Wednesday, December 28, 2005

James Petras:Imminet War: Iran in the Crosshairs -- the Israeli Lobby

Seconding Jeff Blankfort below, I’ll add that James Petras’s article is easily the best and most closely reasoned I’ve seen on, among other things, PM Ariel Sharon’s use of misleading claims about Iran’s nuclear program as a powerful issue in the run up to February elections in Israel. Petras details how the Israeli lobby, working with the permanent war faction of the US government, is apparently inexorably moving the US and/or Israel, to active military action in Iran. If this were a normal government we would say, as Petras does, that this risks wider Middle East turmoil and war, not to mention the bulk of the world’s oil supplies and even less consequential, apparently, to the policy makers, hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives. But for the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld clique, such ends are exactly their goal: besides war, and its resultant effect on national priorities, they have no other agenda.


Petras suggests that US strategy is to maneuver in such a way as to bring Iran’s nuclear energy program before the UN in early 2006 and then (as Scott Ritter has pointed out on Democracy Now) in the face of UN stalemate, to take what they deem to be appropriate military action. (Note that current right wing governments in France and Germany serve the interests of the war lobby.)


9/11 and more terror

When Petras mentions the likelihood of increased terror attacks in the US and Europe that would likely occur in the event of US/Israeli military attacks on Iran, those of us who believe that 9/11 was an inside job (not to mention London, Jordan, Madrid, Bali, etc,) cannot help but be put in mind of the changed political atmosphere that is very likely one of the objectives of US/Israeli policy. While the current climate would not seem conducive to a repeat of a 9/11-style attack in the US (what Rumsfeld calls 10/12), once a wider war is jump-started in the Middle East in 2006, another inside job is more feasible. -- Ronald

Jeff Blankfort writes:

This is an important article by James Petras which challenges the notion
that "official" Washington and Israel's global an security interests are
one and the same. That the push for war against Iran by the scores of
pro-Israel lobbying groups has been totally ignored by the anti-war
movement as their push for war against Iraq was equally ignored and,
since, vigorously denied, is unfortunately, another testament to how
deeply support for Israel or the fear of provoking "anti-Semitism" by
its "leadership" and within its ranks has left the movement, such as it
is under the circumstances, not only useless, but an impediment to
bringing the issues that Petras describes below to the American people.

Jeff's excerpts from the Petras article:

"The principal result will be a huge escalation of war throughout the
Middle East. Iran, a country of 70 million, with several times the
military forces that Iraq possessed and with highly motivated and
committed military and paramilitary forces could be expected to cross
into Iraq. Iraqi Shiites sympathetic to or allied with Iran would most
likely break their ties with Washington and go into combat. US military
bases, troops and clients would be under fierce attack. US military
casualties would multiply. All troop withdrawal plans would be
disrupted. The 'Iraqization' strategy would disintegrate....

"Here in the United States there are few if any influential organized
lobbies challenging the pro-war Israel lobby either from the perspective
of working for coexistence in the Middle East or even in defending US
national interests when they diverge from Israel. Although numerous
former diplomats, generals, intelligence officials, Reformed Jews,
retired National Security advisers and State Department professionals
have publicly denounced the Iran war agenda and even criticized the
Israel First lobbies, their newspaper ads and media interviews have not
been backed by any national political organization that can compete for
influence in the White House and Congress.

"As we draw closer to a major confrontation with Iran and Israeli
officials set short-term deadlines for igniting a Middle East
conflagration, it seems that we are doomed to learn from future
catastrophic losses that Americans must organize to defeat political
lobbies based on overseas allegiances."



http://www.counterpunch.com/petras12242005.html

December 24/25, 2005
Israel's War Deadline: Iran in the Crosshairs

By JAMES PETRAS

Never has an imminent war been so loudly and publicly advertised as
Israel's forthcoming military attack against Iran. When the Israeli
Military Chief of Staff, Daniel Halutz, was asked how far Israel was
ready to go to stop Iran's nuclear energy program, he said "Two thousand
kilometers" � the distance of an air assault.

More specifically Israeli military sources reveal that Israel's current
and probably next Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered Israel's armed
forces to prepare for air strikes on uranium enrichment sites in Iran
According to the London Times the order to prepare for attack went
through the Israeli defense ministry to the Chief of Staff. During the
first week in December, "sources inside the special forces command
confirmed that 'G' readiness � the highest state � for an operation was
announced" (Times, December 11, 2005).

On December 9, Israeli Minister of Defense, Shaul Mofaz, affirmed that
in view of Teheran's nuclear plans, Tel Aviv should "not count on
diplomatic negotiations but prepare other solutions". In early December,
Ahron Zoevi Farkash, the Israeli military intelligence chief told the
Israeli parliament (Knesset) that "if by the end of March, the
international community is unable to refer the Iranian issue to the
United Nations Security Council, then we can say that the international
effort has run its course".

