Archive for April, 2010
General (Ret) James David (who is mentioned on the cover of the third edition of former Republican Congressman Paul Findley’s ‘They Dare to Speak Out’ book about the power/influence of the pro-Israel lobby on the US political system and media) wrote the following intro:
Fwd: Breaking News: Walkout urged for Ahmadinejad’s U.N. speech
Friday, April 30, 2010 1:47 PM
From: General (Ret) James David
You can bet that the U.S. will be the first to walk out. I sure hope I’m wrong. If ever there was a time for U.N. members to walk out on anyone they should walk out when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks. after all, it’s Israel who refuses to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, not Iran.
Sent: 4/30/2010 3:24:33 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: Breaking News: Walkout urged for Ahmadinejad’s U.N. speech
JTA News Alert
April 30, 2010
Jewish groups: Boycott Ahmadinejad in NYC
NEW YORK (JTA) — Jewish groups are calling on U.N. member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran’s president speaks next week at the United Nations.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s plans to address the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on May 3 make a mockery of the proceedings, Jewish groups said.
“We call on all countries, particularly those that value democracy and freedom, to leave the United Nations hall when Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, rises to speak,” the president and executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Alan Solow and Malcolm Hoenlein, said in a statement. “Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability poses a threat to the region and the entire Western world. To have President Ahmadinejad address this review conference makes a mockery of the efforts of many countries to prevent nuclear weapons and nuclear terrorism from becoming the gravest global threats of this century.”
The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York issued an action alert urging readers to e-mail U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at email@example.com to protest Ahmadenijad’s inclusion at the conference.
The World Jewish Congress asked its member communities to contact their government representatives to persuade them to participate in the protest walkout, saying in a statement, “It is dismaying that, once again, the U.N. is allowing the head of a regime, foremost in the sponsorship of terrorism and the abuse of human rights, who defies U.N. resolutions regarding its nuclear ambitions, to appear before the international body.”
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The pro-Israel lobby (to include the neocons and AIPAC as well) that wants even more Americans to die in yet another war for Israel in the Middle East must be salivating over this one!
AP source: US Navy has encounter with Iranian jet
WASHINGTON – A U.S. military official says the Navy had a close encounter with an Iranian surveillance jet last week in the Gulf of Oman.
The official says the jet buzzed a Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Eisenhower, coming within about 1,000 yards of the ship. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said the April 21 incident occurred in international waters.
The jet was described as a maritime patrol aircraft generally used for surveillance.
The official says “there was nothing threatening about the aircraft itself or how it presented itself.”
The official could not confirm reports by NBC and CBS that the jet made three passes over the Navy ship.
Egypt Warns of Mideast Summer War
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 9:09 AM
JERUSALEM – Egypt has issued a stark warning of a summer war between Israel and Lebanon.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit passed on messages to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and representatives of the other permanent UN Security Council members, warning that the current Israel-Lebanon tensions could deteriorate into an armed conflict, Israel Radio reported on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, according to the radio station, Egyptian diplomats denied reports that Aboul Gheit had called Israel an enemy state in Beirut on Monday. They stressed that the foreign minister had said it was Lebanon that considered Israel an enemy state, not Egypt.
The latest tensions between Israel and Lebanon arose after reports surfaced in Kuwait’s Al-Rai newspaper that Syria had transferred Scud ballistic missiles to Hizbullah. Israel subsequently issued a stern warning that it would consider attacking both Syrian and Lebanese targets in response to a Scud attack on its territory.
Lebanon’s Western-backed Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri denied the allegations, comparing them to the American charges that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction ahead of the 2003 US-led invasion.
However, the chairwoman of the US Senate’s Intelligence Committee warned that there was a “high likelihood” that Hizbullah had acquired Scuds.
Clinton has said the Obama administration is still committed to improving ties with Syria, despite its “deeply troubling” moves to aid Hizbullah.
Iran’s Nuclear Disarmament Conference and Israel’s Nukes
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 6:07 PM
From: “Stephen Sniegoski”
Iran recently hosted a nuclear disarmament conference that was somewhat different from the “Nuclear Security Summit” hosted by President Obama in Washington earlier in April. The Washington summit focused on ways to improve security for enriched uranium and other nuclear materials in order to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. The Iranian-hosted international disarmament conference focused on overall nuclear disarmament. As Eric Walberg writes: “This counter-conference was a coup for Iran — a truly international platform for challenging Washington’s assertion that it wants to see a world without nuclear weapons.”
While it is doubtful if Iran is really morally superior to the US on the nuclear issue, it can certainly appear that way. But it is obviously in the self-interest of Iran to criticize American nuclear dominance and demand that the US abide by the letter and spirit of the NPT and actually move toward nuclear disarmament. For example, the head of Iran’s Atomic Organization, Ali Salehi, complained that there is no “watchdog for the disarmament. We want to have [a] specific date . . . announced for the complete disarmament of the countries that have nuclear weapons. We are after the power of logic but unfortunately still the rule of jungle is prevailing.”
And, of course, the conference brought up the issue of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, which is not under international inspection. The conference concluded with a demand that Israel join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to bring about a nuclear weapons-free Middle East.
Maintaining a head-in-the-sand approach, the US government will not even publicly acknowledge that Israel possesses nuclear weapons. This obvious double-standard seems perfectly reasonable to Israel and to the political and media class in the US, which sees Israel as a beleaguered virtuous country that needs nukes to defend itself and would presumably only use nukes when threatened by military defeat. Israel did threaten to use nuclear weapons in the first phase of the Yom Kippur War of 1973 when Egypt launched a successful surprise attack.
