Iran: Israel’s Concocted World Threat
Scott Peterson recently published a comprehensive timeline for Iran’s nuclear program that charted not so much the actual progress of Iran’s supposed quest for a weapon, but the west’s, and in particular Israel’s shifting and endless series of revelations and predictions regarding it. Israel’s movable dates for Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon take on the character of the predictions of Nostradamus or those of Christian millennials who announce the date of the Second Coming. Another aspect of the millennialist world view that Israel’s shreying about Iran shares is a profound, almost religious faith in the certainty, not only of the prediction, but that the cause for which these predictions are offered is something close to sacred.
For the past several years, some would go back much farther and even say decades, Israel has orchestrated an ambitious, multi-layered campaign that included diplomatic and intelligence operations along with exploitation of American Jewish pro-Israel “agents of influence” (more on that below) designed to gin up an atmosphere conducive to war. This was the subject of the secret documents I read, provided to me by Shamai Leibowitz, which showed Israeli diplomats ghostwriting anti-Iran op-eds for U.S. newspapers (see below), then Sen. Sam Brownback reporting to Israeli diplomats on an anti-Iran conference he was organizing (here is further evidence of Brownback’s continuing shilling against Iran), a Texas Congressman meeting with a local Jewish donor and Israeli diplomat, to whom the politician reported on Congressional developments that would further isolate Iran, and a senior Senate foreign relations committee staffer being briefed by senior Israel military-intelligence figures eager to warn him about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.
Sheera Frenkel provided further background to this campaign in a piece she wrote (along with two other parts in a series) for McClatchy, in which Israeli leaders admit to the existence of this coordinated effort:
[During a press briefing, Israel’s] Agent 83 fingered with care his model of what a potential Iranian nuclear bomb might look like.
The agent…was showing off the model to a group of foreign reporters…the third such time he had been asked to showcase his expertise in the second half of 2009.
“…I hope it is clear that Iran is working toward building a nuclear bomb,” he told the departing reporters.
Within days, accounts of Agent 83’s story appeared in articles across the U.S. and Europe — Iran had advanced technological understanding of the workings of a nuclear weapon. It was one of dozens of “exclusives” on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, the majority of which had originated with Israeli sources.
Such access to Israeli experts for international journalists has been critical to spreading Israel’s view that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. In recent months, talk of Iran’s nuclear ambitions has fueled the Republican presidential campaign, served as the backdrop for this week’s meeting between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and earned a pledge from Obama on Sunday that the United States would resort to military means if necessary to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.
Israeli officials acknowledge that the widespread acceptance in the West that Iran is on the verge of building a nuclear weapon isn’t based just on the findings of Israeli intelligence operatives, but relies in no small part on a steady media campaign that the Israelis have undertaken to persuade the world that Iran is bent on building a nuclear warhead.
“The intelligence was half the battle in convincing the world,” an Israeli Foreign Ministry official told McClatchy…”The other half was Israel’s persistent approach and attitude that this was not something the world could continue to ignore.”
The official had recently returned from a trip to Washington and marveled at how the topic has become a major one in the United States. “U.S. politicians were falling over each other to talk about Iran,” he said. “In some ways, that is a huge success for Israel.”
…Shimon Stein, a former Israeli ambassador to Germany and former head of arms control at the Foreign Ministry, said that Israel slowly developed its outreach and media efforts on Iran over more than two decades.
“We were diplomatically actively pursuing the Iranian issue for decades,” he said. But the Israeli campaign moved into the public sphere five years ago when the Israelis decided they needed public opinion to also drive Iran policy. “Now it is a new ballgame,” Stein said. “Now we added extra resources to mobilize our government and also world opinion.”
…Coordinating media coverage, such as the Agent 83 briefing on the workings of the hypothetical bomb, was critical to that effort. Often such access was timed to take place before critical events.
In the year after U.S. intelligence agencies published a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that downplayed the Iranian nuclear threat, an unprecedented number of leaks over Iran’s alleged progress on nuclear weapons was released to the press. They culminated in reports published in Israeli newspapers that Iran had secret uranium enrichment facilities. In 2009…Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy revealed a yet-undisclosed facility at Qom.
