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Netanyahu Calls the Shots

There are several things missing from the march to war that we are seeing playing out at AIPAC this week.  First is the complete absence of any casus belli.  Media and political rhetoric aside, Iran has threatened neither Israel nor the United States and the intelligence agencies of both countries agree that Tehran has not made the decision to construct a nuclear weapon (if it indeed has the ability and resources to do so).  Second is the “security threat” to the United States coming from Iran, cited by President Obama.  What exactly is it and how does Iran, a backward country with an ailing economy and a military unable to project its power beyond its own borders threaten the US?  How can it possibly endanger the United States to such an extent that a war which can have catastrophic economic and political consequences might be justified?

Obama, to give him his due, is holding out against immense pressure on many fronts from Israel and its friends to draw a “nuclear capability” red line that will mean war in fairly short order.  He is supported by the Pentagon and the intelligence community in his resistance.  But he has nevertheless turned over US foreign policy in a key part of the world to Israel, saying unconditionally that he has “Israel’s back” and that he guarantees its security.  That means that no matter what Israel does, justified or not, the US will get involved, something that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands very well.  It would be war with no concern for what the consequences might be for the American people because, after all, Netanyahu could care less about the US except insofar as it is a source of material and political support.

Obama has also opened the door to a replay of Iraq.  He has pledged to use military force against Iran to “prevent” Tehran’s development of a nuclear weapon.  Prevent is the key word as it means preemption.  Preemption will be based on evidence that Iran is building a weapon.  As with Iraq, evidence can be fabricated or planted to suit.  There have already been instances of fabricated intelligence being generated to create the impression that Iran is not only seeking a weapon but is also advancing a project to be able to mount it on a ballistic missile.  It is not hard for a sophisticated intelligence agency like Mossad to fake the necessary evidence, that will then be picked up by the usual suspects in the US media and in congress, to make the case for war.

We are seeing something awful unfolding before our very eyes – an essentially phony case for going to war being driven by a foreign country and its domestic lobby with the political class too terrified to say no and a complicit media beating the drum.

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#1 Comment By TomB On March 6, 2012 @ 7:22 am

As usual Phil brings up a nuanced point here. In the last post on the subject we all got wrapped up in whether Obama would directly cave to Netanyahu and either send the U.S. to war with Iran or agree to some red line meaning the same thing in short order.

But Phil here cottons on to what now seems to me at least a bit more likely way things will go: Israel will attack, and if there’s any significant retaliation, which is almost assured, Obama will then have to get involved given his comment that he’s got Israel’s “back.”

A bit more likely than otherwise I think, though I still believe Obama very much wants to avoid war.

Regardless, and as to Step One in the above scenario anyway, reading Netanyahu’s speech it sure seemed like he was essentially saying “Okay I gotta go home now and make a little war so here’s my final justifications to you.”

I.e., something meant to be read later after the fact rather than beforehand, merely contemplating possibilities.

#2 Comment By Nathan On March 6, 2012 @ 7:57 am

Sir, you are aware that you tend to be somewhat a lone voice here aren’t you? Other “conservative” sites claim that the Iranian leadership is committed to the twelfth iman belief that that destroying Israel is the way to do it and that they can cite quotes from the the chief cleric where he personally has vowed to totally destroy Israel and even now building the means to do so. Equally once they acquire the weapon(s) even if they don’t use it themselves, columnists on these sites claim they will give them to terrorist organizations, that will indeed use them. (The fact that such weapons could have been purchased by now seems to be lost on them and that certain organizations considered and rejected acquiring these weapons seems equally lost on them.)

My question is, you and the people here are totally out of step with the rest of your “conservative” breathern. How does someone like me answer my “conservative” friends who believe the Iranian leadership is totally irrational and hell bent on bringing on the Armageddon and Christ’s Second Coming? (Some evangelicals, not myself can be rather weird too.)

I mean when I answer by saying there’s no there there, I get looked at like I’m crazy. Is there a way to effectively answer the “conservatives” (an endangered species if ever there was one) who want to sing Beach Boy songs?

#3 Comment By Curt Doolittle On March 6, 2012 @ 8:20 am

Philip

You’ve well argued the standard criticism. However, the practical reality is that the risk to Israel is simply too high that after an election that Obama may win, the next four year window is too tempting for Iran, and too threatening to israel. It’s a practical decision for them. There is nothing irrational about their actions.

That the intelligence agencies argue that no decision has been made is an argument that I have trouble comprehending as rational. That they have conducted a multi-decade program of enablement is evidence enough. That the elimination of israel is a stated objective, and the laurels that will christen Islam’s leading state is enough of an objective for any political leadership.

