Did Somebody Blink?
On March 1, 2010, an essay in Haaretz titled “Who will blink first in Iran’s nuclear poker game?” stated that “Israel is on the verge of a preemptive war to try to foil Iran’s nuclear program.” So, the question was who would blink first? Would it be Iran that would give up its nuclear program? Would it be Israel that would be forced to withdraw its threat of military attack? Or would it be the US that would ratchet up the pressure on Iran to please Israel?
Similar arguments continued to appear in the next two years. For example, On March 2, 2012, in an interview titled “Between The U.S., Israel And Iran, Who Blinks First?” NPR asked Martin Indyk to elaborate on his comment in The New York Times that we “are now engaged in a three-way game of chicken, which makes blinking more dangerous than confrontation.” Indyk, the former executive director of the Israeli lobby group The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, advisor to President Clinton, and US Ambassador to Israel, answered:
Well, essentially we’re now in a vicious cycle. In order to calm the Israelis down and get them to back away from their intense interest in taking care of the [Iranian nuclear] program militarily, we are ratcheting up sanctions that essentially are aimed at Iran’s economic jugular. We are doing that on the theory that the more pressure we put on them, the more we bring their economy to its knees, the more likely the Iranians are to cry uncle, to blink, to say, OK, we’ll negotiate meaningful curbs on our nuclear program. . . And unless somebody blinks, I’m afraid it’s going to lead to a confrontation.
It seems that after many years of this “three-way game of chicken” somebody finally blinked; and that somebody was not Iran.
Last week, following a long hiatus and much anticipation, there was a meeting in Kazakhstan between Iran and the so-called P5+1, the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany. Such meetings are usually shrouded in secrecy and it is often difficult to get an accurate picture of what goes on behind closed doors. For example, on February 27, 2013, after the conclusion of the two-day meeting, a press release was issued by “EU High Representative Catherine Ashton,” the convener of these meetings, which basically stated: “We put what we call a confidence building proposal on the table.”
What the proposal stated remained secret. However, from various reports in the US, Israeli, and Iranian media one could surmise that the US, which is the main force behind these meetings, advanced the following proposal. In exchange for some so-called sanction relief, Iran would: 1) “significantly restrict” its accumulation of 20% enriched uranium, but would keep sufficient amount to fuel its Tehran Research Reactor that produces isotope for medical purposes; 2) suspend enrichment at Fordow underground facility and accept conditions that “constrain” the ability to quickly resume enrichment at Fordow; and 3) allow more regular and thorough monitoring of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
If what was reported were true, and if there were no deception involved, then the US had indeed blinked and had withdrawn its previous and punishing proposal, a proposal that is usually referred to as “stop, shut and ship.” The earlier proposal, as summarized by Ashton on June 19, 2012, demanded from Iran: “stopping 20 percent enrichment activities, shutting the Fordow nuclear facility and shipping out stockpiled 20 percent enriched nuclear materials.”
The latest P5+1 proposal not only did not ask for shutting down Fordow and stopping 20 percent enrichment, but would let Iran retain some of its medium level enriched uranium to make fuel. More importantly, the proposal would implicitly recognize the right of Iran to enrich uranium for civilian purposes, something that Iran has been asking for years and the US and Israel have consistently denied.
Understandably, the Iranian side was pleased and stated that on some points the P5+1 got closer to the Iranian perspective. Indeed, the US had, to the chagrin of The Washington Post editorial piece on February 28, 2013, “kowtowed,” or more accurately, blinked. But what about Israel, the third party in the “three-way game of chicken,” did it also blink?
The “stop, shut and ship” proposal was originally manufactured in Israel. On April 4, 2012, The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak “has held discussions with American and European officials in recent weeks with the goal of convincing them to set clear goals for the planned talks with Iran.” The report went on to say that according to Barak, Israel’s demands are: “1) [the] transfer of all uranium enriched to 20 percent—approximately 120 kg.—out of Iran to a third party country; 2) the transfer of the majority of the 5 tons of uranium enriched to 3.5% out of Iran, leaving just enough needed for energy purposes; 3) the closure of the Fordow enrichment facility, buried under a mountain near the city of Qom; [and] 4) the transfer of fuel rods from a third party country to Iran for the purpose of activating the Tehran Research Reactor.” The US slightly modified these demands and presented them at the P5+1 and Iran meeting in June 2012.
After the June meeting, Ha’aretz reported that “representatives of the powers are expected to fly to Israel and update its leaders” (June 18, 2012). On the same day Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon tried to exert more pressure on the P5+1 by stating that Israel could find itself facing the dilemma of “a bomb, or to bomb” (Reuters). “Should that be the choice,” Yaalon, stated, “then bombing (Iran) is preferable to a bomb (in Iran’s hands). . . I hope we do not face that dilemma.”
Delivering the Israeli manufactured demands to Iran and then going to Israel to report on the Iranian reaction were not new. After the May meeting between Iran and the P5+1, Haaretz reported on May 25, 2012, that Wendy Sherman, the US representative at the meeting, went straight to Israel. As the report stated, Sherman was going to “update Israeli officials on the talks in Baghdad, and on preparations for the third round of talks in Moscow on June 18 and 19.” The report also stated that according to the State Department, Sherman will also “reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security.”
