Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent and successful excoriation of the Palestinians before a receptive American audience made it easy to miss the subplot, which was the alleged threat posed by Iran. Netanyahu took every opportunity to attack the Iranians, tying them into each hostile group in the Middle East and taking them to task for their presumed efforts to become the regional hegemon rather than his beloved Israel. So it comes as no surprise that an Israeli Deputy Prime Minister has now called for war against Iran. Speaking at the end of May in an ‘interview’, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon urged an attack on Iran, arguing that it is necessary to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Ya’alon also called on the other countries, by which he meant the United States, to join in because Iran is “a threat to the entire civilized world.”
And it is not just an Israeli government official who would be expected to mouth the party line who is sending up red flags. Respected journalist Amir Oren, writing for Haaretz, ‘opines’ that there is considerable danger that Iran will be surprise attacked between the June departure of Robert Gates from the office of Secretary of Defense and the retirement of Admiral Mike Mullen from the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September. The timing of the attack is intended to take advantage of the confusion inevitable when there is a change of command in Washington. A regional war would also preempt any Palestinian attempts to declare statehood at the UN in September. And there are many in Washington who would welcome such an enterprise. Sources ‘report’ that the Pentagon is carrying out contingency planning based exercises in which US forces follow-on to the first Israel strikes against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. It is being presumed that President Obama would find it difficult not to do so, in support of “friend and close ally” Israel.
So we are possibly contemplating entering into another war to counter the Iranian “threat,” which this time, per Israel, is directed against the entire civilized world. As everyone knows, the United States has a mandate given by God to deal with all uncivilized behavior, something it has done so successfully in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. But stepping back a bit from the usual Israel rhetoric, there are certain problems with what is being promoted. Israel and its friends in the US have exhibited a tendency to move the goal posts back every time they discuss Iran, so much so that even well informed Americans don’t really understand the issues. For many years now it has been asserted that Iran is either six months or a year away from having a nuclear weapon, but they are no closer to having one now than they have ever been. Intelligence estimates coming from sources other than shills for Israel believe that even if Iran were to make the political and economic decision to proceed towards a weapon, by no means a given, they still could not do so before 2014. And that is assuming that the CIA and Mossad do not succeed in sabotaging parts of their program, as they did when they introduced the Stuxnet computer worm last year.
An ‘article’ by Seymour Hersh that appeared last week in the New Yorker reveals some details of the still classified 2011 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran. To put it succinctly, there is no actual evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapon program. None. Hersh’s article elicited a response from a number of anonymous White House sources who disputed the article’s conclusions, suggesting very clearly that the Obama Administration embraces the Iranian threat narrative, if only to be able to cite Tehran as the reason for the repeated American failures in the region. Hersh also reported that the NIE had been delayed for four months because the White House had wanted a harsher judgment on Iran’s likely intentions. The intelligence community, having been burned once over Iraq, refused to comply.
Israel and Washington have also continuously redefined the red line regarding the precise nature of the Iranian threat. It started reasonably enough with the acquisition of a nuclear weapon, but then became breakout capability meaning that the technology had been developed to such a point that a weapon could be acquired in short order, and now it is any ability to master the uranium enrichment process. It is a series of definitions that constantly move backwards, so Iran can hardly win except by abandoning its perfectly legal and inspected program to provide nuclear energy to generate electricity. Even if Iran were to do so, it would undoubtedly be accused of having a “secret” program.
So it might not be completely illogical to conclude that Iran is not the likely instigator of a regional war in the Middle East — it is much more likely to be Israel, with its extreme right-wing government, an established nuclear arsenal, and a US taxpayer-provided defensive missile system in place to protect it against counter-attack. And lest there be any doubt about what the United States would do, there are two bills in Congress that might provide some enlightenment. They are ‘H. Res. 271’ and ‘H. Res. 1905’ . The former, which is co-sponsored by Tea Party darling Michelle Bachmann and 43 other Republicans, affirms the US commitment to continue arming Israel against its enemies, notes rather oddly along the way that “whereas archeological evidence exists confirming Israel’s existence as a nation over 3,000 years ago in the area in which it currently exists, despite assertions of its opponents,” and concludes by expressing “support for Israel’s right to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by Iran, defend Israeli sovereignty, and protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within a reasonable time.”
H. Res 1905 “The Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011” toughens sanctions against Iran, including establishment of a refined petroleum products embargo, which would have a devastating effect on the Iranian economy. Many would consider it to be an act of war. It is sponsored by the irrepressible Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, and has 95 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle and including both liberals and conservatives.
The bills in Congress, which do absolutely nothing for the United States and its citizens and instead ratchet up tension in the region while also providing a carte blanche for Israel to start another war, should provide convincing evidence to anyone who cares that Benjamin Netanyahu pretty much calls the shots insofar as America’s legislature is concerned. If the reports from Haaretz are true and we are quite possibly looking at war later this summer, that would mean that the control extends to the White House. Obama, keen to get reelected, would not want to cross the Israel Lobby even if it means sinking farther into the international quagmire that has characterized American foreign policy over the past ten years. Someone should tell him that when you fall in a hole the way out is not to dig deeper.