The Israel Lobby likes to say (and hear members of Congress saying it as well) that there isn’t an inch of daylight between Israel and U.S. political leaders. And that’s generally so. But I’ve just read a memo produced by Aipac which diverges from the Israeli government’s absolutist approach to Iranian nukes. Netanyahu’s position is that Iran must not have any enrichment capacity. Essentially, it must renounce its entire nuclear program.
This memo takes a different view:
Now that the P5+1 has inked an initial agreement with Iran, America must not only ensure full Iranian compliance but also insist that any final deal deny Tehran a nuclear weapons capability.
…Congress has provided the leverage to spur Iran to seek talks; now it must press the administration to negotiate a verifiable agreement that will prevent Iran from ever building nuclear weapons.
Interestingly, this is precisely the Obama administration position. And the divergence between these two positions has caused no end of heartburn between Bibi and Barack. So why does Aipac take the president’s point of view on this and not Israel’s?
There are a number of reasons: first, because while Aipac may be many bad things, it isn’t stupid. It knows that polls show Americans support the Geneva agreement by a two to one margin. Though I haven’t heard of any polls of Jewish opinion, my strong suspicion is that American Jews support it in comparable numbers. So Aipac figures: why rock the boat?
They’ve just been stung by Congress and the president’s refusal to endorse military action against Syria. They don’t want to go down that road again. One thing that is very important to the Israel Lobby group is to be a winner. It hates to lose. It always wants to ensure that Israel’s “enemies” in Congress are the losers, but never Aipac itself.
Further, the group is trying to take a longer-term view. It has six months either to turn American opinion against the deal or to watch as it unravels. It must believe it’s better than even money that the signatories will find a fly in the ointment that will cause the agreement to collapse. Either the Iranians will be resistant or the French will develop a backbone and come to the rescue; or a terrorist attack will derail the process.
Of one thing you can be sure: Aipac is not in disagreement with the Israelis. Aipac wants precisely what Israel wants: not just an end to Iran’s nuclear program, but regime change. The difference between the two is that Israel doesn’t sugar-coat its position, while Aipac finely calibrates its agenda according to which way the political winds are blowing. As of now, they’re not blowing Israel’s way.
In fact, the DC Lobby organization wants to have it both ways. It wants to agree with the administration that the essential goal is stopping an Iranian bomb. But it also wants to keep in its back pocket the chance for advancing Israel’s demand for no nuclear enrichment:
The interim agreement does not require that Iran come into compliance with six mandatory U.N. Security Council resolutions, which demand Iran suspend all enrichment, reprocessing, and heavy water activity…
Here, Aipac infers that the mere fact of Iran having any enrichment capability gives it a path toward a bomb:
Any final agreement must deny Iran both uranium and plutonium paths to develop nuclear weapons.
Any final deal will likely preclude Iran from developing nukes, but it will not shut down its uranium enrichment. No pragmatic observer of this process believes this will happen. So even the intimation that you support shutting down this aspect of Iran’s program means you really support Israel’s absolutist position–you’re just too slick or frightened to say it outright.
Aipac does contradict the administration position in one significant way: it endorses ever more draconian sanctions against Iran. Though it understands this brings it into conflict with the President, it couches its position as supporting his goals: to bring Iran to the table and make it more willing to give up its supposed goal of building nukes.
This memo doesn’t mention that if the Lobby wins and sanctions worsen, the current official U.S. policy of reaching a deal with Iran will be dead. That would leave Aipac as the last man standing in the debate. A diplomatic solution will be gone and the only thing remaining will be the military option–Israel and the Lobby’s preferred course.
There are several problematic passages in the memo. Here it outright distorts the agreement:
Iran will retain all of its nuclear material and will be able to continue the research and development aspects of its program….The agreement imposes no restrictions on Iran’s nuclear weaponization efforts…
This is actually not true. Iran has a large amount of 20% enriched uranium. Under the deal, a significant portion of it would be reprocessed so that it could not be used as part of any weapons-making process. This is extremely important since Iran’s 20% enriched material is what would be needed to make a bomb. Without that, it can’t proceed toward nuclearization.
