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Archive for the ‘U.S. Foreign Affairs’ Category

The U.S. and Israel: Diverging Interests – An Analysis (8 April 2015) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – Shared Concerns and Interests?

 

It is often alleged that the basis for U.S.-Israeli relations lies in “shared concerns and interests.” However, what really holds the relationship together is a systemic aspect of American politics – the system of special interest lobbying and the money that underlies it. That practice is just about as old as the country itself, and the Zionist lobby is a past-master at exploiting this system. With the Supreme Court rulings telling us that political spending and donations are forms of free speech, this rather perverse aspect of U.S. politics is not going to change in the foreseeable future.

 

Therefore, one would assume that the present deterioration in relations between the Obama White House and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as refreshing as it is, only represents a temporary glitch rather than a permanent breach in the alliance between the two countries. Well, perhaps, but getting the relationship back to the status quo ante may be harder than many expect.

 

For example, on 29 March 2015 the New York Times reported that Hillary Clinton met with Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to let him know that she wants to “improve relations with Israel.” That sort of statement is a standard prerequisite for anyone planning to run for the presidency in 2016. While there was no elaboration on the meeting coming from Clinton’s office, Mr. Hoenlein was quite forthcoming. According to him, “Secretary Clinton thinks we need to all work together to return the special U.S.-Israeli relationship to a constructive footing, to get back to basic shared concerns and interests.”

 

Wishful thinking aside, is that really possible? While Clinton is attuned to her political interest in keeping the Zionist lobby bipartisan in 2016, Mr. Hoenlein seems blind to the fact that the U.S. and Israel no longer have any “shared concerns and interests” in the Middle East. In fact, looked at it objectively, their “concerns and interests” are now in opposition.

 

Part II – A Major Foreign Policy Goal since 2001

 

Since the terrorist attacks of 2001, a major foreign policy goal of the U.S. government has been the pursuit and destruction of the Sunni extremist organization al-Qaeda and its offshoots. To that end the Americans invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and, more problematically, Iraq in 2003. The popular frustrations that resulted from those wars brought Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008 in order change tactics, but not the goal. In other words, the American public still approved going after al-Qaeda, but were tired of the costly war-making approach characteristic of the Bush Republicans and their neoconservative advisers. In truth the Bush approach of invasion and “regime change” proved disastrously counter-productive. It caused the collapse of political stability in both Afghanistan and Iraq thus creating power vacuums that became breeding grounds for al-Qaeda.

 

Obama rationalized the anti-al-Qaeda campaign. He ended the unpopular American occupation of Iraq and wound down the Afghan war. In their places he substituted drone warfare. Drones kill jihadists (and a lot more folks as well) with no great risk to American lives (though harm to the psychological health of the computer jockeys guiding these weaponized model airplanes is certainly a cost). You just remotely steer the drones to the place where your informants say your target happens to be (dinner party, family visit, wedding, etc.) and launch the drone’s missiles into that spot. Straightforward, except for the fact that, on average, drones kill 28 civilians for every enemy individual they target. In fact, that is what the U.S. was doing in Yemen before the Saudis started their present, much more indiscriminate, bombing campaign (using real airplanes) throughout that country.

 

U.S. allies in the region, specifically Israel and Saudi Arabia, had no problem with the drone attacks against al-Qaeda until 2011. That was when civil war broke out in Syria and when al-Qaeda and its offshoots showed up to fight against the embattled Assad regime in Damascus. Keep in mind that Assad was seen as an enemy of Israel. Syria called for help from Shiite Iran and Hezbollah (also enemies of Israel). Soon the fighting spread across the border into northern Iraq, and the Iraqi government also called for help from Iran.

 

From an American, anti-al-Qaeda perspective, things began to look really bad. ISIS (aka the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), an al-Qaeda inspired movement operating in both Syria and Iraq, declared itself the “new caliphate” and started to take and hold territory while cutting off the heads of anyone who got in the way. The Obama administration did not want to go back into another Middle East war (they still had residual troops on the ground in Afghanistan) but fortunately “boots on the ground” proved unnecessary. Why? Because there was another power right in the region willing to pick up the slack – a power which was just as much an enemy of al-Qaeda as the U.S. was. That power was Iran.

 

That meant that certainly by 2014 the United States and Iran understood that they were on the same side of a struggle that, in the U.S., represented a primary concern of the American people for the past 15 years. On the Iranian side the concern was even more immediate, because the aggressive behavior of ISIS threatened Iran’s western border as well as its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah. Given this situation, the last thing both countries wanted was open hostilities with each other. That encouraged both parties to work hard to settle the dispute over Iranian nuclear power.

 

Part III – Divergence

 

Unfortunately, Israel, and by extension the American Zionist lobby, had lost interest in U.S. concerns about al-Qaeda. Indeed, Tel Aviv had come to take the opposite point of view, seeing some merit in Islamic terrorists as long as they were Sunnis. One has to keep in mind that the Israelis are obsessed with Shiite Iran and its nuclear energy program, which Prime Minister Netanyahu has hysterically proclaimed a danger to the survival of Israel. From that point of view any enemy of Iran is a friend of Israel – even if it is al-Qaeda.

 

Indeed, in 2013 Michael Oren, then Israeli ambassador to the United States (actually he grew up in West Orange, New Jersey), told the Jerusalem Post, “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” A year later he was at an Aspen Institute Conference and declared that Israel would prefer the victory of ISIS to the continuation of an Iranian-backed Assad. Nor have the Israelis been shy about acting on this preference. They have established a non-aggression pact with an al-Qaeda Syrian affiliate called the al-Nusra Front, cared for al-Nusra wounded in Israeli hospitals, and mounted attacks on the Lebanese and Iranian forces opposing al-Nusra.So, at least in Syria, Israel is actively supporting a group that had, in an early incarnation, attacked the U.S. – one that represents forces that still pose a major worldwide risk to U.S. security. Perhaps someone ought to update Congress on this point.

 

This rearrangement of allies has made for strange bedfellows – not only the U.S. and Iran, but also Israel and Saudi Arabia. And that brings us to the present situation in Yemen. Until the recent Saudi air strikes in Yemen, that country was the most active site of U.S. drone attacks against al-Qaeda operatives. But the Saudis don’t see the war on al-Qaeda as any more important than the Israelis. Their main concern is, once more, Shiite Iran whom they see as much more an enemy than either jihadists or Zionists. So the Saudis have thrown a temper tantrum over the recent deal over Iran’s nuclear program. Part of their acting out was to tell Washington to pull its drone operators out of Yemen because the Saudis were going to bomb that country and particularly its Shiite Houthi population to ruination. Ruination of course, means the creation of a power vacuum in Yemen, and just as in Syria and Iraq, power vacuums create the ideal breeding ground for extremist groups like al-Qaeda. Finally, there are unconfirmed reports that at least some of the munitions the Saudis are dropping on Yemen are made in Israel.
Part IV – Conclusion

 

Obviously the real “concerns and interests” of the United States in the Middle East have noticeably diverged from those of Israel. As a consequence Israel is now loudly complaining that Washington has abandoned it. Well, Washington might do well to play the same game – to loudly complain about Israel’s traitorous behavior. After all, the U.S. gives that country a lot of money and weaponry and now the Israelis chose to support their benefactor’s enemy.

 

We can count on the Zionist lobby to try to obfuscate this fact. And, given that their financial and ideological power helps shape self-serving political interests in Congress, they may be able to pull it off, at least in that venue. They are also financially backing the Republicans when it comes to the 2016 presidential race. Can those politicians who support the Israeli perspective win that election?

