Tag Archives: Iran

AIPAC’s agenda

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

America and Israel flags

AIPAC — America’s Pro-Israel lobby — is as powerful (if not more powerful) in the halls of Congress as the NRA.  A 2016 article in the Foreign Policy Journal noted:

The AIPAC-led pro-Israel lobby is probably the strongest, best organized and most effective lobby network in Washington DC. For the 2015-2016 election cycle, the pro-Israel network has already dispensed $4,255,136 in contributions. The largest single amount ($259,688) went to Senator Charles Schumer of New York.

Among interest groups that lobby on behalf of a foreign government, none ranks higher in contributions to members of Congress than the pro-Israel lobby.

So it should come to no one’s surprise that most members of Congress on both sides of the aisle carry water for AIPAC. We can find AIPAC’s fingerprints on many pieces of legislation.

  • Opposition to Iran – Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Economic Exclusion Act (H.R. 5132)—authored by Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY).
  • The Taylor Force Act (S. 1697 and H.R. 1164) cuts funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a result of the PA’s practice of paying families of Palestinian fighters who have died or been imprisoned.
  • The United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 5141 and S. 2497)—authored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Coons (D-DE) and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL). Includes $3.3 billion in military assistance to Israel and an additional $500 million in missile defense funding.
  • The House of Representatives and Senate both introduced bipartisan resolutions — H. Res. 11 and S. Res. 6, respectively — reaffirming this principle and opposing efforts at the United Nations to impose a solution on the conflict. The House overwhelmingly adopted H. Res. 11 on Jan. 5.
  • The Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S.720 and H.R.1697) and the Combating BDS Act of 2017 (S.170 and H.R. 2856).
  • The Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2017 (S.1595 and H.R. 3329)—that would impose additional sanctions on the terrorist organization and those that support it.

U.S. politicians are proud of confirming their support for Israel and boasting that there’s no daylight between Israel’s interests and America’s interests.

I’d feel a whole lot more confident of our “special relationship” with Israel if I knew that my elected officials were putting U.S. interests ahead of their allegiance to Israel.

Unfortunately, this is a good example of the tail (Israel) wagging the dog (U.S.) — with AIPAC establishing U.S. foreign policy by very clever messaging and lobbying tactics that sometimes borders on bullying.

If Congress was not tied to AIPAC at the hip, the 6 legislative priorities above might be recast as follows:

  • Iran is a growing power in the region with which diplomacy and negotiation is in our (the U.S.) best interest. Preventing a new nuclear power in the region is good for the community of nations and the U.S. There needs to be transparency and honesty in addressing Israel’s nuclear weapons too.
  • Payment to the families of soldiers in uniform is standard practice in the U.S. and Israel, there’s no reason why payment to Palestinian fighters should be treated any differently. Consistent treatment in our foreign policy enhances U.S. credibility.
  • Is it in the best interests of the U.S. to pay $3.3 billion+ annually to Israel? This represents by far the largest contribution to a foreign government at a time when the U.S. is running the largest deficit in its history and Congress is considering cut backs to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  At a minimum, there should be a public discussion about the pros and cons of U.S. financial support to Israel.
  • Resolutions are non-binding and some may think these resolutions condemning the United Nations are unimportant. However, Americans need to know that the U.S. (and particularly the U.S. Congress) stands apart from the vast majority of nations vis-à-vis criticism of Israel and its violations of international law. To rectify this criticism, the U.S. should be using carrots and sticks to convince Israel to comply with international law, not throwing its weight around with AIPAC-written resolutions.
  • AIPAC wants Congress to criminalize political speech that targets Israel. I’ve written about it here and here. While the NRA focuses on the Second Amendment, it appears AIPAC has set its target on the First Amendment. It will be interesting to see how members of Congress on both sides of the aisle justify this blatant attempt to undermine Americans’ right to express their political beliefs peacefully and nonviolently.
  • AIPAC wants Congress to sanction Hizballah in Lebanon. Yes, Hizballah may be a military mini-threat to Israel (“mini” — considering the disparity in the weapons between Israel and Hizballah) but the real threat to peace in the Middle East is the precarious situation Lebanon finds itself today.  “The problem for Lebanon, the world’s third most-indebted country, is that it’s starting to look more like Greece financially. And if Greece’s survival as part of the euro was crucial to the European project, Lebanon is key to keeping what’s left of peace in the Middle East.” So the U.S. Congress should be discussing ways to support Lebanon, not jumping on AIPAC’s wagon which will likely destablize Lebanon even further.