Obviously, this double-standard does not appear to be justified to the rest of the world, especially Israel’s neighbors, which expects Israel to abide by the same standards as all other countries. Most Americans would probably agree with this position, but the mainstream media never presents the issue in this straight-forward manner.
I also recommend that you look at a 2003 BBC documentary on Israel’s nuclear weapons—Olenka Frankiel, “Israel’s Secret Weapon”
The description of the program at Pulse media website reads: “Olenka Frankiel’s Israel’s Secret Weapon is a worthwhile view and timely given the warmongering directed at NPT signatory Iran’s planned nuclear program. It also highlights the consequences for Dimona workers who have cancer and the use of Israeli experimental weapons against Palestinians in Gaza. It profiles a number of people who have spoken up publicly about this nuclear rogue state, the most prominent of whom is nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu but also includes former Israeli Arab MK Issam Makhoul who first broached the issue in the Knesset in 2000 and key Israeli nuclear scientist Brig. Gen. Yitzhak Yaakov whose life was effectively destroyed for daring to breach the shroud of deception and secrecy.”
The documentary underscores the enforced secrecy involved in Israel’s nuclear program. Those who wish to reveal what is going on are threatened with severe penalties.
Mordechai Vanunu was convicted of treason and espionage (based on the Emergency Defense Regulations implemented by Britain during the Palestinian Mandate in 1945) for revealing Israel’s nuclear weapons program, yet he did not provide any new information to Israel’s enemies but simply confirmed the existence of Israel’s nuclear weapons to the British press. The governments of every major country knew this already. And Israel, pursuing a policy of “nuclear ambiguity,” wanted them to know it so that its enemies would fear Israel.
What Israel wants to avoid is for the international community to demand an inspection of Israel’s nuclear program and perhaps demand its elimination. And by not acknowledging possession of nuclear weapons, Israel avoids a US legal prohibition on funding countries which proliferate weapons of mass destruction. It would seem, however, that Israel acknowledged the existence its nuclear arsenal by convicting Vanunu (the trial was secret)—if his information was imaginary he could not have been convicted of treason and espionage. Of course, the US government still does not publicly acknowledge Israel’s nuclear program.
Obviously, America’s toleration of Israel’s nuclear arsenal undercuts America’s demands that other countries follow the letter (or more than the letter as in the case of Iran) of the NPT.
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April 20, 2010
Iran’s Disarmament Conference
By ERIC WALBERG
The logic of power is still the overriding the power of logic, quipped the head of Iran’s Atomic Organisation Ali Salehi at the “Nuclear Energy for all, Nuclear Weapons for None” disarmament conference in Tehran last weekend, referring to US foreign policy, in particular, nuclear. Taking this elegant formulation a step further, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says nuclear-armed states such as the United States should be removed entirely from the IAEA and its Board of Governors. Iran’s president called for the formation of a new international body to oversee nuclear disarmament, or at least the reinvigoration of the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Twenty-four foreign and deputy foreign ministers and official representatives from 60 states, including China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Iraq, and Turkey came to Teheran, with the glaring exception of the US and Israel, though they were invited along with everyone else. The conference was a direct reply to Washington’s refusal to invite Iran to its own Nuclear Security Summit last week, which attracted the attention of 47 leaders, and focused — more cynically — merely on international control of all nuclear-related activity.
Obama’s conference was limited to efforts to protect weapon-usable nuclear materials (notably spent fuel from Ukraine) to safeguard against nuclear terrorism, and endorsed Obama’s call for securing all nuclear materials around the globe within four years to keep them out of the grasp of terrorists.
This is an echo of the 1946 Baruch Plan by the US to force a prostrate world into accepting US control of nuclear power/ weapons. A threadbare demand by the only country which has actually used nuclear weapons in battle — against innocent civilians. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said, “The one and only nuclear criminal in the world now falsely claims to be fighting against the spread of atomic weapons but has definitely not taken and will not take any serious action in this regard.”
This counter-conference was a coup for Iran — a truly international platform for challenging Washington’s assertion that it wants to see a world without nuclear weapons. “The conference expressed its concerns about the continued existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction — nuclear arms in particular — as well as their application or threat to apply them,” the closing statement said.
Iran’s Joint Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hassan Firouzabadi said the Washington summit actually worked against the purpose of non-proliferation: “Its result was that nuclear weapons should be safeguarded and this was in conflict with the NPT and disarmament.” He pointed out the hypocrisy of Washington’s Nuclear Posture Review which claims it does not seek first use of nuclear weapons — except against Iran and North Korea, asking sarcastically what makes Iranian and North Korean citizens different from the rest of the world. Iran’s UN ambassador Mohammad Khazaee dotted the “i”s, calling Washington’s new nuclear weapons policy “state terrorism”.
Salehi led the criticism of the NPT where “in the past 40 years most of the activities have been focusing on the non-proliferation and then on the peaceful use of nuclear energy and not on the disarmament. So, we have not seen any positive or hopeful steps in the disarmament issue.” He complained that there is no “watchdog for the disarmament. We want to have specific date, specific date, announced for the complete disarmament of the countries that have nuclear weapons. We are after the power of logic but unfortunately still the rule of jungle is prevailing.”
Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said, “In order to achieve disarmament and non-proliferation, we must promote the NPT and prevent powers from exerting their influence on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).” Iran’s top envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, noted that the conference will play a significant role in the outcome of next month’s NPT conference in New York.
Iran’s call for real nuclear disarmament is supported, oddly enough, by Germany, which called for the removal of all US nuclear weapons from Europe last year. The removal of all nuclear weapons from the Middle East, of course, was on all participants’ minds. All agreed that Israel must be pressured to join the NPT, completing the work that Obama’s conference should have done. There, only Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit dared raise the issue of Israeli nuclear weapons.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov told the Iranian conference, “We need to achieve the goal of the establishment of a zone free from weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and here Israel’s role is crucial. Without their due involvement, nothing would be possible.” Ayatollah Khamenei was less restrained: “If the US claim of fighting the spread of nuclear weapons is not a lie, how can the Zionist regime manage to avoid international regulations — in particular the NPT — and turn occupied Palestine into an arsenal of nuclear weapons?”
