Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Israel Lobby & Upcoming War on Iran

Philip Weiss is a Jewish American who has blogged about Jewish
attitudes and most importantly about Jewish American "leadership"
(in quotes because they are "leaders" by their self-definition
but some dispute this -- leadership for political Zionism only).
His blogs (http://mondoweiss.observer.com) provide interesting angles
not revealed in mainstream media. For example, the claim that
American Jews were more concerned about Iran in 2002
and early 2003 and were thus less inclined to support the war on Iraq
American Jewish opinions on the Iraq war before it happened
was solidly supportive of war (as was the wider American and
Israeli publics who were shielded from facts by a political Zionist
manipulated media and government) and there was no mention of Iran
until after "finishing-off" of Iraq.
In fact, some of these surveys were carried out by the
American Jewish Establishment itself;
here is one example from the American Jewish Committee:
What Weiss and other logical people agree to is that
attitudes do not shape policy,
actions do and in this case the self-declared Jewish leaders
and politically driven Zionist pundits were very influential
and pushed methodically to convince Jews and others
to support war on Iraq (using Lies and Deception in the process)
as they are now doing with Iran.
I need not here rehash the neocon Zionist work for regime change
in Iraq before September 11, 2001. People by now are familiar
with their memo to Netanyahu in 1996 and with the
"Project for New American Century" the neocon project that said
preemptive war would be difficult to sell to the US public "
save for a Pearl Harbor like event"
(which they conveniently got a few years later).
But let us focus in this article on the period between Sept 11, 2001
and March 2003 because understanding that period
helps understand the period now leading up to the conflict with Iran.
The "Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs"
(Dick Cheney was on its board before he became VP)
issued a statement September 13, 2001
even before the dead were burried from the attacks of 9/11:
“In response to the attack on September 11, 2001 JINSA calls on
the United States to: Halt all US purchases of Iraqi oil under the
UN Oil for Food Program and to provide all necessary support
to the Iraq National Congress, including direct American military support,
to effect a regime change in Iraq.”
In an April 2003 issue of the Jewish Forward magazine, we read
“As President Bush attempted to sell the ... war in Iraq, - America’s
most important Jewish organizations rallied as one to his defense.
In statement after statement community leaders stressed the need to
rid the world of Saddam Hussein & his weapons of mass destruction.”
In the 1 October 2001 issue of the Weekly Standard, Israeli apologists
Robert Kagan and William Kristol called for regime change in Iraq
after changing the regime in Afghanistan.
They and the cadre of Israeli apologists (both leaning to the
Democratic Party and leaning to the neocon wing of the Republican
party) repeated these calls often in countless interviews and articles.
One could fill a whole book on these quotes but it is the actions
of Israeli advocates within Congress and within the administration
carried more weight. Of course those within govt. are functionaries
who pay heed to where their money and support comes from
when elections come around. You can bet that those inside the govt.
watched carefully and got the messages when the the
Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations
had Iraq on top of its agenda on July 26, 2002
The history of this period leading up to the war will be
written by historians when all the documents are declassified
and/or leaked from the hundreds of Israel-first think tanks
and other lobby organizations become available.
But enough material exists to draw a rather somber reminder
for those who now bought the non-sense that Iran is a threat to the US.
I think it is critical for people who want to understand
and hopefully prevent the upcoming war on Iran
to first understand the lobby's role in pushing the war on Iraq.
While I wrote about this issue before (see for example, http://www.qumsiyeh.org/connectingthedotsiraqpalestine/ ),
the most thorough research on this issue was done by Professors
Mearsheimer and Walt. So below is the section of the work of these
two distinguished professors that is worth reading or rereading.
This will help start the process of rethinking the slippery slope
that the endless and misnamed "war on terrorism" has been
taking people and why. Only such an understanding disseminated
to people around the world who then act could help humanity avoid
the international catastrophe that would be an attack on Iran
(which would make the mayhem in Iraq l
ook like a walk in the park by comparison).
(excerpts from M&W, full text at http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/
Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-011 ;
BTW, an even longer version is now being published by M&W as a book)
Israel and the Iraq War
Pressure from Israel and the Lobby was not the only factor behind the
US decision to attack Iraq in March 2003, but it was a critical element.
