As neocons are working to destroy Iran’s tentative nuclear deal, US President Obama will have to either reinvent America’s policy or give in to Israel’s lobby and Saudi Arabia’s paranoiac fear of Shia Islam.
If months of intense political wrangling were crowned earlier this April by the confirmation that Iran and the P5+1 countries reached a tentative framework agreement over one of the most contentious issue of the past three decades – Iran’s nuclear dossier – it appears such diplomatic respite could prelude to a dangerous political standoff.
If by any account Iran’s nuclear negotiations were going to be trying, especially since Tehran’s nuclear ambitions do not necessarily sit at the center of this internationally staged quarrel, Israel’s neocon war campaign against the Islamic Republic risks pushing the world toward yet another lengthy conflict- a global one at that.
With the fires of war already burning bright in the MENA region – Middle East and North Africa – the fall of another domino could prove one too many for the word to handle. From a purely geostrategic standpoint a war with Iran, however pleasing to Tel Aviv’s avid warmongers, would likely force Western powers and their Arab allies to commit more military power than they can handle. Bearing in mind that the US has already committed troops and resources to Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and of course Ukraine, how much farther can imperial America really stretch?
However grand the US might think itself to be, and however solid the US might think its alliances to be, Washington has yet to win a war. Claiming victory as George W. Bush did in Iraq on May 1, 2003 did not exactly make it so. And though America basked in the glorious light of its military supremacy over the “Iraqi enemy,” its joy was short-lived as reality soon came knocking. And though starting a war might seem an easy enough business for neocon America, it is really the art of peace this belligerent nation has failed to master so far.
But back to Iran’s nuclear deal
To the surprise of many skeptics, Iran and the P5+1 did reach a deal – and while there were a few near misses, a deal was nevertheless brokered; proof experts actually insisted that Tehran is more interested in diplomacy than its detractors gives it credit for. Iran’s concessions attest to its officials’ determination to engage with the international community and integrate back into mainstream international politics.
As Gareth Porter wrote in a report for CounterPunch this April, “The framework agreement reached on Thursday night [April 2, 2015] clearly gives the P5+1 a combination of constraints on Iran’s nuclear program that should reassure all but the most bellicose opponents of diplomacy.”
And although Iran gave every assurance its government will not seek to weaponize its nuclear program, no amount of concessions might prove sufficient enough or comprehensive enough to assuage Washington’s fears vis-a-vis its “great Satan” – especially if the Saudis and Israelis have a say in it.
With the ink of the nuclear framework agreement still left to dry, both the powerful Israeli lobby and Al Saud’s petrodollars went on overdrive, telling the world what a catastrophe Iran’s nuclear deal would be.
One trip to US Congress and a few well-chosen words against its mortal enemy later, Israel seems satisfied it forever drove a wrench into the yet to be formulated and signed nuclear agreement.
As Yuval Steinitz, Israel minister for intelligence and strategic affairs so eloquently told the world on April 6, Israel would try to persuade the P5 +1 “not to sign this bad deal or at least to dramatically change or fix it”.
Echoing his minister’s narrative, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu determined that since Iran represents a threat to Israel’s very existence, America should abandon all diplomacy and instead beat the war drums. And we don’t really need to know why, only that it is so – If Netanyahu’s drawing did not convince your idle mind of Iran’s evil in 2012 then nothing will!
Just as Israel’s lobby bullied its way through the Oval office, cornering U.S. President Barak Obama into relenting power to Congress, Saudi Arabia declared war on Yemen, adding a new layer of complication to an already impossible mesh of over-lapping and over-conflicting alliances in the Middle East, thus weaving a dangerous noose around peace’s neck.
Interestingly, if war requires no US Congress oversight you can be sure that peace does!
Caught in between a rock at home and a hard place in the Middle East, US President Obama is faced with one mighty dilemma – one which will determine not his presidency but his very legacy.
If recent tensions between President Obama and the Israeli Premier are anything to go by, it would appear Israel’s lobby suit of armor is not as thick and potent as it’d like it to be, or maybe just maybe, it simply exhausted Americans’ patience. Israel’s greatest ally and supporter, the one power which has quite literally and almost single-handedly carried the Jewish State into being and helped it survive adverse winds since its very inception in 1948: vetoing UNSC resolutions when needed, propping its military and economy when needed, acting a political champion when needed, could be running out of road.
If Israel and Saudi Arabia’s foreign agenda stand now in perfect alignment – their ire directed not at one another but at Iran, changes in the region and fast-moving geostrategic interests have forced the US to re-evaluate its position vis-a-vis Iran and the so-called mythical Shia crescent the world has learnt to be wary of without quite understanding why.
In Netanyahu’s officials’ own words we are to believe that Islamic radicalism, a perverted, acetic and reactionary interpretation of Islam which has mapped itself around Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism movement would be preferable to seeing Iran gain a greater footing in the Arab world. In September 2013, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad and the Shiites. “The greatest danger to Israel is by the [Shiite] strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said in an interview.
“We always wanted 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 even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Obviously Saudi Arabia would rather eat its own foot than allow the all so devilish Iran from reclaiming its standing in the region, especially since it would essentially mean relenting power to rising calls for democratic reforms in the Gulf monarchies – Bahrain being the flagship of such a desire for change.
Why do that when you can wage senseless wars to assert your dominion?
Iran’s nuclear deal is more than just a nuclear deal. If signed, this deal would become the cornerstone of a broad shift in alliances, the moment when the US would actually choose to put its national interests over that of Tel Aviv and over Riyadh’s billions. Where Israel has bullied the US for decades, Saudi Arabia has bought its policies for decades.
With nothing left to lose but his good name and his legacy, President Obama could be just the man to break this self-destructing cycle and reinvent America’s foreign policy.
