Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Post #276 - Congressional Action


This article, "House Passes HR 4133 Binding the US to Israel and Their War Agenda," by Susanne Posel appeared on the 25th of May on Alex Jones' Infowars.com:

Without any mainstream media coverage at all, the House of Representatives passed the United States – Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012 (USIESC).

The USIESC, written by Eric Cantor , claims there is a need to provide Israel with unlimited military and financial aid as a result of the disturbances caused by the Arab Spring.

Israel will have an essentially unlimited amount of funds allocated to them through the Federal Reserve Bank. The country will also enjoy an “expanded role of NATO” that consists of an “enhanced presence at NATO headquarters and exercises”.

The USIESC pledges the US government’s “commitment” to assist Israel in remaining a Jewish State; as well as protection from the UN if the UN Security Council resolves to hold Israel accountable to international laws.

The US government’s counter-terrorism unit will also aid Israel by any means.

This USIESC asserts that “supported by the American people” the US government will “repeatedly affirm the special bond between the United States and Israel” and that the two countries have “shared values and shared interests.”

If there were ever language to suppose that there were a merging of these two nations, the USIESC fits that bill.

The Executive Summary of USIESC says that “the following actions to assist in the defense of Israel” are:

(1) Provide Israel such support as may be necessary to increase development and production of joint missile defense systems, particularly such systems that defend the urgent threat posed to Israel and United States forces in the region.
(2) Provide Israel assistance specifically for the production and procurement of the Iron Dome defense system for purposes of intercepting short-range missiles, rockets, and projectiles launched against Israel.
(3) Provide Israel defense articles and defense services through such mechanisms as appropriate, to include air refueling tankers, missile defense capabilities, and specialized munitions.
(4) Allocate additional weaponry and munitions for the forward-deployed United States stockpile in Israel.
(5) Provide Israel additional surplus defense articles and defense services, as appropriate, in the wake of the withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq.
(6) Strengthen efforts to prevent weapons smuggling into Gaza pursuant to the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access following the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and to protect against weapons smuggling and terrorist threats from the Sinai Peninsula.
(7) Offer the Israeli Air Force additional training and exercise opportunities in the United States to compensate for Israel’s limited air space.
(8) Expand Israel’s authority to make purchases under the Foreign Military Financing program on a commercial basis.
(9) Seek to enhance the capabilities of the United States and Israel to address emerging common threats, increase security cooperation, and expand joint military exercises.
(10) Encourage an expanded role for Israel within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including an enhanced presence at NATO headquarters and exercises.
(11) Support extension of the long-standing loan guarantee program for Israel, recognizing Israel’s unbroken record of repaying its loans on time and in full.
(12) Expand already-close intelligence cooperation, including satellite intelligence, with Israel.

USIESC goes on to claim that: “Iran, (3) which has long sought to foment instability and promote extremism in the Middle East, is now seeking to (4) exploit the dramatic political transition underway in the region to undermine governments traditionally aligned with the United States and support extremist political movements in these countries.”

On the contrary, Israel and the US have been the biggest proponents of violence toward unprovoked nations in recent times. The collaboration of the US, Israel and NATO, with help from CIA operatives al-Qaeda and other US funded terrorist groups, have synthesized fake revolutions (i.e. the Arab Spring) to destabilize foreign governments and force regime changes.

Right now, al-Qaeda is being used by the Obama administration to force the Syrian President out of office through repeated attacks and massive killing of innocent Syrians.

In Africa, specifically the south Sudan region, Obama has teamed up with Israel to create the new nation of South Sudan by using terrorism to force their current government out.

USIESC continues its assault on Iran: “At the same time, (5) Iran may soon attain a nuclear weapons capability, a development that would fundamentally threaten vital American interests, destabilize the region, encourage regional nuclear proliferation, further empower and embolden Iran, (6) the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and (7) provide it the tools to threaten its neighbors, including Israel”.

Although publicly, both the Obama administration and the Israeli government have admitted that Iran has absolutely no intention of building nuclear weapons. Both governments assume that by using words like “they may” or “they might” denotes a definite intention to do so.

The Mullahs that have ultimate authority in Iran have stated numerous times that the acquisition and use of nuclear weapons goes against the law of Islam. Independent studies, outside of the US and Israeli reach, have also confirmed that not only does Iran not have nuclear weapons at present, but are not perusing their allocation.

To justify the fabricated “need” to assist Israel in remaining “safe” the USIESC states : “As a result, (8) the strategic environment that has kept Israel secure and safeguarded United States national interests for the past 35 years has eroded.”

At the present time, Israel is in possession of an estimated 200 – 300 nuclear weapons. They are the covert superpower of the world. Israel also enjoys one of the most intensive and explicit armies in the world. While Israel continues to invade the sovereign nations that surround them, they are not being invaded themselves.

The USIESC is a propaganda piece of legislation designed to set the stage for full military support of Israel when they launch an unprovoked strike against Iran. While now, there are campaigns to coerce a fake grassroots effort to force a regime change in Iran, the inevitability of war declarations are looming in the distance.

China and Russia have made it clear that they have absolutely no intention of ending their relations with Iran.

The distractions in the mainstream media concerning Obama are just that. The sudden inflation of gay rights in the political arena and other nonsensical and unimportant social memes are being touted as if they will define our nation.

The USIESC has clearly set a precedent and definition of who America is.

The Obama administration, under careful control of the global Elite, is consolidating powers with Israel in a joint effort to take over the world . . . by toppling one government at a time.

Susanne Posel’s website is Occupy Corporatism.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Post #275 - War of Attrition, Weapon of Addiction


The article reproduced below deals with a topic that the Iranian government does not talk a great deal. Drugs have always been part of Iranian life, though for centuries is was only opium, hashish and marijuana. (I knew opium smokers in my small time, and saw vast fields of poppies when I was there in the late sixties, though the drug was officially outlawed.)

With the economy depressed by the harsh sanctions, there are a lot of young people who have an education, but no job prospects, making them perfect targets for those with chemical "answers" to sell.

This was written by Paul Koring of the Globe and Mail and published yesterday (May 27).

Iran’s hidden scourge: widespread drug abuse at all levels of society

In the fetid slum of Shoosh, addicts lie comatose in a warren of alleys in one of Tehran’s oldest neighbourhoods. Buyers glance nervously at strangers while dealers stash huge stacks of worn bills into bulging pockets of over-large jackets on a hot spring day. Iran is battling widespread drug abuse, although no one seems to how just how big the problem.