Is AIPAC’s agenda consistent with our best interests at home and abroad? I don’t think so, but at least Americans deserve an open and transparent discussion on the floor of the House and Senate before our elected members of Congress vote on these AIPAC-sponsored bills. They need to hear from intelligent, opposing viewpoints instead of marching lockstep down AIPAC’s misbegotten path.







1 Comment

Filed under Israel, Politics, US Policy

Oil addiction and US foreign policy

Late in life (sadly too late I fear) I’ve learned to question the conventional orthodoxy I was raised on by a western liberal education and western media. Yes, I certainly received an excellent education in Minnesota in the 1950s-1960s, and I was encouraged by family and mentors to think for myself. Only through travel and experiencing the “other” firsthand, however, did I really learn to question many preconceived notions that shaped my understanding of the “truth.”

One example.

If Americans care at all about the turmoils and regime changes that seem to plague the Middle East, we simplistically chalk it up to “their problems” – “their inability to support stable, democratic governments” – “their backwardness” – “their failures to promote progress despite all of our good intentions and interventions to help.”  (Sound familiar?)

I’m now convinced that the editors at the New York Times (Washington Post, etc.), the news managers at CNN (NBC, ABC, etc.), the Big Oil and Arms industry, AND OUR GOVERNMENT have deliberately fostered this skewed worldview among Americans to support (or at least not to oppose) their opportunistic foreign policy agendas.

Decade upon decade of complacency and our unquestioning allegiance to American exceptionalism has neutered the public’s ability to grasp what’s really going on in the Middle East. We remain oblivious to our peril.

We have a chance now to correct our misconceptions. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has written a thorough but digestible history of U.S. interventions and covert actions in the Middle East leading up to the current debacle in Syria.  Syria: Another Pipeline War, February 25, 2016 published online at Ecowatch. He connects the dots with names, dates, facts and resources to make this a MUST READ for Americans and anyone else who wishes to grasp the current realities on the ground today.


Many people in the Middle East understand this history all too well, and they view current events through this lens. If Americans don’t wake up and grasp this reality, we’ll pay the price in lost lives, treasure and our own moral compass (to say nothing of the dead and wreckage we leave behind in these countries).

Please suspend your disbelief and read Robert F. Kennedy’s article. Then share it far and wide.



1 Comment

Filed under Media, People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

The Fork in the Road – Building Trust or Digging in Deeper?

There’s certainly been plenty of impassioned rhetoric spewed in recent weeks about the P5+1 agreement with Iran.  (P5+1 stands for the U.S., U.K., France, China, Russia plus Germany ). Few people have even read the agreement I suspect, but you can right here on the White House website, all 159 pages, if you really want to.  Frankly, I have no desire to read the fine print, but I think the explanation provided by this nuclear physicist is a good substitute. The State Department’s website has plenty of information about this agreement too.

Former Ambassador Joe C. Wilson spoke in favor of the Iranian nuke agreement this week in Albuquerque at Congregation Albert. Although linked to J Street, the Ambassador made clear that he was speaking only for himself. Two weeks earlier, the synagogue invited a speaker sponsored by AIPAC opposed to the agreement. In good humor, Wilson noted that he didn’t want to be the goy between the two Jews.

Former Ambassador Joe C. Wilson

Former Ambassador Joe C. Wilson speaking at Congregation Albert 8/26/15

Americans might best remember Ambassador Wilson for his role in exposing the Bush Administration’s lies about Saddam Hussein obtaining yellow cake from Niger. Bush needed to fabricate a reason to go to war, and after Wilson exposed his lies in an article in the New York Times, the Bush Administration exposed Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent, ending her career. Her book, Fair Game: How a Top CIA Agent was Betrayed By Her Own Government has been made into a movie and I understand Sean Penn plays Wilson. Now, I have to see it!

On to serious matters.

