Comment is Free has just published a shorter version of this piece.
Despite the ballyhoo of the recent Aipac national policy conference in Washington, when Israel-U.S. bonds were feted, relations between the two countries have not been more strained since 1991. That was when George H.W. Bush fiercely lobbied Yitzchak Shamir to join in the Madrid peace conference. Relations reached their nadir when James Baker uttered his infamous remark about American Jewish pro-Israel supporters: “F*(k the Jews, they don’t even vote for us.” If relations continue to deteriorate in coming months as well they might, we might have to go back to the Suez crisis of 1956 to find a time when relations were this fraught.
A case in point is Iran. That bogey-nation was everywhere at Aipac. Every keynote speech– if they weren’t directly written by that group’s staff–seemed remarkably scripted and “on message” concerning the existential threat that Iran poses not just to Israel, but the entire world. In fact, there seems to be a deliberate attempt NOT to include Israel itself as a victim of a belligerent Iran. Word has gone forth from Jerusalem that to frame the issue as one of universal jeopardy, rather than endangering merely Israel.
The glossy press brochure (see above) shows a map centered on Iran and beyond, with a dark ominous ring around Iran’s neighbors as far away as India, Russia, West Africa and Eastern Europe. The message: these are the countries under imminent threat of Iranian ballistic missiles. The brochure copy even intimates that the next step for Iran is “building a missile with range to reach U.S. territory.” Never mind that Iran doesn’t yet have any ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon, nor will it have the bomb itself for anywhere from a year to five years depending on which you source you choose to believe.
In Israel and Aipac’s eyes, Iran is the war-mongering, hegemonic Arab regime that seeks to project its power and dominate the region. Never mind that Iran has never in modern history launched a war of its own (though it has fought back once attacked cf. the Iran-Iraq war). Never mind that ISRAEL is already a serial nuclear power who has launched multiple wars against its Arab enemies.
Iran is the nation intent on a “second Holocaust.” And not just annihilating the Israeli people, but the entire JEWISH people. The enormity and brazenness of what Israel is trying to get us all to believe about Iran is mind-boggling.
The counter-arguments above are a vain attempt at reason. There is little reason to the Israeli campaign. It is a visceral , fear-fueled invocation of dark forces and emotions. It operates intellectually, but even moreso unconsciously. It is based on prejudices and ignorance about Iran, its people, its government, its religion, and its culture.
Israel is in the midst of a massive diplomatic, political and intelligence campaign, both public and covert, that could lead, if those officials behind it have their way, to a military strike on Iran. It is a war for the hearts and minds of Americans. Or you might call it the war before the war. In intelligence circles, this Israeli project is known as perception management and defined by the Department of Defense as:
Actions to convey and/or deny information…to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders…ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to [U.S.] objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.
The Israelis are, I believe, using the template of the Bush administration’s run-up to the Iraq war. First the U.S. government advocated half-hearted efforts at diplomatic engagement, and then it ratcheted up pressure through sanctions and UN resolutions. That is where the Israeli campaign stands now.
Aipac’s members carried a unified message to Capitol Hill during their lobbying of senators and House members. They demanded that Congress pass the most draconian sanctions ever proposed against Iran. They demanded that Iran be offered a limited time in which to respond to an ultimatum insisting that it drop its nuclear program.
What then? If you review Aipac’s literature and various op ed pieces published either by Israeli diplomats or their American Jewish front men in U.S. media, they don’t specify what comes next.
But this too is part of the strategy which has clearly defined intervals. What happens during one leads inexorably to the next. You don’t allude to what the substance of the next stage will be until it happens. But any sensible person knows that the final step will be war (“Israeli leaders have…hinted at pre-emptive military strikes if they decide that diplomacy has failed”).
The Israelis surely know that the Obama administration will never go to war against Iran. In fact, they know that the Obama would not even approve Israel doing so. But I’ve become convinced over time that Israel is prepared at some date in the future to attack Iran itself, and even against the wishes of the U.S.
This of course will put Obama in an untenable position: do U.S. forces attack the Israelis (in effect defending the Iranians) and risk the fallout that would occur in relations between the Democratic administration and American Jews? Or does he allow the Israelis to carry on to their targets and bomb Iran, accepting the bloodletting and mayhem that will inevitably result? If Israel wishes for the latter outcome, they must lay the groundwork here in the U.S. for tacit acceptance by the American people of a third-party attack on Iran.