From the southern slums, past the fancy shopping avenues like Vali Asr, where a glassy-eyed young man in expensive clothes is bundled into an ambulance, to the high-end parties behind walls of fancy houses in North Tehran, addiction infests every strata of society. Coping with the massive problem while still denying it poses a serious threat, unmasks the sort of wildly improbable paradox that sometimes seems to define this proud, embattled, society.

“For a long time nobody wanted to admit it but drug abuse was ravaging our society,” said Abbas Deylamizade, the managing director of Rebirth, an Iranian non-governmental organization dealing with drug addiction and abuse. “But now the scourge is so bad that we are finally reaching the point where the government is getting really involved.”

In Shoosh, for the equivalent of 50 cents or furtive street sex a wretched addict can score a single adulterated dose of heroin from the poppy fields of neighbouring Afghanistan. Uptown, crack, crystal meth and cocaine – “imported” like other desirable designer goods from the West – are the drugs of choice.

Mr. Deylamizade estimates that Iran, with a population of roughly 80 million, may have as many as five million hard-core addicts and millions more occasional users. Drug use sometimes seems endemic among the young. At a stoplight in Tehran, a pair of young women driving a late-model car blithely pulled out a glass pipe and passed it back and forth until the light turned green. “It’s so much worse than when I was a teenager,” says a young man who works at a central mosque that hosts a self-help group for addicts.

Tall and lean in a blue suit that looks a couple of sizes too big, Mr. Deylamizade, 41, knows what he is talking about. He, too, was an addict, sliding from party use in Shiraz as a youth into long, dark years of addiction. Now he runs the largest drug treatment NGO in the country with more than 140 centres and 600,000 clients.

At one Rebirth street clinic, Fathi, barely out of his teens, shook uncontrollably as other addicts tried to keep his head from smashing the steps in a tiny courtyard.

Some of the Shoosh clinics deal only with women. In a society where public modesty is paramount, female addicts, often reduced to prostitution, are outcasts, even among the underclass of street users. “There is a terrible increase in drug use among women, rich and poor, and it often becomes part of our other ‘forbidden’ activity, the sex trade,” Mr. Deylamizade said.

Yet there are also nascent signs of remarkably progressive, humane treatment. Where once Iran boasted of publicly hanging drug dealers, there are now street clinics offering oral methadone substitution treatment.

A wide array of government, private, community and mosque-based programs are belatedly tackling the problem.

But they can get tangled up in Iran’s other problems. For instance, while big businesses and traders seem to have no difficulty moving lots of money in and out of the country despite the sanctions on dealing with Iran’s major banks, funding flows to help NGOs have been trapped.

For more than five months, Rebirth has been waiting a stalled €400,000 ($516,000) payment from the European Union. Some smaller drug treatment programs have closed, cut off by sanctions from foreign funding. “The EU won’t just hand-carry the money in, which is what businesses do,” said Mr. Deylamizade.

Away from the street clinics in Shoosh and the designer drugs at extravagant North Tehran parties (where forbidden alcohol is also the norm) and far to the west of the sprawling capital, a tiny oasis of mutual support and hope hugs the side of a ravine.

Amidst brightly-painted dormitories, built by the addicts themselves, Rebirth runs a three-month detox and rehabilitation centre in one of the wild and remote gullies about 30 kilometres from the city.

Behza Zarbakhsh, 25, a powerfully-built accountant, is on his 67th-day of a three-month stay at the rustic centre built alongside the tiny Verdij River. “For six years I was hooked on crystal meth, and then I quit for 18 months but relapsed,” he said. “I realized I was killing myself, so now I hope that being here start a new kind of life.”

The centre throws together a wide range of addicts from different backgrounds. Babak Enayati, 42, a goldsmith, lost his partner, his business and his wife to a tangle of drugs and crime and, he says, bad luck. “When I first came here, I told everyone I wasn’t really a serious user,” he said in a riverside interview. “After about four days, I began to realize just how deep was my trouble.”

That may be a useful metaphor for the broader society. Iran is just starting to come to terms with the scale and the seriousness of the endemic drug abuse that threatens it. “My wife says if I can stay clean when I get out of here, then maybe we can reconsider our marriage,” Mr. Enayati said with a trace of a smile.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Post #274 - Time Used to Be Money ~ Now, It's Oil


This appeared on RIA-Novosti today and was written by Sam Barden. It is an interesting take on evolving economic systems and has a bearing on the situation vis-a-vis Iran:


There is a war raging inside the US State Department now, between those who back the Real (Energy) Economy and those who back the Financial (Dollar) Economy. In the course of my strategic advisory work at Wimpole International, I ran headlong into this war. In the 20th century Dollar Economy, we use currency created by banks as our unit of account, in this case the USD. People make investment decisions “for profit” on the basis of the least dollar cost per unit of production… this is the Dollar Economy, which we take for granted. However, the emerging 21st century Energy Economy is very different. When we use an absolute unit of energy as the unit of account, or energy standard, we make a very different value judgement based upon the least energy cost per unit of production. In the Energy Economy, we naturally gravitate to the most efficient use of energy.

We can also see the battle between Dollar Economics and Energy Economics as Conflict Economics versus Consensus Economics. Dollar Economics, by its very nature, is adversarial because all currencies compete in price against the national currency issued and controlled by the United States. As the world’s reserve currency, the USD is also the world’s price benchmark, backed up by the overwhelming power of the greatest military might the world has ever seen. On the other hand, Energy Economics is about consent, and the fact that a unit of energy is neutral, objective, and independent of all nations. When we use an energy unit as the basis for price, then, consumers immediately seek energy savings, using new technology, new ways of working, and even new ways of living. What we don’t value, we waste… whilst energy producing-nations like Saudi Arabia waste energy on a cosmic scale, countries like Denmark with minimal energy resources can be the most ingenious in conserving it. Nevertheless, in truth, we’re all in the same boat. In fact, producers and consumers have a common interest in working together to make the most efficient use of the crucial resource of energy. The problem is that the middlemen who own and control the financial system and markets have a vested interest in volatility… for them, price stability is death, and transparency is the enemy of profit.

Those in the State Department who favour the Financial Economy over the Real Economy are fighting a losing battle. The cracks appearing in the US banking giant JP Morgan Chase appear ominous for the US banking system. Indeed, whilst JP Morgan Chase is too big to fail, it’s definitely not too big to nationalise. As the black hole at the dark heart of J P Morgan Chase’s balance sheet gets bigger, the Obama Administration may have no choice but to nationalise the bank, and, then, slowly unwind and sell off its constituent parts. As if J P Morgan Chase’s fragility doesn’t put the global financial economy under enough stress, Europe’s imploding day by day, with Greece leading the race to the exit. Greek banks are already having serious liquidity problems, and Spain is not far behind them. With a new French government calling for less austerity not more, those who favour the Financial Economy over the Real Economy have lost the battle, and are about to lose the war.

