Gareth Porter: Netanyahu accuses Iran, and Iran accuses Israel, of being behind terrorist attack.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.
This begins a weekly series we're calling The Porter Report. Gareth Porter, investigative journalist and historian and regular contributor to The Real News Network, is going to join us most weeks and give us his take on what the big story is. And to kick things off, he joins us now. Thanks for joining us, Gareth.
GARETH PORTER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Thanks very much, Paul.
JAY: So what have you been looking at this week?
PORTER: Well, this week the story for me was all about the bombing of a tourist bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, by parties unknown and the immediate political response from Israel and the United States, which was, of course, to blame the Iranians and Hezbollah, the United States doing so through an unnamed senior official talking to The New York Times, an official who I happen to think was almost certainly General David Petraeus, now the head of the CIA, who is pretty well known for an animus toward Iran that goes beyond the usual, even, Washington animus toward Iran.But I think the story here—there was a couple of storylines that I've been following. One, of course, is that the Israelis realize that they're reaping a lot of benefit from what they have been working on for months now, which is a narrative that Iran is spreading terror throughout the world. They call it terrorism on five continents; that is, the Israelis say that the Iranians are carrying out, have carried out terrorist activities in 20 or 24 countries, depending on who's talking, on five continents. And they talk about, of course, the bombs that went off in New Delhi and in Bangkok, Thailand. They talk about the arrests of Hezbollah, alleged Hezbollah operatives in Bangkok and in Cyprus and elsewhere in the world over the last few months. And all this adds up to a propaganda bonanza for the Israelis. And they figured that the Burgas bombing could be parlayed into a major political triumph, which they've been trying to accomplish for some time, which is to get the European Union to add the Hezbollah organization to its list of terrorist organizations [crosstalk]
JAY: Okay. Now, before we go there, let me just ask you a question. Has Israel suggested what Iran would stand to gain from all this terrorism?
PORTER: Well, I don't think that there's any analysis that goes that far from the Israelis, or from the Americans, for that matter. It's simply assumed in the propaganda output of the Israelis, as well as of the Americans, that the Iranians are, of course, trying to get revenge for the killing of Iranian scientists. That's the primary propaganda line. Now, of course, the Iranians have said that they would retaliate, but they certainly didn't say that they would retaliate against Israeli civilian tourists, and specifically Hezbollah has not only denied but derided the idea that they would actually fight against Israeli tourists as a way of taking revenge against Israel.
JAY: Right. And it should be pointed out, just for people that haven't followed the story, this bombing in Bulgaria took place on July 18. Five people were killed—four Israeli tourists, one Bulgarian bus driver—and about 20 people were injured. So what—I mean, has Israel offered any evidence that Iran or Hezbollah is responsible for this?
PORTER: So far no evidence from Prime Minister Netanyahu, who of course went on American Sunday television shows Fox News Sunday and CBS Face the Nation and made very strong arguments to the effect that he had absolute ironclad intelligence to the effect that it was in fact Hezbollah behind the Burgas bombing. And, in fact, I think we can say from the circumstantial evidence that the Israelis did not hand over any smoking gun evidence to the U.S. government, because the spokesman for the White House over the weekend was saying, no, we're not in a position yet to identify who was responsible for the bombing in Bulgaria.
JAY: And so, so far—so it's just we're supposed to take Netanyahu's assertion.
PORTER: Well, it's Netanyahu's assertion against the background, I must say, of a very successful propaganda campaign based on this whole series of alleged incidents which have taken place or were alleged to have taken place in various countries [crosstalk]
JAY: Now, what evidence is there of that, that Iran has anything to do with any of these bombings?
PORTER: Well, I mean, the problem is this, that—I'll give you a couple of examples. In the cases of Cyprus, which has been most prominently cited recently because it happened a week before the bombing in Bulgaria, a Hezbollah—person who is alleged to have been a Hezbollah operative was arrested in Cyprus on charges of violating terrorist laws—at least, that's what was originally stated. And the Israelis managed to put out stories through their own press and influencing the local press in Cyprus to put out various lurid stories saying that this so-called Hezbollah operative was planning a kind of major terrorist attack along the lines of Mumbai and so forth.In fact what we now find out is that the Cypriot government has not concluded that at all. In fact a senior official of the government of Cyprus was quoted as saying that it's not clear whether there was a target in Cyprus at all in this case. So, basically I think the case in Cyprus is suggestive of a whole series of cases in which there are lurid stories about plans that a person who's been detained or arrested was going to carry out a major terrorist attack, but in fact if you drill down to what is actually known, no such information has really come to light whatsoever. And so, I mean, I think what we're looking at here is a lot of manipulation politically by the Israelis, essentially telling the host governments in Cyprus, in Bangkok, in Kenya, in Nairobi, Kenya, and elsewhere that they have information that somebody, either an Iranian or a Lebanese, is planning a major terrorist attack and they'd better arrest this person right away. And I think that's really the truth of the matter.
JAY: So this is all part of the same chorus of rhetoric—in your opinion, at least—for strengthening sanctions, preparing conditions for some kind of attack.
PORTER: I think it's part of the Israeli political strategy for both strengthening sanctions, pushing the U.S. political system further to the right, positioning themselves to be able to manipulate the Obama administration more effectively during the presidential campaign, with the hope, perhaps, of luring the United States into a direct conflict with Iran. I think that is in the back of the minds of Netanyahu and his advisers.
JAY: And isolating Iran, in terms of support for stronger sanctions and things like this.
PORTER: Yes. And of course the effort to get Hezbollah listed as a terrorist organization is just one of the many things that they hope to reap a benefit from in terms of this propaganda campaign.
JAY: Now, Iran answered these charges by saying that they thought Israel could be behind these bombings, and they suggest the motive being to pin it on Iran as Israel conducts it. There's no evidence of that either, is there?
PORTER: At this point, no evidence whatsoever. And, in fact, I have to say that I find the idea that Mossad, even though we know that it carries out false flag operations and false flag attacks, that Mossad would consciously carry out an operation that would kill Israeli tourists is something that I have a hard time believing, just as I have a hard time believing that there could be an inside job on 9/11, because too many people would have to know about it and somebody would blab about it, and it's just impossible to keep that secret.
JAY: Yeah, and that would be rather explosive in Israel if that did ever come out, although we do know that at the time of the formation of the state of Israel there were some attacks, somewhat, there were such events.
PORTER: Well, no question about it. And I've made the argument that the bombing of the car in which an Israeli—the wife of an Israeli diplomat was in the car at the time in New Delhi in February, you know, looked very much like it could have been a false flag attack because it was done so carefully, in a way that would not harm seriously any occupant of the car. The bomb was a very small, extremely small bomb which by itself was not going to cause any harm to a passenger. The placement of the bomb, the contents of the bomb, the timer on the bomb, all were done in such a way as to essentially make it possible to have a bombing without anybody being hurt. And so, it was to me—it was quite plausible that the Israelis could have planted a bomb in a way that would implicate Iran, make it look like an Iranian operation, and, of course, make it much easier to put pressure on India to cut off all oil imports from Iran, which is exactly what has happened.
JAY: But we don't have—.
PORTER: Not all oil imports, but at least some oil imports.
JAY: Right. So one can analyze intent and possible motive, but at the moment, on any of these scores, there's no evidence we know about. Is that right?
PORTER: I think there is no case here that is clear-cut where there's objective evidence that the Iranians have in fact carried out a terrorist attack during this period in which the Israelis have made these claims about 20 or 24 terrorist attacks on five continents.
JAY: Right. Alright. Thanks very much, Gareth. And Gareth's going to be coming back weekly with the Porter report.