The following day, on May 26, Haaretz published a more extensive piece about Sherman’s visit. It quoted an unnamed US official as saying: “We updated the Israelis in detail before we updated our own government.” He was also quoted as saying: “There are no gaps between the U.S. and Israel in anything related to talks between Iran and the six world powers over the future of Iran’s nuclear program. . . Even if we do not have the patience, we need to give diplomacy a chance before military action.” In addition, the report stated that Sherman arrived in Israel “along with officials from the White House National Security Council working on the Iran nuclear issue—Gary Seymour and Puneet Talwar.” “The American team,” the report went on to say, “had a three-hour meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, with National Security advisor Yaakov Amidror, and a number of other senior Israeli officials who deal with the Iran issue.” Not surprisingly, Gary Samore, President Obama’s Coordinator for Weapons of Mass Destruction Counter-Terrorism and Arms Control, was one of the original founders of the Israeli lobby group “United Against Nuclear Iran.”
The February 2013 meeting between the P5+1 and Iran was also followed by a similar visit to Israel. On February 26, 2013, Haaretz reported that the “American administration, along with the U.K., France and Germany, are in close contact with Israel and have been coordinating with it ahead of the [P5+1] talks in Kazakhstan. Immediately after the talks, an American negotiating team headed by Wendy Sherman, the under secretary for political affairs, is expected to come to Jerusalem.” “Sherman,” the report went on to add, “intends to meet with National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror, Foreign Ministry Director General for Strategic Affairs Jeremy Issacharoff and other high-ranking officials to update them about the content of the talks with Iran.” The report also stated: “Last week, Amidror visited Washington and discussed the Iranian nuclear program with his American counterpart, Thomas E. Donilon.”
Given the close coordination between the US and Israel, one has to conclude that not only the US, but also Israel blinked at the February 2013 meeting. This, of course, comes as no surprise, since Israeli officials, particularly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had bluffed and blinked many times before. After many years of crying wolf and threatening Iran, Netanyahu’s most public blinking came on September 27, 2012, when he appeared before the UN General Assembly and held up a diagram of a cartoonish-looking bomb with a fuse and drew a redline on it at 90% enriched uranium. The bizarre spectacle, which was mocked by some as “Bibi’s Wiley E. Coyote-style cartoon bomb,” was not only the proverbial “one too many times” that Mr. Netanyahu had cried wolf, but it was also the beginning of the end of Israel’s intense and unsuccessful campaign to make the US attack Iran or intensify the sanctions. The “decisive year” of 2012, as Israeli newspaper Maariv pointed out, was passing “without decisiveness” (Reuters, September 28, 2012).
What made the US and Israel blink? The answer requires a detailed analysis of Obama Administration’s policy of “tough diplomacy,” an analysis that will appear in my forthcoming book. However, a short answer is that the US and Israel seem to have run out of options in overthrowing the current government in Iran and replacing it with a friendly regime. “Tough diplomacy”—which was formulated mostly by Dennis Ross, currently the counselor to The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and formerly special assistant to President Obama—threw at Iran everything the US had in terms of sanctions, sabotage, cyber-attacks and possibly assassinations of the Iranian nuclear scientists. Yet, the last step in this policy, which was supposed to be a naval blockade of Iran and military attack, could not be taken. Why? Because in order to wage a war against Iran the economic conditions in that country must become as dismal as they were in Iraq before it was invaded; and that, at the present, is not the case. Even though the accumulated result of 33 years of sanctions against Iran, particularly the most brutal and unprecedented ones in the last 4 years, have helped to create massive hardship in Iran, there is no sign that the Iranian economy is actually collapsing. There are also hardly any Iranian entities or individuals left to sanction. The US and Israel seem to be coming to terms with the reality and beginning to blink.
Sasan Fayazmanesh is Professor Emeritus of Economics at California State University, Fresno. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
In the course of his much-ridiculed albeit deadly serious ACME bomb speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asserted that “the medieval forces of radical Islam” stand in the way of Israel’s desire for “a Middle East of progress and peace.” As evidence of these freedom-hating, anti-modern forces supposedly “bent on world conquest,” Netanyahu cited the Sept. 11 besieging of U.S. embassies throughout the region.
The Israeli prime minister was repeating a theme he had been given the opportunity to develop earlier in an interview on prime-time American television. Addressed by NBC’s “Meet the Press” host David Gregory as “the leader of the Jewish people” (Gregory himself is Jewish), Netanyahu was asked whether he thought a “containment strategy” would work on Iran, as it had with the Soviet Union. Iran was different, Netanyahu responded, because its “rationality” could not be relied upon since it is “guided by a leadership with an unbelievable fanaticism.” To emphasize the purported threat of nuclear-armed mullahs in Tehran, the Israeli leader drew a terrifying mental picture for his American audience: “It’s the same fanaticism that you see storming your embassies today. You want these fanatics to have nuclear weapons?”