Some Americans believe that this was a “war for oil,”
but there is hardly any direct evidence to support this claim.
Instead, the war was motivated in good part by a desire
to make Israel more secure. According to Philip Zelikow,
a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board
(2001?2003), executive director of the 9/11 Commission,
and now Counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,
the “real threat” from Iraq was not a threat to the United States.139
The “unstated threat” was the “threat against Israel,” Zelikow told
a University of Virginia audience in September 2002, noting further that
“the American government doesn’t want to lean too hard
on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell.”
On August 16, 2002, eleven days before Vice President Cheney
kicked off the campaign for war with a hardline speech to the
Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Washington Post reported that
“Israel is urging U.S. officials not to delay a military strike
against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.”140
By this point, according to Sharon, strategic coordination between
Israel and the U.S. had reached “unprecedented dimensions,”
and Israeli intelligence officials had given Washington a variety
of alarming reports about Iraq’s WMD programs.141
As one retired Israeli general later put it, “Israeli intelligence
was a full partner to the picture presented by American and British
intelligence regarding Iraq’s non? conventional capabilities.”142
Israeli leaders were deeply distressed when President Bush decided
to seek U.N.Security Council authorization for war in September, and
even more worried when Saddam agreed to let U.N. inspectors back
into Iraq, because these developments seemed to reduce the
likelihood of war. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told reporters in
Sept. 2002 that “the campaign against Saddam Hussein is a must.
Inspections and inspectors are good for decent people, but
dishonest people can overcome easily inspections and inspectors.”143
At the same time, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak
wrote a New York Times op-ed warning that
“the greatest risk now lies in inaction.”144
His predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, published a similar piece
in the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Case for Toppling Saddam.”145
Netanyahu declared,
“Today nothing less than dismantling his regime will do,” adding that
“I believe I speak for the overwhelming majority of Israelis
in supporting a pre-emptive strike against Saddam’s regime.”
Or as Ha’aretz reported in February 2003: “The [Israeli] military
and political leadership yearns for war in Iraq.”146
But as Netanyahu suggests, the desire for war was not confined
to Israel’s leaders. Apart from Kuwait, which Saddam conquered
in 1990, Israel was the only country in the world where
both the politicians and the public enthusiastically favored war.147
As journalist Gideon Levy observed at the time,
“Israel is the only country in the West whose leaders support the war
unreservedly and where no alternative opinion is voiced.” 148
In fact, Israelis were so gung?ho for war that their allies in America
told them to damp down their hawkish rhetoric,
lest it look like the war was for Israel.149
The Lobby and the Iraq War
Within the United States, the main driving force
behind the Iraq war was a small band of neo-conservatives,
many with close ties to Israel’s Likud Party.150
In addition, key leaders of the Lobby’s major organizations
lent their voices to the campaign for war.151
According to the Forward, - “As President Bush attempted
to sell the war in Iraq, America’s most important Jewish
organizations rallied as one to his defense. In statement after
statement community leaders stressed the need to rid the world
of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction.”152
The editorial goes on to say that “concern for Israel’s safety
rightfully factored into the deliberations of the main Jewish groups.”
Although neoconservatives and other Lobby leaders were eager
to invade Iraq, the broader American Jewish community was not.153
In fact, Samuel Freedman reported just after the war started
“a compilation of nationwide opinion polls by the
Pew Research Center shows that Jews are less supportive
of the Iraq war than the population at large, 52% to 62%.” 154
Thus, it would be wrong to blame the war in Iraq on “Jewish influence.”
Rather, the war was due in large part to the Lobby’s influence,
especially the neoconservatives within it. The neo-conservatives were
already determined to topple Saddam before Bush became President.
They caused a stir in early 1998 by publishing two open letters to
President Clinton calling for Saddam’s removal from power.156
The signatories, many of whom had close ties to pro-Israel groups
like JINSA or WINEP, and whose ranks included Elliot Abrams,
John Bolton, Douglas Feith, William Kristol, Bernard Lewis, Donald
Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, had little trouble convincing
the Clinton Admin to adopt the general goal of ousting Saddam.157
But the neo-conservatives were unable to sell a war to achieve
that objective. Nor were they able to generate much enthusiasm
for invading Iraq in the early months of the Bush Administration.158
As important as the neoconservatives were for making
the Iraq war happen, they needed help to achieve their aim.
