Did Manning Help Avert War in Iran?

Exclusive: Government prosecutors are seeking 60 years in prison for Pvt. Bradley Manning as punishment for his release of classified documents. But little attention is being paid to the benefits from those disclosures, including how he may have helped prevent a war with Iran, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

From U.S. embassy cables leaked by Pvt. Bradley Manning, you can easily imagine how the propaganda game might have played out, how Americans could have been panicked into supporting another unnecessary war in the Middle East, this time against Iran. Except that Manning’s release of the documents spoiled the trick.

The gambit might have gone this way: One morning, a story would have led the front page of, say, the Washington Post citing how the widely respected International Atomic Energy Agency and its honest-broker Director-General Yukiya Amano had found startling “evidence” that Iran was nearing a nuclear bomb despite a longstanding U.S. intelligence estimate to the contrary and despite Iranian denials.

Yukiya Amano, a Japanese diplomat and director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Next, the neocon-dominated opinion pages would ridicule anyone who still doubted these “facts.” After all, these articles would say, “even” the IAEA, which had challenged President George W. Bush’s claims about Iraq in 2002, and “even” Amano, who had initially believed Iran’s denials, were now convinced.

Neo-con think tanks would rush to join the chorus of alarm, dispatching WMD “experts” to TV talk shows bracing the American people on the need for military action. From Fox News to CNN to MSNBC, there would be a drumbeat about Iran’s perfidy. Then, as hawkish Republicans and Democrats ratcheted up their rhetoric and as Israeli leaders chortled “we told you so” the war-with-Iran bandwagon might have begun rolling with such velocity that it would be unstoppable.

Perhaps, only years later after grave human costs and severe economic repercussions would the American people learn the truth: that the IAEA under Amano wasn’t the objective source that they had been led to believe, that Amano was something of a U.S.-Israeli puppet who had feigned a pro-Iranian position early on to burnish his credentials for pushing an anti-Iranian line subsequently, that after he was installed, he had even solicited U.S. officials for money and had held secret meetings with Israelis (to coordinate opposition to Iran’s nuclear program while maintaining a polite silence about Israel’s rogue nuclear arsenal).

However, because of the actions of Bradley Manning, the rug was pulled out from under this possible ruse. The U.S. embassy cables revealing the truth about Amano were published by the U.K. Guardian in 2011 (although ignored by the New York Times, the Washington Post and other mainstream U.S. news outlets). The cables also drew attention from Web sites, such as Consortiumnews.com.

So, the gambit could not work. If it had been tried, enough people would have known the truth. They wouldn’t be fooled again and they would have alerted their fellow citizens. Bradley Manning had armed them with the facts.

And this scenario, while admittedly hypothetical, is not at all far-fetched. When the cables were leaked about a year after Amano’s appointment, his IAEA was busy feeding the hysteria over Iran’s nuclear program with reports trumpeted by think tanks, such as the Institute for Science and International Security, and by the Washington Post and other U.S. news media.

Revealing Cables

According to those leaked U.S. embassy cables from Vienna, Austria, the site of IAEA’s headquarters, American diplomats in 2009 were cheering the prospect that Amano would advance U.S. interests in ways that outgoing IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei wouldn’t; Amano credited his election to U.S. government support; Amano signaled he would side with the United States in its confrontation with Iran; and he stuck his hand out for more U.S. money.

In a July 9, 2009, cable, American chargé Geoffrey Pyatt said Amano was thankful for U.S. support of his election. “Amano attributed his election to support from the U.S., Australia and France, and cited U.S. intervention with Argentina as particularly decisive,” the cable said.

The appreciative Amano informed Pyatt that as IAEA director general, he would take a different “approach on Iran from that of ElBaradei” and he “saw his primary role as implementing safeguards and UNSC [United Nations Security Council]/Board resolutions,” i.e. U.S.-driven sanctions and demands against Iran.

Amano also discussed how to restructure the senior ranks of the IAEA, including elimination of one top official and the retention of another. “We wholly agree with Amano’s assessment of these two advisors and see these decisions as positive first signs,” Pyatt commented.

In return, Pyatt made clear that Amano could expect strong U.S. financial support, stating that “the United States would do everything possible to support his successful tenure as Director General and, to that end, anticipated that continued U.S. voluntary contributions to the IAEA would be forthcoming. Amano offered that a ‘reasonable increase’ in the regular budget would be helpful.”