While there is much controversy about the reasons for the assaults on U.S. diplomatic missions on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, widespread Muslim outrage over a YouTube video insulting the Prophet Muhammad was clearly a factor in triggering at least some of the ensuing anti-American riots. In light of Netanyahu’s subsequent emphasis on these vivid examples of “fanaticism” to advance the narrative of an Iranian “nuclear threat” in an increasingly unstable region in which Tel Aviv remains Washington’s “one reliable ally,” it’s certainly worth exploring whether the deliberately offensive anti-Islam video may have been the work of pro-Israel provocateurs. As former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said on NBC’s “Morning Joe” regarding what position America should take toward the Muslim world, “If there are evil forces at work trying to provoke violence between us and you, we have the obligation to investigate and to crack down.”
In what appears to have been an artfully contrived red herring, initial reports did indeed point to an Israeli source of the provocative video. The Wall Street Journal and Associated Press—two media outlets often accused of pro-Israel bias—were suspiciously credulous of someone claiming to be an Israeli-American real estate developer who said he was the writer and director of “Innocence of Muslims.” This “Sam Bacile” gratuitously added that the production had been funded by “about 100 Jewish donors.” Almost immediately, the dubious story was debunked by The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg—a former prison guard in the Israel Defense Forces whose reporting has at key junctures served to advance Tel Aviv’s interests—when a self-described “militant Christian activist” named Steve Klein assured him that “the State of Israel is not involved.” Absolving the Jewish state of any culpability, Klein eagerly pointed the finger at Egyptian Copts and American evangelicals. A self-satisfied Goldberg summed up the story in a tweet: “A group of Christians smearing Muslims libels Jews.”
Notwithstanding Goldberg’s terse dismissal of an Israeli connection, the Jew-libeling Christians actually turned out to have close ties to the pro-Israel Islamophobia network led by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Spencer’s Jihad Watch group has been indirectly funded by Aubrey Chernick, a Los Angeles-based software security entrepreneur and former trustee of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the influential think tank created in 1985 by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Spencer’s provocative writings on Islam are also publicized by The Gatestone Institute, whose founder and director Nina Rosenwald has held leadership positions in AIPAC and other mainstream pro-Israel organizations. In a July 2012 profile in The Nation magazine, Max Blumenthal dubbed the heiress to the Sears Roebuck fortune “The Sugar Mama of Anti-Islam Hate.”
This past February, in a post on her Atlas Shrugs blog entitled “A Movie about Muhammad: An Idea whose Time Has Come,” Geller solicited funds for a film that would show “Muhammad’s raids, plunders, massacres, rapes, assassinations and other crimes.” According to the controversial pro-Israel provocateur, it was “a brilliant idea” by Ali Sina, whom she introduced as a “renowned ex-Muslim author, founder of FaithFreedom.org and SION Board member.” SION, whose similarity to Zion is hardly coincidental, stands for “Stop Islamization of Nations,” a group co-founded by Geller and Spencer which held its inaugural International World Freedom Congress in New York on Sept. 11 “to combat the Islamic supremacist war against free speech.” Ali Sina’s solicitation for funds assured readers of Geller’s blog that “given the subject matter” it could become “one of the most seen motion pictures ever.” Revealingly, he asked them, “Recall Danish cartoons?”—an earlier media-catalyzed provocation in which pro-Israel, anti-Islam propagandists such as Daniel Pipes cited freedom of speech as they incited Muslim outrage against the West.
Two years earlier, on the ninth anniversary of 9/11, Geller and her partners-in-provocation held a rally to protest the construction of an Islamic community center a few blocks from the site of the demolished World Trade Center. Among those who took part were a couple of extremist Coptic Christian activists who would later be involved in the making and distribution of “Innocence of Muslims.” Meanwhile, in the nation’s capital, another Egyptian-American named Morris Sadek was filmed with a crucifix in one hand and in the other a Bible with the American flag sticking out of it, shouting “Islam is evil!”
As McClatchey reported on Sept. 15, it was Sadek who had triggered the anti-American outrage in the Muslim world with a timely phone call to an Egyptian reporter. On Sept. 4, the Washington, DC-based provocateur phoned Gamel Girgis, who covers Christian emigrants for the al Youm al Sabaa daily newspaper, to tell him about a movie he had produced. According to Girgis, Sadek wanted to screen it on Sept. 11 “to reveal what was behind the terrorists’ actions that day—Islam.”
As with most of the mainstream media’s coverage of the post-Bacile story, the McClatchey report made no mention of Morris Sadek’s ties to the Geller-Spencer Islamophobia network or his extreme pro-Israel views. On his blog dedicated to the “National American Coptic Assembly”—of which he describes himself as “a president”—Sadek provides an erratically punctuated outline of what he claims should be “The Coptic Position on Israel”:
We recognize the sacred right of the state of Israel and the Israeli people to the land of historic Israel.
“The right of Return” of the Jewish people to the land of their foremothers and forefathers is a sacred right. It has no statute of limitation. The return must continue to enrich the Middle East.
We recognize Jerusalem as simply a Jewish city, It must never be divided. She is, and shall always be, the united capital of Israel.
The future of the Palestinians lies with the Arab states. A Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria constitute an imminent danger to world peace.
