MJ Rosenberg / Al Jazeera & Ha’aretz – 2011-11-06 14:39:48
‘Attack Iran’ and AIPAC’s Infamous Chutzpah
Lobbying for a US war with Iran, AIPAC is pushing a bill that would prohibit diplomacy between the two nations.
MJ Rosenberg / Al Jazeera
(November 5, 2011) — Wasting no time after its success in getting the administration to oppose Palestinian statehood at the United Nations — and still celebrating the UNESCO funding cutoff — AIPAC has returned to its number one priority: Pushing for war with Iran.
The Israelis have, of course, played their own part in the big show. In the past few weeks, Israel has been sending out signals that it is getting ready to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities (and embroil the United States in its most calamitous Middle East war yet).
But most observers do not believe an Israeli attack is imminent. (If it were, would Israel telegraph it in advance?) The point of the Israeli threats is to get the United States and the world community to increase pressure on Iran with the justification that unless it does, Israel will attack.
Naturally, the United States Congress, which gets its marching orders on Middle East policy from the lobby — which, in turn, gets its marching orders from Binyamin Netanyahu — is rushing to do what it is told. If only Congress addressed joblessness at home with the same alacrity.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee hurriedly convened this week to consider a new “crippling sanctions” bill that seems less designed to deter an Iranian nuclear weapon than to lay the groundwork for war.
The clearest evidence that war is the intention of the bill’s supporters comes in Section 601:
(c) RESTRICTION ON CONTACT — No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that –
(1) is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran; and
(2) presents a threat to the United States or is affiliated with terrorist organisations.
(d) WAIVER — The president may waive the requirements of subsection (c) if the president determines and so reports to the appropriate congressional committees 15 days prior to the exercise of waiver authority that failure to exercise such waiver authority would pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States.
So what does this mean? It means that neither the president, the secretary of state, nor any US diplomat or emissary may engage in negotiations or diplomacy of any kind unless the president convinces the “appropriate congressional committees” (most significantly, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is an AIPAC fiefdom) that not permitting the contacts would pose an “extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States”.
To call this unprecedented is an understatement. At no time in our history has the White House or State Department been restricted from dealing with representatives of a foreign state, even in wartime.
If President Roosevelt wanted to meet with Hitler, he could have, and, of course, he did repeatedly meet with Stalin. During the Cold War, US diplomats maintained continuous contact with the Soviets, a regime that murdered tens of millions, and later with the Chinese regime, which murdered even more. And they did so without needing permission from Congress. (President Nixon was only able to normalise relations with China by means of secret negotiations, which, had they been exposed, would have been torpedoed by the Republican right.)
But all the rules of normal statecraft are dropped when it comes to Iran, which may or may not be working on developing a nuclear capacity. Of course, if it is, it is obviously even more critical that US government officials speak to their Iranian counterparts.
But preventing diplomacy is precisely what Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Howard Berman (D-CA), leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that set out this bill, seek. They and others who back the measure want another war and the best way to get it is to ban diplomacy (which exists, of course, to prevent war).
Think back, for example, to the Cuban missile crisis. The United States and the monstrous, nuclear-armed Soviet regime were on the brink of war over Cuba, a war that might have destroyed the planet.
Neither President Kennedy nor Premier Khrushchev knew how to end the crisis, especially because both were being pushed by their respective militaries not to back down.
An Essential Latitude
Then, at the darkest moment of the crisis, when war seemed inevitable, an ABC correspondent named John Scali secretly met with a Soviet official in New York who described a way to end the crisis that would satisfy his bosses. That meeting was followed by another secret meeting between the president’s brother, Attorney General Robert F Kennedy, and a Soviet official in Washington. Those meetings led to a plan that ended the crisis and, perhaps, saved the world.
Needless to say, Kennedy did not ask for the permission of the House Foreign Affairs Committee either to conduct secret negotiations or to implement the terms of the deal. In fact, it was decades before the details of the deal were revealed.
It is this latitude to conduct diplomacy that the lobby and its cutouts on Capitol Hill want to take away from the White House. And it’s latitude that is especially essential if it is determined that Iran is trying to assemble a nuclear arsenal.
Writing in the Washington Post last week, Fareed Zakaria explained that the best way to approach Iran was not to ban diplomacy but to intensify it, nukes or no nukes.
Obama should return to his original approach and test the Iranians to see if there is any room for dialogue and agreement. Engaging with Iran, putting its nuclear program under some kind of supervision and finding areas of common interest (such as Afghanistan) would all be important goals.
