The reports of the latest military action in Syria and Iraq has pushed most other foreign news out of the US media. This has been good for the neoconservatives, who have been urging an even more aggressive intervention, to include US boots on the ground. Since so much mainstream media coverage of the fighting has emphasized the threats from a bewildering array of new and old terrorist groups to strike here in the “homeland” many Americans have tended to rally ‘round the flag to support a forceful preemptive response.
And for once the neocons have a point as the performance by the administration is a bit of a fraud. The air campaign cannot in itself “destroy” ISIS as President Barack Obama has pledged to do, meaning that someone is going to have to do the hard fighting. The Iraqi army appears to be incapable of defeating anyone better equipped and led than a troop of Boy Scouts while Washington eschews any assistance to the Syrians who actually could have a major impact. The Turks, who have the capability to crush the group, are meanwhile standing on the sidelines. America’s European allies are in some cases providing assistance that has been described as “limited” while the Gulf States are straddling both sides in the conflict, wishing to see fellow Sunnis triumph over what they regard as heretics while also fearing that the revolutionary fervor will come back home.
As usual, Washington is falling into a trap of its own design by ruling out options that actually might be effective. Iran inevitably is part of the game being played in Iraq and Syria whether the US State Department wants it to be involved or not. A major regional power with a natural antipathy towards a burgeoning Sunni movement that considers Shiite Muslims heretics and fair game to be killed on sight, Tehran has close ties to its also majority Shiite neighbor Iraq and could possibly provide the kind of support that would enable Baghdad to put up some serious resistance to the growing Islamic State. Iran consequently would be a natural and possibly indispensable ally if one is actually serious about destroying ISIS.
But the very word “Iran” is poison to the neoconservatives whose kneejerk support of Israeli policies inevitably means that they are only considering part of the picture. Tel Aviv might not exactly welcome ISIS on its doorstep but it has long believed that conditions approaching anarchy in neighboring Muslim states are in its interest. It has pressured Washington against any dealing with Iran that legitimizes Tehran’s regional role, and when Israel speaks official Washington listens. There has been a steady drumbeat in the media to advance a number of talking points about the threat that Iran supposedly continues to represent.
So instead of having a free hand to deal with a genuine if overstated threat from Sunni terrorism, Congress and the Israel claque have restricted the Administration response while at the same continuing the ongoing campaign to scuttle talks intended to resolve outstanding issues relating to Tehran’s nuclear program. This is particularly unfortunate as both the United States and Iran have a clear interest in coming to an understanding on a number of levels, a development that would benefit nonproliferation efforts worldwide and which would even be good for Israel as it would lessen tension in the region.
A recent op-ed in the Washington Post “Iran remains America’s biggest challenge” incorporates some of the arguments that are being employed by Israel’s usual hacks. It is written by former Pentagon hawk Eric Edelman, “Israel’s lawyer” Dennis Ross, and Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations, who once was sensible on the issue of Iran but has lately moved over into the neocon camp. Note the headline’s designation of Iran as “America’s biggest challenge,” not merely one of the biggest and obviously overshadowing Russia-Ukraine, ISIS and Afghanistan in the minds of the authors.
The op-ed opposes any détente with Iran over ISIS, dismissing the very idea with the glib thrust that “the enemy of my enemy is sometimes still my enemy.” Why? Because Iran is attempting “to upend the regional order” which is America’s “most consequential long-term challenge in the Middle East.”
The article explains that Iran is “not a normal nation state” and expands on the alleged “regional order,” which turns out to be the existing American alliances in the Middle East. Tehran seeks to “subvert” those allies and “undermine the security of Israel.” It does that apparently by virtue of its support for the al-Assad regime in Syria and of Hezbollah. Far from an accommodation, “Iran should be confronted with a new, inhospitable reality as it searches for partners” because it represents “an enduring threat.”
One might note that the op-ed is heavy on innuendo but short on details. So Iran, which is surrounded by the allies and surrogates of a hostile United States and is threatened regularly by Israel’s nuclear arsenal, should not be attempting to develop allies of its own in the region. And when it is menaced by a Sunni terrorist group setting up shop on its own borders it should be considered outside the pale to engage in any cooperation with it to remove that genuine threat.
The authors seem to be oblivious to the reality that the chaos in the Middle East has been produced by the United States and Israel, not by Iran. Iran might not be anyone’s idea of Club Med on the Caspian Sea but it has invaded no one and has threatened no one in spite of the inflamed rhetoric in the US media. Israel’s demand that Iran should not be able to enrich uranium at all in spite of its right to do so under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which it is a signatory would guarantee no agreement. The US Congress is on board with Israel to increase sanctions against Iran when it returns in November, which would produce the same result.
Tel Aviv’s desire for complete full spectrum military dominance over all its neighbors has resulted in US policies that serve no conceivable national interest for Americans, but Congress will hardly let that stand in the way. With over three quarters of the Senate as co-sponsors an otherwise deeply divided upper house heading into recess and midterm elections was nevertheless able to agree unanimously on one thing: Israel is now uniquely America’s “major strategic partner.” The bill, which was promoted and possibly even written by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), had previously passed the House of Representatives by a 410-1 vote back in March. The Senate vote came a few days after a unanimous House of Representatives resolution condemning anti-Semitism throughout the world, meaning that both houses were able to go into recess with a warm and fuzzy feeling.
The United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act even takes a swipe at the Iranians, noting incorrectly “Iran’s continued quest to develop nuclear weapons, which the United States and Israel are both determined to prevent.” As part of the agreement, the US will forward deploy $200 million more military hardware into Israeli stockpiles on top of the $1.7 billion already in place, presumably to be drawn upon the next time the Palestinians get uppity. Using the weapons in anything but a defensive capacity is technically a violation of US law, but who’s counting when it comes to Israel. The bill also enables Israel to sell more of its manufactured products to US consumers and the federal government with no reciprocity in sight. It mandates maintaining Israel’s military advantage over its neighbors, whatever that takes, and promotes the passing of still more raw US intelligence information to Mossad. The bill also includes increased cooperation on cyber-security, an interesting wrinkle as Israel is already receiving raw National Security Agency data and Israeli companies are well advanced in monitoring every American’s emails and phone calls.
More controversially, the Strategic Partnership Act endorses inclusion of Israel in the so-called visa waiver program, which would allow Israelis to travel freely to the United States without first having to obtain a visa for the travel. Israel has been excluded from the program in spite of enormous pressure from Congress due to a high level of fraud associated with Israeli travelers and the unwillingness of Israel to act reciprocally with American visitors who are of Palestinian descent.
Many Israeli visitors overstay their visas and work while they are in the US. There is also concern in the counter-intelligence community that it would enable the Israelis to run even more spies into the US. Israel is number one among friendly countries in its spying on Americans and has long focused on the theft of military and civilian technology which it then copies and sells worldwide to the detriment of US businesses and the taxpayer.
So as surely as Fall is in the air, it is business as usual on Capitol Hill and inside the beltway. The Israel Lobby is working overtime to make sure that the United States should not cooperate with Iran to deal with the ISIS menace and is also doing its best to preempt any agreement over Tehran’s nuclear program. As President Obama has implied, correctly for a change, no agreement with Iran means that the only option remaining is war. So playing Israel’s game means continuing chaos in Syria and Iraq and eventually a much bigger conflict with far greater consequences directed against Iran. And there is absolutely nothing in any of it for the United States and the American people. It’s not really a whole lot of good stuff to look forward to, is it?