The Chantilly, Virginia-based National American Coptic Assembly, Inc., a private company with a staff of two, has an estimated annual revenue of $97,000. Considering the fawning pro-Israel statements of its principal—not to mention his priceless contribution to Netanyahu’s relentless campaign to induce a U.S. attack on the “fanatics” in Tehran—it’s not too difficult to speculate as to the most likely source of that income.
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.
On September 25, The Passionate Attachment broke the story of the Israel lobbyist who suggested that a Pearl Harbor-type attack might be necessary to get a recalcitrant Obama Administration to go to war with Iran. As Patrick Clawson, director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, brazenly put it during question time at the pro-Israel think tank’s policy forum luncheon on “How to Build U.S.-Israeli Coordination on Preventing an Iranian Nuclear Breakout”:
So, if in fact the Iranians aren’t going to compromise, it would be best if somebody else started the war.
In light of Clawson’s thinly-veiled call for a false flag attack to trigger another Middle East war for Israel, a story in yesterday’s New York Post entitled “NYPD on alert for Iran terror” should be of major concern to those charged with protecting U.S. national security. Reported Jessica Simeone:
A terror attack sponsored by Iran is an ongoing concern for the NYPD, Commissioner Ray Kelly revealed yesterday.
“We’ve been concerned about Iran for a while, and I think the history of those events throughout the world since January give us cause for concern,” Kelly said during an anti-terror conference called NYPD SHIELD.
Kelly also said that a possible conflict between Iran and Israel is a particular area of concern, given New York City’s large Jewish population.
One issue is the potential for a retaliation attack on New York City by Iran and Hezbollah, said NYPD Lt. Kevin Yorke of the Intelligence Division.
“Within the last year, we’ve seen a worldwide increase in incidents involving the stockpiling of explosives, the surveillance of targets, and a number of very significant plots and attacks,” Yorke said.
That increase in activity is in direct relation to Iran’s nuclear-weapons program and the tension surrounding it, Yorke said.
“Obviously if there’s any action involving Israel and Iran we have to be very cognizant of the potential of retaliation here in New York City,” Kelly said.
Considering the intimate ties between the “rogue” NYPD Intelligence Division & Counter-Terrorism Bureau and the “criminal state” of Israel — with its sordid history of false flag attacks and other crimes against the United States as well as its ongoing dubious propaganda campaign of allegations against its Islamic enemies — this public statement of “concern” about an Iranian-sponsored terror attack in New York should put those genuinely concerned about U.S. national security on high alert.
It may also be of note to national security that a recent Israeli delegation to the city headed by Minister for Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuri Edelstein cited the 9/11 attacks as “an example of the destructive capability of terrorist groups governed, motivated and supported by the terrorist capital of the world — Iran.” Presumably, Minister Edelstein did not mention that his prime minister thought that those same attacks were “very good” for Israel.
- Why I Dislike Israel (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Even those pundits who seem to want to distance U.S. foreign policy from Tel Aviv’s demands and begin treating Israel like any other country sometimes feel compelled to make excuses and apologies before getting down to the nitty-gritty. The self-lacerating prologues generally describe how much the writer really has a lot of Jewish friends and how he or she thinks Israelis are great people and that Israel is a wonderful country before launching into what is usually a fairly mild critique.
Well, I don’t feel that way. I don’t like Israel very much. Whether or not I have Jewish friends does not define how I see Israel and is irrelevant to the argument. And as for the Israelis, when I was a CIA officer overseas, I certainly encountered many of them. Some were fine people and some were not so fine, just like the general run of people everywhere else in the world. But even the existence of good upstanding Israelis doesn’t alter the fact that the governments that they have elected are essentially part of a long-running criminal enterprise judging by the serial convictions of former presidents and prime ministers. Most recently, former President Moshe Katsav was convicted of rape, while almost every recent head of government, including the current one, has been investigated for corruption. Further, the Israeli government is a rogue regime by most international standards, engaging as it does in torture, arbitrary imprisonment, and continued occupation of territories seized by its military. Worse still, it has successfully manipulated my country, the United States, and has done terrible damage both to our political system and to the American people, a crime that I just cannot forgive, condone, or explain away.
Interfering in American electoral politics
The most recent outrage is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s direct interference in U.S. domestic politics through his appearance in a television ad appearing in Florida that serves as an endorsement of Republican candidate Mitt Romney. The Netanyahu ad and his involvement in the election has been widely reported in the media and has even been condemned by several leading Jewish congressmen, but it has elicited no response from either Obama or Romney. Both should be condemning in the strongest terms the completely unprecedented intervention by a foreign head of government in an American election. That they are saying nothing is a testament to the power that Israel and its friends in Congress and the media have over the U.S. political establishment. Romney might even privately approve of the ads, as he has basically promised to cede to Netanyahu the right to set the limits for U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Pushing us into war
And why is Benjamin Netanyahu in such a lather? It is because President Barack Obama will not concede to him a “red line” that would automatically trigger a U.S. attack on Iran. Consider for a moment the hubris of Netanyahu in demanding that Washington meet his conditions for going to war with Iran, a nation that for all its frequently described faults has not attacked anyone, has not threatened to attack anyone, and has not made the political decision to acquire a nuclear weapon in spite of what one reads in the U.S. press. At the U.N., Netanyahu’s chart showing a cartoon bomb with a sputtering fuse reminiscent of something that might have been employed by an anarchist in the 1870s failed to pass any credibility test even for the inevitable cheerleaders in the U.S. media. If the U.S. is to go to war based on a Netanyahu cartoon then it deserves everything it gets when the venture turns sour, most likely Iraq Redux, only 10 times worse.