In other words, if international diplomatic negotiations fail to comply
with Israel's timetable, Israel will unilaterally, militarily attack
Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud Party and candidate for
Prime Minister, stated that if Sharon did not act against Iran, "then
when I form the new Israeli government (after the March 2006 elections)
we'll do what we did in the past against Saddam's reactor." In June 1981
Israel bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq.

Even the pro-Labor newspaper, Haaretz, while disagreeing with the time
and place of Netanyahu's pronouncements, agreed with its substance.
Haaretz criticized "(those who) publicly recommend an Israeli military
option" because it "presents Israel as pushing (via powerful pro-Israel
organizations in the US) the United States into a major war." However,
Haaretz adds "Israel must go about making its preparations quietly and
securely � not at election rallies." (Haaretz, December 6, 2005).
Haaretz's position, like that of the Labor Party, is that Israel not
advocate war against Iran before multi-lateral negotiations are over and
the International Atomic Energy Agency makes a decision.

Israeli public opinion apparently does not share the political elite's
plans for a military strike against Iran's nuclear program. A survey in
the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, reported by Reuters (December
16, 2005) shows that 58 per cent of the Israelis polled believed the
dispute over Iran's nuclear program should be handled diplomatically
while only 36 per cent said its reactors should be destroyed in a
military strike.

All top Israeli officials have pronounced the end of March, 2006, as the
deadline for launching a military assault on Iran. The thinking behind
this date is to heighten the pressure on the US to force the sanctions
issue in the Security Council. The tactic is to blackmail Washington
with the "war or else" threat, into pressuring Europe (namely Great
Britain, France, Germany and Russia) into approving sanctions. Israel
knows that its acts of war will endanger thousands of American soldiers
in Iraq, and it knows that Washington (and Europe) cannot afford a third
war at this time.

The end of March date also coincides with the IAEA report to the UN on
Iran's nuclear energy program. Israeli policymakers believe that their
threats may influence the report, or at least force the kind of
ambiguities, which can be exploited by its overseas supporters to
promote Security Council sanctions or justify Israeli military action.

A March date also focuses the political activities of the pro-Israel
organizations in the United States. The major pro-Israel lobbies have
lined up a majority in the US Congress and Senate to push for the UN
Security Council to implement economic sanctions against Iran or,
failing that, endorse Israeli "defensive" action.

On the side of the Israeli war policy are practically all the major and
most influential Jewish organizations, the pro-Israeli lobbies, their
political action committees, a sector of the White House, a majority of
subsidized Congressional representatives and state, local and party
leaders. On the other side are sectors of the Pentagon, State
Department, a minority of Congressional members, a majority of public
opinion, a minority of American Jews and the majority of active and
retired military commanders who have served or are serving in Iraq.

Most discussion in the US on Israel's war agenda has been dominated by
the pro-Israeli organizations that transmit the Israeli state positions.
The Jewish weekly newspaper, Forward, has reported a number of Israeli
attacks on the Bush Administration for not acting more aggressively on
behalf of Israel's policy. According to the Forward, "Jerusalem is
increasingly concerned that the Bush Administration is not doing enough
to block Teheran from acquiring nuclear weapons" (December 9, 2005).

Further stark differences occurred during the semi-annual strategic
dialog between Israeli and US security officials, in which the Israelis
opposed a US push for regime change in Syria, fearing a possible, more
radical Islamic regime. Israeli officials also criticized the US for
forcing Israel to agree to open the Rafah border crossing and upsetting
their stranglehold on the economy in Gaza.

Predictably the biggest Jewish organization in the US, the Conference of
Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations immediately echoed the
Israeli state line. Malcolm Hoenlan, President of the Conference,
lambasted Washington for a "failure of leadership on Iran" and
"contracting the issue to Europe" (Forward, December 9, 2005). He went
on to attack the Bush Administration for not following Israel's demands
by delaying referral of Iran to the UN Security Council for sanction.
Hoenlan then turned on French, German and British negotiators accusing
them of "appeasement and weakness", and of not having a "game plan for
decisive action" � presumably for not following Israel's 'sanction or
bomb them' game plan.

The role of AIPAC, the Conference and other pro-Israeli organizations as
transmission belts for Israel's war plans was evident in their November
28, 2005 condemnation of the Bush Administration agreement to give
Russia a chance to negotiate a plan under which Iran would be allowed to
enrich uranium for non-military purposes under international
supervision. AIPAC's rejection of negotiations and demands for an
immediate confrontation were based on the specious argument that it
would "facilitate Iran's quest for nuclear weapons" � an argument which
flies in the face of all known intelligence data (including Israel's)
which says Iran is at least 3 to 10 years away from even approaching
nuclear weaponry.