This brings me to the sanctions on Iran, which the pundits tell us are the last chance to avoid war. In coming days, the 5 + 1 World Powers and Iran will assemble in Baghdad to discuss the Iranian nuclear programme. At the heart of these discussions are the physical and financial sanctions on Iran. The financial sanction scheme has led to an intra-State Department war. Whilst many believe that the US sanctions on Iran relate only to US companies, meaning that US companies can’t do business with Iran, actually, they go much further. For the Dollar Economists at the State Department, who do the banks’ bidding and who favour the Financial Economy over the Real Economy, it’s a simple calculation… “You’re either with us or against us”. Therefore, India, Japan, and South Korea have all recently come under physical sanction pressure to reduce or altogether cease buying Iranian oil and if they do not, then US financial institutions may cease to do business with them. Unless foreign institutions cease to deal with Iran, the flow of US dollar loans will cease, and US shareholders will pull out their investment, collapsing their share price. This is… as any Godfather would say… an offer they can’t refuse.

However, the cost of keeping the Financial Economy alive is now so great, and income and wealth inequality so pervasive, that the Real Economy has been suffocated. The Arab Spring and street protests around the world… like Occupy Wall Street… are the manifestations of this reality. Austerity has become unbearable. So it is with sanctions. The effect of financial sanctions on multinational companies operating in the Real-World Economy have led to part of the State Department becoming an arm of the banking system, effectively declaring war on another part of the State Department, which is responsible for keeping the lights on. This very secret war at the State Department is concluding, and there can only be one winner. At the end of the day, the Fed can’t print oil, and I believe we will see the pragmatic realists in the State Department backing the global transition to an Energy Standard.

The 20th century State Department is dead! Long live the 21st century State Department!


http://en.rian.ru/columnists/20120522/173609370.html

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Post #273 -- Iran and the Congress


The Friends Committee on National Legislation compiled the following run-down on legislation affecting US-Iran relations.  Fuller documentation can be seen by going to their website at
http://fcnl.org/issues/iran/national_defense_authorization_act_iran_sections/

Military Authorization FY 13: Iran Sections & Amendments
May 7, 2012

Iran Amendments
(Passed en bloc/without roll call vote) Amendment No. 95: Rep. John Conyers (MI) and Rep. Ron Paul (TX) offered a bipartisan amendment stating that “nothing in this Act shall be construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran.”

(Failed 77-344) Amendment No. 161: Rep. Barbara Lee (CA) and Rep. John Conyers (MI) offered an amendment that would appoint a Special Envoy for Iran to ensure that all diplomatic avenues are pursued to avoid a war with Iran and to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

(Passed en bloc/without roll call vote) Amendment No. 133: Rep. Michael Conaway (TX) offered a dangerous pro-war amendment which would require the administration to prepare extraordinarily detailed contingency plans for an attack on Iran and put further pressure on the administration to support an Israeli attack on Iran. It also seeks to increase U.S. and Israeli military presence in the Mideast.

National Defense Authorization Bill 2013 (H.R. 4310): Sections Relating to Iran
Section 1221—Declaration of Policy
This section would express certain findings related to the threat represented by the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United States, the State of Israel, and Iran's neighbors. This section would further declare that it is the policy of the United States to take all necessary measures, including military action if necessary, to prevent Iran from threatening the United States, its allies, or Iran's neighbors with a nuclear weapon.
Subtitle C—Matters Relating to Iran SEC. 1221. DECLARATION OF POLICY.
Section 1222—United States Military Preparedness in the Middle East
This section includes findings that recognize the importance to the national security of the United States and its allies of conducting military exercises in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. These exercises benefit the readiness of the U.S. military and allied forces, as well as serve as a signal to the Islamic Republic of Iran regarding the willingness of the United States to defend its national security interests.
This section would further require the Secretary of Defense to submit to the congressional defense committees not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, a plan to strengthen the presence of the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Middle East to include conducting military deployments, exercises, and other military readiness activities.

(a) FINDINGS.—Congress makes the following findings:

(1) Iran, which has long sought to foment instability and promote extremism in the Middle East, is now seeking to exploit the dramatic political transition underway in the region to undermine governments traditionally aligned with the United States and support extremist political movements in these countries.
1 SEC. 1222. UNITED STATES MILITARY PREPAREDNESS IN THE MIDDLE EAST.
(2) At the same time, Iran may soon attain a nuclear weapons capability, a development that would threaten United States interests, destabilize the region, encourage regional nuclear proliferation, further empower and embolden Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provide it the tools to threaten its neighbors, including Israel.
(3) With the assistance of Iran over the past several years, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas have increased their stockpiles of rockets, with more than 60,000 rockets now ready to be fired at Israel. Iran continues to add to its arsenal of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, which threaten Iran’s neighbors, Israel, and United States Armed Forces in the region.
(4) Preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is among the most urgent national security challenges facing the United States.
(5) Successive United States administrations have stated that an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon is unacceptable.
(6) President Obama stated on January 24, 2012, ‘‘Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.’’
(7) In order to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the United States, in cooperation with its allies, must utilize all elements of national power including diplomacy, robust economic sanctions, and credible, visible preparations for a military option.

TITLE X—GENERAL PROVISIONS ITEMS OF SPECIAL INTEREST COUNTER-DRUG ACTIVITIES
(8) Nevertheless, to date, diplomatic overtures, sanctions, and other non-kinetic actions toward Iran have not caused the Government of Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
(9) With the impact of additional sanctions uncertain, additional pressure on the Government of Iran could come from the credible threat of military action against Iran’s nuclear program.
(b) DECLARATION OF POLICY.—It shall be the policy of the United States to take all necessary measures, including military action if required, to prevent Iran from threatening the United States, its allies, or Iran’s neighbors with a nuclear weapon.
(a) SENSE OF CONGRESS.—It is the sense of Congress that—
(1) military exercises conducted in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman emphasize the United States resolve and the policy of the United States described in section 1221(b) by enhancing the readiness of the United States military and allied forces, as well as signaling to the Government of Iran the commitment of the United States to defend its vital national security interests; and
(2) the President, as Commander in Chief, should augment the presence of the United States Fifth Fleet in the Middle East and to conduct military deployments, exercises, or other visible, concrete military readiness activities to underscore the policy of the United States described in section 1221(b).