Israeli officials also said it was no coincidence that a flurry of reports on Israel’s imminent strike on Iran filled the press last fall just ahead of a report from the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Guzansky said the possible Israeli strike leaks to the media were “an important tool” for the government.
“It is psychological warfare. You leak to get the enemy or your friend to think X or Y,” he said.
Yoel Guzansky, who headed a department that studies Iran’s nuclear weapons program in the Israeli prime minister’s office from 2005-2009 and is currently a fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies said…
“Israel doesn’t want it to look like it is pushing the West toward a war with Iran. There are those that said Israel pushed the U.S. towards a war with Iraq, which is untrue,” said Guzansky. “Today regarding Iran, Israel is not telling the U.S. to attack. They are saying something more nuanced…
Any Israeli with half a brain in their head (and Guzansky is a undoubtedly a very smart man) who can say this after hearing Bibi Netanyahu’s Aipac speech, is either deluding himself or deeply cynical (or both).
Frenkel points out the invaluable assistance in this campaign played by what I called above, Israeli agents of influence, American Jewish groups like The Israel Project, which have an interlocking network with the Israeli diplomatic community here, and together pump out the same coordinated message:
As Israeli diplomats were working to convince governments of the Iranian nuclear threat, other organizations, such as the Washington-based Israel Project, were pressing the Israeli position with journalists and others.
Founded in 2002, one of the Israel Project’s earliest goals was to raise awareness on Iran.
“Our work — since the beginning — has been to encourage Iran to make a choice between their nuclear program and the things they want in the world,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mirzrahi, the founder and president of the Israel Project.
The campaign has been successful, she said. “In a year like this year, nobody can get elected without having a strong Iran policy,” she said.
TIP’s Iran “specialist” is Barbara Ledeen, wife of neocon uber-hawk, Michael Ledeen. A further example of that interlocking directorate mentioned above.
When he was privy to secret FBI wiretaps of Israeli diplomats, Leibowitz even told me that the then Israeli deputy chief of mission in Washington, Jeremy Issacharoff, arranged for the Boston Herald to publish an op-ed ghostwritten by embassy staff and published under the name of Jeff Robbins, a partner in the Boston law firm, Mintz Levin. Issacharoff is married to TIP’s global affairs director, Laura Kam. Mintz Levin is the firm of which Cameron Kerry, an Aipac supporter and John Kerry’s brother, has been a managing partner. Robbins in his newspaper and law firm bio touts his human rights credentials. It’s always best to couch attacks on Iran not in terms of promoting Israeli interests, but rather promoting non-partisan values that we all can agree on, like human rights. To be fair, a reporter who wrote about the Leibowitz leaks questioned Robbins about the newspaper op-ed and he denied that it had been ghostwritten. All I can say is that Israeli diplomats quoted on the wiretaps saw it otherwise.
American and Israeli media outlets have been willing participants in Israel’s campaign. They’ve published op-eds and news reports that breathlessly predicted global annihilation at the hands of Iran and advocated a scorched earth military campaign to subdue it. Even so-called liberal media like the New York Times and Haaretz have been victimized though willingly. Remember the Benny Morris op-ed that argued Israel might have to pre-emptively launch a nuclear strike against Iran? Morris, I remind you, is neither an expert in Iranian affairs or Israeli nuclear strategy. Yet that was published thanks to the considered judgement of the New York Times op ed editor. Such collaboration is really shameful and reminds us of the black mark that paper earned for its prominently splashing the “findings” by Judy Miller of Iraqi WMD.
In this sense, American Jewish communal leaders allow themselves to become willing collaborators with Israel in advancing its goals. These Americans don’t see anything wrong with what they’re doing, because they’ve deluded themselves into believing that Israel’s interests are the same as America’s. M.J. Rosenberg and other Israel critics call such people “Israel Firsters.” While I’m sympathetic to the critical impulse behind such a term, it’s slightly off-target. As I’ve just said, these people believe they’re advancing America’s AND Israel’s best interests. But in reality they’re advancing neither’s, since eternal enmity between Iran and the west is in no one’s interest.
