Will MI6 “fix” intelligence on Iran?

By:    Ray McGov­ern, former CIA ana­lyst and Annie Machon, former MI5 intel­li­gence officer

Recent remarks by the head of MI6, Sir John Saw­ers, leave us won­der­ing if the Secret Intel­li­gence Ser­vice is pre­par­ing to “fix” intel­li­gence on Iran, as his imme­di­ate pre­de­cessor, Sir John Scar­lett, did on Iraq.

Scarlett’s pre-Iraq war role in cre­at­ing “dodgy dossiers” hyp­ing the threat of non-exist­ent “weapons of mass destruc­tion” is well known.  As for Saw­ers, the red warn­ing light for politi­ciz­a­tion blinked brightly on July 4, as he told Brit­ish seni­or civil ser­vants that Iran is “two years away” from becom­ing a “nuc­le­ar weapons state.”  How did Saw­ers come up with “two years?”

Since late 2007, the bench­mark for weigh­ing Iran’s nuc­le­ar pro­gram has been the unan­im­ous assess­ment by all 16 U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies that Iran hal­ted its nuc­le­ar weapons pro­gram in late 2003 and that, as of mid-2007, had not restar­ted it.  Those judg­ments have been reval­id­ated every year since — des­pite strong pres­sure to bow to more omin­ous — but evid­ence-light — assess­ments by Israel and its neo-con­ser­vat­ive sup­port­ers.

Intel­li­gence Can Make a Dif­fer­ence

The 2007 the US Nation­al Intel­li­gence Estim­ate helped to thwart plans to attack Iran in 2008, the last year of the Bush/Cheney admin­is­tra­tion.  This shines through in George Bush’s own mem­oir, Decision Points, in which he rues the NIE’s “eye-pop­ping declar­a­tion: ‘We judge with high con­fid­ence that in fall 2003, Tehran hal­ted its nuc­le­ar weapons pro­gram.’”

Bush con­tin­ues, “But after the NIE, how could I pos­sibly explain using the mil­it­ary to des­troy the nuc­le­ar facil­it­ies of a coun­try the intel­li­gence com­munity said had no act­ive nuc­le­ar weapons pro­gram?” (Decision Points, p. 419)

Hands tied on the mil­it­ary side, US cov­ert oper­a­tions flowered, with $400 mil­lion appro­pri­ated at that same time for a major escal­a­tion of the dark-side struggle against Iran, accord­ing to mil­it­ary, intel­li­gence, and con­gres­sion­al sources cited by Sey­mour Her­sh in 2008.  This clandes­tine but all-too-real war on Iran has included attacks with com­puter vir­uses, the murders of Ira­ni­an sci­ent­ists, and what the Israel­is call the “unnat­ur­al” demise of seni­or offi­cials like Revolu­tion­ary Guards Major Gen­er­al Has­san Moghad­dam fath­er of Iran’s mis­sile pro­gram.

Moghad­dam was killed in a large explo­sion last Novem­ber, with Time magazine cit­ing a “west­ern intel­li­gence source” as say­ing the Israel’s Mossad was behind the blast.  More threat­en­ing still to Iran are the severe eco­nom­ic sanc­tions, which are tan­tamount to an act of war.

Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Net­an­yahu and pro-Israel neo-con­ser­vat­ives in the U.S. and else­where have been push­ing hard for an attack on Iran, seiz­ing every pre­text they can find.  Net­an­yahu was sus­pi­ciously fast off the blocks, for example, in claim­ing that Iran was behind the tra­gic ter­ror­ist bomb­ing of Israeli tour­ists in Bul­garia on July 18, des­pite Bul­gari­an author­it­ies and even the White House warn­ing that it is too early to attrib­ute respons­ib­il­ity.

Netanyahu’s instant indict­ment of Iran strongly sug­gests he is look­ing for excuses to up the ante.  With the Per­sian Gulf look­ing like an acci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen, stocked as it is with war­ships from the U.S., the U.K. and else­where — and with no fail-safe way of com­mu­nic­at­ing with Ira­ni­an nav­al com­mand­ers — an escal­a­tion-gen­er­at­ing acci­dent or pro­voca­tion is now more likely than ever.

July 23: Mark­ing a Day of Infamy

Oddly, Sawers’s speech of July 4 came just as an import­ant date approached — the tenth anniversary of a sad day for Brit­ish intel­li­gence on Iraq.  On July 23, 2002 at a meet­ing at 10 Down­ing Street, then-MI6 head, John Dear­love, briefed Tony Blair and oth­er seni­or offi­cials on his talks with his Amer­ic­an coun­ter­part, CIA Dir­ect­or George Ten­et, in Wash­ing­ton three days before.

