The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Glenn Fawcett for the US Department of Defense.
Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Accuses U.S. of False-Flag Attack, but Indirectly Cites Pearl Harbor as Historical Precedent
In an interview with the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced to Iran that he did not want war, but indicated that his kingdom would "not to be repulsed", if "Our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our vital interests are threatened".
He was referring to Thursday’s damage to two tankers, for which he, the U.S. president, and the British prime minister blamed the Iranian leadership (cf. Trump to tankers in the Gulf of Oman: "Iran has done it"). Shortly thereafter, the Saudi energy minister called for a "quick and decisive" response to the "terrorist acts".
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, on the other hand, described the damage to the two tankers as "suspected actions", the actions "seem to complement the economic sanctions imposed by the USA", with which, according to him, the Americans "have not yet achieved any results". As a precedent for the false flag accusation, which he thus indirectly raised, he cited a "historical event during World War II, when the Americans targeted their own ships in the vicinity of Japan to create an excuse for hostilities".
If he was referring to Pearl Harbor, he will find similarly limited support among international historians as he did with a view of the mass extermination of Jews during World War II, which is widespread especially in Iran and among Islamists and is rather remote from the sources. All documents indicate that the Americans were indeed surprised by the Japanese air attack on their fleet stationed in Hawaii – even if Franklin Delano Roosevelt could not have been entirely inconvenienced by the ensuing patriotic exaltation.
However, history also contains much better examples of false-flag operations – and of declarations of war that later turned out to be accidents, such as the explosion of the U.S. warship Maine in Havana harbor, which led to the Spanish-American War in 1898 (cf. Hacking of the Maine?).
From Gleiwitz to Gladio
An example of deliberate manipulation (now officially acknowledged) is the Tonkin Incident, which led to a massive increase in American military involvement in Vietnam in 1964. Here, the public had been given the false impression that North Vietnamese speedboats had attacked an American warship (cf. Noble Lugen).
The USA, however, does not have a monopoly on such manipulations: Their later enemy Japan provoked in 1931 with a supposedly Chinese (but in fact Japanese) railroad bombing a justification for the establishment of the puppet state Manchukuo. In the Tokyo war crimes trials (about which there is a not uninteresting series on Netflix) it came out that some of those involved even flaunted the false flag operation.
Other states that have been shown to have perpetrated false-flag operations in the past include Germany (with the fake Polish attack on the Gleiwitz radio station), the Soviet Union (with the 1939 war-pretexting bombing of Mainila blamed on Finland), Turkey (which used false-flag attacks to expel Greeks from Istanbul and northern Cyprus in 1955 and the 1970s), and Italy (which was at the center of the Gladio activities revealed – cf. Of Covert and Uncanny Cooperation). Often such operations are also related to the generation of emporia (cf. Humanitarian Intervention as Propaganda Normal).