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Operation Bite: Did the Latest Truther Conspiracy Provoke Iran?

John on April 1, 2007 at 9:09 pm

Have you heard about operation bite? This is the supposed US attack on Iranian nuclear facilities scheduled for April 6 at 4AM. Supposedly, word of the attack comes from highly placed Russian military sources who leaked it to Russian journalist Andrei Uglanov. All of this is according to a single English language report making the rounds (here it is on Indymedia):

Observers comment that this dispatch represents a high-level orchestrated leak from the Kremlin, in effect a war warning, which draws on the formidable resources of the Russian intelligence services, and which deserves to be taken with the utmost seriousness by pro-peace forces around the world.

I’m not sure when the Russian intelligence services aligned themselves with peaceniks, but there it is. The Indymedia report and a nearly every other report on Operation Bite around the web is written by someone named Webster Tarpley. According to wikipedia, Tarpley:

…is an author, lecturer, and critic of US foreign and domestic policy. He maintains that the events of 9/11 were engineered by the Bush administration… He first gained attention for co-authoring, with Anton Chaitkin, a 1992 book on George H.W. Bush, George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography. He has expounded the “Versailles Thesis” laying the blame for the great wars of the 20th century on intrigues by Britain to retain her dominance. He gained experience as a political operative during his years with the LaRouche movement but broke away in the mid-90′s. His philosophy can be described as humanist, progressivist and anti-Malthusian.

So he’s a 9/11 truther, an ex-LaRoucher and a Bush-basher. When it comes to Bush Derangement Syndrome, Mr. Tarpley could be patient zero.

Tarpley has had his own weekly radio show since March 2006 and he is also a regular guest on Jeff Rense’s radio show. Jeff Rense is a fellow 9/11 truther, UFO conspiracy theorist and “anti-zionist.” According to his wikipedia page, he believes that Zionists are “in control of the world” and trying to “control civilized society” in order to bring in a “New World Order”. [Note: This page on Rense's website is referenced by many sites that reposted Tarpley's report. However, this page appears to be the source.]

Further support for the veracity of Operation Bite comes from General Leonid Ivashov:

Asked by RIA-Novosti to comment on the Uglanov report, retired Colonel General Leonid Ivashov confirmed its essential features in a March 21 interview: “I have no doubt that there will be an operation, or more precisely a violent action against Iran.”

ivashov-and-tarpley.jpgGen. Ivashov (pictured left) and Mr. Tarpley (right) are both part of something called the Axis for Peace which wikipedia describes as “an initiative of Voltaire Network to set up an “anti-imperialist” intellectual movement capable of opposing neoconservatives.” They were featured speakers at a 2005 conference put on by the Axis for Peace. (By the way, why would a group that includes “anti-zionists want to name a movement after the WWII forces led by the Third Reich?)

For a sample of Gen. Ivashov’s work, check out his article International terrorism does not exist:

[I]f we analyze what happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States, we can arrive at the following conclusions: 1. The organizers of those attacks were the political and business circles interested in destabilizing the world order and who had the means necessary to finance the operation…We have to look for the reasons of the attacks in the coincidence of interests of the big capital at global and transnational levels, in the circles that were not satisfied with the rhythm of the globalization process or its direction.

So starting from Tarpley’s report on a Truther/UFO website, news of Operation Bite has spread around the web including to diarists at Daily Kos (also here). Debka got into the act on March 30 with a report of behind the scenes operations supposedly in support of the coming attack. The Jerusalem Post has an article today (April Fools?) reporting essentially the same information as Tarpley’s initial report.

On March 29th the Iranians sent a confidential letter explaining their decision to stop cooperating with the IAEA. According to this Jerusalem Post story, the letter said:

[T]he United States and the Israeli regime … are threatening the use of force and attack against the Islamic Republic of Iran and have repeatedly stressed that military action is an option on the table. So long as such threats of military action persist, Iran has no option but (to) protect its security through all means possible, including protection of information which can facilitate openly stated and aggressive military objectives of the warmongers.

In other words, the Iranians feared US attacks on its nuclear facilities. Recall that Tarpley’s scoop about Operation Bite claims it was to be an attack on Iranian nuclear capabilities. Here’s the exact wording:

In the course of the attack, code named Operation Bite, about 20 targets are marked for bombing; the list includes uranium enrichment facilities, research centers, and laboratories.

Speculation

Personally, I think what we’re looking at here is a highly dubious unsourced report which seems unlikely on its face. How exactly does Russia have access to detailed American war planning? And would they reveal it in newspapers if they did? In short, this is not something a sane person would place a lot of weight on, but that doesn’t mean the Iranians were quite as skeptical about it as I am.

There is some evidence that the plan to seize the Brits took place at a meeting of Iranian leaders on March 18th, days before Tarpley’s report. If so that would seem to rule out any possibility that this Russian leak motivated the Iranians. But word of Operation Bite did not begin with Tarpley. He is the English language source of the report. But the first mention of Operation Bite goes back to at least March 19 as this page in French demonstrates (Google translation into English here). [Note that this page appears as a link at the bottom of Tarpley's initial report and appears to be his source for the information.]

If the Operation Bite story was published (or circulating) even one day earlier (which seems possible given that a French translation was available on the Russian RIA Novosti site on the 19th) it may even have played a part in the Iranian decision to kidnap British sailors.

Finally, on March 21, just two days before the kidnapping, RIA Novosti published another article about the impending attack quoting none other than Gen. Ivashov. In this article (translated from French here) Ivashov gives the quote I’ve already highlighted above, “I have no doubt that there will be an operation, or more precisely a violent action against Iran.”

Is it possible that this anonymously sourced report, amplified by a Russian 9/11 Truther helped motivate the Iranian kidnapping of 15 British hostages? Were the hostages, in effect, a last ditch attempt to prevent what Tehran believed was an imminent attack by the US? The idea that young sailors and marines would be seized as human shields for the mullahs nuclear bomb making facilities doesn’t seem that far fetched to me, especially given that Iran was about to lose another battle in the UN (which they did the day after the kidnapping). It’s also consistent with former CIA agent Robert Baer’s assesment of the Iranian mood just prior to the kidnapping:

You wouldn’t be wrong to wonder if Iran hasn’t lost its mind seizing the 15 British marines and sailors, and in so doing, handing Bush a casus belli even he couldn’t have imagined. But then again you’d be missing the grim fatalism that has settled over Iran of late, the resigned belief that a war with the U.S. is all but inevitable.

Clearly the hardliners are using this crisis to rally the base, but perhaps they had a more practical reason for their actions.

Update: The Russian weekly referred to in Tarpley’s article is, I believe, this one. Spent an hour with Google translator and couldn’t find any report of a pending US attack on the site except this one dated 3/30 which directs the reader back to the Russian RIA Novosti news site. So either I have the wrong news magazine or this is bogus.

I did learn one other thing. The word for “bite” being used in the Russian reports is a word which can often refer to bites by insects and also to stings. Operation Sting…now that sounds more like something the US might actually name one of its operations.

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