 

Hopefully, the Israeli point of view will now prove to be a hard sell when it comes to the American voter. The recent agreement with Iran has created a new reality for the country’s foreign policy – one that is consistent with the popular desire for no further U.S. military involvement in the Middle East. It is going to be difficult for bought-off politicians, even those allied with Fox TV, to throw everything into reverse and declare al-Qaeda an ally and Iran still the mortal enemy. Hopefully, that will translate into political failure in 2016 for anyone who wants to undo the new accord with Iran.

John Bolton’s Love of Bombs – An Analysis (31 November 2015) by Lawrence Davidson

 

Part I – 1968: “No Innocent Civilians”

 

The year was 1968. I had just earned a master’s degree in history at Georgetown University, where I had also helped found the university’s chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Unfortunately, there was no time to celebrate, because within days of getting the degree I was on U.S. Army bus, along with about 30 others, heading from Washington, D.C. to Fort Holabird in Baltimore. At that time there was a military draft induction center there, and according to my low draft lottery number, my time had come.

 

At Holabird we piled into a classroom-like setting and were given a lecture by a rather over-muscled middle-aged sergeant with buzz haircut. He told us (I am paraphrasing from memory here) that “the Vietnam war was absolutely necessary. If the commies got their way the domino effect would see all of Southeast Asia go Red. There was no way you could negotiate with Hanoi and so it was time to increase the intensity of bombing over North Vietnam.” I remember that he ended by telling us that “there were no innocent civilians in Vietnam – when they call their soldiers part of a people’s army, they mean it.” Only later did I realize he was extrapolating on the position laid out by the infamous General Curtis “Bomb Them Back to the Stone Age” Lemay. When the sergeant had talked himself out, he began distributing the written intelligence and aptitude tests that were part of the pre-induction process. As he was doing so he asked if there were any questions. I was the only one who raised his hand.

 

You have to keep in mind that I was 23 years old, a radical, and not afraid of authority figures. So I asked him, “Why should any of us here believe a word you say about this war when all you have given us are opinions standing in for facts?” He looked at me in a murderous way and said. “What is it about these forms that you don’t understand?” A good number of the boys (I was the oldest among the prospective inductees) in the room laughed – at me. What the heck can you expect from cannon fodder.

 

I eventually beat the draft and forgot about the above incident. That is, until I read John Bolton’s 26 March 2015 op-ed “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran” in the New York Times (NYT).

 

Part II – 2015: Bolton’s Bombs

 

John Bolton is a neoconservative veteran of the George W. Bush era. His claims to fame, besides a real talent for temper tantrums, include serving as President Bush’s Under Secretary of State for Arms Control. In this capacity he undercut international efforts to limit such things as biological weapons. He also served as Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations. It would appear he was chosen for this post mainly because he despised the UN. Under George W. Bush the times were truly Orwellian. Finally – and this is what took me back to 1968 – Bolton’s op-ed demonstrated that he can’t tell the difference between his own opinion and fact.

 

Let’s analyse Bolton’s NYT op-ed:

 

First, Bolton is absolutely convinced that Iran will produce nuclear weapons. How does he know? Because “Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear weapons has long been evident.” To firm up his case he misleadingly tells us that “the president’s own director of National Intelligence [James Clapper] testified in 2014 that they [economic sanctions] had not stopped Iran’s progressing its nuclear program.” Yes, the quote is accurate, but Mr. Bolton’s use of it is not. As intelligence agencies, including those under Clapper, attest, the nuclear program Iran has been working on since 2003 is not a weapons program. Rather, it is one aimed at the production of energy and nuclear medical capabilities. Again, it should be emphasized that it is the consensus of all U.S. intelligence agencies, dating from 2011, and not 2007 as Bolton asserts, that there is no evidence that Iran seeks to build nuclear weapons. Today there is no evidence that would cause a change of view.

 

However, Mr. Bolton is so obsessed with bombs that, in the case of Iran, there is no difference between any sort of nuclear program and a weapons program. And, he obviously feels his opinion is more “true” than the estimates of professional intelligence agencies. It is a blindspot he shares with the Republican Party and other certain political leaders, such as Benjamin Netanyahu. Of course, it is exactly to ensure that Iran’s “progress” stays focused on non-weapon use of nuclear power that the present negotiations between the P5 + 1 and Iran are directed. But Bolton will never be satisfied. He “knows” the Iranians are out for weapons. Maybe he is psychic.

 

Second, Bolton claims that taking the negotiation or diplomatic path with Iran has triggered a nuclear arms race in the region. How does he know this? The Saudis tell him so. The governing oligarchy in Riyadh has already said that if the Shiite Iranians are building the bomb, they want nuclear weapons too. Like Bolton, the Saudis equate know-how with production. So Bolton tells us that we can expect the Saudis to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan – and it is all Iran’s fault. Hold on! Why shouldn’t it be Israel’s fault? Israel was the first country in the Middle East to actually build and stockpile nuclear weapons. In Bolton’s mind, apparently, that’s different. Bolton tells us “other states in the region understood … that Israel’s nukes were intended as a deterrent, not as an offensive measure. Iran is a different story.” This is a proposition for which Bolton offers no proof. Given Israel’s continuous history of aggressive expansion, just what is the Israeli stockpile deterring? After all, holding a nuclear weapon over other people’s heads while you conquer Arab land seems a very offensive use of “deterrence.” And sure “Iran is different story.” It doesn’t even own a nuclear weapon, much less a stockpile.

 

Third, John Bolton has an answer for all of this. Being a neoconservative who cut his teeth on undermining arms control, the answer is that “only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor … can accomplish what is required.” He goes on to detail the targets and the ultimate goal of his proposed aggression: “Rendering inoperable the Natanz and Fordow uranium-enrichment installations and the Arak heavy-water production facility and reactor would be priorities. So, too, would be the little-noticed but critical uranium-conversion facility at Isfahan. …The United States could do a thorough job of destruction, but Israel alone can do what’s necessary. Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran’s opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran.”

 

What this scenario actually proves is that Mr. Bolton has little capacity to think his schemes through. By his own admission such a bombing adventure would only “set back its [Iran’s] program three to five years,” meanwhile killing thousands, making a dangerous enemy of Iran for years to come and, last but not least, risking a war in the Persian Gulf that would seriously disrupt the world’s flow of oil. And let’s not forget that such an attack would, at the very least, disrupt Iran’s fight against ISIS, which is supporting an important U.S. interest.

 

As for Israel, Bolton is exaggerating. The Zionist state does not have the capacity to “do what’s necessary.” The distance between the two countries is prohibitive, and even if Israeli warplanes could get to Iran and back (say by refueling in, of all places, Saudi Arabia), the operation would take multiple sorties, during which the Israel stands to lose a good number of planes and pilots. In fact Prime Minister Netanyahu has sought to prepare the Israeli air force for an attack on Iran only to have his own military officers strongly object.

 

Part III – Sloppy Thinking

 

John Bolton’s op-ed to the New York Times is just a mess – a dangerous flight of fancy based on skewed opinions rather than hard evidence and facts. In what must have been a very weak moment while writing this piece, he actually admits that there is a “lack of palpable evidence” for his case. He then moves right ahead as if the absence of evidence and facts just do not matter.

 

And what are the facts? Well, the Iranians do have a certain level of nuclear know-how which has been turned toward energy production and medical use. They do not have a nuclear bomb and have repeatedly said they don’t want a nuclear bomb. They have stated that they have religious objections to moving in that direction and know that the use of such a weapon would be a suicidal act. Western governments, pressured by Zionist and other special interests, have decided that the Iranians are not trustworthy, and so draconian economic sanctions have been implemented. Now, negotiations to put in place mechanisms to ensure that the Iranians stay true to their word appear near completion.