The $64,000 question is: has the Israeli campaign worked? Has it achieved whatever Israel’s objectives were and are. To hear this Israeli journalist tell it, they have:
Sever Plocker, a columnist for…Yediot Ahronot, wrote…that the Israeli media campaign had been a success.
“It seems clearly that the Israeli campaign of last fall, through which rumors were spread of an impending Israeli attack on Iran, has achieved its goals,” he wrote. “The Western statesmen grasped at it and used it to impose the ‘crippling’ sanctions on Iran that Prime Minister Netanyahu had already demanded two years ago.”
The judgement as to the success of this campaign depends on its goal. If the goal is neutralizing Iran as a competitive regional threat or nuclear rival to Israel, it clearly has not succeeded (at least not yet). If the goal was, as I’ve written previously, to distract world attention from other festering aspects of the Israeli-Arab conflict, then it has had much more success. Many observers noted that in the speeches at the recent Aipac conclave there was hardly a mention of the Palestinians, a two-state solution or any related matter. As a sort of pressure valve to release tensions around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iran threat is highly useful. The Palestinian demand for justice and an independent state pales in the face of the so-called existential threat posed by Iran not just to Israel, but (at least in the Israeli narrative) the entire world.
In the end, Israel’s campaign against Iran is largely manufactured. Yes, Iran is a coercive society whose leaders are hostile to Israel. But no, it does not pose an existential threat to Israel or anyone else. The west has every right to demand safeguards regarding its nuclear program. That’s one of the reasons it’s in the NPT. It has a right to pressure Iran into providing them. But Iran poses no more, and likely much less of a threat to world peace than India, Pakistan or North Korea, each of whom has passed the nuclear threshold in the past two decades. Any talk about Iran as the world’s greatest terrorist state or the mad mullahs’ intent on incinerating half the human race, themes dear to the heart of Bibi Netanyahu and the Israel war hawks, is built on sand and illusion.
Finally, Juan Cole wrote a long blog post outlining the reasons western sanctions against Iran are morally wrong and will not work. In his piece he wrote this about Israel’s propaganda campaign:
We saw…with Iraq and now…with Iran: a weak, ramshackle, ineffectual bogeyman is set up, like Saddam Hussein or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Americans are kept talking about the “threat” emanating from that country. It isn’t a real threat. It is manufactured by the Israeli intelligence agencies and promoted by their cells in the US.
…Israeli agents of influence attempt to keep Americans talking about anything but Israel’s own ongoing crimes against humanity with regard to the Palestinians. They have special success if the US goes into full-sanction, soft war mode against another country on Israel’s behalf. Now, instead of talking about Israeli predations against the Palestinians, we are being led by the nose by AIPAC and its many media allies to obsess about Iran.
Granted this is strong stuff. Israel’s supporters have a right to wince at a few of the terms used. But there can be little doubt that much of the criticism rendered above is warranted by precisely the sort of campaign Frenkel and I documented in this post and her article.
What isn’t warranted is this disgusting smear by Israel’s DC journalist capo di tutti, Eli Lake, who tweeted this memorable bit of vituperation and character assassination:
To progressives who still read
@jricole you are being conned by a paranoid lunatic. This is spit flecked delusion…
Lake is the prototypical example of the journalistic Israel-Firster. If you read him, it’s sometimes hard to see any division between Israeli and U.S. interests. When he reports on Israel, his sources are invariably Israeli intelligence officials and those peddling a similar line. Which wouldn’t be so bad if much of the information included in his reports weren’t so far-fetched and tendentious as to beggar belief. He’s happy to quote the conclusions of his sources and never demands any facts or proof that underlie the claims (nor does he offer any to his readers). I’ve written before about his flagrantly bogus report on the Eilat terror attack which is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. When it comes to Israeli intelligence sources, if you trust religiously you will be burned consistently (though admittedly not as badly as Joan of Arc). Lake, apparently, doesn’t mind being burned since the cause of advancing Israeli (read, Likud) interests is so dear to his heart.
