AIPAC Hell-bent on dragging the US and Israel into a war with Iran

MJ Rosenberg details how AIPAC is pushing for  the US to go to war with Iran, presumably because Iran is Israel’s last militarily viable MidEast enemy. Could the US be that stupid? Or is this just a buildup that Obama needs to convince the military that his Administration would not, if re-elected, abandon them and their desires for endless war or at least endless war-preparation and war-expenditures. Meanwhile Uri Avnery argues that the huffing and puffing about Israel’s “secret plans” for a war with Iran are most likely attempts to achieve other ends without war. Time will tell. But one thing is for sure: either country getting involved in a war with Iran would be totally self-destructive. But then again, when has that stopped the US or Israel before?

Chutzpah: AIPAC’s Newest Iran Sanctions Bill Will Prohibit Diplomacy  by MJ Rosenberg

Wasting no time after its success in getting the administration to oppose Palestinian statehood at the United Nations, and still celebrating the UNESCO funding cutoff, AIPAC has returned to its number one priority: pushing for war with Iran.

The Israelis have, of course, played their own part in the big show. In the last few weeks, Israel has been sending out signals that it is getting ready to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities (and embroil the United States in its most calamitous Middle East war yet).

But most observers do not believe an Israeli attack is imminent. (If it were, would Israel telegraph it in advance?) The point of the Israeli threats is to get the United States and the world community to increase pressure on Iran with the justification that unless it does, Israel will attack.

Naturally, the United States Congress, which gets its marching orders on Middle East policy from the lobby — which, in turn, gets its marching orders from Binyamin Netanyahu — is rushing to do what it is told. If only Congress addressed joblessness at home with the same alacrity.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee hurriedly convened this week to consider a new “crippling sanctions” bill that seems less designed to deter an Iranian nuclear weapon than to lay the groundwork for war.

The clearest evidence that war is the intention of the bill’s supporters comes in Section 601:

(c) RESTRICTION ON CONTACT.—No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that-
(1) is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran; and
(2) presents a threat to the United States or is affiliated with terrorist organizations.

(d) WAIVER.—The President may waive the requirements of subsection (c) if the President determines and so reports to the appropriate congressional committees 15 days prior to the exercise of waiver authority that failure to exercise such waiver authority would pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States.

What does this mean?

It means that neither the president, the secretary of state, nor any U.S. diplomat or emissary may engage in negotiations or diplomacy of any kind unless the president convinces the “appropriate congressional committees” (most significantly, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is an AIPAC fiefdom) that not permitting the contacts would pose an “extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States.” To call this unprecedented is an understatement. At no time in our history has the White House or State Department been restricted from dealing with representatives of a foreign state, even in wartime.

If President Roosevelt wanted to meet with Hitler, he could have and, of course, he did repeatedly meet with Stalin. During the Cold War, U.S. diplomats maintained continuous contact with the Soviets, a regime that murdered tens of millions, and later with the Chinese regime, which murdered even more. And they did so without needing permission from Congress. (President Nixon was only able to normalize relations with China by means of secret negotiations, which, had they been exposed, would have been torpedoed by the Republican right.)

But all the rules of normal statecraft are dropped when it comes to Iran, which may or may not be working on developing a nuclear capacity. Of course if it is, it is obviously even more critical that the American government officials speak to Iranian counterparts.

But preventing diplomacy is precisely what Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Howard Berman (D-CA), leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that reported out this bill, seek. They and others who back the measure want another war and the best way to get it is to ban diplomacy (which exists, of course, to prevent war).

Think back, for example, to the Cuban missile crisis. The United States and the monstrous, nuclear-armed Soviet regime were on the brink of war over Cuba, a war that might have destroyed the planet.

Neither President Kennedy nor Premier Khrushchev knew how to end the crisis, especially because both were being pushed by their respective militaries not to back down.

Then, at the darkest moment of the crisis, when war seemed inevitable, an ABC correspondent named John Scali secretly met with a Soviet official in New York who described a way to end the crisis that would satisfy his bosses. That meeting was followed by another secret meeting between the president’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and a Soviet official in Washington. Those meetings led to a plan that ended the crisis and, perhaps, saved the world.

Needless to say, Kennedy did not ask for the permission of the House Foreign Affairs Committee either to conduct secret negotiations or to implement the terms of the deal. In fact, it was decades before the details of the deal were revealed.

It is this latitude to conduct diplomacy that the lobby and its cutouts on Capitol Hill want to take away from the White House. And it’s latitude that is especially essential if it is determined that Iran is trying to assemble a nuclear arsenal.

