Israel Lobby Beats the Drums For War

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (or AIPAC) is holding its annual meeting in Washington DC in an atmosphere of beating war drums and rattling sabers against Iran. It’s a full-court press of pro-war power working to make the White House cave in and assume an even more belligerent posture vis-a-vis Iran that it already has.

Israel preemptively starting a war with Iran would be bad enough, but the assumption that the United States will be part of that war should be very disturbing to Americans — who are just getting over one misguided, costly war in Iraq and are still involved in another in Afghanistan.

In an election year with such cynicism about government in the air, one might think more Americans would question the propaganda for war that AIPAC represents and that sadly goes so hand-in-hand with the uncritical pandering too many American politicians and mainstream journalists engage in.

Most Americans are sheep when it comes to criticizing Israel. A tax-paying American has to be a particularly willful contrarian — be willing to be called “unpatriotic,” an “antisemite” or a “terrorist” — just to raise even a reasonable question in the face of this PR juggernaut for Israel.

A Teheran rally and Israeli F-15sA Teheran rally and Israeli F-15s

President Obama is to speak Sunday before the AIPAC meeting, and he has scheduled meetings with both Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As Peres told a New York Times reporter, while the prime minister rules, his role as president of Israel “is to charm.” He then lectured the reporter and Americans that we needed to be tough and establish “red lines” that Israel approves of.

“We need a total and clear commitment that the catastrophe of Iran will not create an impossible situation,” he said, ignoring what many see as the catastrophe of Israel’s dogged implacability. “If the White House was not resolute, Israel might have to go it alone,” Peres said. In his meeting, Netanyahu will also push the red lines on Obama, emphasizing the need for US resoluteness in face of Iran hardening the defenses of its nuclear plants. Then, Netanyahu will go over and report to the AIPAC convention.

But here’s the catch: Implied in such Israeli bravado is the sure knowledge that if and when Israel does “go it alone,” its military will be inadequate to the task, Iran will respond and the United States will be drawn in.

It all seems such an internalized delusional process dependent on metaphors from World War Two projected on Iran as a society of insane, suicidal monsters intent on initiating a new holocaust. Reality does not bear that out. While they may not be our friends, the leaders of Iran are not fools. For example, can anyone explain why Iran’s leaders would do such a suicidal thing as drop a nuke on Israel?

Americans Need to Take a New, Pragmatic Approach

American citizens need to think for themselves and re-evaluate US policy in the Middle East. It’s the only sane, pragmatic way to live. The world is changing and our policies need to change with it. To allow the Israeli right to intimidate or shame the United States into a more and more apocalyptic and untenable position in the Middle East is simply nuts. Even sanctions tend to backfire. The US needs to stop letting the tail wag the dog.

Why, for example, is it so very important to slow Iran from designing a nuclear weapon by preemptively bombing the nation, which will only exacerbate the already intense animosity that exists between Israel and Iran? Does Israel think there will be no serious consequences to such an attack?

In the already uncertain and volatile regional climate of the Arab Spring upheavals, does throwing gasoline on a Middle Eastern fire seem like a smart idea? It’s narcissistic madness to perceive oneself more secure with an infuriated Iran that feels nationally violated than with an Iran that has nuclear weapons and is willing to talk. But that would take some Israeli humility, which is in short supply these days.

Last week in Geneva at a nuclear disarmament conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akhbar Salehi said Iran wants to open talks about nuclear weapons. “We do not see any glory, pride or power in the nuclear weapons — quite the opposite,” he said. He added, “The production, possession, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is illegitimate, futile, harmful, dangerous and prohibited as a great sin.”

If the Iranian foreign minister is serious, only one thing stands in the way of talks with Iran on these issues: The nuclear weapons Israel and other nations critical of Iran have in their arsenals. That’s the real hurdle.

No one knows whether or not Iran is actually intent on making a bomb. The CIA says they are not, or at least they are only figuring out how to make one. The International Atomic Energy Agency isn’t sure; and they’re peeved right now because Iran wouldn’t let their team snoop around a military facility. (As if Israel would have no problem allowing such a team to search their bases.)

It feels like a nuclear poker game with bluffs like Saddam Hussein played with George Bush. Better to bluff and let The Big Boys looming over you think you’re insane and armed with an atomic bomb. It’s an updated, asymmetrical version of the old MAD game from the Nixon years: Mutually Assured Destruction.

Alan Dershowitz, Point Man

It’s easy to see Alan Dershowitz as the point man for Israeli madness in the United States. He’s a brilliant appeals lawyer with Harvard cred stamped all over him. So it should surprise no one that he popped up this week in two full-page ads in The New York Times — ads that run $139,104 apiece.