That help arrived with 9/11.
Specifically, the events of that fateful day led Bush and Cheney
to reverse course and become strong proponents of a preventive war
to topple Saddam. Neoconservatives in the Lobby - most notably
Scooter Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, and Princeton historian
Bernard Lewis -played especially critical roles in persuading
the President and Vice President to favor war.
For the neoconservatives, 9/11 was a golden opportunity
to make the case for war with Iraq. At a key meeting with Bush
at Camp David on September 15, Wolfowitz advocated
attacking Iraq before Afghanistan, even though there was
no evidence that Saddam was involved in the attacks on the
United States and bin Laden was known to be in Afghanistan.159
Bush rejected this advice and chose to go after Afghanistan instead,
but war with Iraq was now regarded as a serious possibility
and the President tasked U.S. military planners on Nov. 21, 2001
with developing concrete plans for an invasion.160 Meanwhile,
other neoconservatives were at work within the corridors of power.
We do not have the full story yet, but scholars like Lewis and
Fouad Ajami of John Hopkins University reportedly played key roles
in convincing Vice President Cheney to favor the war.161
Cheney’s views were also heavily influenced by the neo-conservatives
on his staff, especially Eric Edelman, John Hannah, and chief of staff
Libby, one of the most powerful individuals in the Administration.
The V.P’s influence helped convince Pres Bush by early 2002. 162
With Bush and Cheney on board, the die for war was cast.
Outside the administration, neo-conservative pundits lost no time
making the case that invading Iraq was essential to winning the war
on terrorism. Their efforts were partly aimed at keeping pressure
on Bush and partly intended to overcome opposition to the war
inside and outside of the government. On September 20, a group
of prominent neoconservatives and their allies published another
open letter, telling the President that - “Even if evidence
does not link Iraq directly to the [9/11] attack, any strategy
aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include
a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.”163
The letter also reminded Bush that,
“Israel has been and remains America’s staunchest ally
against international terrorism.”
In the October 1 issue of the Weekly Standard, Robert Kagan
and William Kristol called for regime change in Iraq
immediately after the Taliban was defeated. That same day,
Charles Krauthammer argued in the Washington Post that
after we were done with Afghanistan, Syria should be next,
followed by Iran and Iraq. “The war on terrorism,” he argued,
“will conclude in Baghdad,” when we finish off
“the most dangerous terrorist regime in the world.”164
These salvoes were the beginning of an unrelenting
public relations campaign to win support for invading Iraq.165
A key part of this campaign was the manipulation of intelligence
info., so as to make Saddam look like an imminent threat.
For example, Libby visited the CIA several times to pressure
analysts to find evidence that would make the case for war,
and he helped prepare a detailed briefing on the Iraq threat
in early 2003 that was pushed on Colin Powell, then preparing his
infamous briefing to the U.N. Security Council on the Iraqi threat.166
According to Bob Woodward, Powell “was appalled at what he
considered overreaching and hyperbole. Libby was drawing only
the worst conclusions from fragments and silky threads.”167
Although Powell discarded Libby’s most outrageous claims, his U.N.
presentation was still riddled with errors,as Powell now acknowledges.
The campaign to manipulate intelligence also involved
two organizations that were created after 9/11
and reported directly to Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith.168
The Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group was tasked to find links
between al Qaeda and Iraq that the intelligence community
supposedly missed. Its two key members were Wurmser, a
hard core neoconservative, and Michael Maloof,
a Lebanese-American who had close ties with Perle.
The Office of Special Plans was tasked with finding evidence
that could be used to sell war with Iraq. It was headed by Abram
Shulsky, a neoconservative with longstanding ties to Wolfowitz,
and its ranks included recruits from pro?Israel think tanks.169
Like virtually all the neoconservatives, Feith is deeply committed
to Israel. He also has long?standing ties to the Likud Party.
He wrote articles in the 1990s supporting the settlements
and arguing that Israel should retain the occupied territories. 170
More importantly, along with Perle and Wurmser, he wrote the
famous “Clean Break” report in June 1996 for the incoming
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.171
Among other things, it recommended that Netanyahu
“focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq,
an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right.”
