2002 deja vu: neocons conflate Iran and Al Qaeda

I have a new piece up at AlterNet detailing how Cliff May, the president of the Foundation to Defend Democracies, is up to his old tricks. In a recent piece on National Review Online, May united Iran and Al Qaeda under the banner of “jihadis” — a well-worn tactic that neocons employed to push the invasion of Iraq.

Here’s an excerpt:

Given the broad consensus that Osama bin Laden and Co. carried out the 9/11 attacks, it’s easy to understand that mentioning his group continues to elicit strong emotions — among them fear, anger, and a resulting desire to continue to wage war against Al Qaeda.

So when hawks are trying to drum up support for a war in the Middle East, it’s natural for them to try to connect the target country with Al Qaeda. This pattern was easily observable in the run-up to the Iraq War.

Cliff May, having already morphed from a journalist into the president of the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies by 2002, opted to paint with a broad brush: linking people together because they think alike. They’re “Jihadists,” he wrote, and that was enough to slap bull’s eyes on a wide variety of Arab and Muslim heads.

The Jihadist framework even allowed him, as he outlined in a September 2002 column for the Scripps Howard News Service, to “easily accommodate true religious fanatics such as Osama bin Laden as well as those like Saddam Hussein…”


As his [new NRO article conflating Iran and Al Qaeda] draws to a close, May gets even more specific about the “Jihadi” connections: Iran, he says, is working toward fulfilling Al Qaeda’s “mission”:

Al-Qaeda and the terrorist groups it leads have a mission. Iran’s revolutionary theocrats and the terrorist groups they instruct have goals and a strategy to achieve them.

Then comes a thinly veiled threat of a military attack against Iran: “Iran’s rulers should be under the guns — metaphorically for the present….” But the present, too, shall pass. And when it does, May, pressed by Glenn Greenwald, has made his policy preferences clear.

The “Al Qaeda link” lives on, with just as little evidence as there was in Iraq. Secular Arab nationalists, Sunnis, Shiites — all the same: “Jihadis.” “Al Qaeda and Iran,” the mantra goes, and emotions will run high. It remains to be seen if the U.S. public will fall for the ruse again.

Read the whole piece here at AlterNet.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.