(b) PLAN.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary of Defense shall prepare a plan to augment the presence of the United States Fifth Fleet in the Middle East and to conduct military deployments, exercises, or other visible, concrete military readiness activities to underscore the policy of the United States described in section 1221(b).

(2) MATTERS TO BE INCLUDED.—The plan required under paragraph (1) shall include, at a minimum, steps necessary for the Armed Forces to support the policy of the United States described in section 1221(b), including— (A) pre-positioning sufficient supplies of aircraft, munitions, fuel, and other materials for both air- and sea-based missions at key forward locations in the Middle East and Indian Ocean; (B) maintaining sufficient naval assets in the region necessary to signal United States resolve and to bolster United States capabilities to launch a sustained sea and air campaign against a range of Iranian nuclear and military targets, to protect seaborne shipping, and to deny Iranian retaliation against United States interests in the region;
(C) discussing the viability of deploying at least two United States aircraft carriers, an additional large deck amphibious ship, and a Mine Countermeasures Squadron in the region on a continual basis, in support of the actions described in subparagraph (B); and
(D) conducting naval fleet exercises similar to the United States Fifth Fleet’s major exercise in the region in March 2007 to demonstrate ability to keep the Strait of Hormuz open and to counter the use of anti-ship missiles and swarming high-speed boats.

(3) SUBMISSION TO CONGRESS.—The plan required under paragraph (1) shall be submitted to the congressional defense committees not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act.
Counter-Drug Activities in Afghanistan

The committee recognizes the President’s current plan to cease combat operations in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The Government of Afghanistan's ability to provide security for its own population relies in part on its ability to control narco-trafficking. The committee notes that Afghanistan’s link to the worldwide drug trade promotes instability and provides funding for terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda. Following the end of combat operations in 2014, the counter-drug programs developed in Afghanistan will remain vital to preserving stability in the region. The committee acknowledges that over the course of Operation Enduring Freedom, the United States has invested approximately $2.25 billion in counter-drug training and programs. This investment must not be neglected by the pending withdrawal from Afghanistan. Therefore, the committee directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a strategy for counter-drug programs and funding following combat operations in Afghanistan, and to submit a report on the strategy to the congressional defense committees by November 30, 2012. The strategy should outline the goals of both the U.S. military and civilian personnel as well as the Afghan military and police forces with respect to counter-drug programs. Also, the committee notes the need to outline timelines and resources necessary to accomplish these goals.

Study on Terrorist Organization Linkages in the Western Hemisphere

The committee notes the efforts made by the United States and governments in the Western Hemisphere in combating counter-drug and counterterrorism activities. The committee commends these governments for improving stability in the region as a result of counter-drug initiatives. However, the committee continues to be concerned about the increasing presence of transnational criminal organizations and internationally recognized terrorist organizations throughout the Western Hemisphere. The committee is aware that international terrorist organizations have participated in narcotrafficking, human-trafficking, and money laundering within the region, which has contributed to increasing violence. Therefore, the committee directs the Secretary of Defense to conduct a study on terrorist organizations operating in the Western Hemisphere and submit the findings of the study to the Senate Committee on Armed Services, the House Committee on Armed Services, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee by November 30, 2012. The study should include the activities of state sponsors of terror within the region, the current locations and organizational structure of the international terrorist groups operating in the Western Hemisphere, as well as a comprehensive analysis of the activities and strategic intentions of Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Quds Force, and Al Qaeda and its associated movements in the Western Hemisphere.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Post #272 - Nothing like Refusing to Be Enemies, to Make Yourself Enemies

Check out recent demonstrations in Germany:

http://blog.ronny.me/2012/05/08/iranian-israeli-circle-against-the-war/

Friday, May 18, 2012

Post #271 - What You Prepare for Is Likely What You'll Get


This piece from the Times of Israel was posted on today on World Daily News' Information Clearinghouse (on-line):

The US military option for Iran is ‘ready,’ American ambassador to Israel says:

Daniel Shapiro’s comments, made at closed forum in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, broadcast on Channel 2 news

By Michal Shmulovich and Greg Tepper

May 17, 2012 "Times Of Israel" -- The United States has completed its planning for a military strike on Iran, the US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro said in remarks at a closed conference in Tel Aviv that were broadcast on Israel TV on Wednesday night.

“It would be preferable to resolve this diplomatically, and through the use of pressure, than to use military force,” Shapiro said in comments that were recorded Tuesday and were broadcast Wednesday. “But that does not mean that option isn’t available. Not just available, it’s ready. The necessary planning has been done to ensure that it’s ready.”

Shapiro, the Channel 2 TV report said, was speaking at a closed forum in Tel Aviv — reportedly an Israel Bar Association event — and the comments were recorded by a newspaper reporter. The TV item noted that the envoy had apparently not intended for his remarks to be publicly aired.

The broadcast of the Shapiro comments came a day after Israel TV reported that the Israel Air Force is soon to take part in joint military exercises in the US. The IAF has not trained in the US for several years.

The exercises, to be held in the coming months, will strengthen the relationship between the IAF and the US Air Force as they practice carrying out joint operations, according to the report.

Israeli and US air defense forces are also to take part in a major joint drill later this summer in Israel to simulate a massive attack. Thousands of US soldiers are expected to arrive in Israel for the drills.

The various reports come amid ongoing concern in Israel and the US over Iran’s drive toward a nuclear weapons capability. Israel’s leaders have said Iran must not be allowed to go nuclear, and indicated that they are contemplating military intervention if all other efforts to thwart Iran fail. US President Barack Obama has said Iran must not get the bomb, and ruled out the notion of containment, but has urged patience to give economic sanctions and other pressure more time to work while stressing that the military option is “on the table.”

In Israel on Tuesday, American National Guard and Israeli Home Front Command forces conducted search and rescue drills. The operations would be applicable in the case of either an earthquake or a missile barrage, officials said. If there were a major aerial missile attack or a large enough earthquake in Israel, US forces might assist in search and rescue operations.