Pyatt learned, too, that Amano had consulted with Israeli Ambassador Israel Michaeli “immediately after his appointment” and that Michaeli “was fully confident of the priority Amano accords verification issues.” Michaeli added that he discounted some of Amano’s public remarks about there being “no evidence of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons capability” as just words that Amano felt he had to say “to persuade those who did not support him about his ‘impartiality.’”

In private, Amano agreed to “consultations” with the head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, Pyatt reported. (It is ironic indeed that Amano would have secret contacts with Israeli officials about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, which has yet to yield a single bomb, when Israel possesses a large and undeclared nuclear arsenal.)

In a subsequent cable dated Oct. 16, 2009, the U.S. mission in Vienna said Amano “took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded ambassador [Glyn Davies] on several occasions that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

“More candidly, Amano noted the importance of maintaining a certain ‘constructive ambiguity’ about his plans, at least until he took over for DG ElBaradei in December” 2009.

In other words, Amano was a bureaucrat eager to bend in directions favored by the United States and Israel regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Amano’s behavior surely contrasted with how the more independent-minded ElBaradei resisted some of Bush’s key claims about Iraq’s supposed nuclear weapons program, correctly denouncing some documents as forgeries.

Salvaging Some Hype

Though Manning’s release of the embassy cables apparently scotched any large-scale deployment of the Amano ploy, some elements of the gambit did go forward nonetheless, albeit with less oomph than they might have had.

In February 2013, the front page of the Washington Post offered a taste of what the propaganda campaign might have looked like when investigative reporter Joby Warrick hyped an account about Iran’s nuclear program pushed by David Albright, director of the Institute for Science and International Security who had given support to Bush’s invasion of Iraq a decade ago.

The Albright/Warrick alarm cited Iran’s alleged effort to place an Internet order for 100,000 ring-shaped magnets that would work in some of the country’s older centrifuges.

“Iran recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines, according to experts and diplomats, a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability,” Warrick wrote in his lede paragraph.

You had to read to the end of the long story to hear a less strident voice, saying that Iran had previously informed IAEA inspectors that it planned to build more of its old and clunkier centrifuges, which use this sort of magnet, and that the enrichment was for civilian energy, not a nuclear bomb.

“Olli Heinonen, who led IAEA nuclear inspections inside Iran before his retirement in 2010, said the type of magnet sought by Iran was highly specific to the IR-1 centrifuge and could not, for example, be used in the advanced IR-2M centrifuges that Iran has recently tested,” according to the final paragraphs of Warrick’s article.

“‘The numbers in the order make sense, because Iran originally told us it wanted to build more than 50,000 of the IR-1s,’ Heinonen said. ‘The failure rate on these machines is 10 percent a year, so you need a surplus.’”

At the bottom of Warrick’s story, you’d also learn that “Iran has avoided what many experts consider Israel’s new ‘red line’: a stockpile of medium-enriched uranium greater than 530 pounds, roughly the amount needed to build a weapon if further purified.”

So there was nothing urgent or particularly provocative about this alleged purchase, though the structure and placement of the Post story suggested otherwise. Many readers likely were expected to simply jump to the conclusion that Iran was on the verge of building an atomic bomb and that it was time for President Barack Obama to join Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in another Middle East war.

The pressure from the Post and other neocon-leaning news outlets on the Obama administration to fall in line with Netanyahu’s belligerence toward Iran has been building for years, often with Warrick channeling anti-Iranian propaganda from Albright and his ISIS, which, in turn, seems to be a pipeline for hardliners at the IAEA.

A decade ago, Albright and the ISIS were key figures in stoking the hysteria for invading Iraq around the false allegations of its WMD program. In recent years, Albright and his institute have adopted a similar role regarding Iran and its purported pursuit of a nuclear weapon, even though U.S. intelligence agencies say Iran terminated that weapons project in 2003.

Nevertheless, Albright has transformed his organization into a sparkplug for a new confrontation with Iran. Though Albright insists that he is an objective professional, ISIS has published hundreds of articles about Iran, which has not produced a single nuclear bomb, while barely mentioning Israel’s rogue nuclear arsenal.

An examination of the ISIS Web site reveals only a few technical articles relating to Israel’s nukes while ISIS has expanded its coverage of Iran’s nuclear program so much that it’s been moved onto a separate Web site. The articles not only hype developments in Iran but also attack U.S. media critics who question the fear-mongering about Iran.