The willful misunderstanding of the Geneva protocol continues here:
Iran thus far has denied inspectors access to key facilities, such as Parchin, where the IAEA suspects nuclear weapons-related experiments have been conducted.
The deal actually gives inspectors access to Iran’s most secret facility, Fordo, and also gives them access to the heavy water reactor at Arak. These are both facilities that have been largely or wholly off-limits to the IAEA.
The US and Israel are planning to conduct a joint military drill in an effort to threaten Iran towards the end of the six-month period when an interim deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany expires.
The drill is aimed at sending a threatening message to Iran while US President Barack Obama says “we cannot commit ourselves to an endless cycle of conflict.”
Time magazine broke the story of the planned US-Israeli military exercise on Thursday, citing a top Israeli official who said, “The strategic decision is to continue to make noise.”
“In May there’s going to be a joint training exercise with the Americans,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s going to be big.”
The planned war game comes after the interim nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 intensely angered Israelis.
As part of the interim deal, which was announced on November 24, Iran has agreed to limit certain aspects of its nuclear activities, and the United States and its allies have agreed to lift some of the economic sanctions and offer access to a portion of the revenue that Tehran has been denied through these sanctions. No additional sanctions will be imposed.
The deal infuriated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who called it “a historic blunder.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful pro-advocacy group in the US, also called on US Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran.
Meanwhile, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll has shown that the American people support the deal over Iran’s nuclear energy program by a 2-to-1 margin.
By Jeff Stein | CQ SpyTalk | July 2, 2009
A few years back Sheryl Crow recorded a haunting song called “Three Days in Rome,” about a lover’s treacherous retelling of their affair in a novel.
Likewise, anonymous sources have been talking for years about a secret meeting two Bush administration Pentagon officials had in Rome with a notorious Iranian arms dealer, in December 2001.
It’s been said that the officials, Larry Franklin and Harold Rhode, along with former Reagan White House intelligence operative Michael Ledeen, were scheming to sabotage a deal that Bush administration “moderates” were trying to make with Iran.
Another version was that they were “rogue operators” plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime.
Yet another tale about Rome has Italian intelligence officials passing along a fabricated document purporting to show that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, whom the Bush White House was plotting to overthrow, was buying uranium from Niger for a bomb.
All such accounts were based on anonymous sources.
But this week, one of the participants, Franklin broke a yearslong public silence to discuss what happened in Rome.
Or at least his version of events. Unfortunately, it hardly clears up the affair.
Franklin’s silence was enforced by his arrest and conviction in connection with a long-running spy scandal involving two officials from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington.
The former Iran analyst, confronted by the FBI over leaking classified information to the two AIPAC operatives, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, cooperated with the government to avoid jail. Charges against Rosen and Weissman were dropped in May.
But Franklin was caught up in the Bush administration’s notorious skullduggery to bring “regime change” to Iran and Iraq from the beginning.
Only three months after the 9/11 attacks, Franklin and Rhode, another Pentagon official, traveled to Rome for a meeting with Manucher Ghorbanifar, whose trail of deceiving U.S. officials goes back two decades.
Ghorbanifar, the middleman in the so-called Iran-Contra/Arms-for-Hostages scandal in the Reagan administration, had fabricated so much bad intelligence and empty schemes that the CIA had put him on a no-contact list.
Nevertheless, when Michael Ledeen, a high profile Republican intelligence operative and longtime associate of Ghorbanifar, came calling during the panicky weeks after 9/11, Bush administration neoconservatives couldn’t resist.
The Iranian had a plan for regime change in Teheran — again.
Senior White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley and his deputy, Zalmay Khalilzad, “were enthusiastic,” Ledeen told me. Pentagon officials Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz , the deputy and undersecretary, respectively, of Defense, were also game, Franklin said.
His immediate boss, William Luti, a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who headed Near East issues at Defense, put him on the team.
“He said, ‘We’d like you to go on this mission,’” Franklin recalled in an interview. “Feith, Wolfowitz, they’re in favor of it.”