27 thoughts on “Iran: Israel’s Concocted World Threat – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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It seems Israel and its lobbyists are, intentionally or otherwise, manoeuvring themselves — and, by association, world Jewry — into the morbid position assigned to them as Elders of Zion…
Scary indeed. Will they manage to transform that ancient malignant lie into a prophecy? – It’s up to American Jews, I guess.
“It seems Israel and its lobbyists are, intentionally or otherwise, manoeuvring themselves — and, by association, world Jewry — into the morbid position assigned to them as Elders of Zion…”
Damn. They left me out of the conspiracy!
Nope, you’re doin’ your part right here in world wide hasbara campaign for war.
Morally wrong and will not work. What is there to dislike?
Why does Juan Cole hate his country?
And yankel, why do you hate your own people? Doesn’t Israel merely inform the Word about the dire threat that Iran presents to us all. Like, wiping the entire world from the page of history? (Only one “regime”? ah, never mind.)
I certainly do not hate my own people. If I did, I’d be sitting on my hands waiting for them to bring about an inevitable wave of grassroot antisemitism following an Israeli- (Jewish-, by association) instigated major war.
Israel’s influence on American national politics far exceeds its size and its importance for American interests. Israeli Hasbara operatives, purporting talk for the American Jewry wield political power they use indiscriminately. This is bad enough.
To use this irresistible leverage to promote a war which might well be contrary to American interests (let alone world’s interest), is going way too far.
I’m not claiming to know what’s the best way for the US (and the west in general) to handle this threat. I’m saying Israel’s influence on these decisions should be severely curtailed.
Israel’s Hasbara has long implicitly promoted a world-view conducive to its ongoing intolerable treatment of Palestine’s native population. This world-view, suggesting a world-wide cultural war attracts the support of the Breiviks of this world.
Israel – and world Jewry – should examine who their friends are and consider if they haven’t gone far too far.
Query: who is the Texas Congressman?
Alas, it wasn’t a name I was that familiar with at the time & so I haven’t remembered it. Of course, I could kick myself.
the human design is not conducive, for which i myself am immanently grateful.
Being a child of WWII (B. 1943), and having great awareness of the Holocaust and how it’s effects are still felt by Jews worldwide, I hold firmly to the belief that, without a strong Israel, we Jews are damned to face another Holocaust in the future. Thus, Iran must suffer the consequences of heretics like Hitler.
Inflicting injustice upon others can in no way assure peaceful security for ourselves. It is, in point of fact, what Hitler proposed, and if that doesn’t give one pause I don’t know what will.
Israel has an arsenal of nukes: Who would assault Israel with nuclear bombs, now assured of obliteration? This promise of mutually assured destruction kept the Cold War peace for decades. So, Israel is strong. The only glimmer of anti-Semitism is the ill feeling that Israel inspires by its actions against the Palestinians and its grandiosity. I think we Jews would be better off and safer without Israel than with it. Iran must be devastated at Israel’s behest because Israel doesn’t want a countervailing force in the region: It wants to do anything it wants with impunity. A nuclear Iran stands in the way of such unchallenged hegemony in the region and that is a good thing. It is called the “balance of power.” I’m actually in favor of arming Iran with nukes as I fear their discretion much less than Israel’s indiscretion.
What is shocking about Obama’s public embrace of the myth of an imminent Iranian nuclear weapon threat is that it ignores basic physics: It’s impossible to make a nuclear bomb using enriched uranium gas, which is all that Iran has:
Superb piece, thank you Richard. It’s a shame about Leibowitz, he meant well, but bad luck,
As for Bibi and his crony’s in the US, they’re grasping at straws..they know very well, the US won’t attack Iran, and neither will Israel.
There is something curious about this whole affair, which appears to be little more than a storm in a teacup.
Has anyone else wondered? Why is israel making such a big fuss about Iran and it’s nuclear weaponry. The strike on Syria’s nuclear facility came out of the blue, as did the Osirak attack in Iran. Yet when it comes to Iran, it is public news.
Why doesn’t Bibi just get on with it, if he wants to?
Yes, a super informative article.