More than a year ago when a non-mainstream journalist confronted Albright about the disparity between ISIS’s concentration on Iran and de minimis coverage of Israel, he angrily responded that he was working on a report about Israel’s nuclear program. But there is still no substantive assessment of Israel’s large nuclear arsenal on the ISIS Web site, which goes back to 1993.

Despite this evidence of bias, the Post and other mainstream U.S. news outlets typically present Albright as a neutral analyst. They also ignore his checkered past, for instance, his prominent role in promoting President Bush’s pre-invasion case that Iraq possessed stockpiles of WMD.

Stoking a War

At the end of summer 2002, as Bush was beginning his advertising roll-out for the Iraq invasion and dispatching his top aides to the Sunday talk shows to warn about “smoking guns” and “mushroom clouds,” Albright co-authored a Sept. 10, 2002, article entitled “Is the Activity at Al Qaim Related to Nuclear Efforts?” which declared:

“High-resolution commercial satellite imagery shows an apparently operational facility at the site of Iraq’s al Qaim phosphate plant and uranium extraction facility This site was where Iraq extracted uranium for its nuclear weapons program in the 1980s. This image raises questions about whether Iraq has rebuilt a uranium extraction facility at the site, possibly even underground. The uranium could be used in a clandestine nuclear weapons effort.”

Albright’s alarming allegations fit neatly with Bush’s propaganda barrage, although as the months wore on with Bush’s warnings about aluminum tubes and yellowcake from Africa growing more outlandish Albright did display more skepticism about the existence of a revived Iraqi nuclear program.

Still, he remained a “go-to” expert on other Iraqi purported WMD, such as chemical and biological weapons. In a typical quote on Oct. 5, 2002, Albright told CNN: “In terms of the chemical and biological weapons, Iraq has those now.”

After Bush launched the Iraq invasion in March 2003 and Iraq’s secret WMD caches didn’t materialize, Albright admitted that he had been conned, explaining to the Los Angeles Times: “If there are no weapons of mass destruction, I’ll be mad as hell. I certainly accepted the administration claims on chemical and biological weapons. I figured they were telling the truth. If there is no [unconventional weapons program], I will feel taken, because they asserted these things with such assurance.” [See FAIR’s “The Great WMD Hunt,”]

Given the horrendous costs in blood and treasure resulting from the Iraq fiasco, an objective journalist might feel compelled to mention Albright’s track record of bias and error. But the Post’s Warrick didn’t, even though Albright and his ISIS were at the core of the February story, receiving credit for obtaining copies of the magnet purchase order.

So, while we’ll never know if the Amano ploy would have been tried since Manning’s disclosures made it unfeasible it surely would not have been unprecedented. The American people experienced similar deceptions during the run-up to war with Iraq when the Bush-43 administration assembled every scrap of suspicion about Iraq’s alleged WMD and fashioned a bogus case for war.

Eventually, Manning was pulled into that war as a young intelligence analyst. He confronted so much evidence of brutality and dishonesty that he felt compelled to do something about it. What he did in leaking hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks and, thus, to other news outlets was to supply “ground truth” about war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

His disclosure of diplomatic cables also gave the American people and the world a glimpse behind the curtain of secrecy that often conceals the dirty dealings of statecraft. Perhaps most significantly, those revelations helped sparked the Arab Spring, giving people of the Middle East a chance to finally take some political control over their own lives.

And, by letting Americans in on the truth about Amano’s IAEA, Bradley Manning may have helped prevent a war with Iran.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

11 comments for “Did Manning Help Avert War in Iran?