Foreign ministers from Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon supported the Organisation of Islamic Conference head, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, in calling for a nuclear weapon-free Middle East. Their presence no doubt irked Washington, as did Turkey’s role in both conferences. As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, member of the Non-Aligned Movement and NATO, EU candidate, and Iran’s Muslim neighbour, Turkey has suddenly emerged from its US shadow as an important regional mediator.
In a jab to Washington for spurning the conference, Rybakov effused: “It is an excellent opportunity to have a free-flowing exchange of views on some critical issues. We are discussing the way to go forward to this [nuclear weapon-free] goal.”
On Iran’s nuclear programme, delegations from Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq voiced their support for Iranian nuclear activities, which they described as peaceful. Rybakov said the international community is well aware that “atomic bombs are against Iran’s religious beliefs and defensive doctrine,” but urged Iran to resolve the current stand-off in a way “that may be considered satisfactory to the US and some other countries” so that “full confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme.” Paul Ingram, executive director of the British American Security Information Council, said “The Tehran conference will undermine US strategies in forming a front against Iran.”
This counter-conference highlighted the real reason for targeting Iran: more than any other country, it exposes Washington’s real agenda, its imperial agenda. As if responding to the conference’s success, a secret memo penned by Defence Secretary and well-known peacenik Robert Gates in January was leaked as the conference closed, calling for new options against Iran including invasion, Bush’s tired policy of “leaving all the options on the table”.
But like the US conference, much of the real activity was going on behind the scenes, and it was not all nuclear. Pakistan and China were low-key, but nonetheless their presence was a snub to Washington. Iran is China’s key energy partner, importing 12 per cent of its oil from Iran, and is busy helping build the Peace Pipeline to carry Iran’s natural gas to Pakistan (and in the future to India and China), despite US attempts to force Pakistan to cancel the project and cooperate on a pipeline through Afghanistan to Central Asia. India and Iran are jointly construct power plants and plan to exchange electricity via Pakistan. Tehran is already exporting electricity to Turkey, Armenia and Afghanistan. With Iraq’s oil industry in disarray, and as Iran’s nuclear power plants begin work in August, Iran is poised to become the energy powerhouse in Central Asia.
That, along with the likes of Iran’s disarmament conference, is doing much more for regional peace than US invasions and threats. Such nuclear-armed countries as India and Pakistan would be happy to give up their nukes if everyone else did, making them natural allies of Iran — and the world at large. Actions speak much louder than words in politics, and Iran’s current diplomatic and economic demarche is showing up the empty White House rhetoric at each turn.
Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly. You can reach him at http://ericwalberg.com/
Coleen Rowley wrote:
Former CIA analyst (and my “Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity” colleague) Ray McGovern writes on the war-mongering that is again heating up in DC:
By Ray McGovern
April 26, 2010
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said publicly that Iran “doesn’t directly threaten the United States.” Her momentary lapse came while answering a question at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar, on Feb. 14.
Fortunately for her, most of her Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) fellow travelers must have been either jet-lagged or sunning themselves poolside when she made her unusual admission.
And those who were present did Clinton the favor of disappearing her gaffe and ignoring its significance. (All one happy traveling family, you know.)
But she said it: it’s on the State Department Web site. Those who had been poolside could even have read the text after showering. They might have recognized a real story there — but, granted, it was one so off-message that it would probably not we welcomed by editors back home.
In a rambling comment, Clinton had lamented that, despite President Barack Obama’s reaching out to the Iranian leaders, he had elicited no sign they were willing to engage:
“Part of the goal — not the only goal, but part of the goal — that we were pursuing was to try to influence the Iranian decision regarding whether or not to pursue a nuclear weapon. And, as I said in my speech, you know, the evidence is accumulating that that [pursuing a nuclear weapon] is exactly what they are trying to do, which is deeply concerning, because it doesn’t directly threaten the United States, but it directly threatens a lot of our friends, allies, and partners here in this region and beyond.” (Emphasis added)
Qatar Afraid? Not So Much
The moderator turned to Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Al-Thani and invited him to give his perspective on “the danger that the Secretary just alluded to…if Iran gets the bomb.”
Al-Thani pointed to Iran’s “official answer” that it is not seeking to have a nuclear bomb; instead, the Iranians “explain to us that their intention is to use these facilities for their peaceful reactors for electricity and medical use…
“We have good relations with Iran,” he added. “And we have continuous dialogue with the Iranians.”
The prime minister added, “the best thing for this problem is a direct dialogue between the United States and Iran,” and “dialogue through messenger is not good.”
Al-Thani stressed that, “For a small country, stability and peace are very important,” and intimated — diplomatically but clearly — that he was at least as afraid of what Israel and the U.S. might do, as what Iran might do.
All right. Secretary Clinton concedes that Iran does not directly threaten the United States; so who are these “friends” to whom she refers? First and foremost, Israel, of course.
How often have we heard the Israelis say they would consider nuclear weapons in Iran’s hands an “existential” threat? But let’s try a reality check.
Former French President Jacques Chirac is perhaps the best-known statesman to hold up to ridicule the notion that Israel, with between 200 and 300 nuclear weapons in its arsenal, would consider Iran’s possession of a nuclear bomb an existential threat.