And that’s not even wishful thinking it would actually make sense for America to make peace with Iran – economically, politically and in terms of energy security and counter-terrorism Iran could be a more helpful and potent ally than Saudi Arabia. Bearing in mind that Riyadh’s fingerprints are all over al-Qaeda, ISIS and whatever terror offshoots radicals created those days, Washington might want to consider another ally in its fight against radicalism.
Thing is, America wants change! What it needs now is mastering the courage of its desire.
America is a superpower running out of steam, and more importantly running out of standing in the world. America’s exceptionalism is on its last leg. Too many double-standards, too many incoherencies in its alliances, too many double-talks, double-entendres and double-crossings. America needs a deal.
And though the July deadline seems very far away indeed, especially since Yemen’s war came to yank at diplomacy’s already stretched out rope; not signing the nuclear deal would be far worse than ruffling Israel and Saudi Arabia’s feathers.
For the sake of argument, why not ask Israel to pay the world the courtesy of practicing what it preaches in terms of nuclear transparency. That would be the nuclear deal of the century!
Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst and commentator for the Middle East with a special emphasis on Yemen and radical movements. A consultant with Anderson Consulting and leading analyst for the Beirut Center for Middle East Studies, her writings have appeared in MintPress, Foreign Policy Journal, Open-Democracy, the Guardian, the Middle East Monitor, Middle East Eye and many others. In 2015 her research and analysis on Yemen was used by the UN Security Council in a situation report.
The Jewish state’s bottom line
There are many flies waiting to spoil the ointment of the Middle East peace talks, not least Israel’s recent announcement of a rash of settlement-building. That triggered an angry letter to Washington last week from the Palestinian leadership, though it seems Israel’s serial humiliation of Mahmoud Abbas before the two sides meet was not enough to persuade him to pull out.
However, as the parties meet today for their first round of proper negotiations, it is worth highlighting one major stumbling block that has barely registered with observers: the fifth of Israel’s population who are not Jews but Palestinians.
The difficulty posed to the peace process by this Palestinian minority was illustrated in the defining moment of the last notable effort to reach an agreement, initiated in Oslo two decades ago.
In 1993 Yitzhak Rabin, then prime minister, assembled a 15-person delegation for the signing ceremony with the Palestinians at the White House. The delegation was selected to suggest that all sectors of Israeli society favoured peace.
When Rabin was asked why he had not included a single Palestinian, he waved aside the question: “We are going to sign a peace treaty between Jewish Israel and the PLO.”
Rabin believed his own Palestinian citizens should be represented not by their government but by the adversary across the table. The mood 20 years on is unchanged. The Palestinian minority is still viewed as a fifth column, one a Jewish state would be better off without.
Significantly, it was a matter relating to Israel’s Palestinian citizens that nearly scuppered the start of these talks. Israeli cabinet ministers revolted at a precondition from Abbas that the release of long-term political prisoners should include a handful of inmates from Israel’s Palestinian minority.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, won a majority in the cabinet only after agreeing to postpone freeing this group until an unspecified time.
Similarly, previous experience suggests there will be an eruption of outrage should Netanyahu’s promised referendum on an agreement depend for its outcome — given the likely split between Israeli Jews — on the votes of Palestinian citizens. A senior minister, Silvan Shalom, has already indicated that only Israeli Jews should decide.
But Israel’s Palestinian minority will be thrust into the heart of the negotiations much before that.
Last weekend Netanyahu picked at one of the Israeli right’s favourite sores, denouncing reported comments from Abbas that no Israeli should be allowed to remain inside a future Palestinian state. Why, asks the right, should Israelis — meaning the settlers — be expelled from a Palestinian state while Israel is left with a large and growing Palestinian population inside its borders?
A possible solution promulgated by Netanyahu’s ally Avigdor Lieberman would redraw the borders to expel as many Palestinian citizens as possible in exchange for the settlements. There is a practical flaw, however: a land swap would rid Israel only of those Palestinians living near the West Bank.
Netanyahu prefers another option. He has required of the Palestinian Authority that it recognise Israel as a Jewish state. This condition will take centre stage at the talks.
Leaders of the Palestinian minority in Israel are intensively lobbying the PA to reject the demand. According to a recent report by the International Crisis Group, Palestinian officials are still undecided. Some fear the PA may agree to recognition if it clears the way to an agreement.
Why does this matter to Israel? In the event there is a deal on Palestinian statehood, Israel will wake up the next morning to an intensified campaign for equal rights from the Palestinian minority. In such circumstances, Israel will not be able to plead “security” to justify continuing systematic discrimination.
The Palestinian minority’s first demand for equality is not in doubt: a right of return allowing their relatives in exile to join them inside Israel similar to the current Law of Return, which allows any Jew in the world instantly to become a citizen.
The stakes are high: without the Law of Return, Israel’s Jewishness is finished; with it, Israel’s trumpeted democracy is exposed as hollow.
Netanyahu is acutely sensitive to these dangers. Recognition of Israel’s Jewishness would pull the rug from under the minority’s equality campaign. If you don’t want to live in a Jewish state, Netanyahu will tell Palestinian citizens, go live in Palestine. That is what Mahmoud Abbas, your leader, agreed.
Netanyahu’s visceral contempt for the rights of the Palestinian minority was alluded to in a recent parliamentary debate. When an Arab MP commented, “We were here before you and will remain [here] after you”, an indignant Netanyahu broke protocol to interrupt: “The first part isn’t true, and the second won’t be.”
Recent government moves suggest that his latter observation may not be simply an idle boast but a carefully crafted threat. Israel is preparing to expel tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens from their homes in the Negev into urban reservations as part of a forced relocation plan. This ethnic cleansing campaign sets a dangerous precedent, hinting at what may lie ahead for Israel’s other Palestinian communities.