New York Times ads, left, against The Center For American Progress and Media Matters and, right, for the MEKNew York Times ads, left, against The Center For American Progress and Media Matters and, right, for the MEK

The March 1st ad featured a wolf with a sheep mask and slammed the Center For American Progress and Media Matters for “bigotry” and “anti-Israel extremism.” Their crimes? Staffers at these non-profits had referred, in some cases in Tweets, to people as “Israeli firsters.” Someone had suggested a US senator had more fealty to AIPAC than to his constituents. Another, that AIPAC was pushing the US toward war with Iran. And someone said Israeli treatment of Palestinians shared something with American treatment of blacks in the segregated South.

Not exactly laudatory comments, but in the current go-for-the-jugular style of Washington politics they’re quite restrained. And, one could legitimately argue, true. Still, the hardball courtroom advocate Dershowitz was outraged. To call someone an “Israeli firster,” as M.J. Rosenberg of Media Matters had done, was to summon up the ghosts of anti-Jewish pogroms.

“When you accuse Jews of dual loyalty, you invoke a canard that goes back hundreds of years and falls into the category of anti-semitism,” Dershowitz told Fox News. He wanted the anti-semite Rosenberg fired — even though, or maybe because, Rosenberg had once worked for AIPAC.

Left to right, M.J. Rosenberg, Tel Aviv, Teheran, and Alan DershowitzLeft to right, M.J. Rosenberg, Tel Aviv, Teheran, and Alan Dershowitz

The second ad featuring Dershowitz ran the next day on March 2nd and was in support of Mojahedin-e-Khalq, the Iranian group known by the acronym MEK. It’s also called The People’s Mujahedin of Iran. MEK started out with the Iranian Revolution but then went rogue and became an ally of Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. MEK members killed a number of Americans back in 1979. It was designated by the US a “terrorist organization” in 1997.

MEK founder and leader Massoud Rajavi fled Iraq when the US invaded and empowered Shiites linked with Iran. Currently Massoud’s wife, Maryam, is the public face of MEK. Some say MEK is run like a cult; it’s apparently run with an iron fist. Its base 40 miles from Baghdad was attacked in 2009 by Maliki forces, and the US has been negotiating for their fair treatment. Some 400 MEK members were moved to a former US base, what is referenced in the ad as “Camp Liberty.”

Dershowitz and a host of US political figures like former Pennsylvania Governors Tom Ridge and Ed Rendell speak in support of MEK, which is well financed by someone. Many supporters are paid speaker fees in the range of $10,000 an appearance. In conjunction with all this, there is a heavily-funded push now in Washington to have Hillary Clinton’s State Department lift — or de-list — the terrorist designation.

Ed Rendell speaking for the MEK; MEK founder Massoud Ravaji with Saddam; and Hillary Clinton with smiling MEK activists before CongressEd Rendell speaking for the MEK; MEK founder Massoud Ravaji with Saddam; and Hillary Clinton with smiling MEK activists before Congress

So what does this have to do with Israel? NBC foreign correspondents Richard Engel and Robert Windrem answer this pretty clearly: They report that MEK agents are being trained by Israel and are being used to perform the assassinations inside Iran, including the recent killings of five nuclear scientists. According to Engel and Windrem:

“Two senior U.S. officials confirmed for NBC News the MEK’s role in the assassinations, with one senior official saying, ‘All your inclinations are correct.’ ”

In this NBC report, Israeli commentator Ronen Bergman is asked on video about MEK involvement in assassinations of Iranians. Watch his sly non-answer. He subtly smiles, as if to say, “Can’t go there. Ask another question.” Bergman is writing a book tentatively titled, Mossad and the Art of Assassination. The United States, of course, is now moving into this nefarious business with its new Special Ops Doctrine.

The ad in support of MEK is very strange in that it never mentions MEK or any other name for the organization — only the dismal conditions at Camp Liberty. No doubt the reports of bad conditions are true, since the Maliki government disdains these people as terrorists and only seems to give them a break due to US pressure. If one had never heard of MEK, the $139,000 ad would seem a complete mystery. Clearly, those who paid for the ad (something called the National Association of Iranian Academics in Britain) were smart enough to know a revealed name would make the true nature of this terrorist organization a Google search away.

In the current Israel/Washington climate, the lifting of MEK’s terrorist status is likely a fait accompli. If you murder Iranians you aren’t a terrorist in today’s Washington mindset.

MEK may soon become the Contras of the anti-Iranian war fever. The Contras were thugs and cutthroats from Anastasio Somosa’s hated Guardia, but for Ronald Reagan they were “freedom fighters.”

And so Truth marches on.

If the US sits back and lets Israel attack Iran, it’s inevitable the US will become involved. And one thing will be certain: As Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace put it, “It will be ugly.”