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Friday, December 27, 2013


If only it were.

If it were just up to Obama there would be no war until he decides there will be. But he’s just the President and, while he wields a lot of clout, at the end of the day he has a Congress to answer to.

If Obama put his foot down and said ‘no’ to Netanyahu launching a strike against Iran then Netanyahu wouldn’t do it. While there’s been a lot of talk of Netanyahu launching a unilateral strike against Iran, there is no way that he would do such thing without knowing that the US would come to Israel’s aid if Iran decided to retaliate – which it almost certainly would.

Obama has made it clear that he wants to give diplomacy every chance before taking any other action – let alone resorting to the military option. Netanyahu, however, has other ideas. He has told the world that, because Israel was not involved in the talks with Iran, Israel is not obligated by the terms of any agreement the P5+1 made with Iran. Furthermore, Netanyahu has also made it quite clear that Israel retains the right to launch a pre-emptive unilateral strike against Iran at any time Israel feels threatened or believes that Iran has crossed a ‘red line’.

Netanyahu’s problem was that he knows he can’t launch a pre-emptive ‘unilateral’ attack against Iran without US support and, without support from President Obama, war might be impossible.

Netanyahu, not to be thwarted by an obstinate US President, believes he has found another way to circumvent Obama’s no war policy by using the powerful combined forces of the American Israel lobby groups to garner support from the US Congress.

To this end a bipartisan group of Israeli supporters in the Senate have banded together to introduce a bill that will ostensibly create even more sanctions against Iran despite the P5+1 agreement with Iran specifically excluding further sanctions for the duration of the agreement. However, barely hidden in the proposed bill is a clause that states:

 …if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with the law of the United States and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence…

If this bill is passed in its entirety through Congress, it clearly most effectively gives Netanyahu the power to commit the US to war against Iran by simple virtue of Israel launching such an attack.

Obama has already strongly indicated that, if the bill is passed through Congress, he would veto it. But the President’s veto power is not limitless; if the bill flows through Congress with a two-thirds majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives then the President’s veto power may be over-ruled. (See here for the rules regarding presidential veto.) It would be up to Obama to use all of his Presidential influence to defeat the bill.

One can be sure that the Israel lobby will be using every ounce of its influence to ensure that, not only does the bill get through, but gets through with a big enough majority to prevent a presidential veto.

Much will depend on how this bill progresses through Congress - especially the future of the Middle East.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


There is an interesting article in the neoconservative Weekly Standard online magazine this week that is well worth a read. The writer, neoconservative Uri Sadot, a research associate with the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that Israel, based on its historical record of successes in pulling off seemingly impossible military operations, might very well consider a pre-emptive unilateral strike against Iran.

Netanyahu has already stated that, because Israel was not part of the deal struck between Iran and the so-called P5+1, the US, UK, France, Russia and China being the 5 and Germany being the +1, Israel reserves the right to defend itself unilaterally if and when it deems necessary.

Since the deal was signed on 24 November 2013, the US Congress has been debating means by which sanctions against Iran can be increased despite the deal saying that there would be no more sanctions for at least six months. If such a bill is passed, Obama has threatened to veto it.

Veto or not – and Obama’s power to veto is limited – the stand-off clearly shows how much support Israel has in Congress amongst both Republicans and Democrats, much of it as a result of intensive lobbying by the Israelis and their US lobby groups. Such support would quickly translate into supporting Israel fully in the event of Israel deciding to make a pre-emptive strike against Iran. Any hesitation that Congress has had about weather or not to support sanctions would instantly evaporate and be quickly replaced with an all but unanimous call for the US military to go all out to support Israel and approve war against Iran.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Norman Podhoretz, often regarded as one of the Godfathers of neoconservatism, has a piece in the Wall Street Journal calling for the bombing of Iran. In it he argues that the alternative is to accept that Iran will get a nuclear weapon and that it will be used against Israel despite the certainty of Israel launching a devastating retaliatory nuclear strike that would destroy Iran. He writes:

…that the prospect of being annihilated in a retaliatory nuclear strike, which had successfully deterred the Soviets and the Chinese from unleashing their own nuclear weapons during the Cold War, would be ineffective against an Iran ruled by fanatical Shiite mullahs.

He then goes on to quote a fellow neoconservative, Bernard Lewis, who in 2007 wrote:

…mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement. We know already [from the Iran-Iraq war] that they do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers… They are giving them a quick free pass to heaven and all its delights.

This is a complete furphy. What both Lewis and Podhoretz – and, indeed, all those that argue that Iran is some kind of nihilist state – fail to understand is that Iran is exactly the opposite; it is a survivalist state. The state did not ‘kill their own people in vast numbers’ but, rather, vast numbers of Iranians volunteered to sacrifice their lives in order to defend their country from annihilation by Iraq and ensure its survival. Why then would Iran risk annihilation at the hands of Israel?

This is not the first time Podhoretz has called for the bombing of Iran. In 2007, toward the end of the George W. Bush presidency, Podhoretz hoped to persuade Bush to take on Iran before he left the presidency by writing an article in Commentary magazine entitled “The Case for Bombing Iran”.

In this fear-mongering piece of nonsense Podhoretz repeats the lie that the then Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had threatened to ‘wipe Israel of the map’. (In fact Ahmadinejad was quoting Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who, in 1980, had actually said: ‘This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the arena of time’.) Podhoretz goes on to claim that it is Iran’s intention to dominate, not just the entire Middle East, but, according to Podhoretz:

He has a larger dream of extending the power and influence of Islam throughout Europe, and this too he hopes to accomplish by playing on the fear that resistance to Iran would lead to a nuclear war.

Iran, of course, has moved on and has a new far more conciliatory president who is willing to talk with the West (much to the annoyance of Israel and their neocon supporters) and who insists that their nuclear program is about developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and not for building bombs – a notion supported by the fact that there is not one piece of hard evidence showing otherwise.

While Iran has moved on, Podhoretz, clearly, has not. The world can only hope that Netanyahu, who obviously is on the same page as Podhoretz, has advisors that have the good sense to ignore Podhoretz’s ravings.