 

However, just like that hard-nosed sergeant back in 1968, Bolton dismisses negotiations. Like the analytically deficient noncom at the induction center, he is much more comfortable with death and destruction. And indeed, given Bolton’s influence on the right, his public advocacy of a nuclear attack on Iran in 2009, and his having become a foreign policy advisor for presidential candidate Ted Cruz, he might be judged the most dangerous man in the U.S. – if it wasn’t for the fact that he has so much competition: all those Republican leaders in Congress beating their breasts and swearing that they are going to destroy the president’s one positive effort to make the world safer; the sharks at AIPAC who are determined, for the sake of Israel, to make war on Iran right down to the last American soldier; and untold millions of Christian Zionists who see any conflagration in the Middle East as a good thing because it brings closer the annihilation for which they positively yearn.

 

What is the New York Times doing publishing this nonsense? It seems to me when you accept a piece for an op-ed page it should be recognized as having been thought through and demonstrating some relation to reality. And, you should certainly make sure that it does not represent, as Robert Parry put it, an “incitement to murder and violation of international law.” I guess the NYT editors disagree.

The Special Interest Problem – An Analysis (27 October 2014) by Lawrence Davidson

Part I – A Problem with a History

The problem of special interests or lobbies was one of the foremost concerns of the Founding Fathers of the United States. In their day they were called factions. James Madison, who is considered the architect of the U.S. Constitution, devoted the entire tenth Federalist Paper (1787) to the problem. He defined a faction as “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority … actuated by some common … interest, adverse to … the aggregate interests of the community,” and believed that within the context of liberal republicanism, they could never be eliminated. However, he did feel they could be controlled. To this end he sought to create representative bodies with high numbers of delegates and a wide diversity of interests in the hope that they would counterbalance each other.

When George Washington delivered his famous Farewell Address in 1796, he too noted the problem. Washington warned of “combinations and associations” which attempt to “direct, control, counteract and awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities” and thereby substitute their own desires for the “delegated will of the nation.” As Washington’s continued concern implied, James Madison’s approach to controlling special interests or factions never proved adequate.

Part II – Lobbification

Today, the problem is still with us and is worse than ever. That is why in April 2011 I coined the word “lobbification” to describe the corruptive process that bends politicians to the will of special interests – that is, to the will of lobbies. The vehicle that makes this process possible is, of course, money, usually in the form of campaign contributions to a politician. If the politician defies the lobby making the offer (a rare event but not unheard of), that special interest will throw its support to the defiant politician’s electoral opponent. The result is that most politicians are in lockstep with the demands of multiple powerful special interests.

James Madison believed that this corruptive process is a consequence of human nature – self-interest in action. Perhaps that is so, but the results are no less debilitating. So Pavlovian are the responses created by lobbification that, today, politicians in this state of mind cannot tell the difference between the parochial interests of those powerful factions to which they are indebted and the actual national or local interests of their country or community.

Part III – Two Examples

Here are two recent examples of the power of lobbification. On 18 July 2014, acting in response to the urgings of the Zionist lobby, the U.S. Senate unanimously voted to support Israel’s ongoing attack on the Gaza Strip. This from a Congress known for its inability to agree on just about any legislation important to their own country! The senators voted their support even though the Israeli action was of the same character as the German attacks on London during the Blitz and the Allied destruction of the German city of Dresden toward the end of World War II. In other words, the Israelis were engaged in a large-scale operation targeting a civilian population. That is a war crime and cannot be justified as an act of self-defense. Yet the U.S. Senate, to a person, publicly supported this criminal behavior.

It might be noted here that there were serious divisions of opinion about Israeli behavior among the American public – that is, the Senate’s constituency. But the senators seemed immune from the popular debate and responded as if represented the Zionist lobby and not the American public.

On the domestic front, meaningful regulatory gun legislation, be it national or local, appears to be politically impossible because of the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA). This is so despite a proliferation of gun-related deaths and injuries in our homes, on our streets, and in our schools. The arguments of NRA supporters usually imply that regulation of firearms would be the death knell of hunting, of target shooting, and of gun collecting, and even the ability to act in self-defense. Yet rational and reasonable gun regulation is not the same as prohibition, and to act as if they are the same is, in my opinion, a paranoid point of view. Then there is the Second Amendment argument that allows many supporters of the NRA to fantasize that they are enrolled in a “well regulated militia” without which the U.S. can not remain a free society. Free from what? From the authoritarian potential of the state with its immensely better armed police and military branches? This is just naive. If the government wants to act in a dictatorial fashion, armed members of the NRA will not be able to stop it.

In truth, rational control of firearms does not threaten our freedom. It makes us freer by enhancing our safety from the growing plague of gun violence that NRA lobbying presently forces most of our politicians to ignore or deny.

Here it is important to note that the National Rifle Association leadership often fails to accurately represent its own membership, much less that of the general public. A 2013 Pew survey found that 74% of NRA members supported universal background checks for private gun sales (as did 94% of the general American public). Nonetheless, at the urging of the NRA the Senate voted against this requirement in the same year. As with the Zionist lobby and public concern over its particularistic foreign policy, many senators are immune from the popular debate on gun control and respond as if they represent the NRA lobby and not the American public.

Part IV – The Need for Regulation

Madison was right in one regard: regulation of the power of factions/special interests/lobbies to influence politicians and policies is an absolute necessity. However, here we run up against a real Catch 22 dilemma. That regulatory legislation, and other related efforts such as campaign finance reform, must come from the same politicians who are financially bound to special interests. Like those with a strong addiction, they seem unable to free themselves from the monkey on their back.

If there is a way out of this dilemma it must come from the general public. The long-standing dissatisfaction with politicians, especially on the national level, must be channeled into a popular campaign to free the legislators and policy makers from the influence of narrow interests. Think of this as an effort to clear away an historical obstacle to good governance. If this does not happen, the foreign policies that have promoted so much anti-American hostility worldwide, and the domestic policy that has allowed the indiscriminate murder of so many innocent citizens, will continue and indeed grow worse.

The New York Times Declares the Peace Process Futile – An Analysis (27 April 2014) by Lawrence Davidson 

 

Part I

 

In 1988 Yasser Arafat declared independence for Palestine based upon the notion of two states living in peace in historic Palestine. The border between those two states was to be set roughly at the armistice line established at the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The Palestinian state’s capital was to be located in East Jerusalem.

 

That was 26 years ago. Then on14 April 2014, the editorial board of the New York Times (NYT) decided that Arafat was correct and the “principles” that “must undergird a two-state solution” are those he had proposed. Of course the board did so without ever referencing the great Palestinian leader.

 

Not only does the NYT declare the pre-1967 border and a shared capital at Jerusalem necessary and valid, but it calls on the U.S. government to do the same: “It is time for the administration to lay down the principles … should the Israelis and the Palestinians ever decide to make peace.”

 

Part II

 

Before anyone gets too excited over this seeming miracle on Eighth Avenue (where the paper is headquartered), it should be noted that the NYT editorial board made this pronouncement at a point when its fulfillment was impossible. And the editorial board knew this was the case. “The pointless arguing over who brought the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to the brink of collapse is in full swing. The United States is still working to salvage the negotiations, but there is scant sign
of serious purpose. … President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry should move on and devote their attention to other major international challenges like Ukraine.”

 

Having reached this point in the editorial board’s text one starts to suspect that the board is being disingenuous. First of all, why is it “pointless” to discuss the reason these talks are collapsing? Secretary of State Kerry’s explanation (the famous “poof” heard around the world), made before Congress, lays blame right where it has always belonged – with Israeli acts of sabotage of those very principles the NYT now espouses. Why does the NYT say that stating this increasingly obvious fact is “pointless”?