In the offi­cial minutes of that brief­ing (now known as the Down­ing Street Memo), which were leaked to the Lon­don Times and pub­lished on May 1, 2005, Dear­love explains that George Bush has decided to attack Iraq and the war was to be “jus­ti­fied by the con­junc­tion of ter­ror­ism and weapons of mass destruc­tion.”  While then-For­eign Sec­ret­ary Jack Straw points out that the case was “thin,” Dear­love explains mat­ter-of-factly, “The intel­li­gence and facts are being fixed around the policy.”

There is no sign in the minutes that any­one hic­cupped — much less demurred — at mak­ing a case for war and fur­ther­ing Blair’s determ­in­a­tion to join Bush in launch­ing the kind of “war of aggres­sion” out­lawed by the post-world war Nurem­berg Tribunal and the UN treaty.

Helped by the acqui­es­cence of their chief spies, the Blair gov­ern­ment main­lined into the body polit­ic un-assessed, raw intel­li­gence and forged doc­u­ments, with dis­astrous con­sequences for the world.

UK cit­izens were spoon-fed fake intel­li­gence in the Septem­ber Dossier (2002) and then, just six weeks before the attack on Iraq, the “Dodgy Dossier”, based largely on a 12-year old PhD thes­is culled from the Inter­net — all presen­ted by spy and politi­cian alike as omin­ous pre­mon­it­ory intel­li­gence.

So was made the case for war. All lies, res­ult­ing in hun­dreds of thou­sands dead and maimed and mil­lions of Iraqis dis­placed — yet no one held to account.

Sir Richard Dear­love, who might have pre­ven­ted this had he had the integ­rity to speak out, was allowed to retire with full hon­ours and became the Mas­ter of a Cam­bridge col­lege.  John Scar­lett, who as chair of the Joint Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee signed off the fraud­u­lent dossiers, was rewar­ded with the top spy job at MI6 and a knight­hood. George W. Bush gave George Ten­et the Pres­id­en­tial Medal of Free­dom — the highest civil­ian award.

What need have we for fur­ther proof? “So are they all, all hon­our­able men” — remin­is­cent of those stand­ing with Bru­tus in Shakespeare’s play, but with no Mark Anthony to expose them and stir the appro­pri­ate pop­u­lar reac­tion.

Therein lies the prob­lem: instead of being held account­able, these “hon­our­able men” were, well, hon­oured. Their soft land­ings offer a nox­ious object les­son for ambi­tious bur­eau­crats who are ready to play fast and loose with the truth and trim their sails to the pre­vail­ing winds.

Ill-got hon­ours offer neither deterrent nor dis­in­cent­ive to cur­rent and future intel­li­gence chiefs temp­ted to fol­low suit and cor­rupt intel­li­gence rather than chal­lenge their polit­ic­al lead­ers with hard, un-“fixed” facts. Integ­rity? In this milieu integ­rity brings know­ing smirks rather than hon­ours. And it can get you kicked out of the club.

Fix­ing Intel­li­gence on Iran

Are we in for anoth­er round of “fix­ing” — this time on Iran? We may know soon.  Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Net­an­yahu, cit­ing the ter­ror­ist attack in Bul­garia, has already provided what amounts to a vari­ation on Dearlove’s ten-year old theme regard­ing how war can be “jus­ti­fied by the con­junc­tion of ter­ror­ism and weapons of mass destruc­tion.”

Accord­ing to the Jer­u­s­alem Post on July 17, Net­an­yahu said that all coun­tries that under­stand that Iran is an export­er of world ter­ror must join Israel in “stat­ing that fact clearly,” in order to emphas­ize the import­ance of pre­vent­ing Iran from obtain­ing a nuc­le­ar weapon.

Appear­ing yes­ter­day on Fox News Sunday and CBS’s Face the Nation, Net­an­yahu returned to that theme. Put­ting the blame for the ter­ror­ist attack in Bul­garia squarely on Iran (and Hezbol­lah), Net­an­yahu warned of the increased dangers that would accrue if Iran acquired nuc­le­ar weapons. “What would be the con­sequences if the most dan­ger­ous régime in the world got the world’s most dan­ger­ous weapons?”.

Will MI6 chief Saw­ers mod­el his con­duct on that of his pre­de­cessors who “jus­ti­fied” war on Iraq? Will he “fix” intel­li­gence around U.K./U.S./Israeli policy on Iran? Par­lia­ment­ary over­seers should demand a brief­ing from Saw­ers forth­with, before erstwhile bull­dog Bri­tain is again dragged like a poodle into anoth­er unne­ces­sary war.

Annie Machon is a former intel­li­gence officer in the UK’s MI5 Secur­ity Ser­vice and Ray McGov­ern is a fomer U.S Army Intel­li­gence Officer and CIA ana­lyst.