AIPAC's unconditional and uncritical transmission of Israeli demands and
criticism is usually clothed in the rhetoric of US interests or security
in order to manipulate US policy. AIPAC chastised the Bush regime for
endangering US security. By relying on negotiations, AIPAC accused the
Bush Administration of "giving Iran yet another chance to manipulate
(sic) the international community" and "pose a severe danger to the
United States" (Forward, Dec. 9, 2005).

Leading US spokesmen for Israel opposed President Bush's instruction to
his Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khaklilzad, to open a dialog with Iran's
Ambassador to Iraq. In addition, Israel's official "restrained" reaction
to Russia's sale to Teheran of more than a billion dollars worth of
defensive anti-aircraft missiles, which might protect Iran from an
Israeli air strike, was predictably echoed by the major Jewish
organizations in the US.

Pushing the US into a confrontation with Iran, via economic sanctions
and military attack has been a top priority for Israel and its
supporters in the US for more than a decade (Jewish Times/ Jewish
Telegraph Agency, Dec. 6, 2005). In line with its policy of forcing a US
confrontation with Iran, AIPAC, the Israeli PACs (political action
committees) and the Conference of Presidents have successfully lined up
a majority of Congress people to challenge what they describe as the
"appeasement" of Iran.

Representative Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), who has the dubious
distinction of being a collaborator with Cuban exile terrorist groups
and unconditional backer of Israel's war policy, is chairwoman of the US
House of Representative Middle East subcommittee. From that platform she
has denounced "European appeasement and arming the terrorist regime in
Teheran". She boasted that her Iran sanctions bill has the support of 75
per cent of the members of Congress and that she is lining up additional
so-sponsors.

Despite pro-Israeli attacks on US policy for its 'weakness' on Iran,
Washington has moved as aggressively as circumstances permit. Facing
European opposition to an immediate confrontation (as AIPAC and Israeli
politicians demand) Washington supports European negotiations but
imposes extremely limiting conditions, namely a rejection of the
Non-Proliferation Treaty, which allows uranium enrichment for peaceful
purposes.

The European "compromise" of forcing Iran to turn over the enrichment
process to a foreign country (Russia), is not only a violation of its
sovereignty, but is a policy that no other country using nuclear energy
practices. Given this transparently unacceptable "mandate", it is clear
that Washington's 'support for negotiations' is a device to provoke an
Iranian rejection, and a means of securing Europe's support for a
Security Council referral for international sanctions.

Despite the near unanimous support and widespread influence of the major
Jewish organizations, 20 per cent of American Jews do not support Israel
in its conflict with the Palestinians. Even more significantly, 61 per
cent of Jews almost never talk about Israel or defend Israel in
conversation with non-Jews (Jerusalem Post, Dec 1, 2005). Only 29 per
cent of Jews are active promoters of Israel. The Israel First crowd
represents less than a third of the Jewish community. In fact, there is
more opposition to Israel among Jews than there is in the US Congress.
Having said that, however, most Jewish critics of Israel are not
influential in the big Jewish organizations and the Israel lobby,
excluded from the mass media and mostly intimidated from speaking out,
especially on Israel's war preparations against Iran.


The Myth of the Iranian Nuclear Threat

The Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Daniel Halutz, has
categorically denied that Iran represents an immediate nuclear threat to
Israel, let along the United States. According to Haaretz (12/14/05),
Halutz stated that it would take Iran time to be able to produce a
nuclear bomb � which he estimated might happen between 2008 and 2015.

Israel's Labor Party officials do not believe that Iran represents an
immediate nuclear threat and that the Sharon government and the Likud
war propaganda is an electoral ploy. According to Haaretz, "Labor Party
officialsaccused Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Defense Minister Shaul
Mofaz and other defense officials of using the Iran issue in their
election campaigns in an effort to divert public debate from social
issues".

In a message directed at the Israeli Right but equally applicable to
AIPAC and the Presidents of the Major Jewish Organizations in the US,
Labor member of the Knesset, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer rejected electoral
warmongering: "I hope the upcoming elections won't motivate the prime
minister and defense minister to stray from government policy and place
Israel on the frontlines of confrontation with Iran. The nuclear issue
is an international issue and there is no reason for Israel to play a
major role in it" (Haaretz, December 14, 2005).

Israeli intelligence has determined that Iran has neither the enriched
uranium nor the capability to produce an atomic weapon now or in the
immediate future, in contrast to the hysterical claims publicized by the
US pro-Israel lobbies. Mohammed El Baradei, head of the United Nations
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has inspected Iran for
several years, has pointed out that the IAEA has found no proof that
Iran is trying to construct nuclear weapons. He criticized Israeli and
US war plans indirectly by warning that a "military solution would be
completely un-productive".