Even more outrageous, and a lot less reported in the media, were the comments made by Patrick Clawson, director of research for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an organization founded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). WINEP is widely viewed as a major component of the Israel Lobby in Washington and is closely tied to the Israeli government, with which it communicates on a regular basis. Clawson heads WINEP’s Iran Security Initiative. At a briefing on Sept. 24 he said, “I frankly think that crisis initiation is really tough, and it’s very hard for me to see how the United States … uh … president can get us to war with Iran.… The traditional way America gets to war is what would be best for U.S. interests.”
Note that Clawson states his conviction that initiating a crisis to get the U.S. involved in a war with Iran and thereby fooling the American people into thinking that it is the right thing to do is actually a “U.S. interest.” He cites Pearl Harbor, Fort Sumter, the Lusitania, and the Gulf of Tonkin as models for how to get engaged. Which inevitably leads to Clawson’s solution: “if the Iranians aren’t going to compromise it would be best if someone else started the war … Iranian submarines periodically go down. Some day one of them may not come up…. We are in the game of using covert means against the Iranians. We could get nastier at that.” Clawson is clearly approving of Israel’s staging an incident that would lead to war, possibly even a false-flag operation carried out by Israel that would implicate the United States directly, or he is urging the White House to do the job itself.
Clawson not surprisingly has never served in the U.S. military and has a Ph.D. in economics from the New School for Social Research, which would at first glance seem to disqualify him from figuring out how to set up a covert operation to sink a submarine and thereby start a war. He might be seen as moderately ridiculous, but like many of his neoconservative colleagues he is well wired into the system. He writes regularly for The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal; appears on television as an “expert”; and is a colleague at WINEP of the ubiquitous Dennis Ross, sometimes called “Israel’s lawyer,” who was until recently President Obama’s point man on the Middle East. Clawson is a useful idiot who would be registered as an agent of the Israeli government if the Justice Department were doing its job, but instead he is feted as a man who tells it like it is in terms of American interests. The distortion of the foreign-policy decision-making in this country is something that can be attributed to Clawson and his host of fellow travelers, all of whom promote Israel’s perceived interests at the expense of the United States. And they do it with their eyes wide open.
Hate speech posing as free speech
I will deliberately avoid belaboring another Israel Firster Pamela Geller and her New York subway posters calling Palestinians savages and Israelis civilized, as I am sure the point has been made about how any lie that can serve the cause of Israel will be aggressively defended as “free speech.” A poster excoriating Jews or blacks in similar terms as “savages” would not have seen the light of day in New York City, another indication of the power of the Lobby and its friends to control the debate about the Middle East and game the system.
And then there are the reasons to dislike Israel and what it represents that go way back. In 1952′s Lavon Affair, the Israelis were prepared to blow up a U.S. Information Center in Alexandria and blame it on the Egyptians. In 1967, the Israelis attacked and nearly sank the USS Liberty, killing 34 crewmen, and then used their power over President Lyndon Johnson to block an investigation into what had occurred. In 1987, Jonathan Pollard was convicted of spying for Israel with investigators determining that he had been the most damaging spy in the history of the United States. In the 1960s, Israelis stole uranium from a lab in Pennsylvania to construct a secret nuclear arsenal. And the spying and theft of U.S. technology continues. Israel is the most active “friendly nation” when it comes to stealing U.S. secrets, and when its spies are caught, they are either sent home or, if they are Americans, receive a slap on the wrist.
Killing American citizens
And Israel gets away with killing American citizens — literally — in the cases of Rachel Corrie and Furkan Dogan of the Mavi Marmara. And let’s not forget Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians which has made the United States complicit in a crime against humanity. Tel Aviv has also played a key role in Washington’s going to war against Iraq, in promulgating a U.S.-led global war on terror against the Muslim world, and in crying wolf over Iran, all of which have served no U.S. interest. Through it all, Congress and the media are oblivious to what is taking place. Israel is a net recipient of over $123 billion in U.S. aid and continues to get $3 billion a year even though its per capita income is higher than that of Spain or Italy. No one questions anything having to do with Israel while Congress rubber-stamps resolution after resolution virtually promising to go to war on Israel’s behalf.
I have to admit that I don’t like what my own government is doing these days, but I like Israel even less and it is past time to do something about it. No more money, no more political support, no more tolerance of spying, and no more having to listen to demands for red lines to go to war. No more favorable press when the demented Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a cartoon at the U.N. The United States government exists to serve the American people, no more, no less, and it is time that our elected representatives begin to remember that fact.
Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues. He is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served eighteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was Chief of Base in Barcelona from 1989 to 1992 designated as the Agency’s senior officer for Olympic Games support.
