The news that the P5 + 1 and the Iranians have reached an interim agreement limiting Tehran’s nuclear program sent a chill down my spine.
That may seem like a counterintuitive reaction: after all, wouldn’t a shout of joy be more appropriate? Finally, after decades of a very tense adversarial relationship – which more than once threatened to escalate into open conflict – Washington and Tehran have managed to bridge an enormous gap, and war has been averted in the Middle East, albeit temporarily.
What’s not to like?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has found plenty he doesn’t like, and the signals he and his government are sending must be taken seriously. For just one example, here’s what Naftali Bennett, the economics minister and member of the extremist "Homeland" party, had to say about the agreement:
"If five years from now a nuclear suitcase explodes in New York or Madrid, it will be because of the deal that was signed this morning."
What’s interesting about this prepared statement – it wasn’t just an off the cuff remark – is that Bennett doesn’t say who would be responsible for that nuclear suitcase. I mean, can we assume he means the Iranians will do it – or is he threatening the US with the specter of Israeli retaliation? Given the anger level in Tel Aviv right now, I think that’s a fair question.
Everything about the Israeli response to the agreement implies a threat of some kind. Says Bibi:
"Israel is not bound by this agreement. As prime minister of Israel, I would like to make it clear: Israel will not allow Iran to develop a military nuclear capability."
Echoed by his crazy extremist Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman – "All the options are on the table!" – the Israeli Prime Minister is clearly threatening to attack Iran. Too bad we can’t count on President Obama to take Zbigniew Brzezinski’s advice and shoot down the Israeli planes as they wing their way through Iraqi airspace toward Tehran.
An Israeli attack on Iran, however, would be Bibi’s last resort: the Israelis are good at agitating for other nations to go to war on their behalf, but when it comes to actually doing the fighting themselves – and losing some of their own people – their enthusiasm tends to cool down a bit. Before they attack Iran, the Israelis will do everything in their power to derail the agreement – and no one should underestimate what they’re capable of.
Their first line of attack is through Congress, where the Israel lobby holds a dominant position. Even before the agreement was signed, the lobby’s congressional contingent was already being lined up to introduce new sanctions on Iran. Prominent Democrats, including Majority leader Harry Reid, New York’s Chuck Schumer, and Bob Menendez of New Jersey have already endorsed the new sanctions bill, and the usual Republican suspects are already denouncing the agreement as "another Munich."
The second line of attack is a possible provocation engineered by the Israelis: this could involve an incident between the US and Iran in international waters in the Gulf, as has happened before, or it could be a simple exposure of an alleged Iranian violation of the terms of the interim agreement. This latter course could be carried out by Israel’s regional allies, including the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), a neo-Marxist cult that has long been an instrument in Israeli hands and has a history of pushing disinformation about Iran’s alleged nuclear activities. Nor should we rule out Israeli collaboration with hardliner elements within Iran: although they are ostensibly in irreconcilable opposition, both Israeli and Iranian hardliners are united in their opposition to a nuclear deal.
The third line of attack would be direct Israeli action against the US – no, not military action (don’t be silly), but some kind of covert action that would inflict enough damage to impact our ability to make the interim agreement permanent.
This isn’t pure speculation: in 1954, the Israelis recruited a group of Egyptians to plant bombs in Western targets, including the American information center, in major Egyptian cities. The idea was to blame the attacks on Islamists and Nasserites, and cause the British government to keep its troops in the Suez Canal zone. The plan failed, but only because the Israeli scheme was exposed: after years of denying the affair, the Israeli government finally owned up to it by awarding their agents medals of appreciation, bestowed on the surviving spies by President Moshe Katzav in 2005.
For years the Israelis have been saying their country faces an "existential" crisis on account of Iran’s nuclear program: another Holocaust, they have said, is imminent unless the Iranians are stopped. And Tehran, they aver, is intent on breaking any agreement they make with the West: the Iranians are determined to acquire nuclear weapons, and will stop at nothing in their drive to destroy Israel.
It doesn’t matter what the Israelis really believe: that they are saying this means we should take them at their word – and not underestimate their capabilities. Do I really have to remind my readers of this Carl Cameron story, run in four parts on Fox News in December of 2001, in which Cameron declared:
"Since September 11, more than 60 Israelis have been arrested or detained, either under the new patriot anti-terrorism law, or for immigration violations. A handful of active Israeli military were among those detained, according to investigators, who say some of the detainees also failed polygraph questions when asked about alleged surveillance activities against and in the United States.
"There is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11 attacks, but investigators suspect that they Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not shared it. A highly placed investigator said there are ‘tie-ins.’ But when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe them, saying, ‘evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It’s classified information.’”
America has never been in greater danger than it is now. The battle between the US and Israel has always been fought on a covert level, but recently this hidden conflict has been coming closer to the surface – and is now about ready to erupt aboveground. If the President hasn’t put America’s defenses on a state of high alert, then he isn’t doing his duty to defend the country.
We have reached a moment of great promise – the promise of peace in the Middle East – and of great danger. Let us pray that the latter is bypassed and the former is fulfilled.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
We are entering a very difficult and potentially perilous period: the President is trying to take US foreign policy in a different direction, but he’s running into huge obstacles not the least of which is Israel’s powerful lobby in the US. I’m not exaggerating, not even a little bit, when I say that anything could happen in the next few months – yes, anything – and warning my readers to prepare themselves for the worst and the best.
The worst – the collapse of the peace negotiations with Tehran and the prospect of war with Iran. The best – the President manages to get over the obstacles put in his path by the Israel lobby and get a finalized agreement.
You can bet the Israel lobby will be working overtime to derail the peace process, with a propaganda campaign unsurpassed by any we’ve seen before. That’s why Antiwar.com is more necessary than ever – and that’s why it’s vitally important that you give our fundraising campaign a boost. Because it sure as heck needs it.
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MORE NOTES IN THE MARGIN
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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.