The Worms in the Apple

Who's really behind that "bipartisan" call to attack Iran? 

by , September 18, 2009

As the war drums start beating in Washington over the Iranian nuclear "crisis," Bloomberg reports the following: 

"The U.S. should begin preparing crippling sanctions on Iran and publicly make clear that a military strike is possible should the Iranian government press ahead with its nuclear effort, a bipartisan policy group said. ‘If biting sanctions do not persuade the Islamic Republic to demonstrate sincerity in negotiations and give up its enrichment activities, the White House will have to begin serious consideration of the option of a U.S.-led military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities,’ said the study from the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington." 

Yes, it’s a "policy center" that’s "bipartisan" – just a group of disinterested centrist policy wonks, responsible and "mainstream" to a fault, who have no real ideological agenda or axe to grind. Right?  

Wrong! 

Who or what is the "Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC)," and what is the source of their foreign policy expertise? Formerly the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP), the group was a left-of-center alliance of big liberal foundations and their collaborators in the "environmentalist" movement, academia, and government. Their agenda: draconian restrictions on energy production. You would think that the energy industry would stay far away from this group, but no: included among this gaggle of radical environmentalists and anti-business academics were top executives or former executives with Ford, Exelon, and ConocoPhillips — corporations big enough to survive and even prosper under the new "environmentalist" regime, since BPC-backed regulations would cripple their competitors.

In any case, NCEP morphed into the Bipartisan Policy Center in 2002, with money from Big Oil (Chevron) and four major left-of-center foundations. It has been largely concerned with promoting environmentalism, and goody-two-shoes "good governance" programs, especially those that require expansion of federal government power. Its foray into the foreign policy realm is relatively recent, but here the vaguely leftist tone is abandoned, and no wonder: its top foreign policy "expert" is one Michael Makovsky, a former staffer at the notorious Office of Special Plans – yes, the same Bush era outfit that manipulated phony "intelligence" and packaged it as talking points to sell the Iraq war to a gullible Congress, a prostrate media, and a half-asleep American public

The Bloomberg piece attributes the BPC’s report on Iran to former Democratic Senator Chuck Robb, of Virginia, Republican Dan Coats, former Senator from Indiana, and retired Gen. Charles Walk, former deputy commander of the US European command. But as Jim Lobe, of IPS News Service, points out (here and here), the real authors were Makovsky and Michael Rubin, whose ideological orientation may indeed be "bipartisan" – after all, the neocons infest both parties – but who very definitely have an ideological axe to grind.  

Makovsky is supposed to be some sort of expert on the oil industry, which is the capacity he served in for the Office of Special Plans – an odd job for someone whose doctorate is in history, and has no experience working in the energy industry. His older brother, David, is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy – the "thinktank" wing of AIPAC, the leading pro-Israel lobby in the US. He once worked for Sen. John Danforth, after which he moved to Israel, where he intended to pursue a career as an Israeli diplomat (without, however, giving up his US citizenship), after serving in the Israeli military.  

Other details about his background are … interesting. A USA Today article published in 1995 quotes a Michael Makovsky who lived at a settlement in the West Bank, and was a friend of Yigal Amir – the right-wing extremist who murdered Yitzhak Rabin. According to this report, Makovsky’s extremist allegiances aren’t limited to paling around with assassins. He was reportedly a member, in his student days at least, of the neo-fascist "Betar" organization, which has a military structure (members wear uniforms, and engage in "drills") and calls for a "Greater Israel." 

Michael Rubin’s extreme views are at least a match for Makovsky’s. Rubin is also an Office of Special Plans alumnus, a former official of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, and now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute — where he began attacking the Bush administration from the right because, in his view, it deviated from the straight-and-narrow neocon line. In 2004, in response to widespread opposition to the Iraq war that focused on the Israeli connections of the war’s most fervent advocates, Rubin attacked "creeping anti-Semitism in the current discourse," approvingly quoting Max Boot’s contention that "if neocons were agents of Likud, they would have advocated an invasion not of Iraq or Afghanistan but of Iran, which Israel considers to be the biggest threat to its security." 

Now that Rubin is advocating draconian sanctions, to be followed by a military attack, on Tehran, one wonders if he will finally come clean and admit to being an agent of a Certain Foreign Power. Somehow, I doubt it.  

So let’s see if I have this straight: the very same people who funneled false "intelligence" about Iraq’s alleged "weapons of mass destruction" – those friendly folks at the Office of Special Plans – are now telling us that the Iranians have WMD, and are about to join the nuclear club. Pardon me if I’m just a bit skeptical – but haven’t we been through this before? 

Wearing a "bipartisan" mask, and funded by ostensibly "liberal" philanthropies, the Makovsky-Rubin-BPC axis-of-misinformation is trying to hoodwink us into – what? What does the BPC propose when it comes to Iran? 

If the Obama administration should be so foolish as to directly engage the Iranians without insisting that they capitulate in advance, then, Makovsky-Rubin aver, they must insist on a deadline for compliance with US demands. If that is not met, the next step is a blockade of Iran’s gasoline imports, to be followed by a blockade of its oil exports. If the Iranians are still not "convinced," the US should be prepared to launch a military strike that would "have to target not only Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but also its conventional military infrastructure in order to suppress an Iranian response." 

I have long held that the invasion of Iraq, and subsequent military occupation, was engineered by a group of neoconservatives whose primary loyalty is not to the US, but to Israel. I said that at the very outset of the debate over whether to launch a military strike, and, although my view was far from popular at that time, as events progressed it became less controversial: the evidence for it was too overwhelming to be summarily dismissed. This time, as we enter the first stages of a debate over going to war with Iran, I make the same accusation against the War Party – and the background and arguments of Makovsky-Rubin make my point very well indeed.  

No, it isn’t because they’re Jewish: there are plenty of Jews (no doubt the vast majority of American Jews) who oppose the madness of going to war with Iran. Their past record, however, of pro-Israeli extremism, as well as their organizational affiliations and published writings, are what raise the question of dual loyalty. In advocating that we start what would, in effect, be a world war, in order to eliminate the alleged "existential threat" to Israel posed by a nuclear Iran, whose interests would they be serving? Surely not America’s.

If the Israelis have launched a covert operation in this country designed to push us into war – not the first time such an effort has been made by a foreign power, and no doubt not the last – one can hardly blame them. They, after all, are simply doing what all nation-states everywhere do: pursuing their own national interests. One could certainly argue that Israel’s interests would not be served by such a war, but, really, that’s not my shtick, as they say: I’m concerned with what’s in America’s interests – which is what really puts me on the other side of the barricades from Makovsky and Rubin. 

Covert operations invariably involve deception: front groups that aren’t what they appear to be, hidden interests that masquerade under false pretexts, and ostensibly "respectable" individuals who serve purposes other than those announced. This is what the "Bipartisan Policy Center" is all about. There are worms aplenty in that apple. What’s needed – and I know this isn’t considered "environmentally friendly," but so be it – is a good dose of DDT.

Editor’s note: This article originally misidentified Yitzhak Rabin as Yitzhak Shamir. We regret the error.

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