Ambassador Wilson says the Iranian nuke agreement is both a technical and political agreement. Scientists from both Sandia Labs and Los Alamos Labs were involved in the negotiations. Iran has agreed to “very intrusive and comprehensive inspections” with very close oversight for the next 15-25 years.

The IAEA negotiated a “side agreement” with Iran on technical issues that has apparently created some angst among the naysayers, but Wilson didn’t appear concerned. He said Congressman Jerry Nadler, a Jewish Democrat from New York, has written the best piece about the agreement that he’s read.

Presentation at Congregation Albert - Albuquerque, NM

Presentation at Congregation Albert – Albuquerque, NM

“We can’t trust the Iranians!”  Wilson said it goes both ways, the Iranians don’t trust the Americans. We don’t need to trust the Iranians to live up to the agreement because there are mechanisms in the agreement to allow inspections and the scientists tell us that no one can remove nuclear traces within 24 days (the time designated in the agreement within which Iran must let IAEA inspectors to come in and look). Our scientists are telling us that there’s no way Iran could surreptitiously build a nuclear bomb without the world knowing about it. That argument against the agreement sounds like a red herring to me.

“Iranians will still have centrifuges — even after signing the agreement.”  They will be required to reduce their stockpile of centrifuges from 19,000 to 6,104 (I think is the # Wilson said.) Fewer is better than allowing them to continue to build new ones, which would be the case without the agreement.



“What will the Iranians do with the $150 Billion returned to them when the embargo is lifted (I think that’s the # I heard)?”  I don’t think Wilson speculated about the answer, but said the U.S. will be the big loser in a “profound way” if we fail to sign the agreement. “Our standing as a world leader will be sorely tested” and will “play right into the hands of the extremists in Iran.” “See, we told you the Americans can’t be trusted.”  Wilson doesn’t believe it would be in Israel’s long-term strategic interests to walk away from the agreement either. Retired members of the Israeli security support the agreement.

This doesn’t mean that the relationships between Iran and the rest of the world will come up all roses, Wilson said.  But this agreement will give the world 10-15 years to pursue confidence-building actions in the region. The negotiating process brought together allies, adversaries and competitors …. really a first!  “It’s a good deal to benefit the region.”

Question from the audience: “What happens if the U.S. doesn’t sign?”

The U.S. Congress would have to override President Obama’s veto. Then everything would be up in the air. Both the U.S. and Israel will be isolated from the rest of the world. Other countries will do business with Iran. Wilson believes the Iranian moderates won with this agreement, and the hardliners lost out. If the U.S. fails to sign, then the hardliners’ position is strengthened.

Ambassador Wilson said that Israel needs to find peace with its neighbors. This agreement gives Israel time to do that. Wilson did not hide his disdain for Netanyahu or AIPAC, which he said is an arm of Likud and divides all of us.  AIPAC shapes the discussion in a toxic way.

“Agreements lead to potential new agreements.” 

“De-escalation of tensions leads to further de-escalation.”

Iranians have a very long memory. Americans don’t. If the U.S. fails to sign onto this agreement which we played a leadership role in designing and negotiating, future generations of Iranians will understand they can’t trust America.

I was going to ask about the letter in the New York Times written by Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian lead negotiator, urging the only nuclear country in the Middle East to follow suit now and agree to negotiate a nuclear free Middle East.  But someone else from the audience asked a related question, which Wilson deflected so I didn’t think he would answer my question.

I left the gathering at Congregation Albert believing that Congress is really standing at a fork in the road — with an opportunity to build trust in this volatile region or dig ourselves deeper into conflict and war. This is a very important decision for our members of Congress, for our nation’s future influence in foreign policy, and future generations. I hope they make the right decision.

Jafar Panahi, a leading Iranian film director (who has won numerous international awards including the Golden Bear in the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in 2015), supports the Iran Deal, as do many others.

Thanks to the talented Mike Swick who recorded the Ambassador’s remarks, here’s the entire 1+ hour video.

Leave a comment

Filed under Israel, People, Politics, Uncategorized, Video

Day #31 – August 6, 2014 – Israel’s Hiroshima?