Had anyone mentioned Ghorbanifar’s reputation as a con man extraordinaire? I asked Franklin. That the Iranian schemer was on the CIA’s burn list?
“Yeah, I was told all that,” Franklin said. “But that’s not a reason not to meet someone. It doesn’t mean that everything a person” says is untrue.
“I was advised not to go see Ghorbanifar by DIA,” (the Defense Intelligence Agency), he added. “I invited DIA to come, but they declined because there was a CIA no-contact order on Ghorbanifar.”
“If you don’t know anything,” Franklin said, “you’ll meet with everyone.”
And the Bush administration didn’t know anything about Iran, he said. Wolfowitz often called him directly at home to talk about it.
“The purpose of the meeting was to get . . . first-hand intelligence on Iran, because the CIA station there had been rolled up a couple of times,” Franklin said.
“Ghorbanifar had another item on his agenda,” he added.
And that was?
“Getting money from our government to implement a scheme which he thought would overthrow the government in Iran,” Franklin said.
Ghorbanifar’s plan was “to buy off a bunch of truck drivers who would shut down the main arteries in Teheran. They would block traffic for miles around.”
“At that point, he felt he could shake the regime from the inside. . . . He could get enough people up, a critical mass, to do the deed, to overthrow the regime.”
Ghorbanifar sketched out his scenario for Franklin during a 2 a.m. meeting in his hotel lobby, Franklin said.
He wanted $5 million. “Seed money.”
Franklin didn’t like it.
“I didn’t tell him, but I thought it was amateurish and would’ve gotten people killed and America embarrassed. And we would be out $5 million, while he would be $5 million richer.”
As loony as it was, Franklin says some of his neoconservative colleagues back in Washington liked the idea, among them, Cheney’s top national security aide, John Hannah.
“He was wondering why I didn’t support Ghorbanifar,” Franklin said.
Hannah would not discuss the affair for the record except to say he never met with Franklin to discuss it.
Apprised of that response, Franklin stuck to his guns.
“Oh, yes, he did,” Franklin said. “It was at the Cosi restaurant near the Old Executive Office Building. I remember it in spades.”
Other Voices, Other Rooms
As for plotting to undermine Bush administration moderates who wanted a dialogue with Iran, it never came up, Franklin insisted.
“No, not in Rome,” he said. “The idea was bandied about in the Pentagon. I don’t know where the idea came from. There was gossip, about whether anyone in Policy was pushing it. But it certainly wasn’t discussed in Rome.”
How about the phony Niger uranium documents? I asked. Did that come up?
“No it did not, not that I can remember.”
Then why did he meet with Italian intelligence officials, who were said to have a role in peddling the phony documents?
“They gave us safe houses, restaurants,” Franklin said. “They were our shield. Mike [Ledeen] had good relations with them.“
Did Ledeen clear the meeting with CIA station chief Jeff Castelli? I asked. He was reportedly furious about being kept out of the loop.
“Yes,” Franklin said. “Mike talked to him.”
Ledeen: “Who’s Castelli?”
Jeff Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman says Washington will take into consideration Israel’s security interests at the upcoming talks between Iran and the group of six major world powers.
According to a report published by the Israeli daily Jerusalem Post, Sherman said the US will not ignore Israel’s security interests at the forthcoming nuclear talks, which are slated to be held in the Swiss city of Geneva on November 7-8.
Sherman made the remarks in an interview with Channel 10, which is set to be broadcast later on Sunday.
Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the US – plus Germany held two days of talks over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy program in Geneva, Switzerland, on October 15-16.
During the talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif presented Tehran’s proposal titled, “Closing an Unnecessary Crisis, Opening a New Horizon” to the six countries.
Sherman also rejected reports about Washington offering Iran relief from unilateral sanctions imposed over the country’s nuclear energy program.
“We have not offered any sanctions relief on Iran, and we have not removed any sanctions,” the US official added.
Under pressures by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the US Senate is ratcheting up pressure on the White House to tighten the sanctions against Iran in line with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand for more pressure against Tehran.