Writing in the Washington Post last week, Fareed Zakaria explained that the best way to approach Iran is not to ban diplomacy but to intensify it, nukes or no nukes.

Obama should return to his original approach and test the Iranians to see if there is any room for dialogue and agreement. Engaging with Iran, putting its nuclear program under some kind of supervision and finding areas of common interest (such as Afghanistan) would all be important goals. [...]

Strategic engagement with an adversary can go hand in hand with a policy that encourages change in that country. That’s how Washington dealt with the Soviet Union and China in the 1970s and 1980s. Iran is a country of 80 million people, educated and dynamic. It sits astride a crucial part of the world. It cannot be sanctioned and pressed down forever. It is the last great civilization to sit outside the global order. We need a strategy that combines pressure with a path to bring Iran in from the cold.

In other words, it is time for more diplomacy, not less — even if that means offending a powerful lobby that is hell-bent for war.

***************************************************

“Hold me back!”

by Uri Avnery

EVERYBODY KNOWS the scene from school: a small boy quarrels with a bigger boy. “Hold me back!” he shouts to his comrades, “Before I break his bones!”

Our government seems to be behaving in this way. Every day, via all channels, it shouts that it is going, any minute now, to break the bones of Iran.

Iran is about to produce a nuclear bomb. We cannot allow this. So we shall bomb them to smithereens.

Binyamin Netanyahu says so in every one of his countless speeches, including his opening speech at the winter session of the Knesset. Ditto Ehud Barak. Every self-respecting commentator (has anyone ever seen a non-self-respecting one?)  writes about it. The media amplify the sound and the fury.

“Haaretz” splashed its front page with pictures of the seven most important ministers (the “security septet”) showing three in favor of the attack, four against.

A GERMAN proverb says: “Revolutions that are announced in advance do not take place.” Same goes for wars.

Nuclear affairs are subject to very strict military censorship. Very very strict indeed.

Yet the censor seems to be smiling benignly. Let the boys, including the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense (the censor’s ultimate boss) play their games.

The respected former long-serving chief of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, has publicly warned against the attack, describing it as “the most stupid idea” he has  ever heard”. He explained that he considers it his duty to warn against it, in view of the plans of Netanyahu and Barak.

On Wednesday, there was a veritable deluge of leaks. Israel tested a missile that can deliver a nuclear bomb more then 5000 km away, beyond you-know-where. And our Air Force has just completed exercises in Sardinia, at a distance larger than you-know-where. And on Thursday, the Home Front Command held training exercises all over Greater Tel Aviv, with sirens screaming away.

All this seems to indicate that the whole hullabaloo is a ploy. Perhaps to frighten and deter the Iranians. Perhaps to push the Americans into more extreme actions. Perhaps coordinated with the Americans in advance. (British sources, too, leaked that the Royal Navy is training to support an American attack on Iran.)

It is an old Israeli tactic to act as if we are going crazy (“The boss has gone mad” is a routine cry in our markets, to suggest that the fruit vendor is selling at a loss.) We shall not listen to the US any more. We shall just bomb and bomb and bomb.

Well, let’s be serious for a moment.

ISRAEL WILL not attack Iran. Period.

Some may think that I am going out on a limb. Shouldn’t I add at least “probably” or “almost certainly”?

No, I won’t. I shall repeat categorically: Israel Will NOT Attack Iran.

Since the 1956 Suez adventure, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered an ultimatum that stopped the action, Israel has never undertaken any significant military operation without obtaining American consent in advance.

The US is Israel’s only dependable supporter in the world (besides, perhaps, Fiji, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau.) To destroy this relationship means cutting our lifeline. To do that, you have to be more than just a little crazy. You have to be raving mad.

Furthermore, Israel cannot fight a war without unlimited American support, because our planes and our bombs come from the US. During a war, we need supplies, spare parts, many sorts of equipment. During the Yom Kippur war, Henry Kissinger had an “air train” supplying us around the clock. And that war would probably look like a picnic compared to a war with Iran.

LET’S LOOK at the map. That, by the way, is always recommended before starting any war.

The first feature that strikes the eye is the narrow Strait of Hormuz, through which every third barrel of the worlds seaborne oil supplies flow. Almost the entire output of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Iraq and Iran has to run the gauntlet through this narrow sea lane.

“Narrow” is an understatement. The entire width of this waterway is some 35 km (or 20 miles). That’s about the distance from Gaza to Beer Sheva, which was crossed last week by the primitive rockets of the Islamic Jihad.

When the first Israeli plane enters Iranian airspace, the strait will be closed. The Iranian navy has plenty of missile boats, but they will not be needed. Land-based missiles are enough.