© 2012 The Times of Israel

The question is: is the robust diplomatic mission equally ready? Are there contingency plans for what would happen in the US-Israeli relationship if Iran were able to convince the West that it has only peaceful nuclear ambitions? What is the end-game strategy for that outcome? Like the dog who chases a car, I see little evidence that our politicians or planners would know what to do with peace if they caught it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Post #270 - "Bomb, bomb, bomb -- bomb, bomb Iran"


In case you were feeling ambivalent about the idea of bombing lots of acreage in Iran (and whatever human "collateral" might be unlikely enough to be caught in the wrong place), here is some good sense (courtesy of J Street):

http://jstreet.org/policy/pages/ask-the-experts-the-case-against-a-military-strike-on-iran?akid=1443.123956.S872L-&rd=1&t=3

Post #269 - Battening Down the Hatches


The conservative columnist, Charles Krauthammer, seen in the Washington Post and on NPR's Inside Washington, wrote the following piece for the Post this week:


Echoes of ‘67: Israel unites

In May 1967, in brazen violation of previous truce agreements, Egypt ordered U.N. peacekeepers out of the Sinai, marched 120,000 troops to the Israeli border, blockaded the Straits of Tiran (Israel’s southern outlet to the world’s oceans), abruptly signed a military pact with Jordan and, together with Syria, pledged war for the final destruction of Israel.

May ’67 was Israel’s most fearful, desperate month. The country was surrounded and alone. Previous great-power guarantees proved worthless. A plan to test the blockade with a Western flotilla failed for lack of participants. Time was running out. Forced into mass mobilization in order to protect against invasion — and with a military consisting overwhelmingly of civilian reservists — life ground to a halt. The country was dying.

On June 5, Israel launched a preemptive strike on the Egyptian air force, then proceeded to lightning victories on three fronts. The Six-Day War is legend, but less remembered is that, four days earlier, the nationalist opposition (Menachem Begin’s Likud precursor) was for the first time ever brought into the government, creating an emergency national-unity coalition.

Everyone understood why. You do not undertake a supremely risky preemptive war without the full participation of a broad coalition representing a national consensus.

Forty-five years later, in the middle of the night of May 7-8, 2012, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shocked his country by bringing the main opposition party, Kadima, into a national unity government. Shocking because just hours earlier, the Knesset was expediting a bill to call early elections in September.

Why did the high-flying Netanyahu call off elections he was sure to win?

Because for Israelis today, it is May ’67. The dread is not quite as acute: The mood is not despair, just foreboding. Time is running out, but not quite as fast. War is not four days away, but it looms. Israelis today face the greatest threat to their existence — nuclear weapons in the hands of apocalyptic mullahs publicly pledged to Israel’s annihilation — since May ’67. The world is again telling Israelis to do nothing as it looks for a way out. But if such a way is not found — as in ’67 — Israelis know that they will once again have to defend themselves, by themselves.

Such a fateful decision demands a national consensus. By creating the largest coalition in nearly three decades, Netanyahu is establishing the political premise for a preemptive strike, should it come to that. The new government commands an astonishing 94 Knesset seats out of 120, described by one Israeli columnist as a “hundred tons of solid concrete.”

So much for the recent media hype about some great domestic resistance to Netanyahu’s hard line on Iran. Two notable retired intelligence figures were widely covered here for coming out against him. Little noted was that one had been passed over by Netanyahu to be the head of Mossad, while the other had been fired by Netanyahu as Mossad chief (hence the job opening). For centrist Kadima (it pulled Israel out of Gaza) to join a Likud-led coalition whose defense minister is a former Labor prime minister (who once offered half of Jerusalem to Yasser Arafat) is the very definition of national unity — and refutes the popular “Israel is divided” meme. “Everyone is saying the same thing,” explained one Knesset member, “though there may be a difference of tone.”
To be sure, Netanyahu and Kadima’s Shaul Mofaz offered more prosaic reasons for their merger: to mandate national service for now exempt ultra- Orthodox youth, to change the election law to reduce the disproportionate influence of minor parties and to seek negotiations with the Palestinians. But Netanyahu, the first Likud prime minister to recognize Palestinian statehood, did not need Kadima for him to enter peace talks. For two years he’s been waiting for Mahmoud Abbas to show up at the table. Abbas hasn’t. And won’t. Nothing will change on that front.

What does change is Israel’s position vis-a-vis Iran. The wall-to-wall coalition demonstrates Israel’s political readiness to attack, if necessary. (Its military readiness is not in doubt.)

Those counseling Israeli submission, resignation or just endless patience can no longer dismiss Israel’s tough stance as the work of irredeemable right-wingers. Not with a government now representing 78 percent of the country.

Netanyahu forfeited September elections that would have given him four more years in power. He chose instead to form a national coalition that guarantees 18 months of stability — 18 months during which, if the world does not act (whether by diplomacy or otherwise) to stop Iran, Israel will.

And it will not be the work of one man, one party or one ideological faction. As in 1967, it will be the work of a nation.


Here is one reader's reponse to Mr. Krauthammer's essay:


Changing times in the Middle East

Charles Krauthammer’s May 11 column, “Echoes of ’67: Israel unites,” glorified an era in international relations that is long gone. No doubt Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would like to believe that a military attack on the Iranian nuclear program would stop Tehran’s leaders dead in their tracks in terms of both the weapons and the persistent threats against Israel. The columnist’s comparison to 1967 suggested that Israel can once again take on and defeat a traditional army of a regional nemesis. Yet, this is not the point in 2012.

The counterattack would most likely not come from an army. It would come in the form of terrorist tactics on civilians in Israel and abroad. Moreover, an Israeli attack would give the regime in Tehran a rallying cry, one it desperately needs to offset economic troubles.

The world has changed in the 45 years since the Six Day War. Mr. Krauthammer’s comparison is na├»ve.

Brigid Starkey, Baltimore

I think a bit more deserves to be said, as well.

First, the way in which actual facts can morph into accepted conventional wisdom that is quite a bit different, as when Krauthammer asserts that "Israelis today face the greatest threat to their existence — nuclear weapons in the hands of apocalyptic mullahs publicly pledged to Israel’s annihilation — since May ’67. "  It is not actually the case the such a threat exists as of today, May 17, 2012.  It may in the future, of course, but as of now -- according to the best available intelligence -- Iran has neither acquired an offensive nuclear weapons capability, not has it pledged to annihilate Israel.  This is not insignificant semantic nit-picking.  It is, in fact, the principle difference between the Israeli position and that of the United States.

Second, he says that "Israelis know that they will once again have to defend themselves, by themselves."  This rests on an assumption that all public statements on the subject by the last eight U.S. presidents have been disingenuous and meaningless -- that America would not defend Israel even if it faced destruction.

Third, the columnist scoffs at "recent media hype about some great domestic resistance to Netanyahu’s hard line on Iran"  It has been widely reported that no less a figure than Netanyahu's new coalition partner, Shaul Mofaz, has counseled strongly against a strike on Iran.

