Robert Gates on How Israel & Saudi Arabia Pressure US into Wars of Choice

John Glaser, January 21, 2014

Meeting with the King of Saudi Arabia.

Robert Gates’s new memoir, which I’ve mentioned I’m making my way through, has a nice example of how dangerous entangling alliances can be. Not only does Gates write frankly about how U.S. interests are subordinated to those of our weaker allies, but he is unusually candid about the Bush administration’s use of force in the Middle East, describing it as “preventive” (which, of course, is another way of saying “war crime”).

In 2007, Israel shared intelligence with the U.S. about a nuclear enrichment facility in Syria that had some connection to the North Korean regime. Israel, according to Gates, explicitly wanted the U.S. to take military action because the reactor represented “an existential threat” to Israel. Needless to say, Israel, along with many members of the Bush administration, did not care a wit about the effect this would have on U.S. interests.

Just one of the risks, as Gates writes, was that “any overt U.S. preemptive attack will cause a firestorm in the Middle East, Europe, and the U.S. Efforts to prove out case against Syria and North Korea, based on current available intelligence, will be unsuccessful or regarded with deep skepticism. U.S. military action will be seen as another rash act by a trigger-happy administration and could jeopardize our efforts in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and even with respect to missile defense in Europe. It would be seen as an effort to offset or distract from failures in Iraq.”

And those were just some of the risks. There were others associated with an Israeli-led strike and Gates advised President Bush to tell Israel not to attack. Instead, several administration officials that Gates describes as “very pro-Israel” advocated giving Israel the green light. According to Gates, “the United States was being held hostage to Israeli decision making.”

In September, Israel bombed the reactor in what administration officials nicknamed the “Tojo option – referring to the Japanese prime minister who order the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.”

Aside from Syria, a much bigger worry was the entangling alliances Washington had with Israel and Saudi Arabia that relegated Iran to permanent bogeyman status. “I worried about the influence of the Israelis and the Saudis in the White House, particularly Prime Minister Olmert and King Abdullah, and their shared desire to have problems like Iran ‘taken care of’ while Bush was still president,” Gates writes.

Gates then describes a meeting with the Saudi King Abdullah, in which he explicitly demands that the U.S. bomb Iran on behalf of Saudi Arabia:

Abdullah, a heavyset man in his eighties with a history of health problems, was very sharp and did not mince words as he smoked one cigarette after another. He wanted a fill-scale military attack on Iranian military targets, not just the nuclear sites. He warned that if we did not attack, the Saudis “must go our own way to protect our interests.” As far as I was concerned he was asking the United States to send its sons and daughters into a war with Iran in order to protect the Saudi position in the Gulf and the region, as if we were mercenaries. He was asking us to shed American blood, but at no time did he suggest that any Saudi blood might be spilled. He went on and on about how the United States was seen as weak by governments in the region. The longer he talked, the angrier I got, and I responded undiplomatically. I told him that absent an Iranian military attack on U.S. forces or our allies, if the president launched another preventive war in the Middle East, he would likely be impeached; that we had our hands full in Iraq; and that the president would use military force only to protect vital American interests.

It has been known that the Saudis take this position in private talks with U.S. administrations, as we learned from classified State Department cables released by WikiLeaks, Abdullah “has repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran’s nuclear program,” at one time even advising the U.S. to “cut the head off the snake,” a comment many considered to be an ill-concealed metaphor for regime change. But what Gates describes is particularly outrageous.

The other thing that strikes me in this account is the way Gates openly refers to the Bush administration’s attack on Iraq as “preventive war,” a doctrine widely understood to qualify as a war crime. Absent from Gates’s description of the war on Iraq is the pretexts that continue to be referenced by its advocates, that America and the world were gravely threatened by Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction and nefarious ties to terrorism. This indicates to me that it’s likely Bush officials didn’t actually believe the attack on Iraq was legal…they just thought the law doesn’t apply to them.




25 Responses to “Robert Gates on How Israel & Saudi Arabia Pressure US into Wars of Choice”

  1. Typical of all political appointees. You only hear some 'truth' when they are no longer in office. I am supposed to thank Mr. Gates for his "service". What "service" I ask.

