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Congressional Pro-Israel Supporters Tell Obama: To ‘Avoid War’ Be Prepared to Wage It

Bibi Netanyahu is a corrupt, anti-democratic, ultra-nationalist Israeli leader.  But one thing he is indisputably good at is political manipulation both of his own population and world opinion.  In the run up to his coronation in Washington where he arrives shortly, he has superbly laid groundwork that has put Barack Obama in a vise.  Last week, he invited five powerful U.S. senators (only the Republicans who met him are now talking publicly, which suits Bibi perfectly) to have lunch in Jerusalem.  Now those senators are calling Obama a wimp and a girl if he won’t stand up to the Ayatollahs and lay down red lines that specify when we will go to war against Iran.

Here’s one the Israelis are demanding:

Israeli officials are demanding that Iran agree to halt all its enrichment of uranium in the country, and that the suspension be verified by United Nations inspectors, before the West resumes negotiations with Tehran on its nuclear program.

That would mean that Iran would agree to virtually everything Israel wants BEFORE there was any negotiation.  So what would the purpose of any negotiation be?  This is the sort of  foreign policy that Israel is used to conducting with its neighbors.  We tell you want to do and you sign on the dotted line.  If not, we bomb you back to the Stone Age.  Take your pick.

One of the chosen few lunch guests, Sen. Lindsay Graham made this disingenuous, Alice in Wonderland style comment:

“It’s not just about the Jewish vote and 2012,” Mr. Graham added. “It’s about reassuring people who want to avoid war that the United States will do what’s necessary.”

First, of course it’s about the Jewish vote and 2012.  EVERYTHING is about those two things.  As for the sentence that follows, how to you “avoid war” by agreeing with an ally to fight one (which essentially what Graham and Bibi are after)?

ehud barak

Ehud Barak: Only '500 dead' from Iran counter-attack if Israelis would only 'stay indoors' (Reuters/Brendan MdDermid)

The Telegraph’s Israel correspondent puts the case for war that Bibi will make to Barack even more baldly:

Exuding confidence, Mr Netanyahu effectively brings with him an ultimatum, demanding that unless the president makes a firm pledge to use US military force to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb, Israel may well take matters into its own hands within months.

The British journalist channels the views of Ehud Barak, delusional though they may be:

According to sources close to the Israeli security establishment, military planners have concluded that never before has the timing for a unilateral military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities been so auspicious.

It is an assessment based on the unforeseen consequences of the Arab Spring, particularly in Syria, which has had the result of significantly weakening Iran’s clout in the region…With Syria preoccupied by a near civil war and Hamas in recent weeks choosing to leave Iran’s orbit and realign itself with Egypt, Iran’s options suddenly look considerably more limited, boosting the case for war.

There is a typical egregious error of fact and analysis in the above paragraph. Hamas has left Syria’s orbit, but not Iran’s. In fact, Ismail Haniye just completed a visit to Iran in which both parties expressed support for each others respective struggles. And even with Syria weakened, this doesn’t mean that Iran can’t offer Hamas support (and it will).

Here is more hocus-pocus undoubtedly proffered to the Telegraph by Ehud Barak (though the source is only described as “close to defense ministry sources”):

“Iran’s deterrent has been significantly defanged,” a source close to Israel’s defence chiefs said. “As a result some of those opposed to military action have changed their minds. They sense a golden opportunity to strike Iran at a significantly reduced cost.”

There’s that infamous “some” so popular with politicians and journalists who can’t be bothered with specific facts to support their arguments. I know of no major figures either in Israel or the U.S. who’ve gone from the camp opposing war to the one supporting war. Until Barak can offer more specific than this, he’s bluffing big-time.

Here’s another false statement. In an example of sloppy journalism, Adrian Blomfield, the reporter doesn’t make clear whether this is his view or Barak’s. Whose ever view it is, it’s wrong:

…It is not the “doomsday scenario” that some feared, and a growing number in the security establishment are willing to take on the risk if it means preventing the rise of a nuclear power that has spoken repeatedly of Israel’s destruction.