 

It is also interesting that the editorial board suggests in what direction the subject should be changed – toward the “major international challenge” of Ukraine. I am not sure the board thought this suggestion through. After all, what is the core Western complaint about happenings in Ukraine? It is the Russian land grab in the Crimea as well as the alleged threat of more such moves in eastern Ukraine. Yet just how different is Russian behavior in this regard from that of Israel in the West Bank and Golan Heights? Obviously the NYT editors do not think it is “pointless” to to discuss land grabs when the Russians do it. It is only pointless when the Israelis do it.

 

The editorial board also surrounds its declaration of principles with an archaic effort to present Israel and the Palestinians as equally at fault. It is not only the Israelis who have decided against making peace, it is both the “Israelis and Palestinians.” It is not just “the obstinacy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” that is a problem. That “obstinacy” has to be coupled with “resistance from the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.” It is not just Israel which is unwilling to “move on to core issues,” it is “the two sides” that are unwilling. This insistence on dualism is an illusion hiding the fact that the two sides are not at all equal and, with the exception of the red-herring issue of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, ninety-nine percent of the obstinacy and all the resistance has been on one side – the Israeli side.

 

Part III

 

The NYT editorial board has the same problem as the Obama administration: they both know the truth but are unwilling to do something about it. They both know the problem is that the Israeli government is not interested in genuine peace (actually, has never been interested in it). Israel is only interested in continuing its conquest of Palestinian land. And thanks to the West, most particularly the United States, Israel has the military wherewithal to ignore not only the Palestinian protests but also those of the rest of the world.

 

Both the U.S. government and the U.S. “newspaper of record” refuse to act on their knowledge of Israel’s history of sabotage and call for punitive action against a nation that is hurting U.S. national interests in an important part of the world. Their main concern is to avoid a confrontation with Zionist lobbyists and NYT advertisers whose devotion to Israel is wholly uncritical. This appears to still be the most favored position even though standing firm over negotiations with Iran has proved the Zionists are not omnipotent.

 

It’s that old two steps forward, one step backward shuffle: heading in the right direction while ensuring we never reach the proper destination.

Is Iran the Real Problem? – An Analysis (4 February 2014) by Lawrence Davidson

 

 

 

Part I – Setting Up Iran

 

The investigative reporter and author Gareth Porter has recently published a book entitled A Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. An impressively written and researched work, it is also frightening in its implications. For if Porter’s allegations are accurate, it is not Iran that the American people should fear – it is their own politicians, bureaucrats and an “ally” named Israel.

 

According to Porter, there has never been a serious nuclear weapons program undertaken by Iran. By the way, this is a conclusion that is supported by the heads of all American intelligence agencies reporting annually to Congress. Unfortunately, this repeated determination has been scorned by the politicians and poorly reported by the media. As a result the American people lack the knowledge to independently judge Iranian actions as regards nuclear research, and so can be led to erroneous conclusions by those pursuing their own political or ideological ends or, as in the present case, the intrigues of a foreign government. 

 

Part II – Needing an Enemy

 

Following the end of the Cold War, the U.S. foreign relations, military and “defense” bureaucracies quickly focused on the issue of terrorism. And well they might, for their own policies of backing all manner of right-wing dictatorships had identified the U.S. as an enemy of almost every resistance movement on the planet. These wrongheaded policies provoked violent responses, including the attacks of September 11, 2001. From that point on, the threat of terrorist attacks, particularly involving “weapons of mass destruction,” or WMDs, became the main selling point of every bureaucrat, politician and soldier looking for a bigger “defense” budget. President George W. Bush was the main promoter of this line of thinking and the invasion of Iraq the major corresponding catastrophe. Memories of that disaster, so expensive in lives and treasure, along with the lingering war in Afghanistan, have caused a war-weariness among the American people that may be their ultimate saving grace. 

 

Part III – Enter the Zionists

 

With Iraq in shambles and no longer a “threat,” the attention of American policy makers turned to Iran. Forgetting all about the horrible blunder our neoconservative President Bush and his advisors had made over Iraqi WMDs, an even larger coalition of political forces started a slow buildup of popular anxiety over Iranian nuclear research. But where was the evidence? For this, one can always rely on the Israelis.

 

Porter describes how successive Israeli governments exaggerated the threat of Iran in order to, among other things, rationalize their own expansionist ambitions and bind the United States government ever closer to Israeli interests. In 2004 a laptop, allegedly taken from an Iranian scientist, was given by the Israelis to U.S. intelligence agents. Since 2008 much of the so-called evidence for an Iranian nuclear weapons program has come from material on this computer. Porter makes a convincing argument that these data, as well as additional material, are Israeli forgeries. 

 

Despite the fact that Iran has satisfied both the American intelligence services and the International Atomic Energy Agency that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons development, U.S. politicians and media refuse to let the matter go. Hence the recent spectacle of the U.S. Senate presenting an almost veto-proof bill demanding yet more sanctions on Iran, despite the likelihood that such an act would ruin diplomatic negotiations and make hostilities all the more likely. One has to ask in whose interest is such an obsessive anti-Iranian stance? Not the interest of the United States. Indeed, the Senate gambit started to unravel when President Obama implied that the demand for more sanctions on Iran threatened U.S. national interests.

 

Part IV – On the Ground in Iran

 

I recently spent eleven days in Iran as part of group of Academics for Peace (a subdivision of Conscience International), returning to the U.S. on January 29. On the ground in that country is a mix of optimism and anxiety. Some Iranians feel persecuted by the U.S. government. They can’t understand why sanctions have been imposed upon them.They like American people and look forward to a return of the tourist trade, but the behavior of the U.S. government is often a mystery to them. 

 

As is so often the case, U.S.-sponsored sanctions have hurt ordinary people with no influence on policy. The sanctions have resulted in inflation, higher rates of pollution, less-safe civilian aircraft, shortages of some medical supplies, the isolation of Iranian banks, and the reduction of exports.  A Gallop poll taken in Iran in late in 2013 showed that 85% of respondents felt that sanctions had hurt their standard of living. On the other hand, other countries, such as China, have taken advantage of the Western refusal to deal with Iran. Presently the country is full of Chinese businessmen and their inexpensive imports. 

 

The Obama administration’s willingness to finally take up Iran’s offer to negotiate differences (one should remember President Khatami’s spurned offer made in 2003) has raised great hopes. Many Iranians are simply holding their breath hoping for that elusive final comprehensive agreement between Iran and the P5 + 1 powers (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany).

 

One should also note that there are a minority of Iranians, mostly technicians, scientists and some businessmen, who are of a mixed mind when it comes to sanctions. On the one hand, banking and export limitations are a real economic hindrance. And, for all of those in the West concerned with the free flow of information, there seems to be an ongoing ban against Iranian scholars by American scholarly journals. On the other hand, there are Iranians who find at least some of the sanctions genuinely beneficial. The fact is that Iran has become a lot more self-sufficient under the sanctions and these people don’t want to see the country lose that edge. The government is developing industrial and research parks to keep its R&D pace going. But what will happen when and if the sanctions go away? Will the Iran’s economy get sucked into the neoliberal vortex of the Western marketplace?  

 

While there are sanction-related problems, the Iranian economy has not been stilled. In the capital of Tehran, along with the traffic congestion and air pollution, there are a myriad  building projects. These are not signs of a society shriveling on the vine. To go beyond the present level of sanctions and impose the ever more draconian measures proposed by the U.S. Senate comes close to an act of war.   

 

Iran is not like the United States. The women cover their hair in public and men do not wear ties. Most of the time men do not shake hands with women, nor is affection shown between sexes in public.The government is different too. While there is an elected president and parliament, there is also a Supreme Leader who has the last say on most matters. However, unlike those leaders in the U.S., Iran’s leadership has not yet misled their people into foreign wars. 