The minority has taken to the streets in the most widespread internal Palestinian protests seen since the eruption of the second intifada. Israeli police have responded with extreme brutality, using levels of violence that would never be contemplated against Jewish demonstrators.
At the same time, Netanyahu’s government has introduced legislation to raise the threshold for parties seeking entry to the Knesset. The main victims will be the three small Arab parties represented there. The law’s aim, analysts note, is to engineer an Arab-free Knesset, guaranteeing the right’s continuing and unchallengeable domination.
Netanyahu, it seems, doubts he can rely on the PA either to supply him with the political surrender he needs from the peace process or to recognise his state’s Jewishness. Instead he is bypassing Abbas to protect against the threat posed by his Palestinian citizens’ demand for equality.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He won this year’s Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books).
Netanyahu hopes that his “Marshall Plan” would see the emergence of a new Arab middle class.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing for the West to adopt a new “Marshall Plan” for the Egyptian economy in order for the coup to succeed. He is being backed by US Republican Senator Rand Paul in his efforts. If successful, Netanyahu will regard the burying of the democratic process in the neighbouring country as the achievement of one of his most important strategic objectives.
The original Marshall Plan was America’s way of helping to rebuild Europe after the Second World War to stem the tide of revolutionary liberation. According to Maariv newspaper, Netanyahu’s plan proposes significant economic growth in the Arab world in order to prevent “radical” Islamic groups from rising to power.
The deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council, Eran Lerman, has been pushing the plan in recent meetings in Washington with Congress members. Netanyahu himself suggested such a plan during his own recent visit to the US; finance for the scheme would come from private sources, he claimed. The prime minister believes that Arab countries should be encouraged to have stable democracies free of Iranian influence and that the international community should work towards that objective. Maariv’s report claims that the Israeli officials are looking at possible funding for the project to come from Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Netanyahu hopes that his plan would see the emergence of a new Arab middle class, presumably more ready to do business with Israel. His thinking follows the logic behind US Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposal for massive financial investment in the occupied West Bank to boost the Palestinian Authority’s standing. “The capitalist West thinks that throwing ever more money at a problem will solve it,” said MEMO’s Senior Editor Ibrahim Hewitt. “The natural aspiration of a people to be free of economic, political and military occupation doesn’t register with Western governments for whom economic growth is the Holy Grail.”
The newspaper pointed out that the Israeli government is also preparing to ask the US Department of Defence for an increase in military aid on the pretext of potential threats from the popular uprisings in the Arab region.
- Israel reacts positively to Egypt coup (rinf.com)
“[An Iranian nuclear bomb] was a lot further away 15 years ago when I started talking about it. It was a lot further away 10 years ago. It was a lot further away five years. It was a lot further away five months ago. They are getting there, and they are getting very, very close.”
– Benjamin Netanyahu, March 7, 2012
“Red line, white line, black line and the like is for children. This is the level of this guy’s character.”
– Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, October 2, 2012
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to the Sunday morning airwaves to spout tired talking points about the non-existent threat Iran’s safeguarded, civilian nuclear program poses to Israel, the United States, and presumably Neptune and Krypton.
In a renewed propaganda blitz, Netanyahu told CBS‘ Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation” that Iran is getting “closer and closer to the bomb,” and resurrected a number of embarrassing phrases including “red line,” “credible military threat” and something about ticking clocks.
“They’re edging up to the red line,” Netanyahu said. “They haven’t crossed it yet. They’re also building faster centrifuges that would enable them to jump the line, so to speak, at a much faster rate – that is, within a few weeks.” He also said Iran is “building ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles] to reach the American mainland in a few years.”
Dismissing the recent Iranian election as irrelevant to what he insists are devious Iranian intentions, Netanyahu called Hassan Rouhani, who will be inaugurated as Iran’s new president on August 3rd, “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” whose maniacal strategy will be, “Smile and build a bomb.”
The media carried the news with headlines like “Israeli PM threatens to strike Iran” and “Israel Increases Pressure on U.S. to Act on Iran,” quoting Netanyahu as claiming that, when it comes to blah blah blah, “I won’t wait until it’s too late.” We’ve been here before.
It was boring then and it’s boring now.
“If sanctions don’t work, they have to know that you’ll be prepared to take military action — that’s the only thing that will get their attention,” Netanyahu said, suggesting that Iranians are subhumans who only understand grunts and shoves, rather than rational actors preserving and protecting their inalienable national rights and refusing to back down to offensive and illegal demands made by serially-aggressive nuclear-armed bullies.
Netanyahu urged the United States government to “make clear that the nuclear option” – whoops, Freudian slip of the war criminal’s tongue – “the military option which is on the table is truly on the table,” but lamented that there seemed to be “no sense of urgency” when it comes to stopping Iran from doing something every intelligence agency on the planet – including Israel’s – says it’s not doing.
The Israeli Prime Minister and his military and political acolytes, have repeatedly called for the United States to issue a “credible military threat” against Iran. Netanyahu did so again at a Cabinet meeting prior to his appearance on “Face the Nation.”
Threatening – let alone committing – an unprovoked attack on Iran is unquestionably a violation of the United Nations Charter.
Still, an obsession is an obsession and, at least, Netanyahu isn’t ashamed of being obsessed. “Iran is the most important, the most urgent matter of all,” he whined, before throwing up a silly hodgepodge of scary-sounding words in an attempt to be taken seriously. All the problems in the world – including Israel’s ongoing colonization of Palestine – won’t amount to a hill of beans, he cried, if the “messianic, apocalyptic, extreme regime” in Tehran acquires “atomic bombs.” Such a ghastly scenario would present “a terrible, catastrophic change for the world and for the United States,” he said, because the United States apparently isn’t part of the world. (Actually, considering the isolation the United States and Israel – along with lackey states like Palau and Micronesia – face in the United Nations, Netanyahu may be on to something here.)