The world is already teetering on the verge of an abyss. Little Greece is threatening to fall and take major chunks of the world economy with her. The elimination of almost a fifth of the industrial nations’ supply of oil would lead to a catastrophe hard even to imagine.

To open the strait by force would require a major military operation (including “putting boots on the ground”) that would overshadow all the US misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Can the US afford that? Can NATO? Israel itself is not in the same league.

BUT ISRAEL would be very much involved in the action, if only on the receiving end.

In a rare show of unity, all of Israel’s service chiefs, including the heads of the Mossad and Shin Bet, are publicly opposing the whole idea. We can only guess why.

I don’t know whether the operation is possible at all. Iran is a very large country, about the size of Alaska, the nuclear installations are widely dispersed and largely underground. Even with the special deep penetration bombs provided by the US, the operation may stall the Iranian efforts – such as they are – only for a few months. The price may be too high for such meager results.

Moreover, it is quite certain that with the beginning of a war, missiles will rain down on Israel – not only from Iran, but also from Hizbollah, and perhaps also from Hamas. We have no adequate defense for our towns. The amount of death and destruction would be prohibitive.

Suddenly, the media are full of stories about our three submarines, soon to grow to five, or even six, if the Germans are understanding and generous. It is openly said that these give us the capabilities of a nuclear “second strike”, if Iran uses its (still non-existent) nuclear warheads against us. But the Iranians may also use chemical and other weapons of mass destruction.

Then there is the political price. There are a lot of tensions in the Islamic world. Iran is far from popular in many parts of it. But an Israeli assault on a major Muslim country would instantly unite Sunnis and Shiites, from Egypt and Turkey to Pakistan and beyond. Israel could become a villa in a burning jungle.

BUT THE talk about the war serves many purposes, including domestic, political ones.

Last Saturday, the social protest movement sprang to life again. After a pause of two months, a mass of people assembled in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. This was quite remarkable, because on that very day rockets were falling on the towns near the Gaza Strip. Until now, in such a situation demonstrations have always been canceled. Security problems trump everything else. Not this time.

Also, many people believed that the euphoria of the Gilad Shalit festival had wiped the protest from the public mind. It didn’t.

By the way, something remarkable has happened: the media, after siding with the protest movement for months, have had a change of heart. Suddenly all of them, including Haaretz, are sticking knives in its back. As if by order, all newspapers wrote the next day that “more than 20,000” took part. Well I was there, and I do have some idea of these things. There were at least 100,000 people there, most of them young. I could hardly move.

The protest has not spent itself, as the media assert. Far from it. But what better means for taking people’s minds off social justice than talk of the “existential danger”?

Moreover, the reforms demanded by the protesters would need money. In view of the worldwide financial crisis, the government strenuously objects to increasing the state budget, for fear of damaging our credit rating.

So where could the money come from? There are only three plausible sources: the settlements (who would dare?), the Orthodox (ditto!) and the huge military budget.

But on the eve of the most crucial war in our history, who would touch the armed forces? We need every shekel to buy more planes, more bombs, more submarines. Schools and hospitals must, alas, wait.

 
tags: Israel/Palestine   
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2 Responses to AIPAC Hell-bent on dragging the US and Israel into a war with Iran

  1. Noah Feingold November 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Hi, my name is Noah Feingold, I’m a senior at Walter Payton College Prep High School in Chicago. I’m also a member of Anshe Emet Synagogue. The same synagogue that last year’s AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg and AIPAC board member Brian Abrahams attend. I’ve attended a few events that they’ve spoken at. I can tell you for a fact that both of them have unquestionably agreed that Israel militarily striking Iran would be an AWFUL idea. Forget the fact that strategically it would be stupid because Iran’s nuclear bunkers are underground, widespread, and heavily fortified. Diplomatically and common-sense wise, both AIPAC and the Israeli government agree that attacking Iran is a LAST RESORT. I’ve heard the President of AIAPC himself say these words in response to a question about how to deal with Iran: “SANCTIONS, SANCTIONS, SANCTIONS”. In other words, diplomatic channels are superior to military ones. Is that so absurd? In fact, in this article, you said that Fareed Zakaria suggested diplomacy. I urge you to not jump to bold conclusions and consider what I’ve said here. I’d appreciate a response, especially if you don’t agree with what I said and/or have some contrary evidence for me to see.
    Thank you,
    Noah Feingold

  2. RAY SHERMAN November 10, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Dear Rabbi Lerner:

    Would it have hurt you to tell us what the letters AIPAC stand for?

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