 

Part V – Conclusion

 

The “Iranian problem” is really a U.S. problem. It points up very deep flaws in the U.S. political system, where money is legally considered “free speech” and policy formation often follows the wishes of the highest bidder. We have too many built-in incentives for war in this country: a military-industrial complex that employs millions, both Democratic and Republican politicians who find political success in supporting “defense” contractors, neoconservative ideologues who want the U.S. to militarily dominate the globe, self-interested bureaucrats whose budgets depend on an endless array of alleged threats, and special interest lobbies tied to foreign powers seeking to turn American aggressiveness toward targets of their own choosing. The outcome is often policies that kill and maim millions. It is only the present war-weariness of the American people that, for now, holds all of this destructive influence at bay. 

 

The only reasonable conclusion is that Gareth Porter’s portrayal of the conflict with Iran stands true. And, as a consequence, the American people have far less to worry about with Iran than they do with the machinations of many of their own leaders.

 

Is Iran the Real Problem? – An Analysis (4 February 2014) by Lawrence Davidson

 

 

 

Part I – Setting Up Iran

 

The investigative reporter and author Gareth Porter has recently published a book entitled A Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. An impressively written and researched work, it is also frightening in its implications. For if Porter’s allegations are accurate, it is not Iran that the American people should fear – it is their own politicians, bureaucrats and an “ally” named Israel.

 

According to Porter, there has never been a serious nuclear weapons program undertaken by Iran. By the way, this is a conclusion that is supported by the heads of all American intelligence agencies reporting annually to Congress. Unfortunately, this repeated determination has been scorned by the politicians and poorly reported by the media. As a result the American people lack the knowledge to independently judge Iranian actions as regards nuclear research, and so can be led to erroneous conclusions by those pursuing their own political or ideological ends or, as in the present case, the intrigues of a foreign government. 

 

Part II – Needing an Enemy

 

Following the end of the Cold War, the U.S. foreign relations, military and “defense” bureaucracies quickly focused on the issue of terrorism. And well they might, for their own policies of backing all manner of right-wing dictatorships had identified the U.S. as an enemy of almost every resistance movement on the planet. These wrongheaded policies provoked violent responses, including the attacks of September 11, 2001. From that point on, the threat of terrorist attacks, particularly involving “weapons of mass destruction,” or WMDs, became the main selling point of every bureaucrat, politician and soldier looking for a bigger “defense” budget. President George W. Bush was the main promoter of this line of thinking and the invasion of Iraq the major corresponding catastrophe. Memories of that disaster, so expensive in lives and treasure, along with the lingering war in Afghanistan, have caused a war-weariness among the American people that may be their ultimate saving grace. 

 

Part III – Enter the Zionists

 

With Iraq in shambles and no longer a “threat,” the attention of American policy makers turned to Iran. Forgetting all about the horrible blunder our neoconservative President Bush and his advisors had made over Iraqi WMDs, an even larger coalition of political forces started a slow buildup of popular anxiety over Iranian nuclear research. But where was the evidence? For this, one can always rely on the Israelis.

 

Porter describes how successive Israeli governments exaggerated the threat of Iran in order to, among other things, rationalize their own expansionist ambitions and bind the United States government ever closer to Israeli interests. In 2004 a laptop, allegedly taken from an Iranian scientist, was given by the Israelis to U.S. intelligence agents. Since 2008 much of the so-called evidence for an Iranian nuclear weapons program has come from material on this computer. Porter makes a convincing argument that these data, as well as additional material, are Israeli forgeries. 

 

Despite the fact that Iran has satisfied both the American intelligence services and the International Atomic Energy Agency that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons development, U.S. politicians and media refuse to let the matter go. Hence the recent spectacle of the U.S. Senate presenting an almost veto-proof bill demanding yet more sanctions on Iran, despite the likelihood that such an act would ruin diplomatic negotiations and make hostilities all the more likely. One has to ask in whose interest is such an obsessive anti-Iranian stance? Not the interest of the United States. Indeed, the Senate gambit started to unravel when President Obama implied that the demand for more sanctions on Iran threatened U.S. national interests.

 

Part IV – On the Ground in Iran

 

I recently spent eleven days in Iran as part of group of Academics for Peace (a subdivision of Conscience International), returning to the U.S. on January 29. On the ground in that country is a mix of optimism and anxiety. Some Iranians feel persecuted by the U.S. government. They can’t understand why sanctions have been imposed upon them.They like American people and look forward to a return of the tourist trade, but the behavior of the U.S. government is often a mystery to them. 

 

As is so often the case, U.S.-sponsored sanctions have hurt ordinary people with no influence on policy. The sanctions have resulted in inflation, higher rates of pollution, less-safe civilian aircraft, shortages of some medical supplies, the isolation of Iranian banks, and the reduction of exports.  A Gallop poll taken in Iran in late in 2013 showed that 85% of respondents felt that sanctions had hurt their standard of living. On the other hand, other countries, such as China, have taken advantage of the Western refusal to deal with Iran. Presently the country is full of Chinese businessmen and their inexpensive imports. 

 

The Obama administration’s willingness to finally take up Iran’s offer to negotiate differences (one should remember President Khatami’s spurned offer made in 2003) has raised great hopes. Many Iranians are simply holding their breath hoping for that elusive final comprehensive agreement between Iran and the P5 + 1 powers (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany).

 

One should also note that there are a minority of Iranians, mostly technicians, scientists and some businessmen, who are of a mixed mind when it comes to sanctions. On the one hand, banking and export limitations are a real economic hindrance. And, for all of those in the West concerned with the free flow of information, there seems to be an ongoing ban against Iranian scholars by American scholarly journals. On the other hand, there are Iranians who find at least some of the sanctions genuinely beneficial. The fact is that Iran has become a lot more self-sufficient under the sanctions and these people don’t want to see the country lose that edge. The government is developing industrial and research parks to keep its R&D pace going. But what will happen when and if the sanctions go away? Will the Iran’s economy get sucked into the neoliberal vortex of the Western marketplace?  

 

While there are sanction-related problems, the Iranian economy has not been stilled. In the capital of Tehran, along with the traffic congestion and air pollution, there are a myriad  building projects. These are not signs of a society shriveling on the vine. To go beyond the present level of sanctions and impose the ever more draconian measures proposed by the U.S. Senate comes close to an act of war.   

 

Iran is not like the United States. The women cover their hair in public and men do not wear ties. Most of the time men do not shake hands with women, nor is affection shown between sexes in public.The government is different too. While there is an elected president and parliament, there is also a Supreme Leader who has the last say on most matters. However, unlike those leaders in the U.S., Iran’s leadership has not yet misled their people into foreign wars. 

 

Part V – Conclusion

 

The “Iranian problem” is really a U.S. problem. It points up very deep flaws in the U.S. political system, where money is legally considered “free speech” and policy formation often follows the wishes of the highest bidder. We have too many built-in incentives for war in this country: a military-industrial complex that employs millions, both Democratic and Republican politicians who find political success in supporting “defense” contractors, neoconservative ideologues who want the U.S. to militarily dominate the globe, self-interested bureaucrats whose budgets depend on an endless array of alleged threats, and special interest lobbies tied to foreign powers seeking to turn American aggressiveness toward targets of their own choosing. The outcome is often policies that kill and maim millions. It is only the present war-weariness of the American people that, for now, holds all of this destructive influence at bay. 

 

The only reasonable conclusion is that Gareth Porter’s portrayal of the conflict with Iran stands true. And, as a consequence, the American people have far less to worry about with Iran than they do with the machinations of many of their own leaders.

