Will Downing St. Memo Recur on Iran?

Exclusive: A decade after the infamous “Downing Street Memo” and its “fixed” intelligence for invading Iraq, the pressure is on again to make the case whatever the facts for a new war with Iran. Will the UK’s MI6 and the CIA bend again or hold firm, ask ex-intelligence analysts Annie Machon and Ray McGovern.

By Annie Machon and Ray McGovern

Recent remarks by Sir John Sawers, who heads Britain’s MI6 (the Secret Intelligence Service that is Britain’s CIA counterpart), leave us wondering if Sawers 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 relatively well known. On July 4, the red warning light for politicization was again flashing brightly in London, as Sawers 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?”

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush shake hands after a joint White House press conference on Nov. 12, 2004. (White House photo by Paul Morse)

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-starved, assessments by Israel and its neo-conservative supporters.

The 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate helped 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, U.S. 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.

The 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 laid upon it, 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, 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 and U.S. intelligence on Iraq. On July 23, 2002 at a meeting at 10 Downing Street, then-MI6 head, John Dearlove, briefed Prime Minister 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.”

When 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 Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II and by the United Nations Charter.

Helped by the acquiescence of its 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 honors and became the Master of a Cambridge college. John Scarlett, who as chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee signed off on 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 honorable men”, reminiscent of those standing with Brutus in Shakespeare’s play, but with no Mark Antony to expose them and stir the appropriate popular reaction.

Therein lies the problem: instead of being held accountable, these “honorable men” were, well, honored. 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-begot honors 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 one knowing smirks rather than honors. 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 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 on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday as well as on Fox News Sunday, Netanyahu returned to that theme. Blaming the July 18 terrorist attack in Bulgaria on Hezbollah supported by Iran, he asked TV viewers to imagine what would happen if the world’s most dangerous regime got the world’s most dangerous weapons.

This has too familiar a ring. Has it been just ten years?

Will MI6 chief Sawers model his conduct today on that of his predecessors who, ten years ago, “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 (the U.S. counterpart is the FBI), and Ray McGovern is a former U.S. Army Intelligence officer and CIA analyst. [To see Annie Machon and Ray McGovern discuss this issue on TheRealNews, click here.]

8 comments for “Will Downing St. Memo Recur on Iran?

  1. Kenny Fowler
    July 29, 2012 at 15:46

    They have been attempting to fabricate a crisis for some time now. So far the con is not playing their way.

  2. incontinent reader
    July 25, 2012 at 00:26

    Maybe you should talk face to face with the Israeli, Miko Peled, son of Matti Peled (one of the great Israeli generals, who later became a great advocate for peace with the Palestinians), and read Miko’s book, “The General’s Son”.

    Also, it would be nice if you counseled your friends in the IDF and IAF to cease using depleted uranium bombs (a particularly heinous form of nuclear weapons, no?).

  3. July 24, 2012 at 19:25

    Is anyone surprised by the lies of British intelligence? Of course they’re going along with the ratcheting up up the excuse for a war with Iran!

    The same applies to Syria, which is a required prelude to the upcoming Iran war.

    Allow me to explain the purpose of the Syrian crisis…

    Back in 2006, Bush and Cheney were pushing for Israel to attack Iran. However,
    Israeli leaders balked because they believed that attacking Iran would result in
    Iranian, Syrian AND Hizballah missiles raining down on Israel, causing Israelis
    to hide in bomb shelters for most of every day, damaging the economy, and
    possibly causing the electorate to vote out the leaders in the next election.

    In short, Israel wanted a “cheap” Iran war where they only had to deal with a
    couple hundred missiles from Iran (if that, once the US air strikes had taken
    out most of Iran’s missiles or where Iran had used most of its missiles on US
    assets in the region.)

    So Israel decided with US blessing to attack Hizballah in Lebanon, hoping to
    force them far enough north that their (at that time limited-range) missiles
    would be ineffective in an Iran war. As we know, Israel failed miserably due to
    Hizballah’s superior preparation.

    At that point, Middle East expert Colonel Pat Lang pointed out that the only way
    Israel could take out Hizballah in southern Lebanon would be to attack Hizballah
    in the Bekaa Valley, which provides Hizballah with “defense in depth”.