Of course, the often-repeated assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that Iran is not actually building a bomb and has no nuclear weapons program went unmentioned, as did the fact that Iran has supposedly been “a year or so” away from developing nuclear weapon for roughly a decade now.
Unsurprisingly, “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer challenged none of Netanyahu’s assertions; all the warmongering and propaganda was given a free pass. This is especially bizarre considering, in January 2012, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Schieffer on the same program, “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No.”
Netanyahu has been leading the charge against Iran since the mid-1990s, warning of weapons programs that don’t exist and calling for sanctions and explicit military threats. His talking points since then literally have not changed – and are identical to those he used to encourage the United States to invade Iraq a decade ago.
Here’s a reminder of why the Israeli Prime Minister’s CBS interview may actually have been a rerun:
The suggestion that Iran would soon be in possession of, or be in a position to quickly manufacture, nuclear weapons has been in constant circulation for nearly three decades. In 1984, Iran was reportedly moving “very quickly” towards a nuclear weapon and could have one as early as 1986. By the early 1990’s, the CIA predicted Iran was “making progress on a nuclear arms program and could develop a nuclear weapon by 2000,” later changing their estimate to 2003.
Israeli estimates have always been of an especially hysterical quality. In March 1992, The Jerusalem Report, noting that “Israel keeps a wary watch on Teheran’s march to the Bomb,” predicted that, “[b]y the year 2000, Iran will almost certainly have the Bomb.”
A few months later, Israeli Major General Herzl Budinger insisted that, unless “Iran’s intensive effort to develop atomic weapons is not ‘disrupted,'” it would “become a nuclear power by the end of the decade.” Then-Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres shared similar assessment later that year.
On November 8, 1992, the New York Times reported Israel was confident Iran would “become a nuclear power in a few years unless stopped.” An Israeli “senior army officer” feared “the Iranians may have a full nuclear capability by the end of the decade.”
In March 1993, a Washington Post report headlined “Israel seeking to convince U.S. that West is threatened by Iran” noted that Israeli leaders attempting to push their American counterparts into taking a stronger stance on Iran. The article quoted then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin warning of “megalomaniacal” Iran intent on establishing “a Middle East empire.”
The alarm was still ringing a couple of years later when, on January 11, 1995, Benjamin Netanyahu told a nearly empty Knesset hearing that “within three to five years, we can assume that Iran will become autonomous in its ability to develop and produce a nuclear bomb, without having to import either the technology or the material.”
His solution to this crisis? “[The nuclear threat] must be uprooted by an international front headed by the U.S. It necessitates economic sanctions on Iran,” he declared.
By 1996, Israeli assessments put an Iranian nuclear bomb four years away. One year later, they confidently predicted it would happen by 2005. By mid-2001, Israel was still holding fast to its 2005 deadline and reaffirmed such a warning in 2003.
By 2004, however, an Israeli intelligence report determined that “within three years Iran would have the means to produce an atomic bomb by itself.” In 2005, Israel’s Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Iran was “less than one year away.” At the same time, Israeli Military Intelligence’s prediction was 2007, then 2008, later revised to 2012, then returned to 2008. In 2007, Israeli Military Intelligence said Iran would become nuclear weapons capable by mid-2009. A year later, the 2009 threshold referred to “an operable nuclear weapon,” rather than just capability.
When 2009 rolled around, then-Prime Ministerial candidate Benjamin Netanyahu told an American Congressional delegation that Israeli “experts” determined Iranian nuclear weapons capability “was probably only one or two years away,” while Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak put the window of opportunity to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons at a mere six to 18 months. At the time, Mossad chief Meir Dagan insisted, “the Iranians will have by 2014 a bomb ready to be used, which would represent a concrete threat for Israel.”
Later that same year, Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, “argued that it would take Iran one year to obtain a nuclear weapon and two and a half years to build an arsenal of three weapons. By 2012 Iran would be able to build one weapon within weeks and an arsenal within six months.” A month later, Netanyahu said, “Iran has the capability now to make one bomb or they could wait and make several bombs in a year or two.”
By 2010, some Israeli officials said Iran was only a year away from a bomb, some said it “one to three years away from having a breakout nuclear capability,” and others said it still had seven years to go. An unnamed “Israeli policy maker” revealed to Jeffrey Goldberg that Iran would have a nuclear weapon “nine months from June – in other words, March of 2011.” In early 2011, the prediction jumped to 2015.
Nevertheless, a year later, the Times of London claimed an Israeli security report assessed Iran may become a nuclear power “within a year,” a conclusion subsequently confirmed by Ehud Barak. Six months later, in mid-2012, Barak suggested that Iran would take “several years” for Iran to “turn nuclear.” Shortly thereafter, Netanyahu reportedly put the “red line” of Iranian nuclear capability at just “a few months away,” later telling the United Nations in September (along with his trusty cartoon bomb drawing) that Iran would have “enough enriched uranium for the first bomb” by mid-to-late 2013. By October, Ehud Barak added an extra “eight to 10 months” to the timeline.
Accompanying all of these predictions, of course, have been fever-pitched threats of an ever-imminent Israeli military strike on Iran and its nuclear infrastructure. In 2012, the predictions of such an illegal assault were especially incessant. Not a month went by without hysterical rumors of a new Middle East war in the offing.
This past January, a new prediction emerged. McClatchy Newspapers reported that “Israeli intelligence officials now estimate that Iran won’t be able to build a nuclear weapon before 2015 or 2016, pushing back by several years previous assessments of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.” The report is based on “[i]ntelligence briefings given to McClatchy over the last two months” which “confirmed that various officials across Israel’s military and political echelons now think it’s unrealistic that Iran could develop a nuclear weapons arsenal before 2015. Others pushed the date back even further, to the winter of 2016.”