 

A Victory for Diplomacy – An Analysis (2 December 2013) by Lawrence Davidson

 

 

Part I – The Diplomatic Deal with Iran

 

By now most readers know that the five permanent member nations of the UN Security Council – the United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom – plus Germany,  (referred to as the P5+1) have reached a six-month interim diplomatic settlement with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Within this six-month period the P5+1 powers and Iran will seek to conclude a permanent and comprehensive agreement. Readers may also know what Iran has to do according to the agreement, because most of the Western media have repeatedly listed those terms. Either skimmed over or skipped altogether are those things the P5+1 have to do for Iran.  Here is a brief synopsis of the agreement:

 

For the next six months Iran has undertaken to:

 

– Limit its uranium enrichment program to the 5% level – the level suitable for nuclear power plant fuel – while diluting its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium to below the 5% level. The 20% enriched uranium was used by Iran for medical treatment and research, but the paranoia of the Western powers caused it to be seen as fuel for nuclear weapons.

 

– Hold to present level the size of its low-enriched (5%) stockpile.

 

– Halt efforts to produce plutonium (a particularly efficient nuclear weapons material).

 

– Limit its use of present centrifuges and not construct future ones. The centrifuges are the devices that take “uranium gas” and concentrate it into nuclear fuel. It is the through calibration of the centrifuges that the percentage of enrichment is determined.

 

– Allow daily inspections of its nuclear facilities. 

 

There are other obligations as well, but these are the principal ones. All of these demands are a reflection of the obsessive conviction of influential and noisy elements in the West, and particularly on the part of the Zionist-influenced U.S. Congress, that Iran is determined to produce nuclear weapons. This obsession has persisted even though Western intelligence agencies repeatedly testified that there was and is no evidence for this assertion. Essentially, this entire affair is the product of unsubstantiated right-wing Zionist anxiety, which in turn has infected pro-Zionist elements in the West.  

 

The fact that this suspicion of Iran has been built up around a fantasy made it easier for the Islamic Republic to agree to the present deal. They never did plan to build a bomb, so giving up the imaginary program was giving up nothing. On the other hand, what Iran is worried about are matters of principle. For instance, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has a legal right to enrich uranium. It wants that right recognized. Accepting an enrichment process to the 5% level appears sufficiently face-saving for Tehran to agree to the interim settlement. 

 

So what did Iran get in return?  For the next six months the P5+1powers and particularly the United States have undertaken to:

 

– Impose no new sanctions on Iran.

 

– Suspend present sanctions on (a) gold and precious metals (b) Iran’s auto sector, and (c) Iran’s petrochemical exports. This should give Iran up to $1.5 billion in revenue. 

 

– Cease interference with Iranian oil exports at their present levels. 

 

– Allow for safety-related repairs and inspections for Iranian airlines. 

 

– Release frozen Iranian funds earmarked to pay the tuition of Iranian students attending colleges in third countries. 

 

– Facilitate humanitarian transactions (such as Iran’s importation of medicine), which, even though not covered in the sanctions, had been periodically made difficult by U.S. government bureaucrats. 

 

It is a sign of just how malicious the West can be that they are willing to make difficult for Iran such things as airline safety, education and medicine. 

 

Part II – The Managed Reporting of the Deal   

 

One of the remarkable things about the Western reporting of this very significant diplomatic achievement – after all the U.S. and Iran have had no formal relations for some 33 years – is that it largely ignores Western obligations under the agreement. Even al-Jazeera America’s coverage was scanty in this regard. Why would this be so?

 

One can only assume that having harped on Iran as a danger to the West for 33 years, and created the an irrational fear of a nonexistent Iranian nuclear weapons program, the U.S. government and its media partners had to frame the agreement in a way that put the onus on Iran. 

 

The Obama administration is stuck with the consequences of those 33 years. Iran has long been the centerpiece in a near-hysterical campaign by Zionists and neoconservatives that portrays the Muslim world as the successor to the old Soviet Union. Communism has been replaced by Islam, and now that the U.S. is supposedly the only real superpower in the world, the message of this campaign is that the United States should act in a preemptive way and use its military and economic power to stamp out  alleged real and potential threats. This was the doctrine of the George W. Bush administration, and it led to the disastrous invasion of Iraq. This is the doctrine of the American Zionists who are interested in destroying any Muslim power that may someday challenge Israel.

 

President Obama’s failure to follow this doctrine, at least in the case of Iran, has made him a target for these warmongers. Reporting the interim agreement with Iran in way that emphasizes Iranian obligations while playing down those of the United States and the West is a tactic to counter the hysteria on the right.  

 

And hysteria is the operative word here. It betrays itself in ridiculous historical comparisons and vicious name-calling. Take for example the hyperbole of Daniel Pipes. Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum and publisher of the Middle East Quarterly, both sounding boards for the Zionist worldview. In an article appearing in the right-wing National Review Pipes writes, “This wretched deal offers one of those rare occasions when comparison with Neville Chamberlain in Munich in 1938 is valid.” This is utter nonsense. 

 

In 1938 the populations of Britain and France wanted peace and their politicians were willing to allow Hitler to act in warlike fashion toward a third party, Czechoslovakia, in order to get what they thought was “peace in our time.” 

 

Today the Western populations have been brought to a state of high suspicion of Iran which is just barely countered by their being sick and tired of war in the Middle East. That is one of the reasons the  Iran deal is proceeding in steps.   

 

There is absolutely no basis for comparison between Munich and the deal just made with Iran. At Munich, Germany was turned loose. In the present deal Iran is not let loose but constrained. After Munich there were no inspectors running around Nazi Germany checking on things. In Iran there is now a small army of inspectors. After Munich no one was telling Hitler that if he didn’t behave, the alternative was war. That is what Obama’s speeches imply. The present deal is, in these ways, the complete opposite of Munich.  

 

What sort of world does Pipes live in that he  misreads the situation so dramatically? It is an Orwellian world warped by Zionist ideology.  

 

Since these ideologues have opened the door to ugly comparisons, let’s get something straight here. It is not the case that Barack Obama is like Neville Chamberlain. It is, however, the case that the neocons and their ilk remind one of Adolf Hitler, at least when it comes to manufacturing false scenarios for war and then relentlessly selling them to the public. Then, when they are checked, they display the same exaggerated, temper tantrum-like hysterics as did the fascist leaders of the 1930s. So, if anyone is looking for the real threat to Western or Israeli security (existential or otherwise), it is these ideologically blinkered neoconservatives and Zionists along with their media allies. 

 

Part III – Conclusion

 

The interim deal with Iran is an act of sanity, and the present American administration, whatever other foreign policy shortcomings it has displayed (and there have been plenty) deserves praise for defying the radical right and pushing it through. As to the deal’s detractors in and out of Congress, they are the warmongers among us and deserve to be exposed as such. They are a danger to the world and to their own country. Keep in mind the words of James Madison: “if tyranny and oppression come to this land it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.” 

 

Still Staying Sober – An Analysis (14 October 2013) by Lawrence Davidson

 

 

Part I – Good News 

 

On 22 May 2013 I wrote an analysis titled “Staying Sober.” It recounted two news stories that drew many hopeful comments from progressives. One was about the New York-based federal judge who placed an injunction on the U.S. government’s practice of indefinite detention. The other was the momentary success of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli prisons at attaining some relief from their intolerable conditions. They too were protesting, among other things, that country’s version of indefinite detention. 

 

I noted that these were battles won and precedents to take heart from. They showed what was possible through determined opposition against unjust state practices. However, winning battles is not equivalent to winning wars, so it would be wise to celebrate soberly, knowing the struggles were not over. As it turned out, that was good advice. The New York judge’s injunction was overturned on appeal and the behavior of the Israelis quickly reverted to the status quo ante. 