Strategic engagement with an adversary can go hand in hand with a policy that encourages change in that country. That’s how Washington dealt with the Soviet Union and China in the 1970s and 1980s. Iran is a country of 80 million people, educated and dynamic. It sits astride a crucial part of the world. It cannot be sanctioned and pressed down forever. It is the last great civilisation to sit outside the global order. We need a strategy that combines pressure with a path to bring Iran in from the cold.
In other words, it is time for more diplomacy, not less — even if that means offending a powerful lobby that is hell-bent for war.
MJ Rosenberg is a senior foreign policy fellow at Media Matters Action Network. The above article first appeared in Foreign Policy Matters, a part of the Media Matters Action Network.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
US Military Official: We Are Concerned Israel Will Not Warn Us before Iran Attack
(November 5, 2011) — US officials are concerned that Israel will not warn them before taking military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities, a senior US military official said Friday.
The official, who asked to remain anonymous, told the CNN network that although in the past, US officials thought they would receive warning from Israel if it did take military action against Iran, “now that doesn’t seem so ironclad.”
The US is “absolutley” concerned that Israel is preparing an attack on Iranâ€™s nuclear facilities, and this concern is increasing, CNN reported the official as saying.
The US has increased its â€œwatchfulnessâ€ of Iran and Israel over the past few weeks, US Central and European Commands, which watch Iranian and Israeli developments respectively, are â€œincreasingly vigilantâ€ at this time, according to the official, and a second military official who also spoke with CNN.
The military official emphasized that the U.S is concerned about the risk a strike against Iran could pose for American troops in Iraq and in the Persian Gulf, according to the CNN report.
The official also said that the US does not intend to follow a military action against Iran, CNN said.
This past week, reports have surfaced regarding Israeli military action against Iran. A senior Israeli official said Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are trying to muster a majority in the cabinet in favor of military action against Iran.
On Friday, President Shimon Peres said that he believes Israel and the world may soon take military action against Iran. His comments followed
As the drumbeat of reports about possible military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities intensified, an International Atomic Energy Agency report, to be released next week is expected to reveal intelligence suggesting Iran made computer models of a nuclear warhead and other previously undisclosed details on alleged secret work by Tehran on nuclear arms, diplomats told The Associated Press on Friday.
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Israel, US to Embark on Largest Joint Exercise in Allies’ History
Natasha Mozgovaya / Ha’aretz
(November 5, 2011) — Israel and the US will embark on the “largest” and “most significant” joint exercise in the allies’ history, said Andrew Shapiro, US assistant secretary for political-military affairs, on Saturday. Speaking to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Shapiro said the exercise will involve more than 5,000 US and Israeli forces, and will simulate Israel’s ballistic missile defense.
“Joint exercises allow us to learn from Israelâ€™s experience in urban warfare and counterterrorism,” said Shapiro. “Israeli technology is proving critical to improving our Homeland Security and protecting our troops,” he added, explaining that Israeli armor plating technology and the specially designed “Israeli bandage”, being used on American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, are proven successes.
In addition, he said, Israel will soon gain access to an expedited Congressional Notification process, which will allow for faster trade of smaller, routine sales and purchases of arms between the allies. Countries already subject to expedited Congressional Notification processes are NATO members, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
Shapiro emphasized the Obama Administration’s support for Israel, despite comments by a senior US official on Friday, who expressed concern that Israel would not warn the US before taking military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“Our security relationship with Israel is broader, deeper and more intense than ever before,” said Shapiro, adding that Israel’s military edge was a “top priority” for himself, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US President Barack Obama.
The US has a $3 billion per year commitment to Israel, which Shapiro said the Obama Administration would continue to honor over the next ten years, “even in challenging budgetary times”.
Speaking of the economic impact of the US-Israeli relationship, Shapiro said it was important to note that US security assistance to Israel helps support American jobs, since the “vast majority of security assistance” is spent on American-made goods and services. “We donâ€™t provide assistance out of charity. We provide assistance because it benefits our security,” he said.
“We support Israel because it is in our national interests to do so,” said Shapiro, echoing the recent report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, entitled, “Israel: A Strategic Asset for the United States”, which argues that Israel is a strategic asset to the US “If Israel were weaker, its enemies would be bolder. This would make broader conflict more likely, which would be catastrophic to American interests in the region. It is the very strength of Israelâ€™s military which deters potential aggressors and helps foster peace and stability.”
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