We are living in dangerous times – and this moment, when the Geneva talks with Iran over their nuclear program have reached the tipping point, is potentially a decisive turn for the worst.
Two factors are simultaneously moving us toward a general cataclysm, and both have to do with the state of Israel: 1) The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pulling out all the stops to sabotage the ongoing peace talks between Tehran and the "P5 + 1", and 2) Netanyahu is abandoning the Palestinian peace process and moving rapidly toward his goal of a "Greater Israel."
The conjunction of these two aggressive moves by the Israelis is taking the world to the brink of the unthinkable.
Let’s be clear about what the stakes are: war with Iran would mean complete economic devastation, with the price oil skyrocketing into the stratosphere. The effects would be catastrophic: the world economy, already teetering on the brink of implosion, would rapidly deteriorate into a general crisis of confidence that would make the great depression of the 1930s look like a mere blip on the screen. To say nothing of the horrific human costs: Tehran in ruins, many thousands dead and wounded, and a general war of all against all in the Middle East. The conflict would drag in all regional actors: not only the US but also Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and quite possibly even the Russians. It would, in effect, be the beginning of World War III.
Let’s also be clear about who wants this war, and is plotting and scheming behind the scenes – as well as calling quite openly – for it to begin a.s.a.p.
For what seems like the past decade or so, the Israeli government has been loudly agitating for a US attack on Iran: Netanyahu isn’t shy about his intentions. Nor is he hesitant about calling on pro-Israel groups around the world to mobilize their supporters in his campaign for war, and they are responding with the requisite enthusiasm. The Israel lobby in Washington is pulling out all the stops in an effort to induce Congress to impose even more sanctions on Iran – a move that would put a quick end to the negotiations.
The Israel Firsters aren’t beating the war drums exclusively in Washington: Paris apparently has its contingent of drum-beaters as well. Everyone is wondering what suddenly got into the French foreign minister at the Geneva peace talks, one Fabius Laurent, who suddenly accused the other Western negotiators of being too soft on Iran and raising what are clearly dubious objections to what was, after all, an interim draft agreement.
This nonsense about the Arak facility – which is not even constructed yet – and the longstanding Iranian claim to the right of enrichment is just a smokescreen. All the representatives at Geneva – including the French – had agreed to put Arak on the back burner, since the issue didn’t require immediate resolution. The Arak facility is being regularly monitored by IAEA inspectors, and would need to be significantly modified before it could produce weapons-grade nuclear materials. As for the enrichment issue, this is nothing new: the Iranians have the right to enrich under the terms of the Nonproliferation Treaty, to which they are signatories. Any move on their part to enrich beyond permitted limits would soon be detected.
The real story behind the French turnaround is that Netanyahu’s main man in Paris, Meyer Habib, called Laurent and told him that if the agreement went forward Netanyahu would strike Iran. The Times of Israel, citing Israel’s Channel 2 News, puts the conversation this way:
"’I know [Netanyahu]," the French MP, Meyer Habib, reportedly told Fabius, and predicted that the Israeli prime minister would resort to the use of force if the deal was approved in its form at the time. ‘If you don’t toughen your positions, Netanyahu will attack Iran,’ the report quoted Habib as saying. ‘I know this. I know him. You have to toughen your positions in order to prevent war.’"
Nice touch there: you have to stop talking peace "in order to prevent war."
This threat by Netanyahu, delivered by his French messenger, is a bluff: the Israelis will fight to the last American, but when it comes to risking Israeli lives on the battlefield against a formidable opponent like Iran – not so much. This is just another transparent blackmail attempt, but the French have been sidling up to the Israelis for some time now and were eager to do their part.
Blackmail isn’t how treasured "allies" treat each other, but then again Israel isn’t really a friendly nation anymore: the "special relationship" has been souring for a long time, and it’s now reached the point of an acrimonious divorce. The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations John Kerry is trying to revive are collapsing in the face of Israeli intransigence: the New York Times reports that a recent session turned into a "shouting match." As hardly a day goes by without an Israeli announcement of more "settlements" in Palestine – there are to be 20,000 new units constructed in the West Bank – even the normally pro-Israel Kerry went off on Netanyahu:
"If you say you’re working for peace and you want peace and a Palestine that is a whole Palestine that belongs to the people who live there, how can you say we’re planning to build in the place that will eventually be Palestine? It sends a message that somehow, perhaps you’re not really serious."
"I mean," he added, "do you want a third Intifada?"
This provoked a furious response from the Israel lobby in this country, with Abe Foxman denouncing Kerry’s "chutzpah" and declaring that the world sees the US as "weak and retreating." It’s okay, you see, to be seen as "weak and retreating" in the face of Bibi’s tantrums – and if anyone’s a chutzpah expert, it most surely is Foxman.
What panics Foxman is that internal political developments in both Israel and the US are driving the two nations apart: in the former, an ultra-nationalist wave is engulfing the Jewish state, destroying any chances of a solution to the Palestine question. Bibi is playing to– and whipping up – this dangerous trend.
In America, on the other hand, a growing popular rebellion against our Middle East meddling – which culminated in the administration backing down on their plan to bomb Syria – is forcing the President to seemingly abandon our traditionally Israel-centric policy and at least give the impression he is actually looking out for American interests.
The Israel lobby went all out on the Syria issue – and was handed a rare defeat. This time, however, they are determined to win, and they are mobilizing their considerable resources, both here and internationally, in order to throw a monkey wrench into the works. Given this, and the lack of any countervailing forces, I’d be willing to bet the Geneva talks will end in failure. We can count on Congress to follow Netanyahu’s marching orders and impose new sanctions, just as we certainly can’t count on the Obama administration to stand firm against this kind of pressure.
The failure of the Geneva talks will imperil newly-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s position, and give hardliners in his country a powerful bludgeon to beat him over the head with. It will give the Israelis a chance to gin up a provocation that will drag us into their holy war against Iran, and in the US it will reinforce the erroneous idea that the Iranians are at fault – which is the story the administration is circulating. They’re too cowed to blame the French – or, standing behind them, the Israelis.
Nothing is inevitable, not least of all war with Iran: common sense could prevail. When push comes to shove, the American people could rise up, as they did on the eve of our planned bombing of Syria, and cast their veto. That, in my view, is the only way we’ll avoid World War III.
But that can’t happen unless Americans are awake and aware of what’s happening – and that is the reason for Antiwar.com’s existence. Since 1995, we’ve been educating the American people about the perils of US intervention in the Middle East and around the world. We’ve been debunking the War Party’s lies, and, recently, scored a big victory when a telephone campaign – launched in conjunction with allies across the political spectrum – forced the Obama administration to back down after the President announced he was going to bomb Syria. That was to be yet another war we were going to fight for Israel’s sake, but the American people said "Enough!" – and the foreign lobbyists (including the powerful Saudi lobby) were humbled.
We can do it again: indeed, we must do it again – but we can’t do it without your help. Antiwar.com has to raise $80,000 in the next few weeks just in order to keep going. You can bet the War Party is sparing no expense in their campaign to drag us into war with Iran: their bank account is effectively unlimited. But we don’t need to match them dollar for dollar: we can win just like we did last time – if only you will help!
The stakes are high – indeed, they have never been higher. This is the moment when the work we have been doing all these years either culminates in a victory for the forces of peace – or a terrible defeat with horrific consequences.
We’ve never needed your support like we need it today. Please don’t let us down. Strike a blow for peace – send that donation 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.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
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.