 

Today we are in a similar situation. Again we have two news stories that have raised the hopes of progressives. The first is the decision of U.S. President Obama and Iranian President Rouhani to engage diplomatically, a step which represents a setback for the influence of the Zionist lobby. The second report is about a poll indicating that a near majority of American Jews think the Israeli government is not serious about peace with the Palestinians. Again, while both developments show movement in the right direction – movement that progressives can help sustain – it would be wise to stay sober.

 

Part II – The Diplomatic Approach to Iran

 

The most immediately uplifting event was President Obama’s diplomatic approach to Iran. I was quite impressed with the president’s move in this direction and said so in an analysis posted on 5 October 2013. However, others have seen this move as a possible “radical reforging of American foreign policy.”  While a delightful thought, I think this is highly unlikely. Consider the following:  

 

— One of the things that makes this move so surprising and welcome to progressives is that it defies very powerful opposition. But of course that opposition will not simply give up. The neocons and Zionist devotees are still out there and are working overtime to sabotage this rare act of sanity in foreign policy. What really stands in their way is the publicly recognized popular opposition to another war, particularly in the Middle East. That’s great. However, progressives will have to continue to work hard to keep it that way because the public is fickle and vulnerable to media propaganda.

 

— It is one thing to get to the negotiating table and another to have the political wherewithal and courage to make the reasonable compromises necessary for a successful settlement. The Iranians want their rights recognized and sanctions lifted. Getting Congress to go along with that will take visible public demand. Progressives will have to find a way to help realize that demand. 

 

Part III – American Jewish Attitude Toward Israel

 

recent Pew Research Center poll of American Jews found that nearly half (48 percent) “do not think that the current Israeli government is making a sincere effort to bring about a peace settlement.” Forty-four percent agree that “the continued building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank hurts Israel’s security.” Actually, given the obvious nature of these facts, it is a wonder that the percentages aren’t much higher. Nonetheless, questionable conclusions have been drawn from this poll by both Zionists and those critical of Zionist behavior. Consider the following:

 

— Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League (an avid Zionist organization), tends to exaggerate the negative message (as he sees it) of the poll. He dismissed this near majority of critical Jews as those who “do not care” about Israel. He declared that they are not his constituency. Only those who “do care” – that is, the Israel right or wrong crowd – are the ones he will pay attention to. Well, that is convenient for Foxman. He will only listen to those who agree with him and, so, he can go blissfully into the future guided by the logical fallacy of confirmation bias.  

 

Of course, this is a gamble on Foxman’s part. The number of American Jews (which, by the way, includes an increasing number of Israeli expatriates) who are more or less alienated from Israeli policy is growing. Groups that seek to co-opt this process, like J Street and Taglit-Birthright, might slow it but they cannot stop it, much less reverse it, as long as Israel remains a racist and expansionist country. On the other hand, as long as those “who care” have the money to fund the Zionist lobby sufficiently to buy the support of Congress, Foxman’s narrow worldview of Israel uber alles (Israel “more than anything else”) will not wholly collapse.  

 

— Those who see great positive significance in the Pew poll might also be off the mark. For instance, Juan Cole, a Middle East historian and well-known blogger whose opinions are usually very accurate, tends to exaggerate the positive importance of the Pew results. In Cole’s opinion the Zionist-oriented American Jewish establishment no longer represents most of the country’s Jews. Here, I think, Cole is correct. However, his conclusion that the Zionist lobby can therefore “most often be safely defied” by politicians and other policy makers is probably incorrect. Cole’s proposition would be true if counting Jewish voters was the sole antidote for fear and trembling induced by the Zionist lobby. 

 

However, those Jewish voters critical of Israel are not organized into a lobby that can compete with the Zionists. There is no indication that they are ready to punish politicians who support racist Israel by denying them their votes.  And they are not so rich as to be able to help others compete with the Zionists in buying Congressional votes. In other words, the Jewish opinions reflected in the Pew poll offer insufficient cover for those politicians who want to defy Zionist lobby power. 

 

It is only when these critical Jews are joined by millions of non-Jewish voters that the potential of overcoming the Zionist lobby becomes real. That is what happened in the cases of Syria and Iran, when public opposition to hostile action and war gave politicians the cover they needed to defy Zionist political clout. 

 

Part IV – Staying Sober

 

At the end of my May 2013 analysis, I drew the following conclusion: “On the up side, the news stories analyzed here demonstrate that battles against even the most entrenched and powerful of foes can be won. To win wars, however, is another thing altogether. … It should sober us all to realize that it will take staying power – the sort of staying power that has already kept many other struggles for rights and justice going for decades if not generations.”

 

The power of special interests and their abilities to turn politicians and government bureaucracies to their own purposes is probably as old as civilization itself. We have to face that and be prepared to fight not just the current battle, but recurrent battles into the indefinite future. We must train our children to fight those battles.  The British parliamentarian Barbara Castle put it this way: “I will fight for what I believe in until I drop dead. And that’s what keeps me alive.”

 

Zionism versus Diplomacy and Peace – An Analysis (5 October 2013) by Lawrence Davidson

 

 Hassan Rouhani

 

Part I – Moderate Iran

 

Iran’s new and more moderate President Hassan Rouhani came to the United Nations at the end of September. Amidst numerous interviews and diplomatic discussions, his message was clear: no, Iran will not give up its legal right to enrich uranium and no, Iran will not develop nuclear weapons. According to Rouhani, Iran is willing to prove this second point by “ensuring full transparency [of its nuclear program] under international law.” In exchange for doing so, Iran will demand “a total lifting” of international sanctions. In truth, this has been the position of the Iranian government for years. As far back as 2005 Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei declared that nuclear weapons violated Islamic law and Iran would not construct them. It primarily has been due to pressure from the Israelis and their Zionist lobby in Washington that U.S. politicians have refused to believe these Iranian assertions. 

 

To overcome this lobby-induced skepticism, President Rouhani has switched from the in-your-face behavior that characterized his predecessor, Mahmoud Amadinejad, to a more tactful, forthcoming approach. At least for now this shift has borne fruit. There was the recent historic fifteen-minute phone call between him and President Obama, as well as a brief meeting between Secretary of State Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. According to Kerry, Zarif “put some possibilities on the table,” and this has led to a scheduled round of “substantive talks” between Iran and the main Western nations in Geneva on October 15-16.

 

Part II – A Favorable White House Response

 

What has loosened the grip of lobby power and allowed the Obama administration to meet the Iranian initiative favorably? Certainly Rouhani’s so-called charm offensive helped, but it can’t be the only reason. More fundamentally, the likelihood that a U.S attack on Syria would end in a debacle and the overwhelming popular opinion against such action set the scene for this latest turn toward diplomacy with Iran. According to a Washington Post opinion poll, 85% of Americans want better relations with Iran. That is the type of political ammunition that can do successful battle with selfish special interest pressure.  

 

As politician and president, Obama has been caught between a desire to avoid war with Iran, a war that would almost certainly harm the Western world’s economy, and the political pressure of the powerful American Zionist lobby. The Zionists ultimately seek to ensure that U.S. policy falls in line with Israel’s desires to see Iran destroyed. This Zionist position reflects the distorted view of Israeli interests held by its ideologically myopic, militaristic elite, but it conflicts with the long-term interests of the United States. If nothing else, the disastrous foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration demonstrated that American interests cannot possibly be served by starting a war with dangerous and unpredictable consequences against a country that has never been a direct threat to the U.S. Obama knows this and, occasional rhetoric aside, has been hesitant and cautious in his approach to Iran.  

 

The fact that he does not have to face reelection has positioned Obama to better separate out Israeli and American interests when it comes to Iran. American public opinion, first in the case of the Syrian episode and now in the case of Iran, has encouraged him to do so. 

