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Israel Lobby and War on Iran

By Stephen Sniegoski  

America Hijacked, April 26, 2010


In his Foreign Policy blog, Stephen Walt, co-author of  “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy,”  is  trying to determine why US leaders are planning to impose more sanctions on Iran or adopt even more drastic military measures.

Walt observes that Iran does not threaten the US in any real way and leaves the question unanswered.  Of course, Walt could find the reason if he looked at the title of his co-authored book.  And if he  really could not come up with this answer, he should undergo a medical examination for memory loss.

Everyone familiar with American politics knows the immense power of the Israel lobby, but they also know it is not safe to discuss its power publicly.   In a review of Walt’s faux predicament,  Justin Raimondo points out:

“This lobby unites the broadest coalition in American politics, ranging from the left wing of the Democratic party all the way to the furthest reaches of the ultra-right, not to mention including the bipartisan political establishment in Washington.”

Raimondo, I believe, goes a bit far in claiming that neocons had a major impact on shaping American foreign policy globally.  I would limit their major impact to the Middle East, which since 9/11 has been the fundamental area of US concern.  And, with this caveat, I would agree with Raimondo that “The present administration, for all its talk of ‘change,’ has continued to operate within the same paradigm.”  Once the US began to pursue the neocons’ Middle East war agenda, it has become politically difficult to get off that track.

While neocons stood out in the push for war with Iraq, the full Israel lobby and Israel itself, though supportive of that war, stayed mostly in the background.  The role of Israel is far more overt in regard to Iran. “Here,” Raimondo writes, “the power of the Israel lobby is rearing up to its full height, with Israeli government officials openly calling on the nations of the world – i.e. the United States – to commit acts of war against Iran: impose sanctions, set up a blockade, and effect ‘regime change’ by whatever means. And Israel’s amen corner in the US is echoing this call, with the drumbeat for war getting louder by the month.”

Raimondo holds that the force preventing an attack on Iran is the American people. “Our leaders,” he writes,  “are afraid of the public reaction if it should ever come to war, and so the President and his administration are caught in a vise, pressed by fear of the Lobby on one side, and fear of their own people on the other.”  I must admit that I have less faith in the wisdom of the American people than Raimondo and fear that the administration, if it truly wanted war, could come up with an incident to generate  the necessary public support. 

What then prevents Obama from going to war?  First, I think it is apparent that Obama would not attack Iran if it were not for outside pressure, but he is a rather weak reed to oppose the Israel lobby.  Without substantial support, Obama, like almost all politicians,  would cave in to the demands of the powerful Israel lobby. 

The traditional foreign policy establishment, however, opposes such a war because it would be harmful to the American national interest, especially because it could lead to a cut-off of Middle Eastern oil that would send the industrial world into an economic tailspin.  It is this thinking that prevails among the unelected individuals in the  national  security/foreign policy sectors of the federal government.  I might add, however, that few members of the traditional foreign policy establishment dare to mention that the Israel lobby is pushing the country to war.  These people have important positions and thus have much to lose (and probably a few skeletons in their closets), and don’t believe that they are sufficiently powerful to withstand a smear attack by the Israel lobby and its minions in Congress and the media.

(The Israel lobby’s hounding of former ambassador Chas Freeman when he was nominated chairman of the National Intelligence Council in 2009  is an example of the difficulties of one  who openly opposed the Israel lobby.)

Obama must realize, however, that opposing the Israel lobby on an issue it deems vital could spell political death for any politician.  This could certainly be the case for Obama in his current politically precarious position. Not only could the Democrats suffer extensive losses in the 2010 congressional elections, but Obama could be defeated in 2012 by the appropriate Republican opponent. General David Petraeus, for example, who is very much in the neocon camp, but not branded as a right-winger, would especially be difficult for a weakened Obama to defeat.

On the other hand, as Raimondo writes, war might serve “the interests of a politically beleaguered, increasingly unpopular President or party to divert public attention away from domestic problems by launching a campaign of fear.”  War especially would be seen as a viable option if Obama’s popularity were to fall to such a low level that only something drastic could save him; wars certainly unite a country, a least for a short period, behind the leader.

So while war with Iran is not a certainty, neither is it unlikely.  As Ron Paul points out, the Iran sanctions legislation now in Congress would be major step toward war.  


Stephen Sniegoski

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