In a statement on Saturday, the AIPAC said there would be “no pause, delay or moratorium in our efforts” to seek new sanctions on Iran.
On April 8, 2009, ten billboards went up in the Albuquerque area saying “Tell Congress: Stop Killing Children. No More Military Aid to Israel.” On April 28, Lamar Advertising, with whom the ads had been placed by the Coalition to stop $30 Billion, tore down the ads due to pressure, presumably from other clients with larger accounts.
In June, 2012, twenty-three billboards went up in the Los Angeles area, also calling for an end to US aid to Israel. One week later, the billboard company, CBS Outdoor, also took down the ads.
We have come a long way since then. Ads that are critical of giving billions of US tax dollars to Israel, of Israeli human rights violations and of the creation of the Jewish state at Palestinian expense have appeared in Detroit, Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Sacramento, Albuquerque, and other locations.
In Denver, another free speech struggle has achieved its objective. A partnership of NoTaxDollarsToIsrael.com and ColoradoBDSCampaign.com initially failed twice to get approval for a billboard. First, CBS Outdoor placed the restriction that the ad must not use the words Jew and Israel, so the coalition offered the wording “Want peace? Stop ethnic cleansing in Palestine.” CBS Outdoor rejected it without explanation.
The groups then tried Lamar Advertising, with the same result. Finally, they borrowed a technique tried and tested by an anti-Muslim group, the Freedom Defense Institute. FDI chose public transit advertising space to place anti-Muslim ads in New York and San Francisco. After initial rejection in New York, FDI’s Pamela Geller sued and won a court order to permit her ads, based on the fact that the ad space was publicly owned and therefore subject to constitutional free speech principles. While the use of privately owned ad space is largely at the discretion of the owner, publicly owned space is not, and must conform to First Amendment principles. The court also decided that in the absence of clear evidence that the ad used hate speech, it could also not be restricted by such criteria.
The Denver groups pursued the same strategy. They resubmitted the ad to Lamar, but this time for space on the public transit system (inside the Denver light rail vehicles and outside the 16th street mall buses). After a long delay, the ads were approved, with no change at all in the message or graphics. As of this writing, the ads are available for all to see, both Denver residents and visitors to the city, like the hundreds of delegates to the convention of the Jewish National Fund, 1½ blocks from the 16th street mall.
What was going on during the delay? One may speculate that much deliberation was taking place, possibly in consultation with lawyers from the ADL (Anti-Discrimination League) and AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). The only possible challenge would be that the ad constituted hate speech or was libelous. In both cases, however, the challenge would depend upon proving the falsity of the “ethnic cleansing” label.
Apparently, these august jurists decided that a discussion of “ethnic cleansing” as a description of Israel’s actions was potentially far more dangerous to Israel than the placement of an ad to that effect. After all, there was no assurance that the court would rule in their favor, in which case a terrible precedent would be set. Better to allow a bit of uncomfortable truth to appear in public than a legal ruling certifying such a truth. How Palestinians disappeared from much of Palestine is a question that the Israel lobby would prefer to leave unanswered.
The group’s managing director, Arik Ben-Zvi, is an Israeli citizen who served in the Israeli army and consulted on Israel’s elections
In response to the Obama Administration’s announcement last week that it will be restructuring US military aid to Egypt in light of the ongoing military crackdown, officials in Cairo have hired a well-known lobby group to improve the image of Egypt’s coup, according to a US newspaper.
The Hill, a political newspaper based in Washington DC, has revealed that documents filed with the US Justice Department on Friday confirm that Egypt’s interim authorities are employing the Glover Park Group to “provide public diplomacy, strategic communications counsel and government relations services” for Egypt’s post-coup government.
The records filed indicate that the firm’s work for Egypt “will include communications associated with the Government’s implementation of its Road Map to build the institutions of an inclusive democratic state through parliamentary and presidential elections.”
The Glover Park Group is no stranger to Israel. The group’s managing director, Arik Ben-Zvi, is an Israeli citizen who served in the Israeli army and consulted on Israel’s elections. In addition, one senior executive previously served as the National Deputy Political Director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, also known as AIPAC, the most powerful arm of the Israel Lobby in the US, while another senior executive served in its legislative department.