Iran has long desired to become the core state of post-ottoman islam, and has the population, military and economy to do it. A syrian, iraqi, irania, afghani, pakistani islamic block cum-civilization with two nuclear armed states given their internal fragility is strategically irrational for the USA to tolerate without total energy independence, and some evidence of a developing middle class that will engage in and have an interest in, the international system of specialization and trade.

Moral arguments are nonsense in the face of strategic threats.

#4 Comment By B. Wooster On March 6, 2012 @ 9:51 am

Mr. Giraldi, you are right–we are witnessing something awful. Have we learned nothing from the catastrophes of the past ten years? Why do we think this time will be different?

The lack of any meaningful protest against this coming war confirms my worst suspicions about those who protested from 2003-2008: they weren’t against unjust war, they were just opposed to W.

#5 Comment By EngineerScotty On March 6, 2012 @ 10:35 am

Attacking Iran alone would be a messy affair for Israel. It would be a complex military operation. While I agree that the security threat posed by Iran (to the US) is probably not as grave as made out to be–is Iran really likely, were it to have a nuclear weapon in its possession, to turn it over to “terrorists” for the purpose of transporting it to the US? What extra-national terror organization nowadays has the capability for such an operation? The one that might have been capable–al Qaeda–has been decimated, and as a Sunni organization, would not be utilized by Iran in any case.

Obama could well agree to help defend Israel against any Iranian counter-attacks, without lifting a finger to help advance any Iranian assaults. Whether promising such a thing–implicitly or otherwise–would be wise is an interesting question (would Israel be more willing to attack if if thought American power would protect its homeland from reprisal?).

#6 Comment By Fran Macadam On March 6, 2012 @ 11:27 am

Real people, just like you and I, are going to die in droves for no rational reason. Paranoia is not a rational reason, and sowing catastrophe all around you in pursuit of “security” is completely immoral.

#7 Comment By Adam Rurik On March 6, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

Nathan, what other “conservative” sites do you speak of? The Weekly Standard? National Review? Commentary???

#8 Comment By Ken Hoop On March 6, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

Of course doubtless Curt Doolittle supported also the Iraq War which turned Iraq over to Iran.

This is what’s “irrational,” Curt: the belief that whoever owns the oil wouldn’t sell it to us at market prices IF we ceased meddling and overthrowing governments in the Middle East and subsidizing Israel’s dispossession of its natives.

#9 Comment By Norfolker On March 6, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

The funny thing is that you never meet any real Americans demanding war with Iran. None.

Like global warming or gay marriage it is the obsession of a special interest group.. And its proponents operate the same way, using elite connections and oceans of money to ram through an agenda that no sane, normal American wants.

#10 Comment By Brandon On March 6, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

We must consider the real possibility that Israel cannot launch a successful assault on Iran by itself. Israel has shown its willingness to undertake strikes on the nuclear facilities of its neighbors if it so desires. But in this case, we’ve had years of bluster with no action.

I think it is likely that Israel is not convinced they can do it alone, and is therefore dependent on US involvement. If that is the case, we actually hold all of the cards despite Netanyahu’s chest thumping.

#11 Comment By Patrick D On March 6, 2012 @ 2:04 pm

The idea that Iran will supply a nuclear weapon to a terrorist group is a joke (just as it was with Saddam’s Iraq). Authoritarian governments understand power and how it is derived. That’s how they hang onto power. They aren’t going to hand over the ‘family jewels’ to a ‘loose canon’ like a terrorist organization. It represents an unacceptable risk to the balance of power that favors the state of Iran over the terrorist group.

#12 Comment By Kenny On March 6, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

When I see folks refer to conservatives bring a dying breed I have to agree. But key me temper that agreement with a reason. Conservatism is not what out fathers understood it to be. Conservatism now is more closely defined as the party of war mongerers in lock step with the zionist prapoganda that is fed to the American public. Those that put any country before Americacan only be labeled as traitors and dealt with as such. The wars we fight now are due to fabricated and instigated actions by israel. It is unsettling to see so many speak of Iran as a terrorist state when they have done nothing more than israel does ask the time. israel has viciously attacked American naval vessels, potted to kill Americans in other countries and our elected politicians here at home. israel had been washing a covert war against Iran for a long time and recently killed their citizens. So what makes Iran a terrorist nation and not israel? Simple the zionist lobby has DC stalled around it’s finger and likened to a puppet on a string. Ask the while israel has the largest stock pile of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in the area. But will they allow inspections our join the non proliferation treaty like Iran does… Well no. they refuse. I say pull every ounce and penny of support for israel that America gives and let them suffer the date that they deserve…. The world will be a better place and the largest terrorist nation the world has known would be no more.

#13 Comment By Kenny On March 6, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

Sorry folks for the misspellings… Using swype on a tablet in a moving vehicle has proven to be difficult…

#14 Comment By Old Tom On March 6, 2012 @ 7:48 pm

Kenny- Texting while driving? Now that is an existential threat