‘Peace Scare’ in Geneva
How the War Party may yet drag us into bombing Iran
The United States long ago concluded "with high certainty" that Iran abandoned any effort to build a nuclear weapon in 2003 – and yet here we are, a decade later, threatening war over a program our intelligence agencies have declared to be nonexistent.
Why is that?
To begin with, we’ve been subjected to a years-long propaganda campaign by Israel and its amen corner in this country: the Israel lobby claims the Iranians are secretly constructing nukes with the ultimate goal of attacking the Jewish state. It’s basically the same scenario that played out in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq – and we all know how that turned out.
This time, you’d think we learned our lesson. One only has to ask how many times, over the years, has Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed Tehran is "months" away from joining the nuclear club? I’ve lost count. Whether it’s three months, six months, or a year or so, his predictions have always turned out to be false: if he had been right, by this time Iran’s nuclear arsenal would almost be on a par with Israel’s. It never happened.
To say that our alliance with Israel is entangling seriously understates the problem. Our "special relationship" with the Jewish state consists of Washington appeasing Tel Aviv on every conceivable issue, at least in public, from the Palestinian question to the Iranian issue. Such an unbalanced relationship is possible because the Israelis have a powerful lobby in Washington: Pat Buchanan’s politically incorrect remark that the US Congress is "Israeli-occupied territory" earned him the eternal enmity of the pro-Israel lobby precisely because it was very close to the truth (albeit now a bit overstated, to be sure: witness the Hagel nomination outcome).
Secondly, the political class is vehemently pro-Israel: witness the spectacle of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney during the last presidential race trying to outdo each other in their expressions of fealty to Israel and its alleged "security." During the foreign policy presidential debate it often seemed as if the candidates were running for office in Israel rather than the United States: in terms of favorable references to Israel, the score was Obama 17, Romney 14.
For many years the myth that there is "no daylight" between Israeli and American interests in the Middle East has been a central canon of US foreign policy, and woe unto anyone who challenged it. The problem, however, is that this article of faith is completely removed from the stark reality. Our unconditional support for Israel has cost us the enmity of the Arab world at a time when Washington is trying to win support on the "Arab street" and tamp down Islamist radicalism in the region.
Aside from that, however, the Israeli political landscape has undergone radical changes in recent years, with a wave of ultra-nationalist sentiment putting in power the most right-wing government in Israel’s history. Determined to achieve the old Zionist dream of a "Greater Israel," the leaders of the Likud party and its even farther-right allies have become more demanding and intractable in their relations with Washington. And the more we appease them, the more they want: there is no "pro-American" lobby in the Jewish state to balance out the influence wielded by Tel Aviv’s Washington operation.
But it isn’t just the Israelis and their American supporters who are blocking the path to peace in the Middle East. Just as it seemed the Geneva negotiations were about to yield a deal with Tehran the French popped up at the last minute, claming the Americans and the other Europeans were being too soft on Iran and demanding more concessions.
As Marcy Wheeler pointed out, Saudi Arabia is behind this successful sabotage: the French hope to take advantage of the Kingdom’s recent tantrum over the aborted Syria strike – and the prospect of a peaceful settlement with Iran, which they abhor – by selling the Saudis expensive weapons system Riyadh would otherwise have purchased from the US. Follow the money: if Iranian oil is allowed to come on the market, unobstructed by sanctions, Riyadh risks losing their hegemonic position in the oil market.
The French have always tried to assert themselves at Washington’s expense: this has been true since the days of Charles de Gaulle, who imagined France could become a "third force" during the cold war years, independent of both the US and the Soviet Union. Their conceit is well-known, along with their bloated pretensions: and they have their own powerful Israel lobby, which reportedly had a strong hand in the French action. The problem, however, is not in Paris, but in Washington, which has tied American foreign policy to the interests, desires, and internal politics of our alleged "allies."
It isn’t as if the US is negotiating directly with the Iranians: the two countries haven’t had diplomatic relations since the 1979 Iranian takeover of the US embassy. Until recently, the only diplomatic contacts between Washington and Tehran have been through third parties – the Europeans – and via unofficial "back channels." Since 2006, the US has dealt with the Iranian nuclear issue through the framework of the "P5 + 1" – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.
Held back from pursuing our own interests by the untenable – and dangerous – idea of "collective security," the US is encumbered by the interests of its P5 + 1 partners, not to mention our two most obstreperous "allies" – Israel and Saudi Arabia – howling in the background. Entwined in all this is the whole "internationalist" apparatus, including but not limited to the United Nations, which is nothing but the instrument of the so-called Great Powers.
We are, in short, paying the price of "multilateralism." This policy of acting in concert with our alleged allies was supposed to be a more peaceful alternative to the warlike unilateralism pursued by George W. Bush – but that is not turning out to be the case in Geneva. The Obama administration could conclude a peace pact with Iran tomorrow, if it chose to do so, simply by ditching the "P5 + 1" framework and talking to Tehran one-on-one. We don’t need the French, nor anybody else, to reach an agreement and defuse the war talk that has dominated the headlines for the past five years. Washington enforces the sanctions which are crippling the Iranian economy, and the President could remove them – by executive order, if need be, bypassing Congress – but such a move is inconceivable in the current context.
America has nothing to gain by starting another Mideast war, and certainly not with Iran, which actually has the means to fight back: such a conflict would put the oil price through the roof and wreck the US economy. The President and his advisors recognize this but cannot get around the "multilateral" obstacles strewn in their path. It just takes one objection – in this case, coming from the French – to throw a monkey wrench into the works and put us on the road to war.
The prospect of a major war in the Middle East will be hanging over our heads until and unless America rejects the "internationalism" of the political class and replaces it with a foreign policy that puts America first. This is the mission of Antiwar.com, and it is one we have been carrying out since 1998, when this site first became active in a big way. Much has happened since that time: the nation has been through two major wars, and the American people have slowly but surely learned the lesson of what happens when our political leaders diverge from the road mapped out by the Founders – who explicitly warned us against "entangling alliances" and meddling in the affairs of other nations.
Education is the answer to the War Party’s propaganda: providing accurate and up-to-the-minute information is the key to debunking the lies of the war propagandists, who labor day and night to deceive us. That’s why we founded Antiwar.com in the first place – but we can’t continue educating the American people without your help.
You may have noticed that the front page today is dominated by our Autumn fundraising drive: we need $80,000 to keep going. Of course, the many "internationalist" thinktanks and neocon "ad hoc committees" have no problem raising money: they spend many times our yearly budget every week or so. Help us level the playing field so we can continue to tell the truth about our foreign policy to the American people – the precondition to actually changing it.
Hardliners in both the US and Iran are frantically trying to sabotage the negotiations: the newly-elected Iranian President has a limited timeframe in which to show success in his outreach efforts to Washington. Similarly, those who desire peace with Iran and an end to the phony ginned-up "crisis" are racing against time to reach a deal before the obstructionists in Congress and our bought-and-paid-for "mainstream" media can scotch it. In response to the "peace scare," the War Party mobilized all its forces – and narrowly succeeded in sabotaging the Geneva talks.
Yet the issue is far from settled. Political pressure on Western governments could still lead to a breakthrough – just as a massive upsurge of popular resistance stopped the US from bombing Syria.
That’s why it’s vitally important for the voices for peace to be heard loud and clear. Don’t let our voice be stilled: as the drama in Geneva continues to unfold, the urgency of our task increases – please make your tax deductible contribution today.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
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You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.
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- Merle Haggard vs. Eliot Cohen – May 19th, 2016
- Crooked Hillary and the Rape of Honduras – May 17th, 2016