Today marks the 70th anniversary of the U.S. nuking Hiroshima. [Hiroshima marks atomic bombing, worries about steps toward war]

On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing tens of thousands of people – many instantly, others from the effects of radiation. Death estimates range from 66,000 to 150,000. See here.

Americans’ support for dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima has been falling, from 85% in 1945 to 56% today. Still a majority! And nearly half of the Israeli public (47%)  support a unilateral strike on Iran to prevent it from obtaining an atomic bomb. Oh dear!

Top of the news in 2015 is the Iran nuclear agreement. Have you read it? I haven’t but here’s a  5-page fact sheet to review.

Based on the summary, and the comments I’ve heard from President Obama and Secretary Kerry, I hope Congress will support the agreement with Iran.

We all know Netanyahu opposes it. He hasn’t been shy about taking his campaign directly to Congress on social media (like the video below) and TV ads.  The vote will come down to the Jewish Democrats who must be feeling pressure from all sides.

Shortly after signing the agreement, Iran challenged the State of Israel to dismantle it’s undeclared nuclear program.  Here’s an excerpt of the challenge published in The Guardian.  I find it more persuasive than Netanyahu’s fear-mongering.  A secure future requires a nuclear free future.  The agreement with Iran is an opportunity to move in the right direction.

We – Iran and its interlocutors in the group of nations known as the P5+1 – have finally achieved the shared objective of turning the Iranian nuclear programme from an unnecessary crisis into a platform for cooperation on nuclear non-proliferation and beyond. The nuclear deal reached in Vienna this month is not a ceiling but a solid foundation on which we must build. The joint comprehensive plan of action, as the accord is officially known, cements Iran’s status as a zone free of nuclear weapons. Now it is high time that we expand that zone to encompass the entire Middle East.

Iran’s push for a ban on weapons of mass destruction in its regional neighbourhood has been consistent. The fact that it precedes Saddam Hussein’s systematic use of WMDs against Iran (never reciprocated in kind) is evidence of the depth of my country’s commitment to this noble cause. And while Iran has received the support of some of its Arab friends in this endeavour, Israel – home to the Middle East’s only nuclear weapons programme – has been the holdout. In the light of the historic nuclear deal, we must address this challenge head on.


It is time for the “haves” to finally come to terms with a crucial reality; we live in a globalised security environment. The cold war era asymmetry between states that possess nuclear weapons and those that don’t is no longer remotely tolerable.

For too long, it has been assumed that the insane concept of mutually assured destruction would sustain stability and non-proliferation. Nothing could be further from the truth. The prevalence of this deterrence doctrine in international relations has been the primary driving force behind the temptation by some countries to acquire nuclear weapons, and by others to engage in expanding and beefing up the strength of their nuclear arsenals. All this in blatant violation of the disarmament objectives set by the international community.

It is imperative that we change this dangerous and erroneous security paradigm and move toward a better, safer and fairer arrangement. I sincerely believe that the nuclear agreement between my country – a non-nuclear-weapon state – and the P5+1 (which control almost all nuclear warheads on Earth) is symbolically significant enough to kickstart this paradigm shift and mark the beginning of a new era for the non-proliferation regime.


Iran, in its national capacity and as current chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement, is prepared to work with the international community to achieve these goals, knowing full well that, along the way, it will probably run into many hurdles raised by the sceptics of peace and diplomacy. But we must endeavour to convince and persist, as we did in Vienna.

1 Comment

Filed under Israel, Media, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video

Paid political advertisement points finger at Israel’s nukes

The American mainstream media typically fails to report real news (ie. fails to dig for new information and ask tough questions of public importance) but instead regurgitates the pablum its fed from the power-elites or powerful interest groups.

A paid political advertisement was recently published in the Albuquerque Journal calling for the mainstream media to “wake-up” and report the truth about Israel’s nuclear weapons. Bravo to Douglas Reilly, Ph. D., retired from LANL, JRC-EURATOM, USDOE, and IAEA, for speaking truth to power. His paid political advertisement is reprinted below with permission.

