will still allow themselves to take a few pot-shots at the Orange Man in the White House, but not at the expense of the Israeli Lobby, the defense industry, and certainly in no way that might undermine the national security state’s long-term objectives. For the mainstream media’s career stenographers and the establishment’s loyal opposition, this means preserving the over-arching foreign policy narrative. In the case of RussiaGate and UkraineGate, this is to continually demonize and isolate Russia. In this current standoff with Iran, the priority is also to demonize and isolate the government in Tehran, but also to present Iran as a ‘backward’ culture that is in need of modernization and western-style ‘democratic reforms.’ If the effort to censure the President on this matter interferes with any of those long-term policy goals, then the press and political opposition will back off of Trump – no matter how egregious the war crime or cover-up might be. This was, for the most part, the media’s unwritten policy under Clinton, Bush, and Obama.

If anything, this has been a great lesson into how Washington really works.

To any objective observer, it should now be crystal clear: Donald Trump has not drained the swamp. He has merely re-organized it, for the Neocons.

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Author Patrick Henningsen is an American writer and global affairs analyst and founder of independent news and analysis site 21st Century Wire, and is host of the SUNDAY WIRE weekly radio show broadcast globally over the Alternate Current Radio Network (ACR). He has written for a number of international publications and has done extensive on-the-ground reporting in the Middle East including work in Syria and Iraq. See his archive here.

READ MORE IRAN NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Iran Files

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