Note the “growing number” of unnamed military experts who agree with war-hawk Barak that the cost to Israel, which in the past he’s dismissed at most “500 lives,” will be bearable.  Second, this Israeli attack will NOT prevent the rise of Iran as a nuclear power as he claims.  In fact, Obama himself in his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, noted that Israel shouldn’t attack because that would be likely to accelerate Iran’s nuclear program.  Even those experts who favor war don’t claim it will destroy Iran’s WMD capacity.  It will at most delay it by perhaps one to three years.  As for “speaking of Israel’s destruction,” many Israeli leaders have spoken extravagantly about the need to destroy the Iranian regime.  Barak’s argument is essentially that if a country says they hate you so much they wish you would fade into oblivion, you may strike them a savage blog and claim it’s self-defense.

Another lie in Barak’s account of Iranian capabilities is that within six to nine months ” Iran will have acquired sufficient technological expertise to build a nuclear weapon.”  Iran hasn’t yet developed a nuclear warhead capable of carrying a bomb to its destination nor a trigger that would detonate the weapon.  The prevailing view among nuclear experts is that if Iran engages in any such research or development (which in itself is not a given) this will take Iran far longer than nine months, possibly two years or more.

Blomfield again sloppily substitutes real facts with atmospherics claiming Israelis are prepared for war:

Among the Israeli public, there is a sense of growing sense that a confrontation with Iran is inevitable. Overheard conversations in bars and restaurants frequently turn to the subject, with a growing popular paranoia fed by the escalation in bomb shelter construction, air raid siren testing and exercises simulating civilian preparedness for rocket strikes.

If the reporter had bothered to consult actual polls of Israeli opinion which I’ve recently featured here, he’d find that the Israeli public is just as divided about attacking Iran as the American public is.  In fact, there is no consensus in either country for an attack, especially not now.  A plurality in both places supports continuing sanctions and a majority does not support war now.

Returning to the strategic calculations of Netanyahu and Barak, wars historically have generally proven useful to Israel despite the losses in human life.  Even wars in which Israel paid the heaviest price (1948 and 1973 in particular) advanced its interests in significant ways.  After Israel’s wars (even when it does not win them decisively or at all), it is generally left at least for an extended period of time to pursue its strategic goals relatively unfettered.  In no war since 1973, has Israel paid a heavy price.  It has gotten used to considering war as an instrument of policy and a means of intimidating both the victims of its wars and potential future adversaries.  It has gotten used to wars in which it gets its way without serious consequences.  It’s gotten spoiled.  There will come a war when Israel is brought up short and pays a price.  It may be the next one–with Iran.

Israel’s need to preserve regional dominance is, in large part, the reason for the current imbroglio with Iran.  The latter is a real regional threat because it is the first state in the region that may be pursuing nuclear capability (Israel of course already has the bomb many times over).  It also is a state that vociferously opposes Israel and its policies.  Israel’s strategic approach has demanded not just parity with its enemies but overwhelming superiority.  Having an Iran able to stand up to Israel as an equal is unthinkable.  It must be cut down to size.  At all costs.

My view of Israel’s approach is that it is wrong, but as a sovereign state it has a right to pursue its interests, as misguidedly as they may be interpreted.  But my real problem here is with how the U.S. acts.  If we allow ourselves to be sucked into aiding Israel, or being instrumental in Israel’s long-term strategic goals of humbling Iran, we become an accessory after the fact, instead of a great power pursuing our own sovereign interests.  For us to do so would not just mean betraying our own national interests, it would be aiding and abetting Israel’s war pathology.

Bibi wants a war.  Bibi needs a war.  He mistakenly believes Israel needs a war.  Make no mistake: this war will be a military adventure, not a pragmatically conceived, carefully executed operation.  It will end in Israel failing to achieve its long-term objectives just as its last two wars did.  It may end catastrophically for both sides.  The U.S. must not be party to this.

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  • mary March 4, 2012, 1:05 AM

    “It is the first state in the region to pursue nuclear capability” – no, Richard, it certainly isn’t. Israel is the first, as we all know.

    There is obviously a back-door to this whole thing, as evidenced by Obama’s ambivalence. One moment, he is helping Israel rattle its sword, and the next he’s throwing cold water on Netanyahu. There is a strong belief in this region – I have heard it both from Iraqis in Jordan and Egyptians here – that the US has been in secret cahoots with Iran from the time of the Iraq invasion. People have said to me, “just watch – the US will never agree to an attack on Iran.” Sure enough, the US is pushing more and more sanctions.