“The 18 September 2013 issue of the NYT, you published an article by Victor Gilinsky and Henry D. Sokolski entitled Let’s Be Honest About Israel’s Nukes. I am a physicist who spent 46 years in the field of Nuclear Safeguards, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control. During that time I worked 38 years with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and spent 33 of them working with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), including 4+ years at their headquarters in Vienna, Austria. My group at LANL developed measurement systems for their Safeguards Inspectors. We also trained them in their usage, and trained regulatory and facility personnel of he Signatory States to the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). I developed a program that has trained every new IAEA safeguards inspector since 1978. All of the inspectors who now go to Iran came to LANL for several weeks as part of their initial training. During my time at LANL, I also worked at the Joint Research Centre of the EURATOM (JRC-Ispra, Italy) and the US Department of Energy (DOE

Why do I hear so much about the P5+1 Iran nuclear talks, and almost nothing about the Israeli nuclear weapons arsenal and ability to deliver them anywhere in the World? It confounds me that I hear about limiting the Iranian program that is far from developing a nuclear weapon of any kind, much less one weaponized and deliverable. Rarely do I hear that Iran is signatory to the NPT, and Israel is one of only three States not signatories (others are India and Pakistan). Some consider Israel to be the 4th largest nuclear weapons State, after USA, Russia, and China. I estimate the Dimona plutonium production reactor, built by France, has produced enough plutonium for ~500 nuclear devices. Israel has five submarines (more coming) capable of launching nuclear-armed Cruise missiles anywhere in the world, including the USA. They also have Jericho Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles, bombers and jet fighters that can carry nuclear weapons.


We now have a very strong Framework Agreement to limit the Iranian nuclear energy program and relieve some of the sanctions that severely impact Iranian citizens. Our media should inform the US of the whole issue of nuclear weapons in the Middle East (including the supposition that Saudi Arabia has an agreement with Pakistan to supply such if needed); this would allow them to critically evaluate the statements of Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Israeli government, and Congress.

There are two excellent books regarding the Israeli nuclear weapons program; Sy Hersh’s, THE SAMPSON OPTION, and Avner Cohen’s, ISRAEL AND THE BOMB. I read THE SAMPSON OPTION soon after it was published in 1991, but It is only a few months ago that I learned the meaning of the title:

Recall the story of Sampson and Delilah in Judges: after cutting his hair and blinding him, his hair grows back, and he is chained to the two main pillars that support the Philistine Temple. On festival day, Sampson pulls the support from under the temple, killing himself and several thousand Philistine

There is a well-documented, but not well-known, BBC interview with Golda Meir, Mother Israel, where the interviewer, Mr. Hart, interrupts and says, ‘Madame Prime Minister, have I understood you correctly that Israel is prepared to take down the world, if it ever feels it’s existence is threatened?’ Ms. Meir responds without pause, ‘You have understood me perfectly!’


This is scary stuff; especially because Israel can deliver a great deal of hurt to the world. Why does the USA publicly act as though we are unaware of the Israeli nuclear weapons? How can Speaker Boehner invite Netanyahu to address a Joint Session of Congress, bypassing the President and Secretary of State? How do 47 US Senators have the chutzpah to send the letter they did to Iran’s leaders.

Sincerely, T. Douglas Reilly


Filed under Israel, Media, People

Chomsky: Don’t Be Distracted by One-State/Two-State ‘Debate’ on Israel — Something Much More Nefarious Is Going On

On November 4, 2013, Professor Noam Chomsky published an important piece in Mondoweiss — uncovering the ugly truth.

I have copied it verbatim below with my highlights.

Chomsky: Don’t Be Distracted by One-State/Two-State ‘Debate’ on Israel — Something Much More Nefarious Is Going On.

Israel is systematically expanding with US support.  (Alternet)

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

In July 13, former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin issued a dire warning to the government of Israel: either it will reach some kind of two-state settlement or there will be a “shift to a nearly inevitable outcome of the one remaining reality — a state ‘from the sea to the river’.” The near inevitable outcome, “one state for two nations,” will pose “an immediate existential threat of the erasure of the identity of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” soon with a Palestinian-Arab majority.

On similar grounds, in the latest issue of Britain’s leading journal of international affairs, two prominent Middle East specialists, Clive Jones and Beverly Milton-Edwards, write that “if Israel wishes to be both Jewish and democratic,” it must embrace “the two-state solution.”