Indeed, they are a good deal of the way toward this goal as the latest Rasmussen Report reveals. According to it, 49% of Americans believe that if Israel attacks Iran that the U.S. should help.
Israel exploits a willing circle of Likudist advocacy groups and think-tanks like Washington Institute for Near East Peace, the Israel Project, Aipac, and Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which are closely scripted and tightly coordinate their political message with Israeli diplomatics. While some of these groups deny such affiliation, there is extensive proof of such scripting and amplification of an Israeli government agenda. Though of course, there may be cases in which the organizations know the needs of their patrons so well that they need no prompting to express them.
Israel, along with enablers like Aipac and American Jewish supporters, have not shrunk from hounding their critics. One peace activist here so angered Israeli authorities, that he was driven from a job through an orchestrated whispering campaign in the Jewish community that also included a disparaging article leaked to an all-too-willing reporter.
Aipac too, apparently has its own enemies list which includes the Guardian’s Chris McGreal, who duly registered for the national conference. When he entered the Washington Convention Center to pick up his credentials he was directed to step aside, where he was told that he was persona non grata. Security guards ushered him from the hall. Chris’ sin? He’d written the week before the conference that Aipac “drives” fund-raising for members of Congress. Of course, this is a true statement though Aipac is careful to maintain the fiction that it has no direct involvement in political fundraising. Of course, it is its leadership and members who maintain scores of PACs and who coordinate their giving directly or indirectly with Aipac. But you mustn’t even hint at any connection between fundraising and Aipac or risk being sentenced to pro-Israel Siberia.
The level of hubris necessary to pull this off is astonishing. Fresh off the dismissal of the Rosen-Weissman spy charges, Aipac is flexing its political muscle and reminding the world of its resurgence. They do this through a combination of clandestine manipulation, public lobbying and punishing their enemies.
Returning to Israel itself, the Netanyahu regime has become a single issue government. It is all Iran, all the time. Netanyahu will rise or fall on Iran. He reasons if he can shrei about a “second Holocaust” and blare headlines about the threat that Iran poses to the world, no one will notice that Israel is doing nothing to resolve any of the conflicts with its immediate neighbors. It’s quite a deft maneuver representing yet another weapon in the national arsenal of delay and obfuscation going all the way back to 1967.
We in the U.S. must be prepared to resist. We must protect ourselves from Israel’s propaganda offensive ginning up war with Iran. We must encourage the president to stay strong in his commitment to Israeli-Arab peace, whether or not Israel is a willing partner. Keeping our eyes on the prize of peace is going to be the hardest challenge of all, because the Netanyahu government seems to be doing everything in its power to divert world attention from the subject through deeds both covert and transparent.
Maps would appear to be very much flavour of the month at the moment. This one seems very ambitious. Its intention is not only to put the frighteners on the US administration but also Iran’s neighbours and others even further afield. It might even perturb not a few Iranians into the bargain. As you note, it probably does work on some visceral level even if its veracity remains extremely doubtful.
Perhaps one way to counteract such shocks to the system is to reply in kind. What then, I wonder, would really scare the Israelis? Maybe, it’s the same thing that would certainly scare the rest of us.
Arie Brand says
To what extent is Netanyahu’s screaming about ‘Gevalt’ and a ‘Second Holocaust’ based on genuine conviction? Is the man so devoid of realism that he genuinely believes that Iran would want to commit suicide by attacking Israel with atomic weapons ?
Netanyahu knows of course that security experts such as Efraim Halevy, the former head of Mossad, have pooh poohed the idea that Iran is an existential threat to Israel. Halevy declared that the job to destroy his country was simply undoable in operational terms.
What then is behind this nonsense about a ‘second holocaust’. Diverting attention from the ongoing obstruction of peace with the Palestinians? Keeping the ill informed American public onside as far as American sacrifices to the Likud cause are concerned?
I suspect that underlying all this is what the French Jewish Middle East expert Maxime Rodinson wrote long ago about Ben-Gurion’s bellicosity: ” … Zionist Israel throve on a bellicose atmosphere and the threat of danger. The world could not allow her to be destroyed. Jews the world over would rally to the aid of those whom in times of peril they could not help regarding as their brothers. Zion’s salvation lay in permanent danger.”
Now many diaspora Jews are becoming increasingly critical of Israel the volume of the alarm cries has to be turned up.
You are absolutely right. I heard the cry “never again!!!” repeated from this campaign. This is evil.
(1) Bush 41/Shamir/Madrid happened in 1991 (Reagan was president in 1981).