Last Friday, during question time at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy policy forum luncheon on “How to Build US-Israeli Coordination on Preventing an Iranian Nuclear Breakout,” the director of research at the pro-Israel think tank hinted that a Pearl Harbor-type attack might be necessary to get the United States to go to war against the Islamic Republic.
“I frankly think that crisis initiation is really tough,” said Patrick Clawson, who also heads the Washington Institute’s Iran Security Initiative, in response to a question about what would happen if negotiations with Tehran fail. “And it’s very hard for me to see how the United States … uh … President can get us to war with Iran.”
As a consequence, Clawson said he was led to conclude that “the traditional way [that] America gets to war is what would be best for US interests.”
Intriguingly, he went on to recount a series of controversial incidents in American history — the attack on Pearl Harbor, the sinking of the Lusitania, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the blowing up of the USS Maine — that US presidents “had to wait for” before taking America to war.
“And may I point out that Mr. Lincoln did not feel he could call out the federal army until Fort Sumter was attacked,” Clawson continued, “which is why he ordered the commander at Fort Sumter to do exactly that thing which the South Carolinians had said would cause an attack.”
“So, if in fact the Iranians aren’t going to compromise,” the Israel lobbyist concluded with a smirk on his face, “it would be best if somebody else started the war.”
Note: Clawson begins his answer around the 1 hour 15 minute mark.
In the September 17 issue of The New Yorker, David Makovsky has a piece entitled The Silent Strike: How Israel bombed a Syrian nuclear installation and kept it secret Makovsky tells a tale about how Israel took out a Syrian nuclear threat. There is one slight problem: Makovsky’s tale should have been published as “fiction”. How do I know? I’ve heard this story before.
It is an unquestioned fact that Israel bombed something in Syria back in September 2007. But what was that something? The Israelis claimed that they bombed a Syrian nuclear reactor, but journalist Laura Rozen shot that story down very convincingly. She interviewed Joseph Cirincione, then director of nuclear policy with the Center for American Progress, who identified the bombed site as a non-nuclear Syrian military base. It’s where Syria stores their missiles, which they buy from Iran and North Korea. It’s not a nuclear reactor or any kind of nuclear installation at all. Back in 2008, the mainstream media (AP, Tom Jelton of NPR, ABC News) referred to the “Syrian nuclear reactor” as if it were an established fact, when it was actually malarkey.
Back in 2008, I relied on Laura Rozen’s investigative reporting and the detective work of antiwar Libertarian blogger Justin Raimondo to produce a piece, Syrian Nukes: the Phantom Menace, published on CounterPunch. It’s valuable background reading and a refutation of the Makovsky piece.
What Cirincione told the BBC back in 2007 applies today as well: “This appears to be the work of a small group of officials leaking cherry-picked, unvetted ‘intelligence’ to key reporters in order to promote a preexisting political agenda.” Cirincione added “If this sounds like the run-up to the war with Iraq, then it should.”
It often pays to ask who the “expert” is and where he is coming from. So who is David Makovsky? He is a Senior Fellow of Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), which is an offshoot of AIPAC. WINEP is part of the Israel Lobby, but has the public appearance of impartial expertise, compared with the brazen bias of AIPAC. Makovsky was the executive editor of the very hawkish Jerusalem Post for over a decade. Makovsky has co-authored a book on Middle East politics and policy with Dennis Ross, the well-known US diplomat and Israeli shill. Makovsky is very well connected to the Israel Lobby.
With his New Yorker article, Makovsky is building the case for an attack on Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities by Israel and/or the US, by comparing it to a highly fictional account of Israel’s 2007 attack on a (non-nuclear) military base, which Makovsky falsely claims was a Syrian nuclear reactor. Much of the Israeli ruling class (ex-Mossad directors, generals, politicians) is opposed to attacking Iran, as are Israeli Jews as a whole. The opposition is on pragmatic grounds: well-grounded worry about the consequences of (another) open-ended war. To allay these fears (mainly among Americans, more than Israelis), Makovsky serves up a soothing fairy tale: Israel bombed a Syrian nuke in 2007 and everything turned out OK, so if Israel bombs Iran it will also turn out OK.
According to an article yesterday in Ynet, the Israeli military fears that “global Jihad terrorists will launch attacks from Syria” if President Bashar Assad’s regime falls. The Israeli newspaper reported:
Army officials are not ruling [sic] a situation whereby terrorists will take advantage of the chaos that may follow a regime change in Damascus to seize control of the border region, as was the case in the Sinai Peninsula after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown.
Over the past few months the 36th Armored Division (Ga’ash), which is in charge of security along the border, has been gearing for a number of possible scenarios, including a cross-border attack by global jihad, which is operating in Syria against Assad’s regime.
The IDF fears the Horan region, near the border with Israel, will become a “no man’s land” and a hotbed of terrorism. Military officials are not ruling out the possibility of rocket fire from Syria and attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians.
But if Israel is so concerned about global Jihad terrorists getting a foothold in Syria, then why is its American lobby leading the push for regime change in Damascus? Anyone who has been paying the slightest attention to websites such as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Foreign Policy Initiative or Foundation for Defense of Democracies over the past year and a half knows how fervently pro-Israelis have been urging Washington to topple Assad.