The newspaper describes the Glover Park Group as one of Washington’s most experienced lobbyists when it comes to representing foreign governments and politicians.
The interim Egyptian government’s “recent violent crackdown on its opponents” has led the United States to suspend some of its foreign aid to Egypt, “including proposed sales of F-16 fighter jets, M1 Abrams tanks and Apache attack helicopters as well as about $260 million in cash assistance,” according to the newspaper.
As the United States and Iran carefully embark on a renewed push for diplomacy, including direct contact between the presidents of each country for the first time in 34 years, the mainstream media continues to stymie any chance for an honest assessment of Iran’s nuclear program, engaging instead in the misinformation, misrepresentation and misleading reporting that has long characterized coverage of the issue.
In just the past month alone, numerous networks, newspapers and websites have referred, both implicitly and overtly, to an Iranian “nuclear weapons program,” despite the fact that, for years now, United States intelligence community and its allies have long assessed that Iran is not and never has been in possession of nuclear weapons, is not building nuclear weapons, and its leadership has not made any decision to build nuclear weapons. Iran’s uranium enrichment program is fully safeguarded by the IAEA and no nuclear material has ever been diverted to a military program. Iranian officials have consistently maintained they will never pursue such weapons on religious, strategic, political, moral and legal grounds.
The August 27, 2013 broadcast of NPR‘ “All Things Considered,” featured correspondent Mara Liasson claiming that the tragic civil war in Syria is “a proxy war” and that “Iran, who is developing its own weapons of mass destruction, is currently backing the Syrian regime, and it is watching very carefully to see what the U.S. does.”
The same day, an editorial in USA Today similarly advocated the U.S. bombing of Syria, stating that it “would demolish U.S. credibility” were Obama not to order a campaign of airstrikes, “not just in Syria but also in Iran, which continues to pursue nuclear weapons despite repeated U.S. warnings.”
Neither Liasson, who has a history of getting things wrong about Iran, nor the editors of USA Today were being honest with their audience, presenting what are hysterical allegations unsupported by any evidence as fact.
In a TIME magazine article published online at the end of August, Michael Crowley wrote, “If another round of negotiations with Tehran should fail, Obama may soon be obliged to make good on his vow to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”
New York Times staff writer Robert Worth assessed the Obama administration’s push for bombing Syria on September 3, explaining, “If the United States does not enforce its self-imposed “red line” on Syria’s use of chemical weapons… Iran will smell weakness and press ahead more boldly in its quest for nuclear weapons.”
On September 4, the website Foreign Policy posted a shrill piece of propaganda in which former AIPAC official and accused Israeli spy Steven Rosen claimed that not bombing Syria “would certainly undermine the campaign to prevent Iran from completing its nuclear weapons program.”
On September 5, Politico revealed that “some 250 Jewish leaders and AIPAC activists will storm the halls on Capitol Hill beginning next week to persuade lawmakers that Congress must adopt the resolution or risk emboldening Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear weapon. They are expected to lobby virtually every member of Congress, arguing that “barbarism” by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated, and that failing to act would “send a message” to Tehran that the U.S. won’t stand up to hostile countries’ efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, according to a source with the group.”
On September 6, Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times that stepping back from a military assault on Syria would signal a lack of willingness on the part of Obama to counter the nonexistent “the development of a nuclear bomb by Iran.”
On September 10, the Washington Post reported uncritically on the same story, identifying AIPAC’s position that there exists “a direct connection between the Syria crisis and Iran’s effort to get nuclear weapons.” The Post quoted an unnamed AIPAC official as warning of grave consequences were the United States not to bomb Syria, noting that “it will send the wrong message to Tehran about their effort to obtain unconventional weapons.”
The Post was back at it on September 15, stating in an article that “Israel’s security establishment fears that a failure to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons could encourage Tehran, Syria’s ally, to continue to enrich uranium for a bomb.”