  1. Vinay Prasad
    August 20, 2013 at 12:59

    Here’s why, even if the neo-cons tricked and panicked the Americans and brought America close to a war, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO WAR. Here are certain consequences of an attack on Iran that folks know, but still pretend to ignore. These happenings will be spread for 4 years. a) The American, European, Chinese, Indian, man on the street will pay $15 for a gallon of gasoline. No end in sight for lowering in prices. Strategic reserves wont help. Chaos/hyperinflation all over the world. Job losses and bad news of a collapsed economy abound. High possibility of civil disobedience which will lead to an American Spring. President of the United States will be overthrown. Several political assassinations. Alternatively the President who is already Commander in Chief will seize power and declare himself as a military dictator. Life will be difficult for all the politicians of the country especially the anti Iran ones. b) A million bin Ladens will spawn from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, Saudi and other countries and the Americans will spend the rest of their careers defending themselves/ fighting against these guys which will be futile. The Ladens will teach a million catastrophic lessons to the “international community”. Hormuz will permanently get closed by these guys. Americans will loose pants down in Hormuz. Oil tankers wont be available ’cause most insurance companies will stop extending insurance. c) The people of Egypt will force close the Suez canal to show solidarity with Iran. America too will be on tenterhooks because China will have expansion program in the Pacific. California will be tense. Europe will choke due to the Suez closure. Taking a cue from a closed Suez canal, Russia (near monopoly supplier) will hike the price of natural gas exports to Europe by 10 times. Europe will not be able to pay. The Russians have done this to Ukraine earlier, though the earlier sale price was relatively small. Russia will also force Azerbaijan to shut the Baku Tiblisi Ceyhan pipeline which also supplies oil/gas to Europe. Europe will be dead. Russia will invade Europe, order seizure of all gold from European Central Bank. d) Iran’s retaliation will be terrible and long lasting. No need to guess what they will be. It could shoot down hundreds of enemy countries’ passenger civilian airliners in the ME. And this on a long term basis. Even today daily there are over 30 American passenger airliners trespassing its airspace. And America has already set the ball rolling in 1988. e) Regarding viability & sustainability of Israel, the reader may judge. Because everything will be blamed on Israel f) Your guess too on the effect of all this on the American economy. g) Your guess too on possibilities of radicalised American islamists retaliation on the American mainland.

    So therefore any talk of war with Iran is A BIG BIG UNASHAMED BLUFF, BOGUS, HUMBUG. It is only promoted by armchair journalists, fraudsters, gutter bred rascals, crooksters and some politicians. Not by the western military. There will be no war with Iran even in the future. Even if Iran develops the bombs. Iran might already have the bombs – from next door Pakistan. Which is why there THERE IS NO ATTACK EVEN TODAY, EVEN IN THIS MINUTE, RIGHT NOW. The world is too much interdependent in trade and technology. International supply chain disruptions are not tolerable, and countries will fail. Smaller countries like Iran are not afraid of “world powers” anymore. The west will learn to live with a nuclear Iran. Lastly, even if Israel launches an attack, it will be the United States, which will bomb Israeli military infrastructure (yes Israeli) moments before the strike, because this will be the safest way to avoid a world war. America, today has very limited credibility nor influence to sway world opinion. Cancelled meetings with Putin, stalemate in Syria, snub on the Snowden affair, sequestration, all point to reduced US capability.

    • F. G. Sanford
      August 20, 2013 at 14:59

      Well said, substantially true and impossible to ignore. Like I said, to maintain war as the health of the state, they’ll have to pick an easier target. Cuba won’t be a walk in the park either, but don’t count on good sense entering into the decision.

      • Vinay Prasad
        August 21, 2013 at 07:23

        Yeah, true, there are crooks who suggest war with Iran. Remember in WW 1 and 2, the world powers were real world powers. Britain had in its command a huge manpower from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and other regions. Today Britain is of the size of my state of Gujarat. They dont have military manpower at all. Only counting on video games (sorry, high tech military hardware) does not guarantee success in a war.

  2. F. G. Sanford
    August 19, 2013 at 20:32

    This was a great article. But I can’t help wondering that, given their bald-faced contempt for our ability to see through lies, and our utter failure to demand accountability when those lies are exposed, does it really matter?

    If we don’t go to war with Iran, and there seems to be little support for intervention in Syria, the defense industry and other corporate interests will find themselves in a warfare gap. Much like peak oil, where the extraction costs begin to whittle away at profits, they may demand that congress pass a “warfare depletion allowance” in order to insure that their profits remain high. As countries like Egypt and Syria become impossible to support, arms exports could suffer. Now that Russia and China are jockeying at the prospect of creating things like the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, our prospects for cultivating new markets for arms sales may be dwindling as well. And, while the “Pivot to the East” sounds plausible, anyone who has ever looked at a globe can appreciate the logistical pipe-dreams involved.

    When Reagan got his ass handed to him in Lebanon and botched the bombing run on Libya, his handlers cleverly turned to the box-cake solution already on the shelf. The same folks standing by in El Salvador and Nicaragua with nothing to do cooked up Grenada and Panama. Picking that low-hanging fruit allowed Poppy Bush to “kick the Viet Nam syndrome” and go after Saddam, with a little help from April Gladspy. Then, Junior came along, and all those defense contractors made REALLY big bucks. (Didn’t Kellog, Brown and Root make a killing in Viet Nam too?)