  2. He is right that the US shouldn't let other countries treat it like a bully for hire.

  3. With "friends" like Israel and Saudi Arabia, America doesn't need any enemies.

  4. Does the American people know that every decision, be it domestic or international have to be approve by the Israeli? It’s true…just ask AIPAC.

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  6. Gates was surely a vast improvement over his predecessor at Defense, the war criminal Rumsfeld. But, to add to what aaron said, it bothers me that these top level appointees, including generals, never resign their position and go public if they strongly oppose a policy that is harming the country. They always wait until they are safely out of office to start raking in the royalties.

  7. 'money, money, money'….'where interest lies, honor dies'.

  8. USA lost its most closest ally who fought side by side in cold wars that includes Japan Pakistan Taiwan, in return got new ally like China India Arabia now Iran

  9. "In 2007, Israel shared intelligence with the U.S. about a nuclear enrichment facility in Syria that had some connection to the North Korean regime. Israel, according to Gates, explicitly wanted the U.S. to take military action because the reactor represented “an existential threat” to Israel."

    "There were others associated with an Israeli-led strike and Gates advised President Bush to tell Israel not to attack. Instead, several administration officials that Gates describes as 'very pro-Israel' advocated giving Israel the green light. According to Gates, 'the United States was being held hostage to Israeli decision making.'"

    Has anyone else noticed how these two quotes contradict each other?

    And who are the nameless "very pro-Israel" officials? If he is talking about Paul Wolfowitz, that liar was in bed with the Arabs the whole time — only now we know It was literally and not metaphorically!

  10. Robert Gates should have avoided being in the George Warmonger Bush and the Ehud Barack Obama administrations. He could have said what he is saying now. The late Robert McNamara never said he was against the Vietnam War until long after it ended.

  11. The wars are good business for all parties named here, Saudi will continue buy USA made weapons, Israel will get it for free, actually Saudis are charged for what Israel gets for free, and the business mans from war corporations on all side will make billions upon billion profits, that's with knowledge of USG off course. In reality these people, no matter what or who they are, the last thing in their mind is humans life's, destruction of a country or nation even if millions upon millions humans are killed, today tomorrow or next week and how much the "Business" is bringing is their concern.

    It is not the people, it is the system that kills people, it is not the gun that kills people, it is the profit selling guns that kills people.

  12. I don't think we can trust Gates on much. he had many chances to resign but didn't.

  13. If Gates hadn't taken the job, Bush undoubtedly would have nominated someone worse. Gates did the country a favor by agreeing to serve. Seems like he was a check against Bush/Cheney excesses, and he doesn't appear to be a tool of the Lobby.

  14. Come on, who wouldn't die for a Shriner?

  15. My take is the "Deep government" in the US no longer sees any personal advantage in US military adventures. So they are hinting that there may be embarrassing disclosures, including names, in the future. I noticed accusations of Snowden being an agent of the Russians, what if he is a CIA "asset" and his leaks were officially sanctioned by the "deep government". That would explain his comparative ease of travel.

  16. His "ease of travel"? Like Germany and France refusing to let him fly over their airspace? Like how his lawyer's computer was stolen from his hotel room? Like U.S. intelligence operators talking about how they want to murder him? Like the pro-Zionist media attacking him, ridiculing him, demonizing him for months? Like how he CAN'T COME HOME because he, who exposed the traitors who give away bulk information on millions of Americans unseen to Israel, is called a traitor by the criminals and threatened with decades in prison?

  17. Great piece!

    -M

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  19. When did Gates begin to figure all this out? Obviously after he was no longer in a position of authority. Funny, I knew this stuff 20yrs ago.

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  22. "several administration officials that Gates describes as “very pro-Israel” advocated giving Israel the green light"

    Who are these very pro-Israel US administration officials that promoted this act of aggression?

  23. Well, say you're the guy who had the US interest at heart in the middle of all of that (which aint necessarily saying that's what Gates was). What does quitting do?

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