In comments delivered to an Israeli TV news reporter at a Warsaw conference designed to unite world leaders against Iran, Bibi Netanyahu made his harshest statement yet, calling for war against the Islamic republic:
What is important about this [conference]…is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries that are sitting down together in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran.
What is most striking about this statement is that it’s the first time Israel or any world leader has called for a first-strike against Iran. Note that there is no conditions laid. He doesn’t say if Iran attacks, we will respond, the usual polite formulations of past U.S. and Israeli governments. This is Bibi thundering on the world stage for these 60 nations to wage war against a common enemy and destroy him.
The conference has turned into a U.S.-led dog-and-pony show featuring the Trump administration and all its far-right European allies (Hungary, Poland, etc.) along with much of the Sunni world and Israel. Along with the official delegates, the anti-Iran terror group, the MeK has established a major presence in the Polish capital. The BBC reported today that 14,000 tweets promoting the conference have been published in the past few weeks. The vast majority originate from eight accounts. The rhetoric of the tweets clearly indicate they are associated with the MeK. Yet another example of anti-Iran social media manipulation.
National security advisor, John Bolton, set the tone for the conference by releasing a video days before it began, threatening Iran with annihilation. He warned Ayatollah Khamenei, who’d just celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, he “would not have many more anniversaries to enjoy.” In a separate development, U.S. media reported last month that Bolton had requested a Pentagon battle plan for an attack on Iran.
Bellicosity like this is music to Netanyahu’s ears. After all, he stood on the verge of launching an Israeli attack on Iran two different times. He was only restrained at the last moment by his military-intelligence chiefs who persuaded the security cabinet that it was a very bad idea. Netanyahu also tried unsuccessfully to persuade two U.S. presidents to attack Iran (Bush and Obama). Finally, to have a figure like Donald Trump in the White House, advised by anti-Iran hawks like Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is a dream come true.
Nor is this the first time the Israeli leader threatened war, though it is the first time he’d done it so explicitly. A few months ago, he told an audience at Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor:
Our enemies know what we are capable of. They understand our policy. Whoever tries to harm us, we will harm him.
I’m not mouthing slogans. I’m describing a consistent, clear and determined policy. This is our policy. It is supported by full preparedness, deployment, infrastructure, readiness and, at the right moment, the proper orders.
…He who threatens us with extinction places himself in a similar danger and, at any event, will not achieve his aim.
Though this earlier formulation doesn’t threaten a first-strike, as Netanyahu did yesterday in Poland, he does infer, based on the fact that he delivered the speech in front of the very reactor which has produced the plutonium to arm all of Israel’s estimated 200 nuclear warheads, that any Israeli attack on Iran will include nuclear weapons.
The question is—how much of substance is happening in Warsaw? Are war plans being laid? Or is it all window-dressing, to persuade the world that the conference delegates are mouthing the right platitudes to show their fortitude against their Shia enemy?
Remember that Netanyahu faces an upcoming April election, in which his two decades of leadership have come under attack like never before. He faces four different criminal corruption counts which may lead to his indictment, before voters even get to the polls. As a smart old pol, he knows that there is nothing better for a candidate than to be seen hobnobbing with world leaders as you promote your national interest on the international stage. So this may be theatrics meant to convince voters that their prime minister still “has what it takes.”
In response to the Bolton video, Sen. Chris Murphy (D, CT) tweeted: “He is laying the groundwork for war and we all must be vigilant.” The same must be said of Netanyahu’s remarks. They augur poorly for future stability of the region.
But despite Bolton itching for a fight with the Ayatollah, we must consider Trump’s aversion of U.S. military entanglements. Only a month ago, he precipitously announced that 2,000 American soldiers in Syria would be coming home. He planned a similar troop reduction in Afghanistan. The U.S. president doesn’t appear to have the stomach for prolonged military engagements.
Would a military alliance uniting a number of the Warsaw conference participants, encourage Trump to change his mind about attacking Iran? He complains bitterly when he perceives that the U.S. alone is shouldering the military and financial burdens for such enterprises. Perhaps if there were ten or twenty countries to unite in such an attack, he might relent? As any observer of the U.S. president realizes, there is no way to know day-to-day what he thinks or predict what he will do.
But we must see Netanyahu’s declaration of war as a real threat that could be acted upon either by Israel alone; or along with its new allies. For over a decade, I have sounded a clarion call against such a misadventure. The reason Shamai Leibowitz and I joined in a campaign to expose the top-secret conversations of the Israeli embassy was we both believed as early as 2009, that Israel wanted to go to war and that it needed to lay the groundwork in this country in order to do so. Those transcripts revealed the Israeli government ghostwriting anti-Iran op-eds in local newspapers, hosting conferences attacking Iran, organizing meetings between American Jewish leaders and members of Congress. All with one goal in mind: prepare the American public for war.
Some analysts believe that this entire campaign was an elaborate ruse designed to make the U.S. government believe Israel would go to war, so that we would do everything we could to satisfy Israel that we wanted to stop Iran obtaining WMD as much as it did; and that we would go to any length to do so.
No one will know till the first bomb drops on Tehran, who is right. But I would not want to be the one who dismissed the chance of war and then woke to TV images of “Shock and Awe, Iran .”
No fan of Bibi, but actually the Hebrew translates much more clearly as “war against Iran” as in phrase “war against crime”. A poor choice of words given the translation, but certainly not a declaration to go to actual war against Iran.
Richard Silverstein says
@Rain: Absolutely wrong. Please don’t try to “improve” Hebrew translations unless you know what you’re talking about. I am fluent in Hebrew and the translation offered by the video is perfect and connotes exactly what it says. Bibi was calling for a war against Iran.
A “war on crime” is generic because “crime” is not a specific entity or thing. A war on a country is altogether different.
Linda Furr says
By hook or crook, the Oded Yinon Plan (1982) for a Greater Israel will come to opass.
I would like to second Rain. She is right.
I might even translate fight or struggle with Iran.
Richard Silverstein says
@,Andrew: You’re aping Bibi’s lame attempt to walk back the comments. Either you’re a paid pro israrl social media troll or you’ve read the PMO press talking points. You’re claims are baseless. “Milchama” means war. It doesn’t mean fight or struggle. There are others words in Hebrew for those.
Further, I checked this all out with a native Hebrew speaker before i published because i anticipated these sorts of troll attempts.
The hebrew for war uses two different prepositions ‘neged’ and ‘b’ – the former is actual war the latter is struggle or striving. Bibi uses both in the posted video, first neged and then b.
An equivalent word is ironically jihad which can similarly be used in both senses and famously Yasser Arafat explained away jihad after peace talks as the latter
While I’m glad that the quiet part is being said out loud (a common occurrence in the Trump years), I’m just sort of wondering if war with Iran is inevitable. This has been in the works for over four decades and no matter how much public opposition mounts to a direct confrontation, all it seems to do is force the war mongers into a temporary retreat until they regroup and agitate again. What can be done to permanently stop these threats from being turned into action? Such a war would be extremely devastating to the entire world as it would likely turn into world war 3 if Russia enters on the side of Tehran. Your thoughts on this would be appreciated.