(2) “In Israel and Aipac’s eyes, Iran is the war-mongering, hegemonic Arab regime…”
As any Iranian will tell you, “We are not Arabs!”
Richard Silverstein says
Right. My editor corrected that in the Comment is Free version. But I forgot to change it.
And yes, they’re not Arabs, that should’ve read “hegemonic Muslim regime.”
In Israel and Aipac’s eyes, Iran is the war-mongering, hegemonic Arab regime…
…they’re not Arabs, that should’ve read “hegemonic Muslim regime.”
MY COMMENT: This is debatable. AIPAC and Israel (and the ADL) are careful to gloss over the distinction between Persians and Arabs because they want to cynically use anti-Arab bigotry in the U.S. to benefit their campaign against Persian Iran.
Richard is exactly right and this is an astonishingly hubristic campaign. The Rasmussen poll saying that 49% of Americans would support us helping Israel is a non-credible push poll, however, as there is simply no way that Americans want a replay of Iraq, writ large, and even to start a full-on world war.
I have to disagree with Richard that Israelis are using the US Iraq campaign as a template as this was an Israeli template from the start. When I examined the particulars of the Iran campaign (because it felt so much like the Iraq campaign), I went back to research AIPAC’s position on Iraq back to the 1990s. The Iraq campaign was also pushed by AIPAC and Israel was the main impetus for the war with subsequent PR to smudge the fingerprints. I urge you all to go back and do that research and you will see that Israel ran both campaigns. This IS the Clean Break/PNAC strategy authored by Perle, Feith and Wurmser for Netanyahu in the 1990s which involved hitting all of Israel’s enemies, including both Iraq and Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia In fact, Meyrav Wurmser gave an interview to Ynet at the end of 2006 after the war on Lebanon telling Israel that the US was disappointed that Israel had not used the “space” created for them by the Iraq war to strike Syria in addition to Lebanon. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3340750,00.html With that green light, the next thing you know, Israel struck Syria. It appears that George Bush Sr. prevailed to prevent an attack on Iran during his son’s presidency so we must be grateful for that.
I would add that AIPAC is running a campaign right now to take down Nancy Pelosi, who is doing her best to prevent this war on Iran, as Speaker of the House so that they can install Steny Hoyer, an AIPAC asset. Go back through the 1990s through the present and you will see that it was all of the AIPAC assets, including Hoyer and Harman, pushing for the sanctions against Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc. and that these were AIPAC sanctions.
Thus, it appears that Israel is now poised to involve the US in a war with Iran whether we like it or not, even if it means starting a world war. (See Norman Podhoretz, here, for the 2007 argument for World War IV. http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/the-case-for-bombing-iran-10882)
The total cost of Iraq is projected at $3 trillion, with thousands of American lives and, over the length of the Iraq campaign, more than a million Iraqi lives. Being dragged into a war with Iran will probably involve the other great powers of the world. The cost will be unfathomable. The careful plans for the US draft that will be required (with exemptions for the progeny of the instigators) are probably on the shelf.
The situation is unstable, untenable and dangerous beyond belief. I absolutely concur with Richard Silverstein that Israel intends to strike Iran.
Why do we not see maps describing the Israeli missile and nuclear threat? That relevant map would scare the Eurasian and African public much more than these constant naive “Iran maps” with the hypothetical future bombs. Of course some can argue that Israel doesn’t threat anybody, but the relevant counter question is that why does Israel have nuclear and a long range delivery capacity which certainly is beyond all defensive needs for a tiny nation like Israel. The present situation is as absurd as Uruguay would be the hegemony military and poltical power of Latin America or Denmark in Europe.
It is “interesting” why Israel has chosen Iran as the enemy number one. Iran’s religious based “system” is rather pragmatic. They favour technical and industrial development. Iran is no Sunni extremist medieval society in Taleban style. In Iran they can even choose their president, something that is impossible in some loyal US/Israeli Arab friend nations.
Like Turkey Iran as populous big nation with enormous natural resources would in “normal” circumstances be hugely more important for the world as Israel ever could be. Saddam managed to lift Iraq in the 70’s almost to a “western” level building an educational and industrial basis in an asthonishing short time. A developed Iran would have economical, industrial and military capacity that would easily “erase” Israel’s regional hegemony. That development is something Israel doesn’t want to see happen. It simply doesn’t want to see really developed Arab and Muslim countries in the region. Eventually even Turkey has to rethink their attitude towards Israel. Turkey and Iran need stability in the region to develop, Israel needs instability.
