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World, US Public Wants Diplomacy; Obama Talks Tough to Appease Netanyahu


October 2, 2013
Jason Ditz and John Glaser / AntiWar.com

Commentary: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Obama today, and in the interest of keeping up his pro-Israel bonafides, President Obama followed up the meeting with a statement threatening military action against Iran. Usually that's nothing to be taken too seriously. Threatening Iran is just something a good host does for Israeli officials, who are constantly harping about war with Iran. The timing makes this quite different, however."

http://news.antiwar.com/2013/09/30/downplaying-diplomacy-obama-threatens-to-attack-iran/

Downplaying Diplomacy, Obama Threatens to Attack Iran
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(September 30, 2013) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Obama today, and in the interest of keeping up his pro-Israel bonafides, President Obama followed up the meeting with a statement threatening military action against Iran.

Usually that's nothing to be taken too seriously. Threatening Iran is just something a good host does for Israeli officials, who are constantly harping about war with Iran. The timing makes this quite different, however.

President Obama has been just as eager to keep sabotaging international diplomacy with Iran as anybody, but having gotten dragged kicking and screaming into a diplomatic deal in Syria is now finding himself swept up in serious diplomatic efforts with Iran. Peace is seen as a major problem within Israel's ruling parties, and Netanyahu's visit was being trumpeted as an attempt to scare Obama away from the table.

Having gotten a pro forma threat out of Obama, Netanyahu is claiming victory, saying he is "reassured" by Obama's commitment to the go-nowhere status quo of the past several decades, and Israeli outlets are presenting this as Netanyahu having "got what he wanted" out of the talks.

What President Obama says, his true intentions, and what political expediency requires are three very different things, however, and just because he issued the same empty threat of war the US has punctuated its Iranian relations with for the past several decades doesn't mean Netanyahu has successfully killed the diplomatic push.

And even if President Obama sees it that way, strong support for diplomacy among the American public is going to make it hard to quietly go back to a hostile policy toward Iran just because it's what Netanyahu wants.



Poll: 76 Percent of Americans
Favor Direct Talks With Iran

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(September 30, 2013) -- As President Obama backs away from last week's diplomatic overtures from Iran, the latest CNN/ORC International Poll shows an overwhelming majority of Americans support direct talks with Iran.

The poll showed 76 percent support for diplomacy with 21 percent opposed, and strong majorities of both parties (87 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Republicans) on the side of negotiations.

CNN Polling Director Keating Holland says the results aren't nearly the shift you'd figure, noting that a 2009 version of the poll similarly showed overwhelming pro-diplomacy sentiment.

The polling wasn't taken nearly so seriously in 2009, however, and direct talks never happened. After the American public forced the Obama Administration away from a war with Syria in the past month, however, there seems to be some recognition that the American public can change foreign policy, and in this case what they want is talks.


US Faces Pressure From Israel, Saudi Arabia to Rebuff Iran Overtures
John Glaser / AntiWar.com

(September 30, 2013) -- Given the divisive political climate up on Capitol Hill right now, one might think the greatest liability to the Obama administration for its positive reaction to Iran's diplomatic overtures would be Republicans who prefer sanctions and war over d├ętente. But one would be wrong. The real pressure to rebuff Iran's extended hand comes from America's closest allies in the Middle East: Israel and Saudi Arabia.

"Israel and a number of allied Persian Gulf states are voicing concern about the pace of rapprochement," reports [1] the Wall Street Journal, "arguing that Iran will use the diplomatic cover to advance its nuclear work."

The article goes on to report that Obama is scheduled to have what is sure to be a fretful meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today at the White House. And administration officials have listened to strong opposition to easing tensions with Iran from the Arab Gulf states.

Note the misleading reason given in the lede that Israel and the Persian Gulf states are concerned about Iran "advanc[ing] its nuclear work." No, they are not. As the US intelligence community has repeatedly established, Iran is not developing nuclear weapons and, according to the IAEA, none of Iran's enriched uranium has been diverted to uninspected facilities for possible military use.

If Israel were truly concerned about the possibility of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, it would have responded affirmatively to the successive proposals to impose a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the region, instead of opposing it each and every time. Truthfully, Israel needs Iran as a foreign bogeyman to keep attention away from the Israeli-Palestinian issue. As former CIA Middle East analyst Paul Pillar has written [2], "the Iran issue" provides a "distraction" from international "attention to the Palestinians' lack of popular sovereignty."

And the Persian Gulf states aren't worried about an Iranian bomb so much as they are concerned that, absent US pressure to keep Iran down, Iran's geo-political role in the region would expand at the expense of their own.

The Wall Street Journal acknowledges this in its buried lede half-way through the article: "US officials acknowledge that the Persian Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, also are concerned about the US rapprochement with Iran. The Arab states are concerned that Iran could use improved ties with Washington to advance its efforts to dominate the Mideast."

This is purely realpolitik for the GCC states. The same has been true for Syria, where Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and others have pressured the US towards undermining and even toppling the Assad regime. This was made starkly clear in an email exchange among employees at the intelligence contractor Stratfor, released by WikiLeaks [3], in which one analyst writes about "the Saudis trying to put a hole in the
Iranian plan to its radical/Shia arc of influence stretching from Iran to Lebanon."

Riyadh can't do much in Lebanon and has lost Iraq. The uprising in Syria provides for the Saudis an opportunity to undermine the arc if they can topple the regime in Damascus. This would be a huge blow for the Iranians, which is why they have been trying to support the Syrian regime. For Iran, which is still waiting to finalize its hold over Iraq and thus complete the arc, the loss of Syria would be huge. For a quarter of century the Iranians sought Iraq but couldn't get it and now when they are almost there they staring into the abyss of loosing Syria and with it Lebanon.

The US was on the brink of war with Syria earlier this month because of these types of pressures. Our supposed allies in the Middle East would like the same fate for Tehran.

Here's an idea: Let's stop outsourcing our own "national interests [4]" to nefarious "allied" regimes in the Middle East.

Footnotes

[1] reports: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303643304579105571832137580.html

[2] has written: http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/the-increasingly-transparent-us-israeli-conflict-interest-6712

[3] released by WikiLeaks: http://search.wikileaks.org/gifiles/?viewemailid=5044510

[4] national interests: http://antiwar.com/blog/2012/11/06/why-national-security-threats-threaten-the-government-and-not-you/

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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