Wednesday, May 10, 2006

April 26 Israel's game

'Inad Khairallah

ISRAEL and its supporters want the US to wage war in order to serve Israeli interests and help advance the Jewish state's quest for regional supremacy and expansionism, but they do not want the US government to state it publicly because it could damage Israel's "strategic relationship" with the US.
There is no longer any ambiguity over the reality that one of the key reasons that the US invaded and occupied Iraq was to eliminate the Saddam Hussein regime as a potential threat to the Jewish state and to advance Israel's strategic objectives in the region. Similarly, any action that the US might take against Iran would also have a strong Israeli element.
As reports from Washington indicate, the pro-Israeli camp, many of whose members are leaders of the neoconservative movement, has been beating the drums of war against Iran despite reservations voiced by military strategists who fear a fierce backlash, directly or indirectly or both, if the US were to launch military strikes against Iran.
The American society at large could not but be aware that more than 2,300 American soldiers have died and more than 18,000 others have been crippled — most of them rendered invalid for life — in the Iraq war.
That awareness, coupled with the realisation that the Iraq war was waged in the name of non-existent threats to American national security, is fuelling American public anger and raising serious questions about why the US had to wage war against Iraq.
Simply put, there are increasing voices in the US that the invasion of Iraq was an Israeli war fought by the US military and that the Bush administration is being prodded into taking military action against Iran by the pro-Israeli camp.
It is almost certain that the backlash from military strikes against Iran would be in terms of American lives as well as oil prices (imagine $6 a gallon of petrol at fuel stations in the US). On both counts, the American public would react forcefully, and one of the targets would be the American-Israeli relationship.
Obviously, Israel and its powerful lobby in the US know that the relationship would not stand public scrutiny. Their best option is to avoid focus on the reality that Washington's approach to the Middle East is aimed at serving Israeli interests more than that of the US itself. The more the awareness of the truth the greater the opposition to the almost unlimited political, military, financial and diplomatic support that the US extends to Israel, and this could have serious, long-term implications for the dominating influence the pro-Israeli lobby exercises in the corridors of power politics in Washington.
Israel and its supporters fear a popular backlash at the Bush administration first and then at the "strategic relationship" between the US and Israel if President George Bush were to cite Israel as his top rationale for possible US military conflict with Iran and other moves in the region.
Instead of playing down the Israeli link but going ahead with considering military options anyway, Bush, by oversight, design or coincidence, has been repeatedly mentioning that Iran's nuclear programme was a threat primarily to Israel rather than international stability.
Indeed, Bush seemed to have been prompted into referring to the Israeli link by the rhetoric coming from Iranian President Ahmedinejad, who has said that Israel should be "wiped off the map" and described the Holocaust as a myth.
“Now that I’m on Iran … the threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel," Bush told a recent gathering in Cleveland. "It’s a threat to world peace; it’s a threat, in essence, to a strong alliance. I made it clear, I’ll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel.”
Among the first to take note of the "danger and risk" inherent in the Bush administration's proclamations was Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations. “The linkage to Israel is not a good idea, because then the Iranians say, you see, it’s the Zionists driving this," he said. “As much as we appreciate it, the question is whether it’s beneficial to tie this to Israel” (
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations functions as the Jewish community’s official umbrella group in the US for speaking out on foreign policy issues.
Indeed, the Jewish lobby in Washington has already been rattled.
A study published by two respected academicians and analysts, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard, has triggered a new debate on the US-Israeli relationship.
The study states that the "Israel Lobby" has exerted such a disproportionate influence that it has consistently steered the US away from pursuing its national interest. The study cites specific evidence of the lobby's influence on US policymakers. It also highlights how the lobby pre-empts any free and open discussion on US-Israel relations by attaching an "anti-Semitic" label on anyone who dares question the relationship.
While the authors have come under bitter attack from the pro-Israeli camp, the point they made has not been lost on many Americans, particularly that the US has placed Israel's interests above its own and that the Bush administration led the country into a disastrous misadventure in Iraq and made itself the object of Arab and Muslim anger and the target of terrorism.
They affirm that there is no practical, moral or strategic ground to justify the support that the US is extending to Israel.
Add to that the more than $300 billion that the US has spent on the various fronts of its self-proclaimed war against terror which includes the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. It is estimated that every American child and adult has spent $1,250 (tax payments not included) in the war against terror that was launched after the Sept.11, 2001 attacks.
Even the Israeli media are playing down the Bush administration's pointed reference to the Israeli link in the confrontation with Iran over Tehran's nuclear programmes. They must indeed be aware that it is counter-productive to US-Israeli relations even in the short term.
One of the measures adopted by the pro-Israelis in the US to fight off the damaging argument is to declare that the US has to strike at Iran in order to pre-empt Israeli action against the Iranians. That is propagated by Vice-President Dick Cheney.
“One of the concerns people have is that Israel might (attack Iran) without being asked,” said Cheney in February 2005, “that if, in fact, the Israelis became convinced the Iranians had significant nuclear capability, given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards.”
However, whatever way the cookie crumbles, the US-Israeli relationship could be facing the worse mess ever in the aftermath of American military action against Iran, that could present the best opportunity yet for the Arab and Muslim world to correct their media-distorted picture with the people of the United States.