    So, here’s my guess. Edward Snowden may become the “Rainmaker” for defense contractors. Don’t laugh until you hear me out. Castro has both feet in the grave and his ass on a banana peel. Raoul looks like death warmed over. We’ve heard no realistic plans for a smooth transition of power. Just about anything in this new atmosphere of renewed “cold war” bluster could be twisted into a threat of destabilization or imminent hostility. Americans, after all, will believe most anything. Dissent will be labelled as “outrageous conspiracy theories” now that whistle-blowing has been successfully converted to treason.

    If you haven’t figured it out by now, we’re going to Cuba. It’s the answer to the warfare deficit, it’ll kick the Iraq syndrome, the stock market will boom and twenty percent of our troops already speak the language! Morale, welfare and recreation will be like paradise for the troops! Recruitment will go through the roof! Nobody in Congress will object, because they’ve heard all those stories about hot-blooded Latin women, terrific deep-sea fishing, high stakes gambling, great cigars and rum that’s cheaper than Coca Cola. The bankers will appreciate the renewed access to money laundering. Drug kingpins will be only too happy to renew their curtailed campaign contributions. Best of all, we’ll finally address one of the issues that destroyed our Democracy in the first place, back in 1963.

    Thanks, Mr. Parry – hope you’ll forgive my cynicism.

    • Dfnslblty
      August 20, 2013 at 19:18

      Orwellian thinking at it’s best; yes is no; no is yes – look left when the action will be right.
      Maybe we can liberate Guantanamo at the same time and free those immorally detained.

      stop The Wars!

  3. Bob Jacobson
    August 19, 2013 at 19:52

    It’s not over yet, Bob. I live under the flight path for aircraft stationed at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona, where desert warbirds — A10s and drones — rule the skies (and also anti-submarine planes, ironically). Activity here has been prolonged and profound at least for the last month. That’s never a good sign so long as our prospective wars are desert affairs. If we were fighting in the Aleutians, I wouldn’t much mind — but given the tensions in Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and now Egypt (not to mention Israel’s perpetual anxiety) — all this taking off and landing can’t be a good thing. It’s not over yet.

  4. MadBeck
    August 19, 2013 at 19:36

    Ol’ Brad’s a hero in my book. If he did prevent a war, he saved the lives of hundred of thousands of Iranian citizens- for some reason we Americans think of war as a comic-book experience, probably because we’re always tearing up somebody else’s country and not our own. Then of course we’ll have a couple thousand casualties of our own, who’ll of course be “heroes” until they come home and have trouble re-adjusting to society, at which point they’ll become “takers” instead of “makers”. Sound familiar? I’ve been around since the Vietnam years and it’s all starting to sound like a broken record to me.

  5. Brian Penny
    August 19, 2013 at 19:01

    Whistleblowers everywhere are treated like criminals for doing the right thing. I know this from firsthand experience. You can read about the retaliation I’ve experienced as a bank whistleblower here: http://thoughtforyourpenny.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-tale-of-missing-dog-tag.html

    • Bob Jacobson
      August 19, 2013 at 19:58

      @ Brian Penny I’m a whistleblower too, with a political-campaign scheme to reveal in court almost too large and history-reshaping to contemplate. Yet no one on the left or in the investigative press seems to care. They all have their own pat agendas, not so different from those in the mainstream press. (CN may be different, hasn’t shown up here.)

      Maybe we should hightail it to Uganda or somewhere and go naked in a terminal. Yeah, that would do it. Instead, we get to twist in the wind, wondering if anyone will ever care for the sacrifices we make in the public interest. (What “public”?) I share your pain, Brother.

    • Bob Jacobson
      August 19, 2013 at 20:03

      PS Brian, I’m in Tucson. Look me up on FB. Drop me a line. Burritos on me.

  6. incontinent reader
    August 19, 2013 at 16:45

    God bless you, Bob. Another great article and just the type of information the public needs to know about whatthat could have led us to another war, and the impact and value of Bradley Manning’s disclosures in possibly, if not likely preventing it. The more Americans understand the wide ranging significance of his disclosures, the more they will understand why it is so necessary to support and fight for him personally and to fight to change the whistleblower laws to encourage and enable future such disclosures from others.

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