It is easy to cite many other examples, but unnecessary, because it is assumed almost universally that there are two options for cis-Jordan: either two states — Palestinian and Jewish-democratic — or one state “from the sea to the river.” Israeli commentators express concern about the “demographic problem”: too many Palestinians in a Jewish state. Many Palestinians and their advocates support the “one state solution,” anticipating a civil rights, anti-Apartheid struggle that will lead to secular democracy. Other analysts also consistently pose the options in similar terms.

The analysis is almost universal, but crucially flawed. There is a third option, namely, the option that Israel is pursuing with constant US support. And this third option is the only realistic alternative to the two-state settlement that is backed by an overwhelming international consensus.

It makes sense, in my opinion, to contemplate a future binational secular democracy in the former Palestine, from the sea to the river. For what it’s worth, that is what I have advocated for 70 years. But I stress: advocated. Advocacy, as distinct from mere proposal, requires sketching a path from here to there. The forms of true advocacy have changed with shifting circumstances. Since the mid-1970s, when Palestinian national rights became a salient issue, the only form of advocacy has been in stages, the first being the two-state settlement. No other path has been suggested that has even a remote chance of success. Proposing a binational (“one state”) settlement without moving on to advocacy in effect provides support for the third option, the realistic one.

The third option, taking shape before our eyes, is not obscure. Israel is systematically extending plans that were sketched and initiated shortly after the 1967 war, and institutionalized more fully with the access to power of Menahem Begin’s Likud a decade later.

The first step is to create what Yonatan Mendel calls “a disturbing new city” called “Jerusalem” but extending far beyond historic Jerusalem, incorporating dozens of Palestinian villages and surrounding lands, and furthermore, designated as a Jewish City and the capital of Israel. All of this is in direct violation of explicit Security Council orders. A corridor to the East of this new Greater Jerusalem incorporates the town of Ma’aleh Adumim, established in the 1970s but built primarily after the 1993 Oslo Accords, with lands reaching virtually to Jericho, thus effectively bisecting the West Bank. Corridors to the north incorporating the settler towns of Ariel and Kedumim further divide what is to remain under some degree of Palestinian control.

Meanwhile Israel is incorporating the territory on the Israeli side of the illegal “separation wall,” in reality an annexation wall, taking arable land and water resources and many villages, strangling the town of Qalqilya, and separating Palestinian villagers from their fields. In what Israel calls “the seam” between the wall and the border, close to 10 percent of the West Bank, anyone is permitted to enter, except Palestinians. Those who live in the region have to go through a highly intricate bureaucratic procedure to gain temporary entry. Exit, for example for medical care, is hampered in the same way. The result, predictably, has been severe disruption of Palestinian lives, and according to UN reports, a decrease of more than 80% in number of farmers who routinely cultivate their lands and a decline of 60% in yield of olive trees, among other harmful effects. The pretext for the wall was security, but that means security for illegal Jewish settlers; about 85 per cent of the wall runs through the occupied West Bank.

Israel is also taking over the Jordan Valley, thus fully imprisoning the cantons that remain. Huge infrastructure projects link settlers to Israel’s urban centers, ensuring that they will see no Palestinians. Following a traditional neocolonial model, a modern center remains for Palestinian elites, in Ramallah, while the remainder mostly languishes.

To complete the separation of Greater Jerusalem from remaining Palestinian cantons, Israel would have to take over the E1 region. So far that has been barred by Washington, and Israel has been compelled to resort to subterfuges, like building a police station. Obama is the first US president to have imposed no limits on Israeli actions. It remains to be seen whether he will permit Israel to take over E1, perhaps with expressions of discontent and a wink of the eye to make it clear that they are not seriously intended.

There are regular expulsions of Palestinians. In the Jordan Valley alone the Palestinian population has been reduced from 300,000 in 1967 to 60,000 today, and similar processes are underway elsewhere. Following the “dunam after dunam” policies that go back a century, each action is limited in scope so as not to arouse too much international attention, but with a cumulative effect and intent that are quite clear.

Furthermore, ever since the Oslo Accord declared that Gaza and the West Bank are an indivisible territorial unity, the US-Israel duo have been committed to separating the two regions. One significant effect is to ensure that any limited Palestinian entity will have no access to the outside world.