    To do this, however, would require Israeli forces to enter Syrian territory and
    engage Syrian forces. Not that Israel couldn’t do this, but it would result in
    Israel forces facing Hizballah guerrilla war in their front while the remnants
    of Syria’s forces engaged in guerrilla war in Israel’s rear – not a good
    position to be in if you want to minimize casualties and get Israel electorate

    BUT…IF Syria were ALREADY under attack by the US/NATO/Turkey air strikes for
    “humanitarian reasons”, that would make such an attack feasible because large
    concentrations of Syrian forces would be suppressed by air strikes.

    And this is why Syria is where it is today. And this is what will happen:

    1) The US and NATO and Turkey will find a way to bypass the lack of UNSC
    Resolution authorization and will attack Syria before the end of this year.

    2) In the course of that war, Israel – using the excuse that Syrian weapons are
    being sent to Hizballah (already floated in the Israel press as an excuse that
    Israel “will have to” attack Syria and Lebanon) – will send one armored division
    into Syria to protect a second armored division which will proceed up the
    Lebanese/Syrian border and then turn into the Bekaa Valley, while a third
    armored division attacks Southern Lebanon as before, in a classic “pincer

    3) IF Israel succeeds in damaging Hizballah enough (which I am not sure is
    feasible but Israel has to try) and IF the US and NATO can damage enough of
    Syria’s missile inventory, then in the next year or so Israel and/or the US will
    attack Iran.

    The ENTIRE purpose of the Syrian crisis is to remove Syria and Hizballah as
    effective actors in an Iran war, and thus to enable the Iran war to proceed.

  4. rosemerry
    July 24, 2012 at 02:59

    “what would happen if the world’s most dangerous regime got the world’s most dangerous weapons?”
    Well, Bibi, it already has. The USA, the only nation to use nukes on real humans, has over 5000 of them. Your dear little “democratic Jewish State” has hundreds, and is as belligerent as they come. Iran threatens nobody, and the “terrorism” you drone on about is nothing compared with the CIA and Mossad. Trhy a bit of thinking, and even consider that Gentiles can be human.

  5. incontinent reader
    July 24, 2012 at 00:42

    So there it is, the Syndicate at the top of the food chain- we’ve been learning about it for some time. It’s not new. They did in JFK at the time when he and Khrushchev had reached an understanding to avoid nuclear war and build a new world based on peaceful coexistence and cooperation, and when he was also secretly negotiating to normalize relations with Cuba, and had declared that the U.S. should respect the sovereignty of the non-aligned nations in the Third World, generally, including the Congo (Lumumba executed in a CIA operation a few days before JFK took office), Ghana, and Indonesia, and was trying to stop the Israelis from developing nuclear weapons (Shimon Peres’ bailiwick). Re: the Iraq War and the manufactured “threat” of WMD, Ann Wright’s marvelous book, “Voices of Conscience- Government Insiders Speak Out Against the War In Iraq” sets forth some of the fierce debate in Britain and elsewhere, and Susan Lindauer’s book “Extreme Prejudice” recounts that as the CIA’s asset to Iraq and Libya, she had brought back an offer from Saddam Hussein’s representatives that would have given literally everything the U.S. seemed to want…. except for what Bush and the neocons and Israel really wanted, namely, the destruction of the regime and the devastation of the country and its people.

    Why not publish a directory of this “Gangster Who’s Who”- who they are, what they’ve done, and where they live? So, it’s a thousand pages or more. Who cares? The more criminals- persons and institutions- that are identified, the better. And then make it available for free to hundreds of millions over the internet- for anyone in any country to read. After all, none of the little folk in the national security state are free of surveillance, so why should these scumbags walk around free? And, maybe with universal jurisdiction, and with increasing public pressure, a few more could be arrested and even prosecuted, maybe even in another Nuremburg type tribunal? Malaysia has already given the world a head start on it.

    When Leon Panetta celebrated his birthday at the U.S. Institute of Peace (an oxymoron if there ever was one), he delivered a speech urging the U.S. to join in partnerships and coalitions (like the cabals in Libya and Syria) in other aggressive actions around the world, while citing Dean Acheson as his model (as intellectually dishonest a comparison as any he could have made). It was a speech celebrating gang rape, with any mention of the U.N. Charter or international law conspicuously absent.