When this erroneous conclusion was brought to the attention of Patrick Pexton, Washington Post‘s former ombudsman, he agreed that the “should be corrected,” as no government, agency or organization on the planet has ever claimed Iran is enriching uranium “for a bomb.”
Editors for the Times and Foreign Policy allowed those statements to be published. Neither Politico nor the Post challenged these absurd presumptions.
USA Today published another misleading article on September 22, which stated that President Obama is “trying to take advantage of a diplomatic opening–created by the installation of a new, more moderate president in Iran–to persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear weapons program.”
Peter Hart of the media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) caught this bit of misinformation and added that the USA Today editing staff are “not the only ones who should consider clarifying the record.” He quotes CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer smugly opining on September 22, “Rouhani says that Iran does not want and is not pursuing a nuclear weapon. Does anybody take that at face value?“
Actually, the burden of proof should be the other way around: Politicians who claim that Iran has such a program should have to prove it. Schieffer obviously doesn’t see the world that way. He’s interviewed people like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and failed to challenge their claims about Iran’s weapons. Indeed, Schieffer presented them as facts, telling viewers about Iran’s “continuing effort to build a nuclear weapon” (FAIR Blog, 7/15/13).
Even more alarming, though, was a claim from NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, which opened his Friday evening broadcast on September 27. Speaking of the surprising telephone conversation between Presidents Obama and Rouhani, Williams said, “This is all part of a new leadership effort by Iran - suddenly claiming they don’t want nuclear weapons! - what they want is talks and transparency and good will. And while that would be enough to define a whole new era, skepticism is high and there’s a good reason for it.”
Really, Brian? Suddenly? In truth, the Iranian government has constantly reiterated its wholesale condemnation of nuclear weapons and refusal to ever acquire them – for over twenty years. Apparently the host of what is often the most-watched evening newscast in the country believes pretending the statements by Rouhani represent a sea change in Iranian policy, rather than undeniable consistency, is good for ratings.
There is literally no way Brian Williams believes this is breaking news unless he has both short-term and long-term memory loss. Why not? He himself has reported on Iran’s repudiation of nuclear weapons for years now.
On September 19, 2006, Williams asked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to respond to what he deemed the U.S. government position that Iran “[s]top enriching uranium toward weapons,” which made now sense in the first place since no one on the planet – including the United States – had ever claimed Iran was enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels.
Ahmadinejad replied, “We have said on numerous occasions that our activities are for peaceful purposes… Did Iran build the atomic bomb and use it? You must know that, because of our beliefs and our religion, we’re against such acts. We are against the atomic bomb.”
Williams interviewed Ahmadinejad again in late July 2008 and asked the Iranian president, “Is Iran’s goal to have nuclear power or to be a nuclear power in the sense of possessing weapons?”
Ahmadinejad again was clear: “We are not working to manufacture a bomb. We don’t believe in a nuclear bomb… Nuclear energy must not be equaled to a nuclear bomb… A bomb, obviously, is a very bad thing. Nobody should have such a bomb.”
Nevertheless, as The Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald puts it, “NBC News feels free to spout such plainly false propaganda – ‘suddenly claiming they don’t want nuclear weapons!’ – because they know they and fellow large media outlets have done such an effective job in keeping their viewers ignorant of these facts. They thus believe that they can sow doubts about Iran’s intentions with little danger that their deceit will be discovered.”
Despite the increasingly rapid pace of renewed Iranian and American communication and cooperation, the media’s misinformation campaign against Iran has yet to slow down. The journalists, editors, analysts and anchors who traffic in dishonest reporting should be held accountable.
Media researchers Jonas Siegel and Saranaz Barforoush recently wrote in the Cairo Review of Global Affairs:
If the goal of news media is to act in the public interest, to hold public officials accountable, and to permit an informed public to play a constructive role in the foreign policy decisions made by their governments—in their name—then journalists ought to consider more carefully how they go about framing the facts and assessments that animate complex policy issues such as Iran’s nuclear program and how the international community could and should respond. Without considering these fundamental characteristics more carefully and reflecting a broader spectrum of viewpoints and policy possibilities in their coverage, they are liable to repeat the mistakes that contributed to disastrous policy choices in the past.