To cite but one example, in November last year Foreign Policy Initiative and Foundation for Defense of Democracies jointly issued a discussion paper that outlined “policy options for the United States and like-minded nations to further assist the anti-regime Syrian opposition.” Entitled “Towards a Post-Assad Syria,” the paper advocated imposing “crippling sanctions” on the regime and providing assistance to opposition groups, including no-fly/no-go zones.
Foreign Policy Initiative co-founder Bill Kristol also heads the Emergency Committee for Israel, which specializes in producing videos attacking any politician, including President Obama, it deems to be insufficiently supportive of the Jewish state. Unless Kristol et al. are pursuing an agenda on Syria opposed by Tel Aviv — which is most unlikely — then why have they been promoting a policy that the IDF says will lead to global Jihad terrorists launching attacks on Israel? Could they be that stupid? Or could it be that Israeli strategists welcome the chaos that its army officials supposedly fear?
- Rumsfeld’s Papers: The Perennial Anti-Syrian (alethonews.wordpress.com)
If you believe some Israeli analysts, Tel Aviv is fretting on the sideline of the ongoing multinational effort to bring down the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad that is taking a little longer than expected. In a May 11 “analysis” for Reuters apparently based solely on interviews with Israeli experts, Douglas Hamilton claims:
With the Syrian uprising now into its 14th month and Assad still firmly in power, Israel has few options other than to sit the crisis out, unable to influence the outcome of an upheaval that is sure to affect it.
The reality, however, is that the self-described Jewish state has plenty of options available to it to influence the outcome of the “upheaval” destabilizing its northern neighbour. Its most effective option is, of course, the influence it is able to exert over U.S. policy. As Haim Saban, a prominent “influencer,” once told an Israeli conference, there are “three ways to be influential in American politics” — make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets.
And as I wrote last year:
The think tank part of Saban’s tripartite Israel-protection formula was initiated in 2002 with a pledge of nearly $13 million to the Brookings Institution to establish the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. In 2007, the Saban Center expanded operations with the launch of the Brookings Doha Center. Its Qatar-based project was inaugurated in February 2008 by the founding director of the Saban Center, Martin Indyk. A former research director at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Indyk had previously founded the AIPAC-created Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP).
Keeping in mind the origins of the Brookings Doha Center, take a look at this recent “analysis” of the deteriorating situation in Syria:
The latest bombings primarily benefit the Syrian regime, analysts say, which, from the start of the 14-month revolt, has described the uprising as a Western-backed Al-Qaeda plot and its opponents as “terrorists” to justify its crackdown.
“Bashar al-Assad has said: ‘If anybody dares to challenge my rule, there will be chaos.’ What he said is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center.
Shaikh noted there was no clear link between the regime and the bomb attacks, as the opposition has charged, “but at the end of the day, the responsibility lies with the regime because it has pursued only a security approach.”
“It is the regime who created this environment and the international community has allowed the situation to drift,” he added.
Shaikh added that a small group like Al-Nusra Front would not be able to pull off such “sophisticated” attacks without the help of “much more professional forces.”
Indeed. But instead of looking for those “much more professional forces” among the special ops forces of the so-called Friends of Syria, trust an analyst working for an Israel lobby-created think tank to point the finger at the Syrian regime itself.
Good question. Perhaps we need to ask the well-connected Committee to Protect Journalists. Here’s the very revealing bio (emphasis added) of one of their staff members:
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA PROGRAM COORDINATOR
Mohamed Abdel Dayem
Before joining CPJ in December 2008, Mohamed Abdel Dayem was a research analyst at the Save Darfur Coalition, where he was responsible for researching and producing all of the coalition’s written materials. Abdel Dayem was also involved in increasing the coalition’s outreach and coordination with activists, governments, and the media in the Middle East and Muslim world at large. In late 2006 and early 2007, Abdel Dayem worked at the National Endowment for Democracy, where he managed the Endowment’s Iraq portfolio. Prior to that, he spent nearly five years at Human Rights Watch, conducting research and media outreach on countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Abdel Dayem has also worked at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He has also been a consultant to a variety of NGOs, including the International Center for Transitional Justice, the Open Society Institute’s Iraq Revenue Watch, the Fund for Global Human Rights, and the InternationalCenter for Journalists, among others. A graduate of the University of Central Florida, where he majored in political science and anthropology, Abdel Dayem also has an M.A. from the School of Advanced International Studies at the JohnsHopkins University, where he specialized in international law, conflict management and international economics. Aside from English, Abdel Dayem is fluent in Arabic and German. He has lived and traveled extensively in the Middle East.
>> Read Mohamed Abdel Dayem’s blog.
- Fikra: An Israeli Forum for Arab Democrats (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Who will watch the watchdog? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- UN Watch statement on Syrian human rights situation reveals pro-Israel motivation (alethonews.wordpress.com)
A surreptitious WINEP project is pushing cataclysmic regime change in Syria
On February 10, subscribers to Fikra Forum’s mailing list received a bilingual (English and Arabic) letter from director David Pollock informing them:
In reaction to last week’s exclusive Fikra Forum report, Inside the Syrian Army by Ilhan Tanir, contributor Josef Olmert and I present analysis on how the U.S. and the international community should support the FSA [Free Syrian Army].