Lastly, Krauthammer ends with " if the world does not act (whether by diplomacy or otherwise) to stop Iran, Israel will" -- as though the world has not been acting.  The harshest sanctions yet seen have been imposed on Iran.  Diplomatic talks are occurring.  Covert operations have been launched within Iran.  Inaction is not our problem.  The prospect of yet another war in the Middle East is.






Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Post #268 - Contact Your Representative


From PeaceNow.org, May 14:

Take Action NOW: House Set to Vote (Without Debate) on Reckless Iran Resolution
By Rabbi Alana Suskin

The House is scheduled to vote tomorrow on H. Res. 568, an Iran-focused resolution that seeks to lower the bar for war, to tie the President's hands in negotiations, and to effectively take all options, except the military option, off the table. It appears to be no coincidence that this resolution is being brought to a vote now, just as a new round of Iran diplomacy is set to take place on May 23.

Call your member of Congress today and tell them: vote "No" or "Present" on H. Res. 568.

H. Res. 568 was introduced in March during the AIPAC policy conference and has been a centerpiece of AIPAC lobbying since then. It is being brought to a vote under "suspension of the rules" - meaning that the House will vote on a piece of legislation that could have profound impact on U.S. national security and the possibility of war, without there ever having been a single hearing or any debate regarding its contents.

Tell your Member of Congress: don't let yourself be manipulated by those who want another Middle East war.

Passage of H. Res. 568 appears to send a message that Congress wants another war, especially given that the resolution does not include any language making clear that it is not an authorization of use of force. It comes on the heels of last week's House passage (also under suspension of the rules) of HR 4133, another AIPAC-backed initiative which included provisions that appear to support Israeli military action against Iran.

Tell Congress to demand hearings during which the contents of H. Res. 568 can be debated and amended, including to make clear that it includes no authorization of use of force.

There is no question that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a serious threat to Israel and U.S. national security interests. Addressing this threat requires a sober, rational approach, not the ill-considered adoption of dangerously reckless legislation.

In this election season, members of Congress are under intense pressure. They need to hear from you. You need to let members of Congress know that they have engaged, active constituents, like you, who want them to do the right thing - not just the politically expedient thing - on issues of vital importance to the U.S. and Israel, including Iran. 

PS: For a summary of the specific flaws in H. Res. 568 (and its Senate companion, S. Res. 380), as well as suggested ways these flaws could be fixed if Congress held hearings on these resolutions, see:
 http://peacenow.org/entries/apn_to_congress_amend_aipac-backed_initiatives_on_israel_iran.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Post #267 - Itching for War


MJ Rosenberg, after a career as a staffer in both the House and the Senate, several years in the executive branch (Department of State) and more time in non-governmental policy-oriented groups, including AIPAC, writes this week (5/13) on a vote in the lower house of the Congress, which shows just how dangerous things have become:

Rosenberg, with President Obama
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives is slated to vote on a resolution designed to tie the president's hands on Iran policy. The resolution, which is coming up under an expedited House procedure, was the centerpiece of AIPAC's recent conference. In fact, 13,000 AIPAC delegates were dispatched to Capitol Hill, on the last day of the conference, with instructions to tell the senators and representatives whom they met that supporting this resolution was #1 on AIPAC's election year agenda.

Accordingly, it is not particularly surprising that the resolution is being rushed to the House floor for a vote, nor that it is expected to pass with very little opposition. Those voting "no" on this one will pay a price in campaign contributions (the ones they won't receive) and, very likely, will be smeared as "anti-Israel." That is how it works.

Most of the language in H. Res.568 is unremarkable, the usual boilerplate (some of it factual) denouncing the Islamic Republic of Iran as a "state sponsor of terrorism" that is on the road to nuclear weapons capability.

The resolution's overarching message is that Iran must be deterred from developing weapons, a position the White House (and our allies share). That is why the sanctions regime is in place and also why negotiations with Iran have resumed (the next session is May 23).

But the resolution does not stop with urging the president to use his authority to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. If it did, the resolution would be uncontroversial .

But there is also this: The House "urges the President to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability and opposition to any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat."

Think about that.

The resolution, which almost surely will pass on Tuesday, is telling the president that he may not "rely on containment" in response to "the Iranian nuclear threat."

Since the resolution, and U.S. policy itself defines Iranian possession of nuclear weapons as, ipso facto, a threat, Congress would be telling the president that any U.S. response to that threat other than war is unacceptable. In fact, it goes farther than that, not only ruling out containment of a nuclear armed Iran but also containment of an Iran that has a "nuclear weapons capability."

That means that the only acceptable response to a nuclear armed or nuclear capable Iran is not containment but its opposite: war.

U.S. Rep. Joseph Lieberman
Any doubt that this is the intention of the backers of this approach was removed back in March, when the Senate was considering new Iran sanctions. Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Bob Casey (D-PA) offered their own "no containment" language to the sanctions bill and the Senate moved quickly to accept it.

However, amending a bill once it is already on the Senate floor requires unanimous consent and one, and only one, senator objected. Rand Paul (R-KY) said that he would oppose the containment clause unless a provision was added specifying that "nothing in the Act shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization of the use of force against Iran..."

That did it.

Israeli politico Avigdor Lieberman
Neither the Democratic or Republican leadership would accept that (knowing that AIPAC wouldn't) and Paul's objection killed the bill, for the time being. In other words, the purpose of "no containment" language is precisely to make war virtually automatic. Because Paul's provision would thwart that goal, it was unacceptable.

So now it's the House's turn.

On the substance, the "no containment" idea is absurd and reckless.

Imagine if President Kennedy had been told by the Congress back in 1962 that if the Soviet Union placed missiles in Cuba, he would have no choice but to attack Cuba or the USSR. If it had, it is likely none of us would be around today.

Presidents need latitude to make decisions affecting matters of national security and, until now, all presidents have been afforded it, as provided for in the United States Constitution. But, in the case of Iran, the cheerleaders for war are trying to change the rules. They are doing that because they understand that after almost a decade of war, the last thing Americans want is another one.

No president is going to ask Congress to declare war, or even to authorize it. Making war against Iran automatic would eliminate that problem. (That is precisely Sen. Paul's objection; he believes that backing into war is unconstitutional. He recalls the Gulf of Tonkin resolution of 1964 which led to ten years of war in Vietnam and 50,000 American dead without a declaration of war or even a specific authorization for war).

So why would the House vote for a resolution like this? The main reason is AIPAC. It may be the only lobby pushing for war with Iran but it also, by far, the most powerful foreign policy lobby and also the one that sees to it that those who play ball with it are rewarded and those who don't are punished.