It also called for Israel to take steps to reorder the entire Middle East.
Netanyahu did not implement their advice, but Feith, Perle
and Wurmser were soon advocating that the Bush Administration
pursue those same goals. This situation prompted Ha’aretz columnist
Akiva Eldar to warn that Feith and Perle
“are walking a fine line between their loyalty
to American governments ... and Israeli interests.”172
Wolfowitz is equally committed to Israel.
The Forward once described him as
“the most hawkishly pro-Israel voice in the Administration,”
and selected him in 2002 as the first among fifty notables
who “have consciously pursued Jewish activism.”173
At about the same time, JINSA gave Wolfowitz its Henry M. Jackson
Distinguished Service Award for promoting a strong partnership with
Israel and the United States, and the Jerusalem Post, describing
him as “devoutly pro-Israel,” named him “Man of the Year” in 2003.174
Finally, a brief word is in order about the neo-conservatives’
prewar support of Ahmed Chalabi, the unscrupulous Iraqi exile
who headed the Iraqi National Congress (INC).
They embraced Chalabi because he had worked to establish
close ties with Jewish-American groups and had pledged
to foster good relations with Israel once he gained power.175
This was precisely what pro-Israel proponents of regime change
wanted to hear, so they backed Chalabi in return. Journalist Matthew
Berger laid out the essence of the bargain in the Jewish Journal:
“The INC saw improved relations as a way to tap Jewish influence
in Washington and Jerusalem and to drum up increased support
for its cause. For their part, the Jewish groups saw an opportunity
to pave the way for better relations between Israel and Iraq, if and
when the INC is involved in replacing Saddam Hussein’s regime.”176
Given the neoconservatives’ devotion to Israel, their obsession with Iraq,
and their influence in the Bush Administration, it is not surprising
that many Americans suspected that the war was designed
to further Israeli interests. For example, Barry Jacobs of the
American Jewish Committee acknowledged in March 2005
that the belief that Israel and the neo-conservatives conspired
to get the United States into a war in Iraq was “pervasive”
in the U.S. intelligence community.177
Yet few people would say so publicly, and most that did
- including Senator Ernest Hollings (D-SC) and Representative
James Moran (D-VA) were condemned for raising the issue.178
Michael Kinsley put the point well in late 2002, when he wrote
that “the lack of public discussion about the role of Israel ...
is the proverbial elephant in the room:
Everybody sees it, no one mentions it.” - 179
The reason for this reluctance, he observed, was fear of being
labeled an anti-Semite. Even so, there is little doubt that Israel
and the Lobby were key factors in shaping the decision for war.
Without the Lobby’s efforts, the United States would have been
far less likely to have gone to war in March 2003.
Dreams of Regional Transformation
The Iraq war was not supposed to be a costly quagmire. Rather, it was
intended as the first step in a larger plan to reorder the Middle East.
This ambitious strategy was a dramatic departure from previous U.S.
policy, & the Lobby & Israel were critical driving forces behind this shift.
This point was made clearly after the Iraq war began in a front-page story
in the Wall Street Journal. The headline says it all: - “President’s Dream:
- Changing Not Just Regime but a Region: A Pro-U.S., Democratic
Area is a Goal that Has Israeli and Neo Conservative Roots.”180
Pro?Israel forces have long been interested in getting the U.S. military
more directly involved in Middle East, so it could help protect Israel.181
But they had limited success on this front during the Cold War,
because America acted as an “off?shore balancer” in the region.
Most U.S. forces designated for the Middle East, like the Rapid
Deployment Force, were kept “over the horizon” and out of harm’s way.
Washington maintained a favorable balance of power
by playing local powers off against each other,
which is why the Reagan Admin supported Saddam
against revolutionary Iran during the Iran-Iraq war (1980?88).
This policy changed after the first Gulf War, when the Clinton Admin
adopted a strategy of “dual containment.”
It called for stationing substantial U.S. forces in the region
to contain both Iran and Iraq, instead of using one to check the other.
The father of dual containment was none other than Martin Indyk,
who first articulated the strategy in May 1993 at the pro-Israel think tank
WINEP and then implemented it as Director for Near East
and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council.182
Footnotes to this section of M&W analysis

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