In the areas that Israel is taking over, the Palestinian population is small and scattered, and is being reduced further by regular expulsions. The result will be a Greater Israel with a substantial Jewish majority. Under the third option, there will be no “demographic problem” and no civil rights or anti-Apartheid struggle, nothing more than what already exists within Israel’s recognized borders, where the mantra “Jewish and democratic” is regularly intoned for the benefit of those who choose to believe, oblivious to the inherent contradiction, which is far more than merely symbolic.

Except in stages, the one-state option is an illusion. It has no international support, and there is no reason why Israel and its US sponsor would accept it, since they have a far preferable option, the one they are now implementing; with impunity, thanks to US power.

The US and Israel call for negotiations without preconditions. Commentary there and elsewhere in the West typically claims that the Palestinians are imposing such preconditions, hampering the “peace process.” In reality, the US-Israel insist upon crucial preconditions. The first is that negotiations must be mediated by the United States, which is not a neutral party but rather a participant in the conflict. It is as if one were to propose that Sunni-Shiite conflicts in Iraq be mediated by Iran. Authentic negotiations would be in the hands of some neutral state with a degree of international respect. The second precondition is that illegal settlement expansion must be allowed to continue, as it has done without a break during the 20 years of the Oslo Accord; predictably, given the terms of the Accord.

In the early years of the occupation the US joined the world in regarding the settlements as illegal, as confirmed by the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice. Since Reagan, their status has been downgraded to “a barrier to peace.” Obama weakened the designation further, to “not helpful to peace,” with gentle admonitions that are easily dismissed. Obama’s extreme rejectionism did arouse some attention in February 2011, when he vetoed a Security Council resolution supporting official US policy, ending of settlement expansion.

As long as these preconditions remain in force, diplomacy is likely to remain at a standstill. With brief and rare exceptions, that has been true since January 1976, when the US vetoed a Security Council resolution, brought by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, calling for a two-state settlement on the internationally recognized border, the Green Line, with guarantees for the security of all states within secure and recognized borders. That is essentially the international consensus that is by now universal, with the two usual exceptions – not just on Middle East issues, incidentally. The consensus has been modified to include “minor and mutual adjustments” on the Green Line, to borrow official US wording before it had broken with the rest of the world.

The same is true of the negotiations that may take place soon in Washington. Given the preconditions, they are unlikely to achieve anything more than to serve as a framework in which Israel can carry forward its project of taking over whatever it finds valuable in the West Bank and Syrian Golan Heights, annexed in violation of Security Council orders, while maintaining the siege of Gaza. And doing so throughout with the critical economic, military, diplomatic and ideological support of the state running the negotiations. One can of course hope for better, but it is hard to be optimistic.

Europe could play a role in advancing the hopes for a peaceful diplomatic settlement, if it were willing to pursue an independent path. The recent EU decision to exclude West Bank settlements from any future deals with Israel might be a step in this direction. US policies are also not graven in stone, though they have deep strategic, economic, and cultural roots. In the absence of such changes, there is every reason to expect that the picture from the river to the sea will conform to the third option. Palestinian rights and aspirations will be shelved, temporarily at least.

If the Israel-Palestine conflict is not resolved, a regional peace settlement is highly unlikely. That failure has far broader implications — in particular, for what US media call “the gravest threat to world peace,” echoing the pronouncements of President Obama and most of the political class: namely, Iran’s nuclear programs. The implications become clear when we consider the most obvious ways to deal with the alleged threat, and their fate. It is useful, first, to consider a few preliminary questions: Who regards the threat as of such cosmic significance? And what is the perceived threat?

Answers are straightforward. The threat is overwhelmingly a western obsession: the US and its allies. The non-aligned countries, most of the world, have vigorously supported Iran’s right, as a signer of the Non-proliferation Treaty, to enrich Uranium. In the Arab world, Iran is generally disliked, but not perceived as a threat; rather, it is the US and Israel that the population regards as a threat, by very large margins, as consistently shown by polls.