In early March 2013, Netanyahu claimed that “Iran is getting closer” to his self-determined “red line” of nuclear weapons capability and is “putting itself in a position to cross that line very quickly once it decides to do so.” Later that same month, in a joint press conference in Jerusalem with President Obama, Netanyahu warned of “Iran’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons” before reiterating his position that “in order to stop Iran’s nuclear programs peacefully, diplomacy and sanctions must be augmented by a clear and credible threat of military action.” Soon thereafter, the Israeli press publicized claims by anonymous Israeli officials that “Iran could have the capability to build a nuclear bomb by July.”
Well, it’s July, so Netanyahu tells us Iran is getting “closer and closer.”
Sadly, Netanayhu’s tired propaganda never seems to elicit the glazed-over, yawning-inducing dismissal from the U.S. press that it so sorely deserves; rather, he gets to schedule high-profile interviews on major networks whenever he wants to reissue his warmongering bromides.
A diplomatic cable sent from sent from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv in 2005, published by Wikileaks, noted that, despite Israeli warnings that Iran would reach a critical nuclear weapons capability within six months, some Israeli “officials admitted informally that these estimates need to be taken with caution. The head of the MFA’s [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] strategic affairs division recalled that GOI assessments from 1993 predicted that Iran would possess an atomic bomb by 1998 at the latest.”
Another cable from 2009 wondered whether “the Israelis firmly believe” their hysterical predictions about Iran’s nuclear progress “or are using worst-case estimates to raise greater urgency from the United States).”
In truth, Netanyahu himself is increasingly viewed as an Israeli Chicken Little. In early 2013, McClatchy Newspapers reported that Israeli officials “have said there’s a widening gulf between Netanyahu’s remarks and the intelligence reports he receives,” and quoted one unnamed “intelligence officer” as wondering, “Did we cry wolf too early?”
While the alarmism will surely continue unabated, the answer is obvious.
On CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, host Bob Schieffer devoted more than six minutes of a ten-minute interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the topic of Iran’s alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapon, with Netanyahu explicitly threatening to attack Iran if it crossed his personally drawn “red line” on the level of permitted refinement of nuclear fuel.
Nowhere during that interview – or in the major news articles that I read about it – was there any reference to Israel’s own rogue nuclear arsenal or how destabilizing it is for one religious state possessing nukes to threaten to attack another religious state lacking a single nuke. The imbalance in this nuclear equation is so breathtaking that you might have thought it would be at the center of a testy Q-and-A. Instead it was nowhere.
Netanyahu also was allowed to denounce Iran as “apocalyptic” without any question about Netanyahu’s own frequent references to Israel facing “existential” threats. Indeed, Israel’s attitude toward using nuclear weapons is sometimes called the “Samson Option,” recalling the Biblical hero who destroyed himself along with his enemies. So, again, you might have thought Schieffer would pounce on Netanyahu’s self-serving remark. But, nah!
In other words, it was a typical day in the life of mainstream U.S. journalism, a profession which purports to be “objective” – meaning it should treat all parties to a dispute equally – but, of course, isn’t.
An “objective” interview or article would have included at least some reference to Israel’s nuclear arsenal and the question of whether Israel has the unilateral right to wage war (or even threaten war) against another country, with the particular irony that Israel is accusing Iran of pursuing a course that Israel has already taken.
But it is expected now that “objective” U.S. journalists will avert their eyes from a reality that Israel would prefer not to mention. In the real world of U.S. journalism, “objectivity” means following the bias of the powers-that-be and framing issues within the conventional wisdom.
In the CBS interview, Netanyahu also was allowed to take a free shot at Iran and its president-elect, Hassan Rowhani, who was disparaged by Netanyahu as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” whose strategy is to “smile and build a bomb.”
Netanyahu was given free rein, too, to demand that President Barack Obama demonstrate “by action” that he stands with Israel in its military threat against Iran. Those demands “should be backed up with ratcheted sanctions,” Netanyahu said. “They have to know you’ll be prepared to take military action; that’s the only thing that will get their attention.”
(It might be noted here that the United States has lots and lots of nuclear weapons and indeed is the only nation to have actually used them in warfare against other human beings. Meanwhile, Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.)
Netanyahu seemed perturbed that the Obama administration is hoping to reach an accommodation with President-elect Rowhani that would involve Iran accepting new safeguards on its nuclear program in exchange for relaxed economic sanctions.
The New York Times reported that “a senior [Obama] administration official” told reporters on Friday that Rowhani’s more moderate tone suggested he was “going in a different direction” from his predecessors and might be interested in reaching a broad settlement with the West.
In the CBS interview, Netanyahu was signaling that any accommodation with Iran – beyond one that would demand Iran’s total capitulation on its right to process uranium at all – is unacceptable to him. The U.S. press corps then repeated Netanyahu’s hard-line remarks without any of that troublesome context regarding Israel’s possession of an undeclared nuclear arsenal, considered one of the world’s most sophisticated.
That the U.S. press corps routinely fails to provide that sort of context is clear evidence that the principle of “objectivity” is one that is selectively applied, which would seem to negate the very notion of “objectivity.”
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Sunday for nations to continue boycotting Iran over its nuclear efforts after the election of a new president widely hailed as a moderate.
Netanyahu said it was Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and not the newly elected president, Hassan Rohani, who set a nuclear policy that has been challenged by tough economic sanctions and the prospect of military action.
“The international community must not give in to wishful thinking or temptation and loosen the pressure on Iran for it to stop its nuclear program,” the right-wing Netanyahu told his cabinet, according to a statement released by his office.
Israel, the Middle East’s only only nuclear power, has threatened to strike Iran over its nuclear program. It is also believed to be behind a string of assassinations targeting Iranian nuclear scientists over the past several years.
“The greater the pressure on Iran, the greater the chance of bringing a halt to the Iranian nuclear program, which remains the greatest threat to world peace,” Netanyahu said.