More recently, Iran, in a clear move to clarify the issue of the future
use of enriched uranium, "opened the door for US help in building a
nuclear power plant". Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza
Asefi, stated "America can take part in the international bidding for
the construction of Iran's nuclear power plant if they observe the basic
standards and quality" (USA Today, Dec. 11, 2005).

Iran also plans to build several other nuclear power plants with foreign
help. This Iranian call for foreign assistance is hardly the strategy of
a country trying to conduct a covert atomic bomb program, especially one
directed at involving one of its principal accusers.

The Iranians are at an elementary stage in the processing of uranium,
not even reaching the point of uranium enrichment, which in turn will
take still a number of years, and overcoming many complex technical
problems before it can build a bomb. There is no factual basis for
arguing that Iran represents a nuclear threat to Israel or to the US
forces in the Middle East.

Scores of countries with nuclear reactors by necessity use enriched
uranium. The Iranian decision to advance to processing enriched uranium
is its sovereign right as it is for all countries, which possess nuclear
reactors in Europe, Asia and North America. Israel and AIPAC's resort to
the vague formulation of Iran's potential nuclear capacity is so
open-ended that it could apply to scores of countries with a minimum
scientific infrastructure.

The European Quartet has raised a bogus issue by evading the issue of
whether or not Iran has atomic weapons or is manufacturing them and
focused on attacking Iran's capacity to produce nuclear energy � namely
the production of enriched uranium. The Quartet has conflated enriched
uranium with a nuclear threat and nuclear potential with the danger of
an imminent nuclear attack on Western countries, troops and Israel. The
Europeans, especially Great Britain, have two options in mind: To impose
an Iranian acceptance of limits on its sovereignty, more specifically on
its energy policy; or to force Iran to reject the arbitrary addendum to
the Non-Proliferation Agreement and then to propagandize the rejection
as an indication of Iran's evil intention to create atomic bombs and
target pro-Western countries.

The Western media would echo the US and European governments position
that Iran was responsible for the breakdown of negotiations. The
Europeans would then convince their public that since "reason" failed,
the only recourse it to follow the US to take the issue to the Security
Council and approve international sanctions against Iran.

The US then would attempt to pressure Russia and China to vote in favor
of sanctions or to abstain. There is reason to doubt that either or both
countries would agree, given the importance of the multi-billion dollar
oil, arms, nuclear and trade deals between Iran and these two countries.
Having tried and failed in the Security Council, the US and Israel
would, on the scenario of the War Party, move toward a military attack.
An air attack on suspected Iranian nuclear facilities would entail the
bombing of heavily populated as well as remote regions leading to
large-scale loss of life.

The principal result will be a huge escalation of war throughout the
Middle East. Iran, a country of 70 million, with several times the
military forces that Iraq possessed and with highly motivated and
committed military and paramilitary forces could be expected to cross
into Iraq. Iraqi Shiites sympathetic to or allied with Iran would most
likely break their ties with Washington and go into combat. US military
bases, troops and clients would be under fierce attack. US military
casualties would multiply. All troop withdrawal plans would be
disrupted. The 'Iraqization' strategy would disintegrate.

Most likely new terrorist incidents would occur in Western Europe, North
America, and Australia and against US multinationals

Sanctions on Iran would not work, because oil is a scarce and essential
commodity. China, India and other fast-growing Asian countries would
balk at a boycott. Turkey and other Muslim countries would not
cooperate. The sanction policy would be destined to failure; its only
result to raise the price of oil even higher.

Here in the United States there are few if any influential organized
lobbies challenging the pro-war Israel lobby either from the perspective
of working for coexistence in the Middle East or even in defending US
national interests when they diverge from Israel. Although numerous
former diplomats, generals, intelligence officials, Reformed Jews,
retired National Security advisers and State Department professionals
have publicly denounced the Iran war agenda and even criticized the
Israel First lobbies, their newspaper ads and media interviews have not
been backed by any national political organization that can compete for
influence in the White House and Congress.

As we draw closer to a major confrontation with Iran and Israeli
officials set short-term deadlines for igniting a Middle East
conflagration, it seems that we are doomed to learn from future
catastrophic losses that Americans must organize to defeat political
lobbies based on overseas allegiances.

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University,
New York, owns a 50 year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser
to the landless and jobless in brazil and Argentina and is co-author of
Globalization Unmasked
(Zed).
His new book with Henry Veltmeyer, Social Movements and the State:
Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina
,
will be published in October 2005. He can be reached at:
jpetras@binghamton.edu

1 Comments:

Blogger Erik Mann said...

another great blog from you guys. i'd point you to mine but it isn't yet the way I'd like it. i do have a website that I think is cool, kind of almost about aikido martial art

August 2, 2006 at 2:46 AM  

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