    If and when Israel attacks Iran, it will do so unilaterally as a result of its collective insanity and hallucinatory existential fear. Iran will fight back. There will be massive casualties, which will feed the lie that “Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map.”

    • Richard Silverstein March 4, 2012, 1:30 AM

      Thanks, I was unclear there. I meant, the only state currently in the region that may be seeking nuclear breakout. But I edited the phrase to be clearer.

  • Bill March 4, 2012, 4:09 AM

    B-b-but I thought Israel believed in negotiations without preconditions!

    • mary March 4, 2012, 4:29 AM

      Noooooo, it means no “preconditions” on them. Like no settlement freeze. Israel does not accept that it is doing anything it should stop doing. Ever.

  • weindeb March 4, 2012, 7:44 AM

    The very fact that this latest posting exists and that the lead article in today’s New York Times is saying the same thing, possibly more so, I find appalling almost beyond expression. Even if everything is a calculated political bluff designed to topple Obama while aggrandizing Netanyahu, it all still remains horrific, immoral and simply insane. You say, Richard, that “The U.S. must not be party to this.” But it is, with thousands of American Jews and non-Jews, mauybe millions, and dozens of American politicians clamoring for us to lock-step with a terrorist nation, Israel, at least official Israel, and go to war or at the very minimum threaten to do so. You also state that “…as a sovereign state it [Israel] has a right to pursue its interests…”. Indeed? A right to threaten other nations, to carry out such threats, to assassinate its citizens, to possess the very instruments of destruction it would not allow another nation to possess? It’s a vast et cetera of hypocrisy and arrogant militarism from a nation 45 years in contravention of international law. At the very least, people like Lindsay Graham should register as foreign agents doing the work of a foreign government acting against our best interests, unless, of course, we have not yet fully satisfied the blood lust of our homegrown neocons. As with other posts of Tikun Olam, with one startling revelation and usually well documented revelation after another, it ends with nothing more than “The U.S. must not be party to this.” In other words, we can’t do one bloody damn thing about it all, so why try? Sad, defeatist and unfortunately very likely realistic. But certainly if ever there is justification for some sort of concerted action it is now, with the very core of our poilitical process being further corrupted for the perceived interest of a small foreign power. BDS? Never really discussed in Tikun Olam – off the table, or something. And speak of self-interest, hell, we should be breaking off diplomatic relations with Israel and stop shelling out obscene amounts of money to it in support of a lawless government more than willing to commit murder and mayhem and further destroy any amicable relationship we might develop with a large part of the world, the Muslim world. I say all this not in spite of being a Jew, a non-self-hating one, by the way, but because of being a Jew. Judaism, remember? Ethical monotheism. Let’s stop ignoring the adjective.

  • Fred Plester March 4, 2012, 9:53 AM

    The Iranian regime is an uneasy coalition between a fairly extreme political wing and a very extreme religious one, parts of which believe in the cult of the Hidden Iman. The latter want an apocalypse, the former wants to gain some sort of advantage, short of precipitating disaster. Neither is particularly lovely, but the former will avoid nuclear war if they can and are the least bad choice, assuming that a moderate and genuinely democratic regime is not likely in the near future.

    Unfortunately, setting red lines not only gives the Hidden Iman nutters a target they can shove the rest of the regime towards, it also effectively allows them to pick the time of any conflict.

    Israel has allies in Iran: this, too, may be a double-edged sword as those allies have no hope of gaining power without a war to destroy the existing power structures.

    Israel’s tail wags the American dog. But Israel is being wagged by its dissident Iranian allies.

    Perhaps in the next few years, the phrase “The Muslim World” will basically mean Malayasia and Java. Arabia and Pakistan will be radioactive and Nigeria will have ethnically cleansed itself to oblivion. Isreal is too small and too close not to share the Arab world’s fate in a nuclear conflict: it’s like Britain nuking France. (To be avoided, no matter what the temptation or provocation.)

  • Michael March 4, 2012, 10:05 AM

    Thank you for another great article.
    The reality is that none of this will be longed lived. One day, the Palestinians will realize that the success to overthrowing the apartheid regime is non-violent resistance. One day, the world will realize that religious extremists and Russian mobsters have not total control over Israel and the hundreds of nuclear weapons. One day, Americans will realize the damage AIPAC, its policies and wars have caused on America. The manipulation and propaganda will not last forever. However, the question is how much do we in America have to financially and morally suffer until that day? How much innocent Jews and Palestinians in the occupied Palestine have to suffer. That is the problem that we need to address. It is always more difficult to organize the majority (who are the reasonable ones) than it is to organize a minority group like AIPAC.
    I am worried about the children in all these places. They are in constant fear of war and death.