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, and its main ally Russia has repeatedly said that there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.
Netanyahu’s remarks come one day after Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon called for tougher sanctions against Iran regardless of who is elected as its new president.
“We must toughen the sanctions against Iran and make this country understand that the military option remains on the table to halt the progress of its dangerous nuclear program,” Israeli radio quoted Yaalon as saying on a visit to the United States Saturday.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)
President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel signals nothing but bad news for the Palestinian people and probably the people of the rest of the world too. Every American president who has served since Israel’s founding has put chosen Israeli interests over those of their own people. Israel may kill United States servicemen as it did in attacking the U.SS. Liberty in 1967. American citizen Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli tractor when she tried to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home. Furkan Dogan was assassinated by Israeli soldiers on board a freedom flotilla vessel bound for Gaza. Neither the sailors on board the Liberty, nor Corrie, nor Dogan received any justice from their government. There is very little justice when it comes to Israeli/American relations.
It will be important to keep that in mind while watching Obama’s “listening” trip to Israel, Palestine and Jordan. The president’s first visit to Israel since his election is nothing more than a public relations ruse. Obama will do just as his predecessors did in regards to Israel, that is to say, whatever the Israelis want him to do.
It doesn’t matter that Prime Minister Netanyahu practically endorsed Mitt Romney during his presidential campaign. Romney’s well heeled Zionist supporters wasted their war chests and not just because theirs was a losing effort. They were going to get what they wanted from whomever emerged victorious in November. There was no need to spread around all that cash.
If Obama acts true to form during his trip, he will perform his usual double talk routine. He will say things that make his liberal fans happy, such as making bland comments about Palestinian rights. Such talk should be ignored because Obama loves nothing more than behind the scenes wheeling and dealing with people whom he allegedly opposes.
Just as he gave us sequestration and cuts to entitlement programs, he will mouth the right words but give Israel the go ahead on anything they want. Obama is after all the more effective evil. His common sense tells him that a shooting war against Iran would be difficult to pull off, but he has crushed the Iranian economy with sanctions. Iranians are going without food and medicines because the United States and NATO want them to submit to western dictates on nuclear production and on their very existence as a sovereign nation.
One by one, the dominoes have fallen to the Obama regime. On this tenth anniversary of the occupation of Iraq, it is important to remember that Barack Obama made good on the neo-con dream of an American empire. He has gone where Reagan and the Bush presidents would not. He killed Gaddafi, he is destroying Syria, he is sending troops to occupy the African continent.
If anyone can get away with making Israeli fantasies of regional domination come true, it is Obama.
If the flies on the wall during the Obama and Netanyahu meetings could talk, they would have much to tell us. Netanyahu is likely to get his own version of a sequestration deal. A promise to cease and desist from showing badly made drawings of Iranian bombs in exchange for patience and a certainty that the United States will live up to its promise to be Israel’s best friend. Obama’s diabolical ability to make his supporters believe that he isn’t doing things he clearly is doing will come in handy when dealing with the likes of Netanyahu.
The United States will do as it has done for decades. It will keep vetoing United Nations resolutions which criticize Israel. It will keep arming Israel and agreeing to settlements which steal Palestinian land. When Israel decides to massacre people in Lebanon or Gaza or anywhere else, the United States government will either voice support or be silent.
Obama’s relationship with Israel and its American Zionist supporters is but one example of why the ruling classes chose him for the presidency. As we have pointed out in Black Agenda Report, pax Americana could only succeed if the brand was rebooted. “So much face was lost, it required that the Empire put a new, Black face forward, so as to resume the game under (cosmetically) new circumstances.”
The nonsensical dance goes something like this. Racists attack Obama. Progressives defend Obama. Obama goes behind closed doors to do what progressives say they don’t want. Obama lies and claims he didn’t do what he in fact did. Progressives are happy. The world suffers anew.
Obama is not without pride and ego. He did make Netanyahu wait for a meeting after he so publicly backed Romney. Ultimately though, he does what the system requires of him. In the end, Israel will get a pass or even American help for its next nefarious plan. No listening is needed to make that prediction.
Margaret Kimberley lives in New York City and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran has not yet crossed the red line Tel Aviv set on its nuclear program.
“Iran remains the number one threat,” Netanyahu said Thursday at the last session of the annual year-end meeting in the Foreign Ministry for the Israeli ambassadors serving abroad.
“There is a chance for positive change in the region if that country was prevented from getting a nuclear weapon,” he said referring to the Islamic Republic.
The prime minister added that in the short term he expected regional tribulations to continue.
During a speech at the UN in September, Netanyahu drew a red line on a picture of a bomb signifying when Tehran would be 90% on the way to development of a bomb. He said Iran would not likely pass that line until the spring or summer.
“And this will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to convince Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program altogether,” Netanyahu added on Thursday.
The Israeli PM also addressed the Palestinian issue, saying Hamas could take control of the Palestinian Authority “any day,” and therefore “concrete security arrangements” must be included in any peace agreement, as well as recognition of the Zionist entity as the “state of the Jewish nation,” an end to the “right of return” and a sincere declaration on the end of the conflict.
- Netanyahu was wrong about Iraq having nuclear weapons
- NYT and Professor Netanyahu
- Context of ‘July 8-10, 1996: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Tells Congress US Must Join Israel in ‘Democratizing’ Middle East’
- Sanctions not slowing Iran N-program by ‘one millimeter’: Netanyahu
- Netanyahu’s Role in Crafting the “Strategic Asset” Myth
- When Netanyahu Crossed the Line
Netanyahu identifies Israel with the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School
It was intended to be thoughtful and compassionate, but it came across as something far different.