In western discourse, it is commonly claimed that the Arabs support the US position regarding Iran, but the reference is to the dictators, not the general population, who are considered an irrelevant annoyance under prevailing democratic doctrine. Also standard is reference to “the standoff between the international community and Iran,” to quote from the current scholarly literature. Here the phrase “international community” refers to the US and whoever happens to go along with it; in this case, a small minority of the international community, but many more if political stands are weighted by power.

What then is the perceived threat? An authoritative answer is given by US intelligence and the Pentagon in their regular reviews of global security. They conclude that Iran is not a military threat. It has low military expenditures even by the standards of the region, and limited capacity to deploy force. Its strategic doctrine is defensive, designed to resist attack. The intelligence community reports no evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but if it is, they conclude, that would be part of Iran’s deterrence strategy.

It is hard to think of a country in the world that needs a deterrent more than Iran. It has been tormented by the West without respite ever since its parliamentary regime was overthrown by a US-British military coup in 1953, first under the harsh and brutal regime of the Shah, then under murderous attack by Saddam Hussein, with western support. It was largely US intervention that induced Iran to capitulate; and shortly after, President George Bush I invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the US for training in advanced weapons production, an extraordinary threat to Iran. Iraq soon became an enemy, but meanwhile Iran was subjected to harsh sanctions, intensifying under US initiative to the present. It constantly subjected to the threat of military attack by the US and Israel — in violation of the UN Charter, if anyone cares.

It is, however, understandable that the US-Israel would regard an Iranian deterrent as an intolerable threat. It would limit their ability to control the region, by violence if they choose, as they often have. That is the essence of the perceived Iranian threat.

That the clerical regime is a threat to its own people is hardly in doubt, though regrettably it is hardly alone in that regard. But it goes well beyond naiveté to believe that its internal repression is much of a concern to the great powers.

Whatever one thinks of the threat, are there ways to mitigate it? Quite a few, in fact. One of the most reasonable would be to move towards establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the region, as strongly advocated by the Non-aligned movement and particularly by the Arab states, and indeed most of the world. The US and its allies voice formal support, but have hardly been cooperative. That is once again clear right now. Under NPT authority, an international conference was to have been held in Finland last December to advance such plans. Israel refused to attend, but to the surprise of many, in early November Iran announced that it would take part, without conditions. The US then announced that the conference was cancelled, repeating Israel’s objections: that a conference is premature before regional security is established. The Arab states, Russia, and the European Parliament called for immediate renewal of the initiative, but of course little is possible without the US.

Details are murky. Little documentary evidence is available, and all of this has passed without inquiry. In particular, the US press has not inquired, or in fact even published a single word on the most reasonable and practical efforts to address what it reports as “the gravest threat to world peace.”

It is quite clear, however, that Arab states and others call for moves to eliminate weapons of mass destruction immediately, as a step towards regional security; while the US and Israel, in contrast, reverse the order, and demand regional security — meaning security for Israel — as a prerequisite to eliminating such weapons. In the not-very-remote background is the understanding that Israel has an advanced nuclear weapons system, alone in the region; and is alone in refusing to join the NPT, along with India and Pakistan, both of whom also benefit from US support for their nuclear arsenals.

The connection of Israel-Palestine conflict to the alleged Iranian threat is therefore clear. As long as the US and Israel persist in their rejectionist stance, blocking the international consensus on a two-state settlement, there will be no regional security arrangements, hence no moves towards a establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone and mitigating, perhaps ending, what the US and Israel claim to be the gravest threat to peace, at least to do so in the most obvious and far-reaching way.

It should be noted that along with Britain, the US has a special responsibility to devote its efforts to establishing a Middle East NWFZ. When attempting to provide a thin legal cover for their invasion of Iraq, the two aggressors appealed to UNSCR 687 of 1991, claiming that Saddam violated the demand to end his nuclear weapons programs. The Resolution also has another paragraph, calling for “steps towards the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction…”, obligating the US and UK even more than others to undertake this initiative seriously.

These comments naturally only scratch the surface, and leave out many urgent topics, among them the horrifying descent of Syria into suicide and ominous developments in Egypt, which are sure to have a regional impact. And indeed a lot more. This is how some of the core issues appear, to me at least.


Filed under Israel, People, Politics

Israel and Iran: A Love Story

Leave a comment

Filed under Israel, Peaceful, Uncategorized, Video