The other reason is that the resolution is non-binding. Voting for it is good politics but does not affect policy.

Believing that is a mistake. An overwhelming vote for "no containment" may not tie the president's hands legally, but it does go a long way to tying his hands politically. After all, Congress will be expressing its clear (bipartisan) intent. A president cannot easily ignore that.

Moreover, the lobby is unlikely to stop with a non-binding resolution. Once the House and Senate have passed that, the lobby will look for an opportunity to make it binding. The goal is to take the president's discretion away from him because this president is unlikely to choose war when there are other options available.

It is those options that the lobby is determined to block. It remains hell-bent for war.

Follow MJ Rosenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mjayrosenberg

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Post #266 - Israel Tilts on Its Axis


Almost everyone was surprised by the recent shift in Israeli politics. This is the way Churches for Middle East Peace [full disclosure: I am a member of the CMEP board] covered the development, and its possible impact on planning for a strike on Iran:

Elections Cancelled After Late-Night Deal

In a stunning turn of events, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled the elections slated for September and broadened his coalition by striking a deal with Shaul Mofaz, leader of the opposition party Kadima. Kadima is the largest single party Knesset and after the deal, 94 out of the 120 legislators are in Netanyahu’s coalition. This arguably makes Netanyahu the strongest prime minister since David Ben-Gurion in 1948. It is unclear at the moment what effect this turn of events could have on several important issues identified as essential by Netanyahu, including the peace process, a new election law marginalizing small political parties, military service for Orthodox yeshiva students, the evacuation of settlements ruled illegal by the Israeli Supreme Court, and the threat from Iran.

The two men struck a deal early Tuesday morning unbeknownst to several Knesset members preparing for an all night session to dissolve the legislative body in preparation for the elections. The gossip about a deal started around 1:00 AM when a security guard told someone he saw Netanyahu and Mofaz on the Knesset compound. The tired Knesset members in the cafeteria were abuzz as rumors swirled. At 2:00 AM, members of Likud, Kadima and Labor parties finally assembled in a room where Netanyahu informed them of the deal.

Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon formed the center-left Kadima party after splitting from Likud over negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and the disengagement plan in 2005. In 2006, Sharon suffered a stroke leaving him permanently incapacitated and his nascent party with an improbable future. The party continued under Ehud Olmert until he left the party in 2008. Tzipi Livni won a subsequent leadership election and helped Kadima win the most seats in the 2009 elections. She was unable to turn the victory into a coalition strong enough to form a government and Netanyahu became prime minister. During her time as the Knesset opposition leader, Livni earned a reputation for not challenging Netanyahu effectively. In April, Kadima voters ousted Livni from the top spot and elected Shaul Mofaz to lead the opposition party.

Mofaz was born in Tehran exactly six months after Israel declared independence. Nine years later his family immigrated to the Jewish homeland. Mofaz stirs up mixed reactions from the left and right. He has several credentials that appeal to right-wing Israelis. He served in one of the Israeli military’s elite units during several wars…He was the military chief of staff and later defense minister during the Second Intifada. He received criticism for his tough tactics including the devastating Jenin offensive and the demolition of Palestinian homes as punishment. In 2005, he entered politics as a member of Likud but switched to Kadima a month later. Recognizing that the occupation presents a security threat to Israel, he supports negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. In 2009, he devised a plan for a peace agreement that initially gives Palestinians 60 percent of the West Bank and then negotiates the rest with equal land swaps. After his election to Kadima spot in April, Mofaz told The New York Times’ Ethan Bronner, “I intend to replace Netanyahu. I will not join his government.” He went even further on his Facebook page in March, writing, “Listen up: I won't join Bibi's government…This is a bad and failed government and Kadima under my leadership will replace it in the next elections. Is that clear enough?”

Why Now?

Last week, the CMEP bulletin explained that Netanyahu planned to call for elections in hopes of modifying his coalition and getting more leeway when dealing with settler and ultra-Orthodox factions in his government. The deal with Kadima can solve those same problems. Netanyahu summed it up best, telling reporters, “I realized that it was possible to restore stability without holding elections.”

The ultra-Orthodox haredim parties Shas and United Torah Judaism were constraining Netanyahu’s ability to reform the controversial Tal Law that currently exempts Orthodox yeshiva students from performing military service. In February, the Supreme Court ruled the law is illegal because it gives the haredim preferential treatment and the court gave the government until August to repeal or replace it. Kadima and another secular coalition party Yisrael Beiteinu want to make the service mandatory for everyone. Now Netanyahu can find a more equitable solution since Shas and United Torah Judaism cannot topple the government by withdrawing.

The Supreme Court set another deadline that put Netanyahu between a rock and a hard place. In September 2011, the court ordered the government to evict settlers from five permanent buildings in the Ulpana neighborhood and the government agreed to do so by May 1, 2012. The potential evictions divided the coalition. Right wing Likud members insist the Knesset pass legislation to circumvent the order after the court rejected the state’s request to reconsider the decision on Monday, a week after the deadline passed. During the hearing, the justices imposed a July 1 deadline for the buildings’ demolition. Netanyahu hopes to find a legal solution to keep the settlers in place but with the addition of Mofaz and Kadima, he would have the support to raze the buildings if he decides to go that route.

Winners…

Benjamin Netanyahu: This proves Netanyahu is the king of Israeli politics. With 94 seats, he has room to maneuver on the Tal Law, settlement outposts, election reform and peace without the even more right-wing politicians holding his government hostage if he chooses. The way things stand now, Netanyahu will be prime minister until 2013 and if he wins again, he could still be in office in 2018.

Shaul Mofaz and Kadima Politicians: The deal gives Mofaz and Kadima more influence in the government in the short term. Under the deal, Mofaz will be vice prime minister in Netanyahu’s cabinet and more Kadima members may become ministers in the future. Polls indicated that Kadima would not fair well in the September 4 elections, probably only retaining 10 of their 28 seats. Now those Knesset members can relax knowing their job is likely safe until at least 2013. If the settler and ultra-Orthodox parties jump ship, Kadima members will likely gain the vacant ministry positions in the cabinet.

Losers…

The Kadima Party: Since Sharon and other Likud members broke away and formed Kadima in 2005, Likud’s politics have shifted further to the right. Bringing Kadima politicians back into Likud  could shift the balance of power back to the moderates. The deal has also damaged the party’s credibility. One Israeli analyst said the deal is a “complete capitulation” and “the beginning of the end for Kadima.” Already, a Kadima official has quit the party. Haim Ramon told Ynet that, “From an ideological standpoint, Kadima no longer exists for me…Kadima has reverted to being Likud. Many (members) have wanted this to happen the whole time. They voted out Tzipi Livni.”