In his letter of condolences to President Barack Obama over the tragedy in Newton, Connecticut, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu deliberately referenced Palestinian attacks in Israel. He didn’t actually write ‘terrorism’ or ‘Hamas’ or something else incendiary because he didn’t have to; the implication was clear.
The letter reads:
Dear President Obama,
I was shocked and horrified by today’s savage massacre of innocent children and adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
We in Israel have experienced such cruel acts of slaughter and we know the shock and agony they bring.
I want to express my profound grief, and that of all the people in Israel, to the families that lost their loved ones.
May you and the American people find the strength to overcome this unspeakable tragedy.
With my deepest condolences,
(Signed) Benjamin Netanyahu,
Prime Minister of Israel
It would be deeply cynical to suggest that Netanyahu consciously saw a massacre of innocent children as an opportunity to make a political point about the conflict between Israel and Palestine. In fact, there is no doubt that the Prime Minister’s sympathies are genuine.
But that’s just the point. The line about Israel having ‘experienced such cruel acts of slaughter’ gives us a telling commentary on the way Netanyahu sees the world, and, more specifically, the way he sees Israel’s relationship with Palestinians.
Prime Minister Netanyahu identifies Israel with the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza with the gunman. According to Netanyahu’s worldview, any violent interaction between Israelis and Palestinians will, without fail, be an example of evil Palestinian terrorists preying upon Israeli innocence. To wit, even after the formidable Israeli army pounded Gaza City last month [killing 35 children], Netanyahu, displaying a stunning nerve, declared that Israel would not be bullied by the Palestinians.
It’s this perverse victimization philosophy that drives Israeli foreign policy, and, according to Israel’s hawkish officials, it is what should form the framework of the United States’ national conversation about the Israel-Palestine conflict. According to Netanyahu, however, that framework has begun to crack under the Obama Presidency.
Though Obama has repeatedly reaffirmed the ‘special relationship’ the US has with its Middle Eastern partner, the President’s administration has had the temerity to chastise Israel for some of its particularly extreme policy decisions, such as the approval of the construction of thousands of apartment buildings the day after the United Nations voted to upgrade Palestine’s diplomatic status.
Netanyahu has found it intolerable that Obama is either unable or unwilling to entirely accept (to the Prime Minister’s standard) the Israeli narrative on Israel-Palestine relations, and has struggled for a way to help the President understand what the Palestinians truly represent.
The shooting in Connecticut was his chance, and he took it. In Netanyahu’s mind, comparing the state of Israel to the victims of the Sandy Hook slayings wasn’t a crude and awkward attempt to portray the Palestinian struggle for statehood and dignity as a cold-blooded attack on school children. It was an opportunity to show Obama just how evil the Palestinians really are.
He just couldn’t help himself.
– Matt Moir is a Journalism graduate student and former history teacher in Toronto, Canada.
A new survey shows more than a third of Israelis want to immigrate to other countries due to economic problems and spiraling cost of living in the occupied territories.
Citing economic opportunities as the main reason, the poll conducted by Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that “almost 40 percent of Israelis are thinking of emigrating” to other states.
The survey came as the ailing economy of the Israeli regime has taken its toll on politics.
On October 15, Israeli parliamentarians voted to dissolve the Knesset and hold snap elections on January 2013 after the gridlock among different coalition partners over the passage of the 2013 austerity budget.
In recent months, Israelis have held protests against a package of sweeping austerity cuts, which the regime of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says were necessary to reduce the budget deficit and protect the economy.
Netanyahu has formed committees to address the demands of the anti-austerity protesters, but the demonstrators say no single concrete step has been taken.
Netanyahu has also ruled out the idea of spending from outside the budget for economic reforms, a response that Israeli protesters say disillusioned them.
In October, a survey conducted by the Israeli humanitarian aid organization indicated that some 75 percent of Israelis fear that their economy may collapse, which shows a huge increase in the figure compared with that of 2010.
The poll also showed that 78 percent of those surveyed said the Tel Aviv regime has no plans for fighting poverty and bridging the widening social gap.
The Prime Minister of Apartheid Israel just lectured the United Nations General Assembly! He spent most of his time nagging those present as if they were school children about Iran. He even insulted their intelligence by showing them a diagram of a “bomb” and drawing a red line on it (yes literally with an actual red marker). He also went about insulting 1.6 billion Muslims and even had the “chutzpa” to claim Israel is helping people around the world!
Those in attendance were less numerically and qualitatively than those who attended the Iranian president’s speech. Netanyahu thus utterly failed to anticipate the transformed reality around him and acted as if Israel can still run the show and start wars that others fight for it. He must have not even been briefed on the Egyptian President’s speech. The first democratically elected leader of Egypt received significant applause when he said that the world community must stop the hypocrisy and charade of injustice beginning with “the number one” issue: justice for Palestine. Netanyahu merely dismissed Mahmoud Abbas’s speech with just one sentence “we won’t solve our conflict with libelous speeches at the UN or unilateral declarations of statehood.” [No we solve them via continuing colonization]. He dismissed all Palestinians and their rights by claiming they need to recognize a “Jewish state” then they could be allowed a vague but “dimiltarized state”.
The very moderate/accommodating PLO representative Mahmoud Abbas had said that he wanted to gain the overdue legitimacy for a Palestinian state at the UN and “not delegitimize Israel”. But Israel has done a very good job of delegitimizing itself. Israel in fact should be expelled from the United Nations because it failed to live up to its commitments to implement UN resolutions or to be a peace seeking nation. It also fulfils the requirement of being an apartheid state according to the relevant International Convention. Netanyahu’s war mongering and idiotic speech merely confirmed the obvious conclusion about this rogue state: it is run by lunatics. So on the bright side, perhaps putting the last few nails in the coffin of this apartheid system will come from lying racist idiots like Netanyahu.