Former head of MI6 says that fact and fiction get mixed up

Sir_john_Scarlett Former head of MI6, Sir John Scar­lett — he of the dodgy Septem­ber Dossier fame that led inex­or­ably to the UK’s inva­sion of Iraq in 2003 and the death, maim­ing, depleted-urani­um pois­on­ing and dis­place­ment of hun­dreds of thou­sands of people — has com­pla­cently stated dur­ing his recent talk at the Hay Lit­er­ary Fest­iv­al that:

One of the prob­lems of intel­li­gence work is that fact and fic­tion get very eas­ily mixed up.  A key les­son you have to learn very early on is you keep them sep­ar­ate.”

Well, no doubt many, many people might just wish he’d listened to his own advice way back in Septem­ber 2002.

Scar­lett is, of course, the seni­or UK spook who made the case for the Iraq war.  Here’s the link:  Down­load Iraq_WMD_Dossier

No doubt you will remem­ber the li(n)es: not only that Iraq’s non-exist­ent  “weapons of mass destruc­tion” could be launched with­in 45 minutes, but also that fake intel­li­gence doc­u­ments had per­suaded MI6 that Iraq was try­ing to buy urani­um from Niger , as Colin Pow­ell asser­ted dur­ing his per­suas­ive speech to the UN in 2003.

Scar­lett pub­licly took the rap and, by pro­tect­ing Tony Blair and Alastair Camp­bell, was rewar­ded with the top job at MI6 and the inev­it­able knight­hood.  No doubt a suit­able recog­ni­tion for his entirely hon­our­able beha­viour.

But it gets worse — now he has appar­ently landed a luc­rat­ive job as an advisor on the situ­ation in Iraq work­ing for Nor­we­gi­an oil mega-cor­por­a­tion, Statoil.

You couldn’t make it up…

… or per­haps you could if you’re a former top spy with an undeserved “K” and a luc­rat­ive oil con­tract who has dif­fi­culty sep­ar­at­ing fact from fic­tion.…..

 

Iran threat ramped up

The Sunday Times repor­ted last week­end that Sir John Scar­lett, the cur­rent head of MI6, is to fly to Israel at the end of the month to meet his counter-part, Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad. White­hall has tried to down­play the meet­ing as “routine”. How­ever, the focus of the meet­ing appears to be to dis­cuss Israel’s assess­ment of Iran’s nuc­le­ar cap­ab­il­ity.

In recent years the neo-cons in power in the US have made no secret of their desire to “fin­ish the job” in the Middle East and attack Iran. For the last two years there has been much sabre-rat­tling on both sides. The polem­ics from the US usu­ally coin­cided with Iran’s plans to trade increas­ing amounts of its oil in euros. The south west region of Iran has vast oil reserves, and if Iran switched trad­ing cur­ren­cies, this would have an extremely det­ri­ment­al effect on the power of the petro­dol­lar, and the Amer­ic­an eco­nomy as a whole.

Lest we for­get, Sad­dam Hus­sein had also begun to trade in euros what little oil he could pri­or to the Iraq war in 2003. Scar­lett, a career MI6 officer, played a lead­ing role in mak­ing the case for that war. At the time he was Chair of the Joint Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, and came to pub­lic atten­tion when he signed off the notori­ous Septem­ber Dossier. It has since become appar­ent that Iraq did not have WMD, nor was it try­ing to acquire urani­um from Niger, as MI6 had stated in the dossier. This claim was based on forged doc­u­ments.

So the tim­ing of the new Israeli intel­li­gence is inter­est­ing, to say the least. Last week, Iran announced that it was going to trade ALL its oil in euros and the yen, and Israel appears to be furi­ously lob­by­ing the US and UK about Iran’s increas­ing nuc­le­ar threat. Israeli intel­li­gence sources are claim­ing that they have inform­a­tion “on a par with” that which led to the bomb­ing of the Syr­i­an nuc­le­ar power sta­tion.

Based on this, they are ask­ing the US gov­ern­ment to reas­sess the level of threat posed by Iran. In Decem­ber 2007 the com­bined think­ing of the whole of America’s intel­li­gence infra­struc­ture was pub­lished in the US Nation­al Intel­li­gence Estim­ate. It clearly stated that Iran had stopped devel­op­ing its nuc­le­ar weapons pro­gramme in 2003 because of inter­na­tion­al pres­sure.

But the appar­ent tri­umph of inter­na­tion­al dip­lomacy does not suit the agenda of the hawks in the US admin­is­tra­tion. What could be bet­ter than to have the spy agen­cies of its closest allies con­veni­ently reveal new intel­li­gence say­ing that Iran now poses an increas­ing nuc­le­ar threat?