The problem is that Iran is a bit bigger, and fatter and stronger. In immortal words of the poet
If Rabbit was bigger
And fatter and stronger,
Or bigger than Tigger,
If Tigger was smaller,
Then Tigger’s bad habit
Of bouncing at Rabbit
Would matter no longer,
If Rabbit was taller.
But Tigger still wants to bounce. But this is not a rabbit, this is a … Hephalump.
Re: Tito says: “It is impossible to make a nuclear bomb using enriched uranium gas.”
True enough, but converting the gas to a solid is back of the garage technology; as now days are the subsequent steps.
For early remarks on the topic see: Willrich, Mason and Theodore B. Taylor. Nuclear Theft: Risks and Safeguards, Ballinger, Cambridge, Mass. 1974
The article, written by a former official of the US Atomic Energy Commission, says that it would take Iran years to master the process,
Ahmadinejad never said he wanted to “Wipe Israel from the Map” or, more directly, to kill Jews.
He’s not even the Supreme Leader. It’s time to get real about the “media” – it’s controlled, it’s manipulated, and it’s yellow.
Iran’s Supreme Leader said that Israel is a “cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut.”
That was just last month.
Israel’s leaders lie about Iran every day & call it a genocidal, suicidal regime bent on world conquest. Which is worse & does any of it justify war?
I think there’s a discrepancy here. Israel’s government continually calls for illegal attacks on Iran and does anything it can to promote regime change transparently. When Iran’s government does the same thing, Israel’s government scapegoats Judaism and its citizenry, and even invokes the Holocaust, to protect it from rightful prosecution of its crimes. When Iran speaks ill of Israel’s regime, the word regime, the equivalent in Farsi (adopted from the French), is completely taken out of all press releases so that it is falsely construed as a call for genocide against Jews implicitly or explicitly.
The same tactics are used against the Pals. And yet, somehow Israel thinks they still work. Take a true poll of the world and see who favors Israel. It’s no one you would want to call a fellow citizen.
sorry was to Bob, not Richard
Iranians cannot wipe out anything let alone jewish regime or whatever even if they are dying to do that. In this arena of mutual hatred against each other, no one is victim.
Taking a poll to see who favors whom will no solve anything either.
No, let’s correct you. He said the Israeli REGIME was a cancerous tumor.
I wholeheartedly 100% agree that Likud is a cancer to all of humanity, including Israelis.
The Supreme Leader refers to Israel as “The Zionist Regime” regardless of what government is in power there.
You will note that the Iranian media puts the word “Israel” in brackets or parentheses any time he (or any other leader) uses the phrase.
Qaouk also stressed that his party is against any plans that “make the Zionist regime (Israel) happy.”
The phrase “Zionist Regime” is used in place of “Israel” by most Iranian leaders because they do not recognize Israel as a country. It has nothing to do with Likud being in power.
You can read quotes from 1993 when Rabin (Labor Party) was Prime Minister of Israel in which Iranian leaders used the same term “Zionist Regime” in place of Israel.
Odd that you call yourself PersianAdvocate and don’t know that.
Oh, I’m sure Persian Advocate understands that. Israel doesn’t recognize Palestine as a legitimate country either. So what? Saying the “Zionist State” calls into question Israel’s legitimacy just like calling the West Bank Samaria and Judea calls into question its Arab character as the Arab West Bank. There are lots of good reasons to queston Israel’s legitimacy: More so now that it is clear Israel will never recognize, much less repair or compensate for, the damage is has done to an entire people. I would not argue Israel’s legitimacy if I found an Israel ready and willing to face its obligations to the people it has displaced and the property it has stolen and it made some effort at justice. But, Israel will not recognize the criminal conquest of other people’s land by misguided Europeans and thereby GAIN legitimacy. So, I’ll keep questioning how it comes about that Palestine, once so rich with Arabs, is now in the hands of a mere 5.5 million Jews. As far as I’m concerned, it is the “Zionist Entity” and not a state at all.
“But Iran poses no more, and likely much less of a threat to world peace than India, Pakistan or North Korea, each of whom has passed the nuclear threshold in the past two decades.”
You left out the one nuclear power that is a real threat to world peace…Israel.