The frustrated reaction from many world leaders and the shocked reaction by many others to Netanyahu’s “lecture” give us great hope for the future. Indeed the racist mentality and arrogant criminal actions of this man and other Zionists could be the best accelerator for the end of apartheid Israel. “The jig maybe up” as they say in English.
Flynt Leverett appeared on Background Briefing with Ian Masters; to listen to the interview, click here. The discussion centered on two big topics: whether Israel will attack Iran, and whether the United States can pursue a diplomatic opening with Iranian “hardliners.”
Asked about the prospects for a unilateral Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear targets, perhaps even before the U.S. presidential election on November 6, Flynt argues that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is compelled to deal with two significant constraints on his decision-making. The first is a “capacity constraint”: the Israeli military, on its own, simply cannot do that much damage to Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. This is a constraint that Netanyahu or any other Israeli prime minister would have to face; it helps to explain why the leadership of Israel’s military and intelligence services and most of Israel’s national security establishment is so strongly opposed to the idea of a unilateral attack. Of course, this is not an absolute barrier facing Netanyahu; one cannot categorically say that he and his colleagues would never decide to do something strategically counter-productive or at odds with material reality. But, in this case, material reality does make such a decision harder.
The second constraint that Netanyahu must deal with is a political one. Broadly speaking, the prime minister of Israel does not have the same measure of “commander-in-chief” authority as an American president. (Actually, the U.S. Constitution would suggest that American presidents should not have as much power in this regard as they currently wield, but that’s another issue.) Put more specifically, Netanyahu, on his own, does not have the authority to start a war, against Iran or anybody else.
For a prime minister to start a war, he must have, at a minimum, the defense minister on board; with Ehud Barak currently holding the defense portfolio, that is probably not an insuperable obstacle. Beyond this, however, historically-conditioned expectations in Israel are that a prime minister will also have very strong consensus within an eight-member inner cabinet and a larger, more formalized, committee on defense and security affairs within the cabinet. While outsiders do not have transparent access to the deliberations of these bodies, myriad indications coming from Israel suggest that Netanyahu, today, does not have the requisite degree of consensus to order an attack on the Islamic Republic.
We have argued before that Netanyahu’s ultimate goal is to line up the United States to take on the mission of striking Iran militarily. But the Obama administration is not about to start an overt war against Iran before the U.S. presidential election (a covert war, of course, has been underway for some time). Netanyahu is playing a longer-term game than that. We anticipate that this game will come to a head in 2013—either with a re-elected President Obama or with a new Romney administration—not before November 6, 2012.
Furthermore, as Flynt points out in the interview, scenarios of Israel launching a unilateral strike in the expectation that the United States will inevitably be “drawn in” depend on Israeli leaders making deeply confident assumptions about a multiplicity of variables (in Washington, Tehran, and elsewhere) completely beyond Israel’s control. Again, this is not to say that Netanyahu and his colleagues would never decide to do something strategically unwise. But, here too, material reality makes such a decision harder.
The interview segues to a discussion of American diplomacy with Iran with a question about the long-term effect of the George W. Bush administration’s undercutting of former President Seyed Mohammad Khatami and his reformist colleagues through Washington’s abusive reaction to Iranian cooperation with the United States after 9/11. Playing off this point, Ian Masters asked Flynt’s view of a recent article in which Ray Takeyh argues that, because of the religious grounding of the ideology ostensibly driving Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Iran—unlike the People’s Republic of China—has failed to continue moving along a path of “moderation” and reform. In Takeyh’s depiction, the Islamic Republic today looks (at least from official Washington’s perspective) like the People’s Republic if the Maoists were still in charge.
Flynt responds that the George W. Bush administration certainly blew a major opportunity to improve U.S. relations with Iran by its witless reaction (perhaps motivated by an ideology grounded in a particular religious view?) to Tehran’s post-9/11 cooperation with the United States. Through the remainder of Khatami’s presidency, the Bush administration continued to blow opportunities for realigning U.S.-Iranian relations—most importantly by refusing to deal diplomatically with Iran during the nearly two years (2003-2005) in which it suspended uranium enrichment in order to encourage a serious negotiating process. But to suggest that Iran’s post-9/11 cooperation with the United States was only a function of a reformist administration in Tehran and that Washington has no openings to deal with the current Iranian leadership shows only how willfully distorted is Takeyh’s reading of Iranian foreign policy.
Ayatollah Khamenei has been the Supreme Leader through the presidencies of Ali Akbar Rafsanjani (what many analysts call a “pragmatic conservative”), the reformist Mohammad Khatami, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a “new generation” conservative. We fully expect Ayatollah Khamenei to continue serving in this position after the Islamic Republic elects its next president in 2013. Under the Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Ahmadinejad administrations, Iran made serious efforts to engage the United States on the basis of mutual interests; it insisted only that diplomacy take place in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Khatami—like Rafsanjani before him and Ahmadinejad after him—could not have sought better relations with Washington without Khamenei’s backing. It is successive American administrations that, on a bipartisan basis, have been too obtuse to take advantage of the openings that Tehran has afforded, demanding instead that the Islamic Republic surrender to American diktats on the nuclear issue and various regional issues up front.
Moreover, if one wants to stick with Takeyh’s analogy between the Islamic Republic’s current leadership and Chinese Maoists, then let’s follow the analogy all the way through: the United States achieved its historic diplomatic opening with China when Mao still held power and the People’s Republic was still going through the Cultural Revolution. If the United States insists on micromanaging Iran’s domestic politics to produce exactly the kind of interlocutor it wants to deal with, it will fail. In the process, Washington will continue to miss opportunities to do what it so manifestly needs to do, for America’s own interests—to come to terms with the Islamic Republic as it is, not as those radically disconnected from Iranian reality might wish it to be.
- How much will America’s animus against Iran distort U.S. policy toward Syria? (alethonews.wordpress.com)