  • chet380 March 4, 2012, 10:34 AM

    From Salon’s Glenn Greenwald:

    “…the U.N. Charter, to which the U.S. is a signatory, explicitly prohibits not just a military attack on another nation, but also the issuance of threats of such an attack.

    From Chapter II, paragraph 4:

    All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

    It’s probably too much to hope for, but might not a reporter at the Netanyahoo- Obama press conference ask Pres. Obama about the applicability of this provision?

    • Sam Smith March 5, 2012, 4:31 PM

      If you’re going to invoke the UN Charter, it should have applied long ago to Iran and Khamenei’s threats to “cut out” the “cancer”, as he calls Israel.

    • Ike Hall March 11, 2012, 9:22 AM

      Even more importantly, a reporter should ask what treaty, signed by the President and ratified by the Senate, commits the United States to the defense of Israel in any way whatsoever? The short answer is that there isn’t one.

  • dickerson3870 March 4, 2012, 11:42 AM

    RE: “Israel’s strategic approach has demanded not just parity with its enemies but overwhelming superiority. Having an Iran able to stand up to Israel as an equal is unthinkable. It must be cut down to size. At all costs.” ~ R.S.

    FROM WIKIPEDIA [Iron Wall (essay)]:

    (excerpt)…Jabotinsky argued that the Palestinians would not agree to a Jewish majority in Palestine, and that “Zionist colonisation must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population. Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population – behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach.”[1] The only solution to achieve peace and a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, he [Ze'ev Jabotinsky] argued, would be for Jews to unilaterally decide its borders and defend them with the strongest security possible…

    SOURCE – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Wall_(essay)
    ALSO SEE: The Iron Wall, Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky, 1923 – http://www.mideastweb.org/ironwall.htm

    • dickerson3870 March 4, 2012, 12:14 PM

      P.S. ALSO SEE: Israel’s Defense Chief OK’s Hundreds of Israeli Deaths, By Ira Chernus, CommonDreams.org, 11/11/11

      (excerpt). . . An essential motive of Zionism from its beginning was a fierce desire to end the centuries of Jewish weakness, to show the world that Jews would no longer be pushed around, that they’d fight back and prove themselves tougher than their enemies. There was more to Zionism than that. But the “pride through strength” piece came to dominate the whole project. Hence the massive Israeli military machine with its nuclear arsenal.
      But you can’t prove that you’re stronger than your enemies unless you’ve also got enemies — or at least believe you’ve got enemies — to fight against. So there has to be a myth of Israel’s insecurity, fueled by an image of vicious anti-semites lurking somewhere out there, for Zionism to work. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran has gradually risen to the top of Israel oh-so-necessary enemies list. Iranophobia is rampant in Israel, as one Israeli scholar writes, because “Israel needs an existential threat.”
      Anyone who has grown up in Israel, or in the U.S. Jewish community (as I did), and paid attention knows all this…

      ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/11/11-2
      AND SEE – Iranophobia: The Panic of the Hegemons, by Ira Chernus, Tikkun Magazine, November/December 2010
      LINK – http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/iranophobia-the-panic-of-the-hegemons-3

    • Richard Silverstein March 4, 2012, 12:39 PM

      Yes, Jabotinsky was the first proponent of this massive power used against Israel’s neighbors to intimidate & overwhelm all opposition or resistance.

  • dickerson3870 March 4, 2012, 11:55 AM

    RE: “But my real problem here is with how the U.S. acts. If we allow ourselves to be sucked into aiding Israel, or being instrumental in Israel’s long-term strategic goals of humbling Iran, we become an accessory after the fact, instead of a great power pursuing our own sovereign interests.” ~ R.S.

