“You’re right to keep tweeting that question. Why the hell is the agreement with Iran still secret?”
I’m always grateful for praise, especially when it comes from America’s legendary spymaster, the late James Jesus Angleton, who was passing on the kind words through my recently rehabbed ouija board. I’d been repeatedly tweeting “why is the deal with Iran still secret?” and apparently Angleton manages to get online (although with him, you never really know where his information comes from).
ML: “Presumably there’s some stuff in it that the administration doesn’t want us to know about, otherwise they’d open it up.”
JJA: “Yes, that’s the obvious explanation. But I’m surprised that those few members of Congress who HAVE read it, are similarly hushed up. And I’m also surprised that those who haven’t read it aren’t insisting that they do. After all, we’re not surprised to have secret treaties, are we? But then, it’s hard to keep track of all the secret deals in the world nowadays. Which, among other things, puts a lot of strain on the language…”
ML: “Yeah, you always were keen on language. Some of those non-secret ‘secrets’ are Rumsfeldian, they’re part of the ‘known unknown,’ or maybe better, the ‘unknown known.’ For me, that’s the most fascinating one: the secrets we don’t want to know.”
JJA: “Precisely. Not surprisingly, several of them have to do with Iran, a country that specializes in secrecy and deception.”
ML: “Yeah, but these aren’t deceptions, or at least they’re not about Iranian deceptions. As far as I can tell, we and other Western governments are keeping secrets from the people. The governments know what’s happening, but they hush it up. And it’s not only the interim agreement. There’s the whole business about al Qaeda-and-Boko Haram, which in turn leads us to al Qaeda-and-Iran, etcetera. Not to mention the question about American hostages in Iranian captivity.”
JJA: “Let’s leave the hostages for last. I’ve seen a lot of that stuff on Boko Haram, and it’s hilarious to see all the editorialists and columnists who are acting as if they’d been following Nigeria in great detail for a decade or more, heh. All of a sudden everyone’s an expert.”
ML: “Who knew there were so many Africanists? Those of us who did Africa for years and years rarely saw any of these guys…”
JJA: “It’s easier to stay in New York or Washington, you don’t have to take all those shots.”
ML: “Or take those malaria pills with nasty side effects…”
JJA: “But there has been some good research, and I liked that Eli Lake story that referred to academic research on the connections between Boko Haram and al Qaeda.
ML: “Me too. But I wasn’t all that happy with the lack of good followup. That story went back to the 1990s, and said that Boko Haram figures were in touch with Osama bin Laden’s gang in Sudan. And, given the way my mind works, I started thinking…”
JJA: “…about Iran. Well of course, because we know that bin Laden was then establishing working relations with Hezbollah, which of course IS Iran, and so logic grabs you by the throat and drags you to the question: is there a link between Boko Haram and Iran, aside from bin Laden?”
ML: “Just so, exactly what I thought. And then I find that the good Jacob Zenn at the West Point Combating Terrorism Center wrote a good deal about Iranian support for radical Islam in Africa.”
JJA: “And I can promise you that there are American intelligence officers who can connect an awful lot of Iranian dots in West Africa over the years. Iranian arms shipments have been seized, and here and there in the African press you can find former Boko Haram members who talk quite openly about their colleagues being trained in Afghanistan, and even in iran itself. This guy, for example.”
ML: “Yeah, I saw that. But I couldn’t tell how reliable the story was.”
JJA: “There’s quite a bit of it, once you start digging. And of course there’s all that stuff about the al Qaeda-Iran cooperation, mostly written by Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio in that wonderful Long War Journal.
ML: “I’ve got some sympathy for the analysts and reporters who get baffled by the AQ-Iran connection. I mean, how can you explain the apparent fact that there are AQ groups fighting each other in Syria, and there’s evidence that Iran is supporting them all?”
JJA: “But we know they did the same thing in Iraq! (He was getting worked up, and started coughing. Are there Camel cigarettes where he is?). They supported both Sunnis and Shi’ites, and both sides of some tribal conflicts as well. They desperately wanted civil war, figuring they would benefit from all the killing.”
ML: “Also, it gives them some degree of control, I suppose, whoever wins in the end…”
JJA: “Well, in Syria they want Assad to win, no question about that. Africa is more like Iraq, the Iranians support radical jihadis whoever they are, Boko Haram included…so, as in Syria as in Iraq and Afghanistan, if you want to win, you’re going to have to come to grips with Iran.”
ML: “Good luck with that one! Obama just wants a deal with Iran, he doesn’t want to challenge the regime in Tehran.”
JJA: “Sure, everybody has that figured out by now. But they always omit another of those non-secret secrets, the one you mentioned at the beginning. The hostages.”
ML: “Some of them are publicly known, like the priest and the Marine. Nothing secret there.”
JJA: “Except that the one thing we know for sure about Obama’s dealings with Tehran–his direct appeal to President Rouhani to release those hostages–is never mentioned in the analyses. And yet it’s obviously important, because when he finally got Rouhani on the phone in New York last fall, he raised the issue directly. You’d think that might have stimulated some questions from the press, but it didn’t.”
ML: “And why?”
JJA: “I’m not sure. But I do know some things that have not appeared in print.”
ML: “Such as?”
JJA: “Such as a number of CIA agents who are in Iranian prisons. One of them, an Iranian-American woman, was ransomed for a tidy sum several months ago, and is now back in the US.”
ML: “How did all that happen?”
JJA: “She flew to Tehran from Dubai, of all places. Not smart. The Iranians are all over Dubai, and they were waiting for her at the Tehran Airport.”
ML: “Not a great moment in the history of American espionage.”
JJA: “A scandal!”
ML: “So the administration wouldn’t want anyone to look too carefully into the hostage question, huh?”
At which point the damn ouija board started to generate static.
JJA: “And the poor bastard from FBI and CIA who was grabbed on Qarq Island…you wrote a few years back…dead…and what about Bill Clinton personally meeting with Iranian officials to talk about hostages?”
And he was gone. In case you’re wondering, the story about the lady agent was given to two of our most famous reporters, but they haven’t written a word about it. And the failed attempts at espionage aren’t the only reason Obama & Co. wouldn’t welcome such a story. It would remind people–those few with working memories of such things–about the terrible mess Ronald Reagan got into when he insisted on negotiating with the Iranians for the release of American hostages.
I don’t think that’s the sort of comparison this president seeks.