In a recorded interview with the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, and Le Nouvel Observateur, on Jan. 29, 2007, Chirac put it this way:
“Where will it drop it, this bomb? On Israel?” Chirac asked. “It would not have gone 200 meters into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed.” Thus, Iran’s possession of a nuclear bomb would not be “very dangerous.”
Chirac and a Hard Place
Soon, the former French president found himself caught between Chirac and a hard place. He was immediately forced to retract, but did so in what seemed to be so clumsy a way as to deliberately demonstrate that his initial candor was spot on.
On Jan. 30, Chirac told the New York Times:
“I should rather have paid attention to what I was saying and understood that perhaps I was on record. … I don’t think I spoke about Israel yesterday. Maybe I did so, but I don’t think so. I have no recollection of that.”
The Israeli leaders must have been laughing up their sleeve at that. Their continued ability to intimidate presidents of other countries — including President Barack Obama — is truly remarkable, particularly when it comes to helping to keep Israel’s precious “secret,” that it possesses one of the world’s most sophisticated nuclear arsenals.
Shortly after Obama became U.S. President, veteran reporter Helen Thomas asked him if he knew of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons, and Obama awkwardly responded that he didn’t want to “speculate.”
On April 13, 2010, Obama looked like a deer caught in the headlights when the Washington Post’s Scott Wilson, taking a leaf out of Helen Thomas’ book, asked him if he would “call on Israel to declare its nuclear program and sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
Watch the video, unless you have no stomach for watching our normally articulate President stutter his way through with a mini-filibuster answer, the highlight of which was, “And, as far as Israel goes, I’m not going to comment on their program…”
The following day the Jerusalem Post smirked, “President Dodges Question About Israel’s Nuclear Program.” The article continued: “Obama took a few seconds to formulate his response, but quickly took the weight off Israel and called on all countries to abide by the NPT.”
The Jerusalem Post added that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak chose that same day to send a clear message “also to those who are our friends and allies,” that Israel will not be pressured into signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
(Also the following day, the Washington Post made no reference to the question from its own reporter or Obama’s stumbling non-answer.)
In his response to Scott Wilson, Obama felt it necessary to tack on the observation that his words regarding the NPT represented the “consistent policy” of prior U.S. administrations, presumably to avert any adverse reaction from the Likud Lobby to even the slightest suggestion that Obama might be ratcheting up, even a notch or two, any pressure on Israel to acknowledge its nuclear arsenal and sign the NPT.
The greatest consistency to the policy, however, has been the U.S. obsequiousness to this double standard. Clearly, Washington and the FCM find it easier to draw black-and-white distinctions between noble Israel and evil Iran if there’s no acknowledgement that Israel already has nukes and Iran has disavowed any intention of getting them.
This never-ending hypocrisy shows itself in various telling ways. I am reminded of an early Sunday morning talk show over five years ago at which Sen. Richard Lugar, then chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was asked why Iran would think it has to acquire nuclear weapons. Perhaps Lugar had not yet had his morning coffee, because he almost blew it with his answer:
“Well, you know, Israel has…” Oops. At that point he caught himself and abruptly stopped. The pause was embarrassing, but he then recovered and tried to limit the damage.
Aware that he could not simply leave the words “Israel has” twisting in the wind, Lugar began again: “Well, Israel is alleged to have a nuclear capability.”
Is “alleged” to have? Lugar was chair of the Foreign Relations Committee from 1985 to 1987; and then again from 2003 to 2007. No one told him that Israel has nuclear weapons? But, of course, he did know, but he also knew that U.S. policy on disclosure of this “secret” – over four decades — has been to protect Israel’s nuclear “ambiguity.”
Small wonder that our most senior officials and lawmakers — and Lugar, remember, is one of the more honest among them — are widely seen as hypocritical, the word Scott Wilson used to frame his question.
The Fawning Corporate Media, of course, ignores this hypocrisy, which is their standard operating procedure when the word “Israel” is spoken in unflattering contexts. But the Iranians, Syrians and others in the Middle East pay closer attention.
As for Obama, the die was cast during the presidential campaign when, on June 3, 2008, in the obligatory appearance before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he threw raw red meat to the Likud Lobby.
Someone wrote into his speech: “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.” This obsequious gesture went well beyond the policy of prior U.S. administrations on this highly sensitive issue, and Obama had to backtrack two days later.
“Well, obviously, it’s going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues. And Jerusalem will be part of those negotiations,” Obama said when asked if he was saying the Palestinians had no future claim to the city.
The person who inserted the offending sentence into his speech was not identified nor fired, as he or she should have been. My guess is that the sentence inserter has only risen in power within the Obama administration.
So, why am I reprising this sorry history? Because this is what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees as the context of the U.S.-Israeli relationship.
Even when Israel acts in a manner that flies in the face of stated U.S. policy – calling on all nations to sign the NPT and to submit to transparency in their nuclear programs – Netanyahu has every reason to believe that Washington’s power-players will back down and the U.S. FCM will intuitively understand its role in the cover-up.
L’Affaire Biden – when the Vice President was humiliated by having Israel announce new Jewish construction in East Jerusalem as he arrived to reaffirm U.S. solidarity with Israel — was dismissed as a mere “spat” by the neoconservative editorial page of the Washington Post.
Rather than Israel making amends to the United States, it has been vice versa.
Obama’s national security adviser, James Jones, trudged over to an affair organized by the AIPAC offshoot think tank, Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), last Wednesday to make a major address.
I got to wondering, after reading his text, which planet Jones lives on. He devoted his first nine paragraphs to fulsome praise for WINEP’s “objective analysis” and scholarship, adding that “our nation — and indeed the world — needs institutions like yours now more than ever.”
Most importantly, Jones gave pride of place to “preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them,” and only then tacking on the need to forge “lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.” He was particularly effusive in stating:
“There is no space — no space — between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel’s security.”