 

However, not all U.S. politicians enjoy this position. As M. J. Rosenberg tells us in a piece entitled “Will AIPAC Defeat Obama on Iran?” many in Congress still stand exposed to Zionist pressure. Rosenberg asserts that “the Netanyahu government and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) are both determined to end the process [toward settlement with Iran] and have the ability to do it.” How so? “They intend to use the United States Congress [to] pass resolutions that will cause Rouhani to walk away by making it clear that Congress will accept nothing short of Iranian surrender on nuclear issues.” And indeed, the usual suspects in Congress, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who in a more rational world would be recognized as part-time agents of a foreign power (Israel), are already formulating resolutions and legislation to promote war. 

 

Rosenberg notes that, ultimately, it is money that suborns the Congress. Why, he asks, would any in Congress pass measures that go against the interests of their own country and risk involvement in yet another Middle Eastern war? “The answer is simply that the midterm elections are coming up and that means members of Congress need campaign cash. And AIPAC provides it.” Fortunately, there is a catch to this rather corrupt process. The alliance between the politicians and the Zionist lobby depends on a passive citizenry that does not threaten electoral defeat of politicians who promote special interest wars when the voters want peace. Right now, the voters do not seem very passive.  

 

Part III – Zionist Blindness 

 

The American Zionists take their marching orders from Israel’s leaders and  seem oblivious to this development. In his speech to the UN, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed no interest in compromise with Iran. He dismissed President Rouhani’s diplomatic efforts as deceitful, interpreted every Iranian defensive military move as an offensive threat, and let it be known that Israel wants sanctions to continue and to be backed with threats of hostile action.  

 

The prime minister insists that he takes this stance to protect the interests of Israel. However, Netanyahu seems to have never considered the fact that by having the Zionist lobby pressure Washington to do his military dirty work, he makes the whole affair the interest of every American citizen. Insofar as the Israelis and their Zionist agents increase the likelihood of yet more wars, they expose their allies in the Congress to a political reaction that risks their defeat the first moment they have an opponent willing to follow the public’s demand for diplomacy and peace.

 

Part IV – Conclusion

 

Political Zionists are ideologues, and therefore if something does not happen to call into question their ideology, they will go on believing they are in the right even up to and through the gates of Hell. This blinkered mindset is sometimes called “motivated reasoning,” or more broadly “confirmation bias.” As explained by author Michael Shermer,  people who think this way refuse to consider or give any credit to data that does not “fit their creed.” That describes Benjamin Netanyahu perfectly.

 

Members of Congress who consistently support the political Zionist position are usually motivated by something other than ideology. They are motivated by money. That does not necessarily make them bad people, it just makes them slaves to a bad political system. The ability to call into question their financial allegiance to the Zionists is readily possible when a publicly recognized difference evolves between the desires of the voters who put them in office and the desires of this particular special interest. That now seems to be happening in the case of U.S. foreign policy toward Iran. 

 

Of course, the Zionists did this to themselves. They pushed and pushed for U.S. hostilities against Iran and assumed that they had no real opposition except a weakling president. They were wrong. Their opposition was nationwide, but they were blinded to it by their “motivated reasoning” and their hubris. As for President Obama, he seems to have finally found his courage amidst popular demands for peace and diplomacy. Let’s hope this all too rare condition of sanity lasts.

Congress and the Imperial Presidency Debate Syria – An Analysis (3 September 2013) by Lawrence Davidson

 

 

Part I – The President Goes to Congress

 

President Obama has sidestepped the political hole he had dug for himself (what we might call the “red line” hole) over his proposed attack on Syria. Having insisted there must be “consequences” for a breach of international law, specifically the alleged use of banned chemical weapons by the Syrian government, he was faced with both popular American reluctance to support military action and Congressional pique over not being included in the decision process.

 

As a consequence President Obama announced on 31 August 2013 that he now supports a Congressional debate and vote on the issue of attacking Syria. Then he told us how he sees the situation, “This [Syrian chemical] attack is an assault on human dignity…. It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons…. Ultimately this is not about who occupies this [White House] office at any given time, its about who we are as a country.” 

 

Part II – The U.S. and Chemical Weapons

 

For all I know, the president really believes his own words, but I am pretty sure his implied question of “who we are as a country” is meant to be rhetorical. If one was to give an evidence-based answer to that inquiry, as it relates to chemical weapons, it would be embarrassing in the extreme. Lest we forget, the U.S. defoliated parts of Vietnam with a chemical weapon called Agent Orange and by its use killed a lot more than large swaths of jungle. Agent Orange killed and maimed an estimated 400,000 Vietnamese and an estimated half a million children have subsequently been born deformed. It also did a fatal job on many of the American troops that handled the stuff. Later, the U.S. sold chemical and biological weapons-grade material to Saddam Hussein and followed up by helping his army aim the stuff accurately at Iranian troops. Saddam also used it on the Iraqi Kurds. Then there is the fact that our “very special friend,” Israel, used phosphorous bombs (a banned chemical weapon) on the civilians of Gaza. At the time Israel did this, President Obama occupied the oval office. I don’t remember him displaying any moral angst or positioning U.S. ships in the eastern Mediterranean with cruise missiles aimed at Israeli airbases. The truth is that during all of these episodes no one in the government worried (at least publicly) about what our actions or lack thereof, said about what sort of country this is.

 

However, this question does deserve a direct answer. What sort of country is the U.S. in relation to the use of chemical weapons? The kindest answer one can give is it is a bloody hypocritical nation.  

 

Part III – Back to Congress

 

Nonetheless, sending the issue of a possible attack on Syria to Congress is a timely political move for the president. It puts off having to face the dilemma of taking military action that cannot both constitute meaningful punishment for the violation of international law and, at the same time, keep the U.S. from becoming ever more deeply embroiled in the Syrian civil war.

 

It also could be a good political move for the U.S. as a whole because it creates a good precedent. Having Congress debate and vote on the issue of military action against Syria could help resuscitate the moribund War Powers Act. Although Obama claims he has the authority to launch an attack no matter what Congress decides, he would be politically hard pressed to do so if the legislators said don’t do it. Thus the maneuver might narrow the otherwise rapidly expanding powers of the imperial presidency. Of course, none of this means that Congress can’t be scared or otherwise bamboozled into giving the president the power to do something militarily stupid. Vietnam and Iraq stand as powerful precedents in that regard.

 

There is another very interesting potential consequence of the president’s going to Congress. It might create a situation where there is a publicly noticeable difference between the express desires of a majority of the voting population and the special interests now encouraging military action against Syria. In my last analysis I laid out the idea that in the interim between elections, the influence of powerful special interests have much more to say about policy than do the voters, most of whom pay little attention to foreign policy. Now, however, we have a rare moment when the populace is paying attention and polls indicate that a healthy majority do not want further intervention in the Middle East. Who will the Congress respond to in the upcoming debate and vote, their special interest constituents or the voting kind?

 

Part IV – Conclusion

 

Of course, the notion that the President of the United States, with or without Congressional approval, has the authority to act as the world’s “policeman” and punish violators of international laws, that it itself flaunts, is offensive and dangerous. There are international institutions in place such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) that, imperfect as they are, can be used to prosecute violations such as the use of banned weapons. (It is to be noted that the cause of “human dignity” would be greatly advanced if the U.S. would stop refusing to ratify the treaty empowering the ICC).  

 

How do you characterize a situation where one or a small number of community members takes it upon themselves to go outside the law to punish alleged wrongdoers? Here in the U.S. this is known as “vigilante justice.” Most often this sort of behavior  results is a “lynching” based on little or no reliable evidence. 

 

President Obama’s going to Congress will not change the vigilante nature of U.S. intentions. Let’s just hope that Congress listens to the people this time around and tells the President to keep his cruise missiles to himself. And then, lets hope he does just that.