- What is Kerry actually negotiating with Iran? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
In a highly speculative September 12 report entitled “Game-Changer: Signs of the al-Qaeda-Assad Alliance,” PJ Media’s Washington editor Bridget Johnson attempts to turn conventional wisdom about the current Syria debate on its head by asserting that “al-Qaeda is working not against Bashar al-Assad but in concert with the dictator.”
In support of this rather tendentious claim, Johnson cites a “student dissident” named Ahed Al Hendi whom she says fled Syria five years ago after imprisonment and torture by the Assad regime. According to Al Hendi, Damascus was secretly collaborating with Al-Qaeda during the Iraq War even as it sought to convince the U.S. that it was serious about fighting terrorism. That covert alliance persists to this day, asserts Johnson:
Assad appears OK with losing a building now and then by a car bomb — bombings that never hit too close to his home and that come with ample warning anyway. Al-Qaeda units, meanwhile, get left alone by Assad’s forces. “They never touch them,” Al Hendi said.
PJ Media’s spurious effort to persuade readers that Al-Qaeda is an ally rather than a foe of Assad makes a lot more sense, however, when you know that both the “conservative” American website and its seemingly objective Syrian source both have intimate ties to the country that has done most to induce Washington to use military force against Syria.
The effort to raise the $3.5 million in venture capital to start Pajamas Media [the original name for PJ Media] was led by Aubrey Chernick. A former trustee of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank created by the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, Chernick provides funding for a broad spectrum of pro-Israel organizations from the supposedly liberal Anti-Defamation League to the extremist Islamophobia-promoting Jihad Watch.
CyberDissidents.org is a project launched in 2008 by the Jerusalem-based Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies “to research and focus attention on the online activities of democracy advocates and dissidents in the Middle East, in the hope of empowering them at home and raising awareness of their plight abroad.” Until its demise in 2009, the Adelson Institute was located at the Shalem Center, a controversial research institute associated with right wing Zionist causes.
While Israel and its media assets might like Americans to believe that Assad and al-Qaeda are allies, there is far more reason to suspect an al-Qaeda-Israeli alliance in Syria. As Israel’s outgoing ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren recently admitted to the Jerusalem Post:
“The initial message about the Syrian issue was that we always wanted [President] Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran,” he said.
This was the case, he said, even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated to al-Qaida.
Maidhc Ó Cathail is an investigative journalist and Middle East analyst. He is also the creator and editor of The Passionate Attachment blog, which focuses primarily on the U.S.-Israeli relationship. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @O_Cathail.
- Syria and the ‘devious’ Israeli connection – Dr. Olmert doth protest too much, methinks (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Was Kerry’s ‘Munich moment’ on Syria created by a protégé of the Israel lobby? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israelis Flying Aid to Syrian Rebels Under the Cover of Humanitarianism (thepassionateattachment.com)
In a September 9 blog for The Huffington Post, Dr. Josef Olmert seizes on Professor Stephen Walt’s open letter to Congressman Joseph Kennnedy, urging him to oppose the use of military force against Syria, as an opportunity to attack Walt and Mearsheimer’s thesis that the influential — not “demonic” as Olmert chooses to misrepresent it — Israel Lobby has managed to skew U.S. foreign policy from its national interest. Writes Olmert:
So, under these circumstances, I eagerly expected to read about the Israeli connection of the Syrian problem, as well as it being behind the President’s decision to attack in Syria. Nothing of the kind in the open letter, and for good reason. The Syrian conflict has nothing to do with Israel. So was the case in Tunisia, where the Arab Spring started, so it was in Libya, where the US intervened ” from behind,” so it was in Egypt, where the secular-liberal Tamarud movement agitates against the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty and the deposed Muhammad Morsi related to Jews as descendants of pigs and monkeys.
