There should be little doubt that the Israeli
government is making every effort to jump-start a war against Iran sooner rather
than later. Many Israelis not surprisingly believe it is in their interest
to convince the United States to attack Iran so that Israel will not have to
do it, and they are hell-bent on bringing that about. Unfortunately, their
efforts are being aided and abetted by a U.S. mainstream media that is unwilling
to ask any hard questions or challenge the assumptions of the Israeli government.
Israeli intellectuals such as Benny Morris have been provided a platform to
argue implausibly that a little war is necessary right now to prevent a larger
nuclear conflict. The repeated visits to Washington by Israeli Minister of
Defense Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi to pressure Washington
to commit to a military option are generally unreported in the U.S. media,
and no one is asking why the United States should be involved in what is clearly
a "wag the dog" scenario.
For once, however, some officials in Washington appear to have developed a
backbone and are pushing back. A flurry of visits to Israel by Defense Secretary
Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, and
intelligence chiefs Mike McConnell and Michael Hayden have made clear that
there is considerable opposition at the Pentagon and in intelligence circles
to starting a third war at this time. Israel says that Iran is about to obtain
a nuclear weapon while the Pentagon and American intelligence services are
providing a more cautious assessment, putting forward the U.S. view that Iran
is still far removed from having nuclear capability. Mullen went so far as
to tell the Israelis flatly that Washington does not want another war. He even
brought up the subject of the USS Liberty, a not-so subtle hint that
Washington knows that Israel might try to engineer a Gulf of Tonkin-type surprise
to force American involvement. Mullen may have been implying that any incident
in the Persian Gulf that might lead to armed conflict will be scrutinized carefully
to determine if it is a false flag operation initiated by Tel Aviv.
On the home front there is also some additional good news for those who prefer
diplomacy to warfare: Congress is in recess and won't be able to do anything
truly stupid, at least not until next month. House Resolution
362 has 261 co-sponsors, but it is still in committee and the word is that
it will be rewritten because of concerns about some of its language. Though
not binding, it would have recommended a blockade of Iranian ports to stop
the import of petroleum products, which many have rightly seen as an act of
war. Senate Resolution
580, which has 49 senators as co-sponsors, is also reportedly being redrafted.
The antiwar movement has claimed some credit for stopping the two resolutions
in their original versions because of a mobilization that produced thousands
of calls to congressmen, but AIPAC has been lobbying heavily for the approval
of both resolutions. I expect that the Israel lobby will prevail. Both resolutions
should pass with overwhelming majorities when Congress reconvenes after Labor
The principal problem in attempting to derail the rush to war has been the
mainstream media, which provides a bully pulpit for those who want war. The
media also accepts the framework of the Iran "problem" as defined
by Washington and Tel Aviv, refusing to enter into any kind of serious, adult
discussion of how the outstanding issues between the U.S. and Iran might be
resolved. A good example of how it all works was provided on Aug. 3, when Israeli
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was interviewed on CNN's Late Edition by
Wolf Blitzer, who himself once worked for AIPAC.
Livni has an interesting resume. Her father was one of the Irgun terrorists
who blew up the King David hotel in 1946 and later massacred Arab villagers
in Deir Yassin. As a teenager, Livni participated in demonstrations on behalf
of the nationalist extremist group Greater Israel, which advocated expelling
all Arabs and extending Israeli domination over all of historic Palestine to
include the West Bank, parts of Jordan, up to the Litani River in Lebanon to
the north, and down to include Sinai and the Suez Canal in the south and west.
She is reported to have mellowed somewhat since that time. She was close to
Ariel Sharon, became justice minister, switched over to Kadima with Sharon,
and was elected to the Knesset. She was rewarded with the Foreign Ministry
by Sharon and now serves Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. She is a former intelligence
officer, a lawyer by training, bright and articulate, and generally regarded
as a "realist" vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the Muslim world,
meaning that she supported the Sharon policy of "disengagement" and
seeks a negotiated solution and normalization rather than continuing armed
conflict. She appears to be the leading candidate to replace Ehud Olmert when
he steps down later this year due to his acceptance of gifts from an American
Livni has been reported as having said privately in October 2007 that Iran
poses no existential threat to Israel and was highly critical of attempts to
hype the danger, but her private views have not in any way influenced her public
pronouncements. In her interview with CNN she made a number of statements that
are inaccurate or at best speculative, but predictably, she was not challenged
in any way by Blitzer. Most viewers probably came away from the interview convinced
that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, is unwilling to negotiate over its nuclear
enrichment program, and is a danger to the entire world.
Following a lead-in by Blitzer affirming that Iran is "showing absolutely
no indication they're going to stop enriching uranium," Livni – representing
a country that has ignored more UN resolutions than any other, engaged in ethnic
cleansing, and attacked all of its neighbors without warning – asserted that
"It is clear that Iran doesn't pay attention to talks … Iran is a threat,
not only to Israel, but this is a global threat."
Blitzer then obligingly provided another softball, referring to Ehud Barak's
assessment that there is only a window of 15 to 36 months before Iran crosses
the "line of no return." While it is not clear what the expression
"line of no return" means, Livni jumped on it, saying that "any
kind of hesitation … is being perceived by the Iranians as weakness. … Iran
is a threat to its neighbors, as well. … We shouldn't wait for what we call
'point of no return.'" Blitzer then asked, "You don't even give them
15 months necessarily. You think it's a more urgent matter?" "Yes,"
Blitzer then suggested that the U.S. might not ready for a "third front"
in the Middle East at the present time, to which Livni replied, "[T]he
world cannot afford a nuclear Iran and weapons of mass destruction everywhere
in this region, in the hands not only of states, but also of terrorist organizations."
Livni clearly believes that it is all right for Israel to have a secret nuclear
arsenal but unacceptable for any of Israel's neighbors, because they cannot
be trusted to behave responsibly. The allegation that Tehran would give nuclear
weapons to terrorists surfaces frequently from Israeli and neocon sources.
It is speculative and in all likelihood a complete fantasy, given the apocalyptic
consequences of such an action for Iran, but Blitzer failed to contest the
point. The terrorist argument is an essential line in the script for those
who want the U.S. to engage in a war with Iran.
Tzipi Livni should not be blamed for reciting her lines in spite of her personal
misgivings, because she is, after all, the government official responsible
for explaining Tel Aviv's foreign policy. It is the American media that continues
to play the patsy. If interviewers like Wolf Blitzer are the best that the
U.S. mainstream media can come up with, then we are in serious trouble. The
interview format itself is a travesty, particularly as it suggests that some
rational process is being applied to either critique or validate what the interviewee
is saying. As the Livni interview demonstrates, if the subject is the Middle
East and the interviewer is Wolf Blitzer, that is not likely to be the case.