Don't Wait for World War III
Act now to stop it! by Justin Raimondo The drumbeat for war with Iran is getting louder. Determined to ensure their success, by hook or by crook, the neoconservatives inside the administration, and their supporters in Israel, have launched a three-front campaign to provoke a confrontation with Tehran.
1. The Blackmail Option: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held a secret meeting recently at his home. Present were top cabinet officials and someone who has plenty of experience of the sort that interests the Israelis at the present moment: Aviam Sela, who headed up Operation Opera, the 1981 air strike against Iraq's Osirak nuclear facility. It was a bold and decisive blow against Israel's mortal enemy, which set the Iraqis back (though it drove them to create an underground program that actually was for the purpose of developing nuclear weapons by the time of the first Gulf War 10 years later). What Olmert wanted to know was whether it could be repeated in the case of Iran.
Yet no one should assume that Israel intends to act alone. An Israeli strike against Iran would be but a prelude to a much wider conflict, one that would invariably draw in Israel's one and only ally – us.
That's why the Israeli propaganda campaign directed at Iran has taken place on American terrain, aimed squarely at American public opinion and American lawmakers. Speaking at a recent AIPAC conference in Washington, Olmert declared:
"Israel will not tolerate the possibility of a nuclear Iran, and neither should any other country in the free world. The Iranian threat must be stopped by all possible means. International economic and political sanctions on Iran, as crucial as they may be, are only an initial step, and must be dramatically increased. … The international community has a duty and responsibility to clarify to Iran, through drastic measures, that the repercussions of their continued pursuit of nuclear weapons will be devastating."
There is no doubt in anyone's mind what "drastic" means, and this was underscored by his deputy prime minister, Shaul Mofaz, who recently averred that an attack on Iran is "unavoidable."
The Israelis, as is well-known, cannot take out the widely dispersed Iranian target sites all by themselves. They need U.S. cruise missiles fired from our ships in the Persian Gulf to take out the entirety of Iran's nuclear assets. The whole point of this stratagem would be to embroil the U.S. in a conflict that would soon take on regional dimensions.
2. The Blockade Option: The Israel lobby is hard at work getting support for a congressional resolution that mandates a naval blockade of Iran. This is now AIPAC's top priority in Washington, and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have already signed on. The Senate version has attracted 32 cosponsors, while the House version has 220 cosponsors.
The resolution itself is typical AIPAC agitprop: at one point, it says that "the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate reports that the Government of Iran was secretly working on the design and manufacture of a nuclear warhead until at least 2003 and that Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon as early as late 2009" – deftly snipping off the conclusion of the NIE that "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program" and substituting the Israeli assessment that Iran will go nuclear by 2009, which the National Intelligence Council concluded was "very unlikely."
The resolution, while containing boilerplate language to the effect that "nothing in this resolution will be construed as authorizing military action," goes on to demand "that the president lead an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the pressure on the Government of Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, among other measures, banning the importation of refined petroleum products to Iran."
It is typical Orwellian Newspeak: no military action is "authorized," yet what else would a blockade involve but the use of American military assets to enforce it? This means war – and don't think for a moment that the Israel lobby hasn't got the power to push this war resolution through Congress.
3. The Infiltration Option: Congress has already approved $400 million to destabilize the Iranian regime, the first phase of the administration's war moves against Tehran, and U.S. special-ops teams have been busy. The number of violent incidents inside Iran has recently skyrocketed, and there is little doubt that the U.S. is funding and otherwise assisting terrorist activities within that country. As Seymour Hersh reports:
"The scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials."
The idea of the infiltration option is to coordinate with various minority ethnic groups, such as the Ahwazis and the Baluchis – Sunni fundamentalists of the al-Qaeda stripe who despise the Iranian Shi'ites as heretics – as well as the idiosyncratic Marxist cultists of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK). The goal is not just to gather intelligence, but also to provoke the regime into initiating a violent reaction. This would increase the likelihood of direct U.S. involvement, as the fighting spills over Iran's borders into Iraq and/or Pakistan.
All three options, working in tandem over the next few months, will be more than enough to provoke the Iranians into some sort of response, which can then be used as a pretext for the Americans to attack.
As in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, there is considerable opposition gathering within U.S. military and diplomatic circles. Hersh reports on a meeting between Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Democratic caucus in the Senate, during which
"Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush administration staged a preemptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, 'We'll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.' Gates's comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch, and another senator asked whether Gates was speaking for Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Gates's answer, the senator told me, was 'Let's just say that I'm here speaking for myself.'"
The realists in the administration – foremost among them, the top military brass – know what a disaster war with Iran would soon turn into. It would be an act of self-immolation unprecedented since Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Yet the power of the Israel lobby is formidable, the realists have little political clout, and there isn't much time to stop the momentum for war.
As craven as Barack Obama's recent performance before AIPAC was, the Lobby knows that, as president, he'll be unlikely to launch what would amount to World War III. Shmuel Bar, a former top intelligence officer and Israeli government official who now works as an analyst, recently spoke to the British Guardian:
"What is clear is that the push inside the Israeli establishment for a strike is not being driven by the timetable of Iran's mastery of the technical aspects alone, but by geopolitical considerations. That point was reinforced by Bar last week when he identified a window of opportunity for a strike on Iran – ahead of the November presidential election in the United States which could see Barack Obama take power, and possibly engage with Syria and Iran. An Obama presidency would close that window for Israel, says Bar."
The window of opportunity for the neocons to launch an attack will stay open only as long as this president is in the White House, and the Israelis know it. That's why their propaganda campaign has recently been ratcheted up to new heights of hysteria, and why they're pulling in all their chits in Congress.
The clock is ticking, and the Lobby is moving fast. Will – can – the antiwar movement move with equal speed?
What is needed, first of all, is a decisive defeat for the Lobby on the issue of Senate Resolution 580 (in the House, Congressional Resolution 362). A new war in the Middle East – or anywhere else – is the last thing the majority of Americans want, yet a fanatical and well-positioned minority will prevail if we don't act now. Call your congressional representative today and tell them, politely and calmly, that you are urging a "No!" vote on these concurrent resolutions.
There seems little doubt who and what is motivating this new push for war. Even as "moderate" a commentator as Joe Klein knows that the Lobby is up to its old tricks again, and he is being pilloried for telling the truth. In his Time column, Klein wrote:
"The notion that we could just waltz in and inject democracy into an extremely complicated, devout and ancient culture smacked – still smacks – of neocolonialist legerdemain. The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives – people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary – plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel."
As I have pointed out in this space many times, the great majority of American Jews oppose this administration's crazed foreign policy, and there would be no antiwar movement of any consequence without their active support. Yet it cannot be denied – as I wrote before a single shot had been fired – that the Iraq war was launched, as Klein notes, to make the Middle East safer for Israel, just as the current push for "regime change" in Iran is energized by the same motive.
This is what it means to be an empire: foreign lobbyists and satraps gather 'round the imperial throne, scheming and plotting to gain the emperor's favor and the privilege of using his praetorians as an instrument to advance their own ends. If it wasn't the Israelis, it would be someone else – perhaps the Brits, as in the two previous world wars. In any case, until and unless we make real changes in our foreign policy – fundamental changes – we'll never get out of this box, and war clouds will loom large on our horizon well into the foreseeable future.
In the meantime, however, we have to make a start, and that means defeating Senate Resolution 580 and House Resolution 362, in what would be a rare setback for the Lobby. Go for it!