Well, Israel has not been involved in all these situations, as well as in Yemen, Bahrain etc. because the Arab Spring had nothing to do with the Arab-Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It has to do with poverty, corruption, authoritarianism and sectarianism — all are huge issues which are concerned with the very fabric of the Arab state system, with basic ills of Arab societies; in sum, with issues that are mostly the makings of the Arabs, ones which ought to be solved by them.
The Arab Spring has been a cataclysmic, formative event, the most important to have happened in the Middle East since the heydays of Nasserism, back in the 1950′s. Such a huge event and no Israel connection, so where is the big thesis of Walt and Mearsheimer? How is it connected to the Middle East circa 2013? Well, it is not.
Dr. Olmert’s denial of an Israeli connection to the so-called “Arab Spring” is undermined, however, by his own biography. Although omitted from his “full bio” page at the HuffPost, the adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina is a contributor to an “online community” known as Fikra Forum, “that aims to generate ideas to support Arab democrats in their struggle with authoritarians and extremists.” Notwithstanding the high-sounding self-description, the pro-democracy “Arab” forum is in fact a creation of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank that was itself created by the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful and best known organization in the Israel Lobby.
Among Olmert’s fellow Fikra Forum contributors is Mouaz Moustafa, the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a group that lobbies Washington for military intervention on behalf of the Syrian opposition. As Moustafa’s Israeli Fikra co-contributor no doubt remembers, an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal by SETF’s recently resigned political director, “Doctor” Elizabeth O’Bagy, was touted by John McCain and John Kerry during a Senate Foreign Relations hearing to bolster the dubious case for intervention in support of the supposedly “moderate” rebels.
So who does the one-time advisor to former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and the brother of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert think he’s fooling when he claims there’s no “ever devious” Israeli connection to the Syrian problem?
Maidhc Ó Cathail is an investigative journalist and Middle East analyst. He is also the creator and editor of The Passionate Attachment blog, which focuses primarily on the U.S.-Israeli relationship. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @O_Cathail.
- A brief insight into the Israel Lobby’s non-transparent reinforcement of a ‘red line’ on Syria (thepassionateattachment.com)
- Israelis Flying Aid to Syrian Rebels Under the Cover of Humanitarianism (thepassionateattachment.com)
Note the reference to a “red line” on chemical weapons use in this May 27 interview by CNN’s former AIPAC staffer with the AIPAC-created WINEP/Fikra Forum contributor who organized the visit of AIPAC’s leading Senate mouthpiece to the so-called “Free Syrian Army.”
- Congressional Staffer Explains How AIPAC Is Putting On The Pressure For War (mjayrosenberg.com)
There’s plenty of discussion about how the threatened U.S. military attack on Syria is really a way of sending a “message” to Iran. And some media accounts inaccurately portray what is known about Iran.
Take this Washington Post news story (9/10/13), by Paul Kane and Ed O’Keefe, about the pro-war lobbying underway by AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee):
An AIPAC official said the group is playing an active role because it sees a direct connection between the Syria crisis and Iran’s effort to get nuclear weapons. “If America is not resolute with Iran’s proxy Syria on using unconventional weapons, it will send the wrong message to Tehran about their effort to obtain unconventional weapons,” said the AIPAC official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly about the effort.
The Post would seem to be portraying “Iran’s effort to get nuclear weapons” as if it were a fact. It’s not–it’s an allegation. Either that, or the Post is granting a source anonymity to make a claim that goes further than the facts allow.
This isn’t a new problem for the Post; in December 2011 the group Just Foreign Policy noted that the Post was running a Web feature with the headline, “Iran’s Quest to Possess Nuclear Weapons.” After readers sent messages to Post ombud Patrick Pexton, the headline was changed (“Iran’s Quest to Possess Nuclear Technology”).
As Pexton wrote (12/9/11), the International Atomic Energy Agency “does not say Iran has a bomb, nor does it say it is building one, only that its multiyear effort pursuing nuclear technology is sophisticated and broad enough that it could be consistent with building a bomb.”
The Post no longer has an ombud, but Douglas Feaver is acting as the paper’s “Reader Representative.” He can be reached at email@example.com.
- AIPAC to go all-out on Syria (dailypaul.com)