    DAVID BROMWICH, 3/01/12:

    (excerpt)…President Obama continues a policy of minimal explanation concerning Israel and Iran. He gave a hostage to fortune and contradicted warnings by his secretaries of state and defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs when he said that the U.S. was marching “lockstep” with Israel on Iran. Characteristically, as three years of his presidency have shown, Obama works by tacking and co-opting. He goes some distance to meet the most dangerous of demands, and seems not to have understood the impression of weakness which this pattern has infallibly conveyed. His counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, by contrast, moves rapidly, emphatically, and unembarrassed in the medium of American politics. He has the assistance of the jingo media of the far right but also the mainstream media. Is it wrong to suspect that Obama is entering his next encounter in a usual state of mind for him–passive, wishful, and ill-advised?

    SOURCE – http://mondoweiss.net/2012/03/the-israeli-case-for-war-in-the-new-york-times.html

  • PersianAdvocate March 4, 2012, 8:24 PM

    It’s pretty well-established that the intelligence and military establishments in America are fed up with Israel, the troublesome “ally”, especially after this push for war. The majority of Americans, given the TRUTH (found outside the ‘reality’ established by PRIVATE media), would be happy if Israel joined Iran’s call for a nuclear-free Middle East instead of rejecting it dismantling Dimona and freeing Vanunu, withdrew from Gaza and the West Bank in full force instead of using it as a means to apply “formaldehyde to the peace process”, stopped spying on us (Pollard), committing espionage (AIPAC – Rosen), killing our service people (USS Liberty) or commit false flags to draw us into war against its regional competitors (yellowcake document forgery and Lavon Affair).

    To contend with the silenced military and intelligence establishments, the media and government establishments wield an influence that is largely directed by private interests which shower Israel with praises and establish the context of the conversation, the “boundaries”. For instance, naysaying Israel is a third rail. Mind you, Israel is not the 51st State. States don’t get that kind of aid money and arms, or influence, in America. The media creates the reality. Occupy Wall Street and Ron Paul do not exist when the media acts concertedly against them. Goebbels was right.

    Private interests that control media are controlled and control others by the federal reserve note, or money. That currency is controlled by the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve is neither federal, nor really a bank in definition, but a private group of bankers. The bankers, the media arm, the corrupt politicians, or veritable infiltrators, the parts of government under their control, think-tanks, corporations and more wield immense influence, such that America, the government, and America, the people, and the divide between them is no longer a loosely kept secret or non-imminent issue.

    This is why Ron Paul has almost triple the amount of campaign contributions from active military personnel than any other candidate. The media, run by people like Rupert Murdoch, will seek to affect the politics of the Western countries for the benefit of the Zionist project. Ron Paul, thus, is the enemy. So is Ahmadinejad, even though he is but a spokesman for the guy called the —SUPREME LEADER— (can it get any more obvious)? Eh, I’m digressing. Long story, short: they’re all sheisters. The internet is like the light switch in the dark room. Suddenly, more people than ever are beginning to see the bigger picture. If Bibi goes before congress to standing ovations for war, or the media sides with warmongering Bibi, expect the silent majority to suddenly become not so silent.

    • PersianAdvocate March 4, 2012, 9:41 PM

      By the way, if the Iranians didn’t invent AIPAC to destroy America… they should have.

  • AA March 4, 2012, 11:22 PM

    There’s more proof of AIPAC being a paper tiger:

    a) The American public does not support war with Iran (NYT)
    b) Nobody noticed this, but Bibi is definitely not speaking to a joint session of congress this year. Not like last year. Um, why not? I know why. AIPAC weakness. Got a better explanation? I know what you will say: “He doesn’t FEEL like it!”

    Once AIPAC stops shooting bull’s eyes there’s no fallback position. Without war with Iran it will be GAME OVER.

    Obama is going to show Bibi something very scary. And it won’t be the latest Photoshopped satellite pictures of Iran. It will be the polls saying the blind Israel support is not getting traction any more.

    • PersianAdvocate March 5, 2012, 6:08 AM

      I wouldn’t ever call AIPAC a paper tiger, considering their affirmed acts of the past, including literally composing major parts of the Patriot Act and pushing it through henchman Joe Lieberman, who will join any party to thrust an Israeli firster to the Presidency (see him campaigning for McCain…wow lol…has anyone in American history ever turncoated so blatantly???)

      I agree with you that there are definite signs that their influence is no longer considered a blessing, but an albatross around one’s neck. Americans are fed up with Israel. Gideon Levy gets it right. On the other hand, the reaction that comes out of this opinion is absolutist – criticism of Israel does not equal calls for its destruction.