Those were the exact words used by Vice President Joe Biden in Israel on March 9, before he was mouse-trapped by the announcement of Israel’s plans for East Jerusalem.
The message is inescapably clear: Netanyahu has every reason to believe that the Siamese-twin relationship with the United States is back to normal, despite the suggestion from CENTCOM Commander, Gen. David Petraeus, earlier this year that total identification with Israel costs the lives of American troops.
Petraeus’s main message was that this identification fosters the widespread impression that the U.S. is incapable of standing up to Israel. The briefing that he sponsored reportedly noted, “America was not only viewed as weak, but there was a growing perception that its military posture in the region was eroding.”
However, in the address to WINEP, National Security Adviser Jones evidenced no concern on that score. Worse still, in hyping the threat from Iran, he seemed to be channeling Dick Cheney’s rhetoric before the attack on Iraq, simply substituting an “n” for the “q.” Thus:
“Iran’s continued defiance of its international obligations on its nuclear program and its support of terrorism represents (sic) a significant regional and global threat. A nuclear-armed Iran could transform the landscape of the Middle East…fatally wounding the global non-proliferation regime, and emboldening terrorists and extremists who threaten the United States and our allies.”
A Bigger Mousetrap?
Jacques Chirac may have gone a bit too far in belittling Israel’s concern over the possibility of Iran acquiring a small nuclear capability, but it is truly hard to imagine that Israel would feel incapable of deterring what would be a suicidal Iranian attack.
The real threat to Israel’s “security interests” would be something quite different. If Iran acquired one or two nuclear weapons, Israel might be deprived of the full freedom of action it now enjoys in attacking its Arab neighbors.
Even a rudimentary Iranian capability could work as a deterrent the next time the Israelis decide they would like to attack Lebanon, Syria or Gaza. Clearly, the Israelis would prefer not to have to look over their shoulder at what Tehran might contemplate doing in the way of retaliation.
However, there has been a big downside for Israel in hyping the “existential threat” supposedly posed by Iran. This exaggerated danger and the fear it engenders have caused many highly qualified Israelis, who find a ready market for their skills abroad, to emigrate.
That could well become a true “existential threat” to a small country traditionally dependent on immigration to populate it and on its skilled population to make its economy function.
The departure of well-educated secular Jews also could tip the country’s political balance more in favor of the ultra-conservative settlers who are already an important part of Netanyahu’s Likud coalition.
Still, at this point, Netanyahu has the initiative regarding what will happen next with Iran, assuming Tehran doesn’t fully capitulate to the U.S.-led pressure campaign. Netanyahu could decide if and when to launch a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, thus forcing Washington’s hand in deciding whether to back Israel if Iran retaliates.
Netanyahu may not be impressed – or deterred – by anything short of a public pronouncement from Obama that the U.S. will not support Israel if it provokes war with Iran. The more Obama avoids such blunt language, the more Netanyahu is likely to view Obama as a weakling who can be played politically.
If Netanyahu feels himself in the catbird seat, then an Israeli attack on Iran seems to me more likely than not. For instance, would Netanyahu judge that Obama lacked the political spine to have U.S. forces in control of Iraqi airspace shoot down Israeli aircraft on their way to Iran? Many analysts feel that Obama would back down and let the warplanes proceed to their targets.
Then, if Iran sought to retaliate, would Obama feel compelled to come to Israel’s defense and “finish the job” by devastating what was left of Iran’s nuclear and military capacity? Again, many analysts believe that Obama would see little choice, politically.
Yet, whatever we think the answers are, the only calculation that matters is Israel’s. My guess is Netanyahu would not anticipate a strong reaction from President Obama, who has, time and again, showed himself to be more politician than statesman.
James Jones is, after all, Obama’s national security adviser, and is throwing off signals that can only encourage Netanyahu to believe that Jones’s boss would scurry to find some way to avoid the domestic political opprobrium that would accrue, were he to seem less than fully supportive of Israel.
Backing Off the NIE?
Netanyahu has other reasons to take heart with the political directions of Washington.
According to Sunday’s Washington Post, the U.S. intelligence community is preparing what is called “a memorandum to holders of Iran Estimate,” in other words an update to the full-scale National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) completed in November 2007, which downplayed Iran’s nuclear capabilities and intentions.
The NIE’s update is now projected for completion this August, delayed from last fall reportedly because of new incoming information.
The Post article recalls that the 2007 NIE presented the “startling conclusion” that Iran had halted work on developing a nuclear warhead. Why “startling?” Because this contradicted what President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had been saying during the previous months.
It is a hopeful thing that senior intelligence officials from both CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency have, the way the Post puts it, “avoided contradicting the language used in the 2007 NIE,” although some are said to privately assert that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon.
The Post says there is an expectation that the previous NIE “will be corrected” to indicate a darker interpretation of Iranian nuclear intentions.
It seems a safe, if sad, bet that the same Likud-friendly forces that attacked experienced diplomat Chas Freeman as a “realist” and got him “un-appointed,” after National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair had named him Director of the National Intelligence Council, will try to Netanyahu-ize the upcoming Memorandum to Holders.
The National Intelligence Council has purview over such memoranda, as well as over NIEs. Without Freeman, or anyone similarly substantive and strong, it seems likely that the intelligence community will not be able to resist the political pressures to conform.
Nevertheless, the intelligence admirals, generals and other high officials seem to be avoiding the temptation to play games, so far.
The Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Gen. Ronald Burgess, and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. James Cartwright, hewed to the intelligence analysts’ judgments in their testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee last Wednesday.