Five days later, Fikra Forum subscribers received another email with the subject title, “Leading Syrian Activist Calls for International Intervention.” In his introductory note, Pollock explained:
As the international community struggles to halt the Syrian regime’s brutal assault on its people, Fikra Forum would like to share our newest piece by Radwan Ziadeh, an official with the Syrian National Council and executive director of the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies. Ziadeh calls for intervention, urging the international community to form a coalition that legitimizes the SNC as the unified representative of the Syrian opposition and acknowledges the council’s plan for the future of Syria.
At the bottom of both Fikra Forum emails was the following address:
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy | 1828 L STREET NW | SUITE 1050 | WASHINGTON | DC | 20036 | US
However, if one were to visit the Fikra Forum website, one might get the impression that the “online community that aims to generate ideas to support Arab democrats in their struggle with authoritarians and extremists” was trying to hide its association with The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the think tank created by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to “do AIPAC’s work but appear independent.” In its remarkably vague “About Us” section, the only clue to its affiliation with “the think tank AIPAC built” is this acknowledgement:
Fikra Forum is grateful to the Nathan and Esther K. Wagner Family Foundation for their contribution to the launch of Fikra Forum in the memory of Steven Croft, who during his life believed passionately in the power of ideas to transform lives.
Steven Croft’s February 20, 2009 Death Notice in the Chicago Tribune tells us a little more about those passionate beliefs:
He was also philanthropically involved in local, national and international organizations including the Arthritis Foundation, AIPAC, Israel Bonds and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Notwithstanding the apparent overlap, WINEP also appears to be coy about its relationship with Fikra Forum. Despite the fact that David Pollock is the Kaufman fellow at The Washington Institute, “focusing on the political dynamics of Middle Eastern countries,” there appears to be no mention there of the “unique online community” he directs “with the goal of generating ideas to produce a brighter future for Arab democrats.”
By an amazing coincidence, WINEP has its own “Fikra” (Arabic for “Idea”), which it describes as “a multiyear program of research, publication, and network-building designed to generate policy ideas for promoting positive change and countering the spread of extremism in the Middle East.” According to the Israel lobby-created think tank, its Project Fikra is:
A bold effort to counter the spread of extremism in the Middle East, the program seeks to inject creativity and new thinking into America’s engagement with youths, media, educators, and other key actors struggling for openness and tolerance in Arab and Muslim societies.
Among “the talents of Washington Institute scholars and associates” that Project Fikra brings together is David Pollock, whom it describes as “an expert on Middle Eastern public opinion and polling who worked as a leader on regional democratization and women’s rights.”
Apart from Pollock, a substantial number of Fikra Forum contributors are current or former WINEP fellows, including Ahmed Ali, Jon Alterman, Hassan Barari, Soner Cagaptay, J. Scott Carpenter, Steven Cook, Andrew Engel, Daniel Green, Dina Guirguis, Simon Henderson, David Makovsky, Joshua Muravchik, Magnus Norell, Michael Rubin, Robert Satloff, David Schenker, Michael Singh, Andrew Tabler, Eric Trager, and Margaret Weiss.
The rest of the contributors are from other pro-Israel think tanks, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the American Enterprise Institute; Soros-funded groups such as Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, and the Center for American Progress; various “democracy-promotion” organizations led by the National Endowment for Democracy and its affiliates; and an abundance of pro-democracy activists, bloggers and journalists they “helped nurture,” fomenting the wave of uprisings known as the “Arab Spring.”
While Pollock and many of the other Fikra contributors work for Israel’s U.S. lobby, perhaps the most interesting contributor to an online forum supposedly dedicated to Arab democracy is the aforementioned Josef Olmert. Although his Fikra Forum profile does acknowledge that the Israeli analyst was a director of the Government Press Office and advisor to former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and later served as policy advisor to former Defense Minister Moshe Arens, it emphasizes his role as a “peace negotiator.” Fikra Forum readers are not informed, however, that Dr. Olmert is the brother of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert or that both of their parents belonged to the terrorist Irgun organization.
Although Josef Olmert predicted elsewhere a “chaotic transition” in which “the violence that will unfold in Syria will dwarf everything that we have witnessed until now,” he assures Fikra Forum readers that “all support that could enable the FSA to continue and intensify its operations, alongside the continuing popular resistance, will help shorten the days of the dictatorship and save the lives of many innocent Syrians.”
Maidhc Ó Cathail has written extensively on Israel’s push for regime change in Syria.
- Mr. Ghannouchi Goes to the Washington Institute (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel lobby cutout urges US to provide Syrians with ‘means of self-defense’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel Lobby Pushes for US Action Against the Syrian Government (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- JINSA: Strengthening Israel by promoting Syrian ‘Chalabi’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Sanctioning Syria (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- The ‘Humanitarian’ Road to Damascus (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel’s Favourite Arab Proposes ‘A Kosovo Model for Syria’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)