Israel also needs desperately an existential threat, even it is so weakly justified as the Iran threat is. Imagine Israel in a peaceful surrounding. Israel would be as important in world politics as for example my country Finland is. No more visits in the White House every 3 to 6 months. Once in a decade would be the reality. Away from the constant media spotlight Israel as a Jewish state and Zionism would be in great difficulties. Israel would loose its grip of US politics and later regaining it would be impossible. Peace without the existential threat would without doubt the bring to the surface the deep divisions in the Israeli Jewish society. The settlers could not “forgive” the loss of occupied areas, the religious parts grip of the country could increase etc.
Roger Cohen of the New York Times explains why we should not demonize Iran:
Someone should superimpose other circles of threat over this map- Israel, Pakistan, India, Russia, etc.
Richard Witty says
I think Richard err’s to a point of negligence in describing Iran as non-aggressive.
Prior to any saber-rattling between Israel and Iran, Iran supported overtly terrorist actions by Hezbollah and Hamas, in the form of funds, training, arms, PR.
Israel is FAR from Iran. It is not a direct threat in any manner. Iran expressed solidarity with Shia minority Hezbollah in Lebanon, and pan-Islamic solidarity with Hamas.
But, the substance of that “solidarity” was to participate in terror, war in fact.
If you exclude the implication “Iran is innocent” from the math, the reality of the situation is of regional expansion by Iran, heavy-handed, militarily threatening in fact. Stated by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, India.
Its also a fantasy to conclude that the prospect of nuclear weapons on the part of a power that is actively seeking to dominate the Persian Gulf region is inconsequential. Nuclear power is a multiplier. It does encourage a qualitative difference in scale of power and ethics.
For example, I’ve known individuals that purchased a gun, and their personalities changed. In some ways for the better, as they then KNEW that they had the power to harm, and KNEW that they had to control their otherwise acceptable rages.
But, they also stopped being peers in that regard.
Not lightweight, and not rationalizable.
The question is still how to deal with Iran, and how Israel should is part of the equation.
I liked that Obama successfully conveyed to Netanyahu that a unilateral action by Israel on Iran, would be regarded as a large breach of the US-Israel relationship.
Richard Silverstein says
Not true. Iran’s support of Hamas & Hezbollah coincided with Israel’s demonization of that country.
Not quite true, now is it? You don’t think Iran is worried that Israel will drop one of its many nuclear weapons on Teheran?
Iran hasn’t started a war against another M.E. country in ages. So what “regional expansion” are you talking about? Richard, your imprecision is simply astounding.
Once again, an unsubstantiated claim. It is easy to argue that Iran’s support of Hezbollah or Hamas has everything to do with DEFENDING those parties against Israeli onslaught. I do NOT support any country meddling in any other country’s affairs including Iran. But that includes Israel as well and it is far the worst example of a meddling Mideast country.
Any rational person who doesn’t see that Israeli’s aggressive mania is the gravest threat to military and economic stability in the Near East and by extension the US and Europe, is a real “lame-brain”. It’s so obvious so as to not require discussion. The only issue is “Will Americans again be suckered by Israel’s 5th column in the US, as we were for Iraq?”. We have “zilch” national interest in Israel smashing the Palestinians.
What angers ordinary people like me, toward the war-mongering scum around us, is that my government seems unable to protect me from these nuts.
Jeanne Capozzoli says
Terrific article. It is Deja Vu. I have been watching Israel, the Israel Lobby and the neocons desperately lobbying for US support for war with Iran — just as they did for war with Iraq. Go back to the spring of 2002 when there was a herd of Israelis (Netanyahu, Consul General Pinkus etc.) and neocons all pushing an invasion of Iraq. Sen. Lieberman hosted a Congressional get together for Netanyahu who was insisting that “moral clarity” was reason enough to invade, and, of course, Saddam was a Hitler who had to be “taken out”. Now there is a new Hitler that we must “take out”.
Thank you for helping to enlighten Americans about this campaign for yet another war in the Middle East by Israel, the Israel Lobby and the neocons. Fortunately, Obama is wise to their ways and will not support an attack. However, it is very frightening to think that we could get sucked in to “help” Israel if they launch a bombing campaign. After all, Congress always takes the side of Israel over the President of the United States.
It seems to me that any true anti-Semite or hater of Jews would be doing all in their power to encourage Israel to attack Iran.