Indeed, their answer to the question as to how soon Iran could have a deliverable nuclear weapon, if fact, sounded familiar:
“Experience says it is going to take you three to five years” to move from having enough highly enriched uranium to having a “deliverable weapon that is usable… something that can actually create a detonation, an explosion that would be considered a nuclear weapon,” Cartwright told the panel.
What makes Cartwright’s assessment familiar – and relatively reassuring – is that five years ago, the director of DIA told Congress that Iran is not likely to have a nuclear weapon until “early in the next decade” — this decade. Now, we’re early in that decade and Iran’s nuclear timetable, assuming it does intend to build a bomb, has been pushed back to the middle of this decade at the earliest.
Indeed, the Iranians have been about five years away from a nuclear weapon for several decades now, according to periodic intelligence estimates. They just never seem to get much closer. But there’s not a trace of embarrassment among U.S. policymakers or any notice of this slipping timetable by the FCM.
Not that NIEs – or U.S. officials – matter much in terms of a potential military showdown with Iran. The “decider” here is Netanyahu, unless Obama stands up and tells him, publicly, “If you attack Iran, you’re on your own.”
But don’t hold your breath.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27-year career as a CIA analyst, he chaired National Intelligence Estimates and prepared and briefed the President’s Daily Brief. He serves on the Steering Committee of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
Strain in U.S.-Israel Ties Spurs Anxiety About ‘Dual Loyalty’
How US Could be Helpful with regard to the Israel-Palestinian Conflict
Israel Lobby and War on Iran
Saturday, April 24, 2010 6:57 PM
From: “Stephen Sniegoski”
In his Foreign Policy blog, Stephen Walt, co-author of “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy,” is trying to determine why US leaders are planning to impose more sanctions on Iran or adopt even more drastic military measures.
Walt observes that Iran does not threaten the US in any real way and leaves the question unanswered. Of course, Walt could find the reason if he looked at the title of his co-authored book. And if he really could not come up with this answer, he should undergo a medical examination for memory loss.
Everyone familiar with American politics knows the immense power of the Israel lobby, but they also know it is not safe to discuss its power publicly. In a review of Walt’s faux predicament, Justin Raimondo points out:
“This lobby unites the broadest coalition in American politics, ranging from the left wing of the Democratic party all the way to the furthest reaches of the ultra-right, not to mention including the bipartisan political establishment in Washington.”
Raimondo, I believe, goes a bit far in claiming that neocons had a major impact on shaping American foreign policy globally. I would limit their major impact to the Middle East, which since 9/11 has been the fundamental area of US concern. And, with this caveat, I would agree with Raimondo that “The present administration, for all its talk of ‘change,’ has continued to operate within the same paradigm.” Once the US began to pursue the neocons’ Middle East war agenda, it has become politically difficult to get off that track.
While neocons stood out in the push for war with Iraq, the full Israel lobby and Israel itself, though supportive of that war, stayed mostly in the background. The role of Israel is far more overt in regard to Iran. “Here,” Raimondo writes, “the power of the Israel lobby is rearing up to its full height, with Israeli government officials openly calling on the nations of the world – i.e. the United States – to commit acts of war against Iran: impose sanctions, set up a blockade, and effect ‘regime change’ by whatever means. And Israel’s amen corner in the US is echoing this call, with the drumbeat for war getting louder by the month.”
Raimondo holds that the force preventing an attack on Iran is the American people. “Our leaders,” he writes, “are afraid of the public reaction if it should ever come to war, and so the President and his administration are caught in a vise, pressed by fear of the Lobby on one side, and fear of their own people on the other.” I must admit that I have less faith in the wisdom of the American people than Raimondo and fear that the administration, if it truly wanted war, could come up with an incident to generate the necessary public support.
What then prevents Obama from going to war? First, I think it is apparent that Obama would not attack Iran if it were not for outside pressure, but he is a rather weak reed to oppose the Israel lobby. Without substantial support, Obama, like almost all politicians, would cave in to the demands of the powerful Israel lobby.
The traditional foreign policy establishment, however, opposes such a war because it would be harmful to the American national interest, especially because it could lead to a cut-off of Middle Eastern oil that would send the industrial world into an economic tailspin. It is this thinking that prevails among the unelected individuals in the national security/foreign policy sectors of the federal government. I might add, however, that few members of the traditional foreign policy establishment dare to mention that the Israel lobby is pushing the country to war. These people have important positions and thus have much to lose (and probably a few skeletons in their closets), and don’t believe that they are sufficiently powerful to withstand a smear attack by the Israel lobby and its minions in Congress and the media.
(The Israel lobby’s hounding of former ambassador Chas Freeman when he was nominated chairman of the National Intelligence Council in 2009 is an example of the difficulties of one who openly opposed the Israel lobby.)
Obama must realize, however, that opposing the Israel lobby on an issue it deems vital could spell political death for any politician. This could certainly be the case for Obama in his current politically precarious position. Not only could the Democrats suffer extensive losses in the 2010 congressional elections, but Obama could be defeated in 2012 by the appropriate Republican opponent. General David Petraeus, for example, who is very much in the neocon camp, but not branded as a right-winger, would especially be difficult for a weakened Obama to defeat.
On the other hand, as Raimondo writes, war might serve “the interests of a politically beleaguered, increasingly unpopular President or party to divert public attention away from domestic problems by launching a campaign of fear.” War especially would be seen as a viable option if Obama’s popularity were to fall to such a low level that only something drastic could save him; wars certainly unite a country, a least for a short period, behind the leader.
So while war with Iran is not a certainty, neither is it unlikely. As Ron Paul points out, the Iran sanctions legislation now in Congress would be major step toward war.