    Happy Birthday, Leon. The world would be better off if you and Hillary and your acolytes at State and Defense retired, even if you were to end up collecting your money as cynical lobbyists. In the meantime, start flooding Congress and the President with letters opposing more wars- e.g. get out of Yemen, stop facilitating the rebels in Syria and stay out of Iran. If anyone needs a butt kicking it is Netanyahu, and if he is blackmailing anyone, call him on it and let the American people know.

  6. F. G. Sanford
    July 23, 2012 at 18:45

    Jeepers creepers, Ray, I just wish you guys at Consortium News could come up with a smoking gun. A red hot one, with blood spatters, fingerprints and all six spent brass cartridges still in the cylinder. Some human hair stuck to the blood and some textile fibers caught in the extractor would be good too. Because I think that’s what it will actually take to get America’s attention. I turned on the radio in my truck this afternoon hoping to get some news. This guy gets on there, I think his name is Jim Sumpter. He’s saying John McCain and George Bush are Socialists. He’s saying John McCain is defending this “Moozlum” assistant to Hillary Clinton, and she’s got ties to the “Moozlum” Brotherhood. And on top of that, he’s claiming that America is not a democracy. He says these people are just there because they’re supposed to represent us, and we get to vote for them, but that’s where the democratic part ends. But then he says all this stuff about Barack Obama and Frank Marshall Davis proves that our government is actually Communist, and even if we get him out of there, we’ll be stuck with a Republican who’s actually a Socialist, and all these “Moozlums” will still have a back door to our Socialist government. He says our government is being taken over by these foreign influences, and they’ve all got ties to “Moozlums”, and we’re gonna get Sharia Law. Of course it would do no good to call in and give this idiot a piece of my New Deal Democrat mind. They run the calls on a ten second delay and insult the crap out of anybody that disagrees. Or worse, they just cut you off entirely. After the Socialist diatribe, the guy spends fifteen minutes talking about the difference between a semiautomatic and a revolver, but he doesn’t know the difference between the barrel and the chamber. So, after listening to this fascist rant for about thirty minutes, I got home and read your article. And let me tell you, if you guys don’t find a smoking gun soon, we’re all screwed. These people are Bozo Loony. We’re talking rug-chewing, mouth-foaming, stark-raving, moon-barking rubber room nuts. But the fawning radio public seems to lap it right up. So please, start looking, and don’t forget to check under the front porch at AIPAC. It’s gonna take iron-clad incriminating evidence to get America’s attention. In fact, I take that back. Let’s face it. Nobody’s gonna listen unless you find a body. A dead body just might do the trick. Maybe. Especially if it’s still warm. Maybe. Maybe not. Two bodies would be better. But please, don’t tell anybody I suggested this. Just sayin’.

  7. Hillary
    July 23, 2012 at 14:23

    “Will MI6 chief Sawers model his conduct today on that of his predecessors who, ten years ago, “justified” war on Iraq? Will he “fix” intelligence around U.K./U.S./Israeli policy on Iran? ”

    Of course he will see how “the wind blows” and act accordingly and the “fix” will be stated in vague type language to justify war.

    Career civil servants have their careers , a knighthood , pension , families , etc. etc.to think of.
    They are usually promoted on the premise that they can safely be relied upon to “hold the line”.
    A difference of opinion from an Israeli agenda would have put an early end to any career advancement long before this level had been reached.
    MI6 chief Sawers shot to stardom when Gorden Brown was Prime Minister and we know how Gordon Brown put Israel first where Britain’s Middle East policy was concerned.

    The hasbara army is on full alert to help formulate “public opinion” for war.


  8. Charles Norrie
    July 23, 2012 at 11:40

    This is a very worrying story

    It goes back a long way to thr jousting of position between the US and Iran in 1953, when the British were ousted, to the fcat that the US needed Iran and Syria onside, but not in formal alliance in the First Gulf War, have to select Libya as having done the Lockerbie bombing and one wonders where it will go next.

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