Today is not the same geopolitical reality of 2003 or least of all the US ‘unipolar’ moment in the 1990’s. The US has sternly warned Israel against attacking Iran, a policy that was also expressed in the late days of the Bushite regime.
I believe an Israeli attack against Iran will not only fail in its execution, but will probably be many magnitudes more disastrous for Israel than the recent Lebanon and Gaza imbroglios.
Larza K says
[comment deleted for violation of comment rules]
Saint Michael Traveler says
Iran, Israel and Nuclear Bomb
There is no dispute that Iran is already a nuclear state. The states with this capacity are many; among them are Japan and Germany. But, there is a great difference between being a nuclear state, i.e., nuclear fuel cycle capacity, and a state with nuclear bomb, such as India, USA, Russia, England, France, China, Israel and Pakistan. The steps required to allay our fear that Iran in the future may develop Nuclear Bomb are:
1. Nuclear Fuel Cycle Iranian Consortium:
USA should join the consortium among others Japan, Germany, France and England to actively monitor the Iranian fuel cycle activity too. IAEA has consistently asserted that the agency could not find any indications that Iran is diverting the fuel cycle for nuclear bomb development. Iran has asserted that their activities are limited to development of fuel for nuclear reactor.
2. Nuclear Shield
An international nuclear shield for all nations in the Middle East, including Iran;
3. A nuclear- bomb-free Middle East
This action will remove any pressure from Iran to develop nuclear bomb in the future for deterrence against nuclear bomb Israeli state.
Unfortunately the attentions of the past two US Presidents (Clinton and Bush) were on nuclear fuel cycle of Iran. They both ignored that Israel had nuclear bombs. This condition was created by the strong Israeli Lobby.
In The Hague, Iranian officials offered to cooperate with the US. We hope this cooperation between USA and Iran would continue to the other tension areas of the Middle East. Iran in the past had stated that the affairs of the Palestinians relation with Israel are basically a Palestinians. Many expect that Iran would not reject a reasonable break through between Washington and Israel over the Palestinians home state. However; many suggest that any resolution about Palestinian state would be a non-starter with Israel.
Israel has used Iran as diversion away from creation of an independent Palestinian state. This problem of Palestinian subjugation to Israel occupation is the seed for an unstable world including the Middle East.
‘East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.’
The perception of an all too static relationship between the two hemispheres has long found a focus in the omnipresent Israeli/Palestinian debacle. Here no dynamic is in prospect, no movement onwards or around and away from what appears to be an intractable position. Like two continental shelves moving against each other, the forces involved must find release every so often in violent displays of varying intensity.
Perhaps it’s time we all thought about creating an appropriate buffer zone to ease such continual friction, something that can provide a little give and take on both sides. Otherwise, it’s going to be the same old bumpy ride. Except this time it may conceivably include one or two much bigger bumps along the way.
Seems to me you have just described more or less the rationale for the two state solution.
Richard Witty wrote: “Israel is FAR from Iran. It is not a direct threat in any manner.” Perhaps not to you personally, Mr. Witty, but Israel has demonstrated itself time and again to be a direct threat to the Palestinians, and also to the Lebanese. Remember the Gaza massacre not so long ago? 400 Palestinian children bombed and gunned down by the IDF, along with 1,000 women and men. With Israel’s record of aggression and brutal occupation, I think Iran has reason to be scared. When was the last time Iran mounted an aggressive, murderous campaign against a neighbor population like we saw Israel do recently in Gaza? The last war Iran engaged in was started by its neighbor, Iraq, with the support of–you guessed it–us! Considering the fact that Iran lost a million men in a war in which the U.S. funded and armed its enemy, one might perhaps understand why she wouldn’t feel too warm and fuzzy toward the U.S. and her principal regional allies (i.e. the oft-heard “Death to America, Death to Israel”, etc.). Perhaps you’re right, Israel is far from Iran, but I would suggest with the inverse meaning than you probably intended.
The two-state solution must certainly be an improvement on the present set-up. However, its arrival, although much heralded, seems to have been subject to so many false pregnancies that one wonders if the parents themselves are only going through the motions to avoid what might be, for them, a long and difficult labour.
Perhaps delivery of the two-state solution now requires its induction by external means. Either way, a live birth here will be a far more preferable result than the dashed hopes and expectations of so many millions who have long waited for such an event.
Come on, guys and gals, just how small does the box have to get before we all start thinking outside of it?