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The Making of American Foreign Policy
Posted By Justin Raimondo On April 20, 2010 @ 11:00 pm In Uncategorized | 38 Comments
Writing on his Foreign Policy blog, Stephen Walt notes the uptick in war hysteria directed at Iran, and, like a good realist, looks at the US-Iranian military equation with a cold-eyed attention to facts and figures. He lists the huge military and economic disparities in favor of the US, bare numbers that speak truth to war propaganda, and then wonders aloud:
“The more one thinks about it, the odder our obsession with Iran appears. It’s a pretty unlovable regime, to be sure, but given Iran’s actual capabilities, why do U.S. leaders devote so much time and effort trying to corral support for more economic sanctions (which aren’t going to work) or devising strategies to ‘contain’ an Iran that shows no sign of being able to expand in any meaningful way?”
In search of an answer to this puzzling question, Walt goes on to explore the non-military aspects of the Middle Eastern conflict, averring that “simple bean counts like the one presented above do not tell you everything about the two countries, or the political challenges that Iran might pose to its neighbors.” Pointing to Iranian support for Hezbollah and influence in Iraq and Afghanistan, Walt nevertheless urges us not to overstate the alleged Iranian “threat” and allow ourselves to be stampeded into another unnecessary war. One couldn’t agree more, and yet I can’t help but notice Walt failed to answer his own question: why are our “leaders” devoting so much time and effort to corral support for murderous sanctions (remember Iraq) and other acts of war?
The answer, of course, is contained in the pages of a book Walt co-authored, with John Mearsheimer, that tells a good part of the story. The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy is invariably described as “controversial,” or even “extremely controversial,” but this is merely an indication of how tame our political discourse has become in the Republic’s late senescence. In reality the book merely demonstrates, at length and in great detail, a simple truism that everyone already knows and long ago learned to live with: the decisive influence of Israel’s partisans in the formulation and conduct of US foreign policy.
This dominant position has been true since the Reagan years, and, what’s more, it has been common knowledge: after all, it was Fortune magazine, not The National Socialist News, that rated the Israel lobby the second most powerful in Washington. This lobby unites the broadest coalition in American politics, ranging from the left wing of the Democratic party all the way to the furthest reaches of the ultra-right, not to mention including the bipartisan political establishment in Washington.
A huge ongoing propaganda campaign is constantly churning out pro-Israel materials directed at a wide variety of special interest groups: the lobby’s most well-known success story is the Christian fundamentalist faction, which believes in the key role played by Israel as a harbinger of the second coming of Christ. The lobby has parlayed this into a powerful domestic constituency fanatically devoted to Israel’s cause – and not just the cause of the current Israeli government, but of the most extremist and expansionist elements in the Israeli polity.
A less well-known triumph of niche marketing is the Israeli propaganda effort directed at the gay community. The Israeli government has sponsored ads appearing in San Francisco’s bus shelters extolling the IDF because it doesn’t discriminate against gays, and a recent tour of Israel’s gay hot spots promises a visit with hunky IDF soldiers. Pat Robertson and the advocates of gay liberation – together at last!
We’re an empire now, and it’s perfectly rational for every state actor in the world who wants something from Uncle Sam to not only show up at the imperial court in Washington and seek the favor of the most powerful ruler in world history, but also to make an appeal to his subjects. Since Congress long ago ceded its war-making and oversight powers to the executive, an American president, once in office, can wreak considerable havoc in the conduct of our foreign affairs
Yet even Caesar operates under certain constraints: i.e. the vicissitudes of domestic politics, which require him to hand out favors to his supporters in order to remain in power beyond the next election. It is safe to say, with certain rare exceptions, that every political leader acts purely out of his own self-interest: that is, with an eye to either achieving political office or else retaining that office once elected. This is merely a restatement of a simple axiom: every ruling class acts to preserve its rule.
The American elite, however, is particularly ruthless, these days, in its pursuit of naked self-interest: the old British idea of politics as a “public service,” a selfless act of noblesse oblige, went out with the first Bush administration, and had been near extinct long before then. Today, it is a veritable free-for-all, with various interest groups lunging at the loot, and battling over it on the public stage, so that American politics often looks like an episode of the Jerry Springer Show.
This vulgarity has carried over into the realm of foreign affairs, coinciding with the rising influence of the neoconservatives. The neocons, whose unabashed appetite for foreign conquests, and open boasts that they were establishing an “American empire,” really defined the style and spirit of the American “hegemon,” whose supremacy they proclaim [.pdf] must be the underlying objective of American foreign policy. The present administration, for all its talk of “change,” has continued to operate within the same paradigm that assumes unchallenged American supremacy the world over.
With such an extremist philosophy, one would think the neocons would’ve had a hard time pushing though their hard-line policies, especially given the much-lamented “isolationism” of the American people, and yet their success hinged on the interests of various interest groups that, together, hardly constitute a majority of the American people, but certainly dominate the “higher circles” in government, in the business world, and in the media. Using this leverage, the War Party’s coalition of ideological, business, and foreign interests managed to whip up a storm of war hysteria against Iraq very similar to what is being whipped up today against Iran.
With one big difference: there is very little pretense being made as to whose interests a war against Iran is designed to serve, unlike in the previous instance. Here the power of the Israel lobby is rearing up to its full height, with Israeli government officials openly calling on the nations of the world – i.e. the United States – to commit acts of war against Iran: impose sanctions, set up a blockade, and effect “regime change” by whatever means. And Israel’s amen corner in the US is echoing this call, with the drumbeat for war getting louder by the month. Only a war-weary public, presently embroiled in bitter domestic internecine disputes, stands in the way of their success.
Our leaders are afraid of the public reaction if it should ever come to war, and so the President and his administration are caught in a vise, pressed by fear of the Lobby on one side, and fear of their own people on the other. On the one hand, a war at the height of an economic depression might be just the trick for turning things around politically. On the other hand, the backlash could be terrible, and politically fatal, like prematurely awakening a wild animal from hibernation – there’s always the danger it will turn on you. Under these circumstances, will they dare to go ahead with it?