Opposition: Before this deal, the opposition to Netanyahu’s government had 54 seats spread amongst seven parties. Now, there are only 26. This is not even enough to call a special session of the Knesset to force the prime minister to defend his policies. Chairwoman for the Labor party, Shelly Yachimovich, is now the official opposition leader and has her work cut out for her. She has already taken a firm stance against the new coalition, calling it an “alliance of cowards.” However the opposition’s loss could be temporary. Many are speculating that Tzipi Livni could make a dramatic return to politics by forming her own party with at least five possible Kadima defectors who disagree with the shift to the right. If the five find two more members, they can form a new faction and receive funding. It would only take a party of nine members to take the opposition from Yachimovich and Labor.

Ultra-Orthodox: The ultra-Orthodox haredim parties Shas and United Torah Judaism are typically the king makers in Israeli politics. Before the agreement, they stood in the way of Netanyahu’s ability to reform the Tal Law in order to protect the haradim’s narrow interests. Exempting them from sharing the burden of military service while the government subsidizes most of the 60 percent who are unemployed makes secular Israelis uneasy. Now that secular parties hold 70 of the 94 seats in the coalition, the ultra-Orthodox are no longer the lynchpin and their influence is waning.

Time Will Tell…

The Peace Process: For those who intensely focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it can be hard to believe that the peace process is not always front and center in Israeli politics. Domestic squabbles provided the impetus for the agreement, but peace is not irrelevant. Since taking office in 2009, Netanyahu has not shown any real initiative to revive negotiations but the fresh mandate could give him opportunities to pursue that goal. If a peace deal came to fruition, the broad coalition could help him sell it to the public. He may be out of excuses to avoid negotiations now that he does not have to mollify the right wing and ultra-Orthodox elements in the coalition. President Obama and other international leaders also have a choice. Knowing Netanyahu has flexibility, it could be the perfect time to make a more concerted push for peace. Like many of the other issues facing Israel, it is now up to Netanyahu to decide what direction he wants to take the country.


Many have noted that just prior to the 1967 War, a similar consolidation of Israeli governance took place, speculating that this may augur a movement toward a strike on Iran in the near term. Given the background and track record of a key figure in the rearrangement -- Shaul Mofaz, who has spoken against the idea of a strike -- the opposite could also be true. As the CMEP writer said, time will tell....

Friday, May 11, 2012

Post #265 - Faded Green

See this update -- done last fall by the Foreign Affairs Council -- regarding Iran's Green Movement:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqHhLy6KOMo&feature=related

Post #264 - Repairing the Earth...or Not


Richard Silverstein wrote this piece, which appeared on his blog "Tikkun Olam/Making the World a Better Place" on May 6:

Israeli Elections Accelerate Iran Strike

Bibi Netanyahu has announced new national elections for September, which he hopes will further solidify what I call the permanent Israeli far-right majority. A majority that portends a further erosion–or perhaps, final disintegration–of what little is left of democracy, civil liberties and everything else embodied in a western liberal state. As if this wasn’t bad enough, there is another weighty matter that could be impacted by a Netanyahu victory: an attack on Iran.

Most observers believe that when Bibi left Washington after his last visit, Obama secured a commitment that Israel would not attack Iran before the U.S. presidential election in November. With the Israeli prime minister likely to win a new term in September, this would set up a perfectly timed opportunity for Netanyahu to launch an attack post-November.

But there is an alternate prospect. In 1981, Menachem Begin attacked the Iraqi Osirak reactor a few weeks before an Israeli election. It was a gutsy move since the Israeli Opposition, most of the world, and especially the U.S. opposed such an attack. If it had gone wrong, Begin might have lost the election. As it was, even with a successful (in the short-term) attack, the election was extremely close and he barely squeaked by. So there is an Israeli political precedent for a prime minister to bet the house during election season with a military attack against an Arab enemy. Besides, Bibi’s predecessor resorted to wars twice during his term believing they would give him a political boost (it’s doubtful they helped much since Israelis eventually came to believe that both were mismanaged).

If Netanyahu did attack in the summer, before the election, he would be in far different circumstances than Begin was. The current Israeli leader has a stable coalition government likely to win the next election. An attack on Iran, though likely to be denounced by the world, would likely play well, at least initially, to the Israeli electorate. From Bibi’s point of view, attacking Iran could transform the election from a mere victory into a historic landslide that would give him not just a mandate, but a historic one that would translate into many more years of right-wing dominance of Israeli political life. Polls taken now show Likud picking up three seats, and Kadima, the sole centrist party under its new leader, Shaul Mofaz, collapsing almost into political oblivion. Even if it joined a coalition with the rebounding Labor Party, it could not muster enough seats to outnumber a far-right coalition.

Though many Israelis deride Netanyahu as being a waffler, deeply cautious, a political turtle, if you will–the man clearly has a Napoleonic-Churchillian complex and grandiose visions of his place in history. This is the sort of plan that would appeal to his over-sized ego. And a resounding victory would provide him the mandate to go to war.

Ari Shavit, writing in Haaretz, sees things a bit differently. He believes Netanyahu will davka attack Iran just after the September elections, but before the November U.S. elections. The benefit to the prime minister, at least as Shavit sees it, is that Obama’s hands will be tied as he will not want to upset the election apple cart in order to take Israel to the woodshed. While I’ve never lost out by setting a very low bar for Obama’s political fortitude, even this might be too much hubris for the Israeli prime minister to assume. It just might be possible for Obama to show some spine if Bibi deliberately tries to exploit a political vacuum before the November election.

Returning to the upcoming Israeli elections, another reason Bibi set them for September, I believe, is a longstanding mistrust of Pres. Obama. He knows the U.S. leader is likely to be re-elected in November. Thus, he wants to present Obama with a fait accompli after the latter’s election. He wants to come at Obama from a position of maximum strength, having just won a resounding election victory in September. This will help insulate Bibi from any of the onerous demands Obama might seek to make of him afterward and guarantee that the president’s next term will offer little in the way of compromise from Israel.

For those who read Hebrew, I relied on several articles in writing this post: Ben Caspit, Ari Shavit and Nahum Barnea, among others.


NB: It should be noted that since this appeared, there has been a significant change in Israeli politics. Netanyahu has been able to gain the collaboration of the Kadima Party in his ruling coalition, and has put off the scheduled elections (for at least another year). This may well make the circumstances described by Silverstein all the more urgent.