In earnestly looking for some external reason for the drive to war – some geopolitical dynamic that would explain the inordinate attention paid to a weak adversary whose ability to hurt us is severely constrained – it’s no wonder Professor Walt came up empty-handed. No such dynamic exists: what does exist, however, is American politics, the course of which determines the policies we pursue overseas. There is no disinterested determination of where our interests, as a nation, lie, or what course would best protect the citizens of this country from attack: what is being protected, here, is not the physical and economic safety of the American people, but the particular interests of certain politicians and their supporters.
Will we go to war with Iran? No one knows. But if it serves the interests of a politically beleaguered, increasingly unpopular President or party to divert public attention away from domestic problems by launching a campaign of fear – The Iranians are coming! The Iranians are coming! – and creating a “crisis,” well then, war is hardly inconceivable. Indeed, it seems more likely by the day.
More hype about Iran?
Posted By Stephen M. Walt Tuesday, April 20, 2010 – 12:15 PM Share
Back when I started writing this blog, I warned that the idea of preventive war against Iran wasn’t going to go away just because Barack Obama was president. The topic got another little burst of oxygen over the past few days, in response to what seems to have been an over-hyped memorandum from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and some remarks by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, following a speech at Columbia University. In particular, Mullen noted that military action against Iran could “go a long way” toward delaying Iran’s acquisition of a weapons capability, though he also noted this could only be a “last resort” and made it clear it was not an option he favored.
One of the more remarkable features about the endless drumbeat of alarm about Iran is that it pays virtually no attention to Iran’s actual capabilities, and rests on all sorts of worst case assumptions about Iranian behavior. Consider the following facts, most of them courtesy of the 2010 edition of The Military Balance, published annually by the prestigious International Institute for Strategic Studies in London:
GDP: United States — 13.8 trillion
Iran –$ 359 billion (U.S. GDP is roughly 38 times greater than Iran’s)
Defense spending (2008):
U.S. — $692 billion
Iran — $9.6 billion (U.S. defense budget is over 70 times larger than Iran)
U.S.–1,580,255 active; 864,547 reserves (very well trained)
Iran– 525,000 active; 350,000 reserves (poorly trained)
U.S. — 4,090 (includes USAF, USN, USMC and reserves)
Iran — 312 (serviceability questionable)
Main battle tanks:
U.S. — 6,251 (Army + Marine Corps)
Iran — 1,613 (serviceability questionable)
U.S. — 11 aircraft carriers, 99 principal surface combatants, 71 submarines, 160 patrol boats, plus large auxiliary fleet
Iran — 6 principal surface combatants, 10 submarines, 146 patrol boats
U.S. — 2,702 deployed, >6,000 in reserve
Iran — Zero
One might add that Iran hasn’t invaded anyone since the Islamic revolution, although it has supported a number of terrorist organizations and engaged in various forms of covert action. The United States has also backed terrorist groups and conducted covert ops during this same period, and attacked a number of other countries, including Panama, Grenada, Serbia, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq (twice), and Afghanistan.
By any objective measure, therefore, Iran isn’t even on the same page with the United States in terms of latent power, deployed capabilities, or the willingness to use them. Indeed, Iran is significantly weaker than Israel, which has roughly the same toal of regular plus reserve military personnel and vastly superior training. Israel also has more numerous and modern armored and air capabilities and a sizeable nuclear weapons stockpile of its own. Iran has no powerful allies, scant power-projection capability, and little ideological appeal. Despite what some alarmists think, Iran is not the reincarnation of Nazi Germany and not about to unleash some new Holocaust against anyone.
The more one thinks about it, the odder our obsession with Iran appears. It’s a pretty unloveable regime, to be sure, but given Iran’s actual capabilities, why do U.S. leaders devote so much time and effort trying to corral support for more economic sanctions (which aren’t going to work) or devising strategies to “contain” an Iran that shows no sign of being able to expand in any meaningful way? Even the danger that a future Iranian bomb might set off some sort of regional arms race seems exaggerated, according to an unpublished dissertation by Philipp Bleek of Georgetown University. Bleek’s thesis examines the history of nuclear acquisition since 1945 and finds little evidence for so-called “reactive proliferation.” If he’s right, it suggests that Iran’s neighbors might not follow suit even if Iran did “go nuclear” at some point in the future).
Obviously, simple bean counts like the one presented above do not tell you everything about the two countries, or the political challenges that Iran might pose to its neighbors. Iran has engaged in a number of actions that are cause for concern (such as its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon), and it has some capacity to influence events in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, as we have learned in both of these countries, objectively weaker adversaries can still mount serious counterinsurgency operations against a foreign occupier. And if attacked, Iran does have various retaliatory options that we would find unpleasant, such as attacking shipping in the Persian Gulf. So Iran’s present weakness does not imply that the United States can go ahead and bomb it with impunity.
What it does mean is that we ought to keep this relatively minor “threat” in perspective, and not allow the usual threat-inflators to stampede us into another unnecessary war. My impression is that Admiral Mullen and SecDef Gates understand this. I hope I’m right. But I’m still puzzled as to why the Obama administration hasn’t tried the one strategy that might actually get somewhere: take the threat of force off the table, tell Tehran that we are willing to talk seriously about the issues that bother them (as well as the items that bother us), and try to cut a deal whereby Iran ratifies and implements the NPT Additional Protocol and is then permitted to enrich uranium for legitimate purposes (but not to weapons-grade levels). It might not work, of course, but neither will our present course of action or the “last resort” that Mullen referred to last weekend.