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The Race for Iran



Yesterday, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) concluded its annual policy conference in Washington, DC.  This year saw the largest-ever turnout for AIPAC’s annual conference, with 7,800 people in attendance, an important percentage of whom were not Jewish but evangelical Protestant Christians.  At the climax of the conference, participants deployed to Capitol Hill to lobby for AIPAC’s top policy priorities.  As AIPAC’s lobbying packet underscores, the conference was heavily focused on “the Iranian threat”, which topped Israeli-Palestinian peace and even the state of U.S.-Israeli relations in the wake of Vice President Joseph Biden’s recent trip to Israel for pride of place on AIPAC’s agenda. 

This year’s lobbying effort was concentrated on the imperative to “prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability.”  To this end, AIPAC wants the United States “to lead the international community in imposing crippling sanctions on Iran without delay.”  According to AIPAC, “American and international sanctions on Iran must be immediate, broad and overwhelming in order to force the regime to confront the choice between abandoning its pursuit of nuclear weapons or facing crippling sanctions.”  AIPAC’s material does not explicitly call for military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets, but, subtly and ominously, the group notes that “tough sanctions that are strictly enforced still remain the best option at this time to persuade Iran’s leaders to alter their course” (emphasis added). 

Some of AIPAC’s congressional guests leaned further forward than the group’s own materials did about the possibility of military strikes against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.  In his address, Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) departed from the Obama Administration’s approved talking points by asserting that,

“Diplomatic efforts have failed.  We are too close (to a nuclear Iran) to simply continue those efforts.  The U.S. must hit Iran first, on our own, with unilateral sanctions, no matter what the other nations of the world do.  And, we cannot wait, we must push those sanctions now…we cannot afford to wait for Russia or China.”     

Senator Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) went even further, portentously claiming that “time is not on our side” with regard to Iran’s nuclear program and that this year’s AIPAC conference could be the last before Iran actually acquired nuclear weapons.  To deal with this threat, Graham underscored that “all options must be on the table” and “you know exactly what I’m talking about”.  But Graham argued that, if military strikes against Iran are initiated, they should not be limited to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear infrastructure: 

“If military force is ever employed, it should be done in a decisive fashion.  The Iran government’s ability to wage conventional war against its neighbors and our troops in the region should not exist.  They should not have one plane that can fly or one ship that can float.”                     

Why are AIPAC and its supporters putting all of this effort into pushing the Obama Administration into a more assertive “war footing” toward Iran?  What does this focus tell us about Israel’s perception of its strategic interests vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic?  As we have written previously, the idea that an Iran which is capable of enriching uranium—or even an Iran which has actually fabricated a nuclear weapons—is an “existential threat” to Israel does not hold up to serious scrutiny.  So what really is at stake here for Israel and its friends in the United States? 

From an Israeli perspective, three points are important.  First, Israel’s political and policy elites want to eliminate Iran’s fuel-cycle capabilities in order to preserve a regional balance of power that is strongly tilted in Israel’s favor.  Regional perceptions that the Islamic Republic had achieved a nuclear “breakout” capacity would begin to erode Israel’s long-standing nuclear-weapons monopoly in the Middle East, thereby chipping away at the image and reality of Israel’s strategic hegemony over its neighborhood. 

Second, the emergence of an increasingly nuclear-capable Iran might begin to constrain Israel’s own strategic and tactical choices in the region, at least on the margins.  For many years now there has been a broad-based consensus within Israeli political and policymaking circles that Israel’s security requires that an Israeli government be able to use military force unilaterally in the Middle East at any time and for any purpose that it chooses.  Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu himself alluded to this view in his address to AIPAC yesterday.  Netanyahu noted that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, “two of history’s greatest leaders”, had “helped save the world.  But they were too late to save six million of my own people.”  He then declared that “the future of the Jewish state can never depend on the goodwill of even the greatest of men.  Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.”  The Prime Minister went on to apply this idea directly to Iran and its nuclear program, noting that “Israel expects the international community to act swiftly and decisively to thwart this danger.  But we will always reserve the right to defend ourselves.” 

In this context, it is clear that Netanyahu is not referring to self-defense against an active threat, for which Article 51 of the United Nations Charter might be invoked as a legal justification.  Rather, Netanyahu is reiterating longstanding Israeli policy that Israel claims the right to initiate, at its own discretion, not just preemptive wars, but also preventive wars.  From this perspective, anything which might begin to constrain Israel’s currently unconstrained freedom of military action is problematic.  Thus, a nuclear-capable Iran is bad because in some circumstances its might make Israeli strategic planners and decision-makers think twice about the unilateral initiation of military conflict.  (Similarly, the accumulation of more capable rockets and conventional military hardware by Hizballah in Lebanon since 2006 is a problem for Israel not because Hizballah will, some day, decide to launch massive rocket barrages against northern Israel for no reason.  Rather, Hizballah’s military capabilities are a problem primarily because they constrain, at least to some degree, Israeli decision-making about initiating military confrontation in the region.  This is true with regard to prospective strikes against Iranian targets—because Israeli planners must worry about Hizballah’s response.  It is also true with regard to sending Israeli ground forces into Lebanon—because Hizballah, having become capable of what Tom Ricks usefully describes as a “high-intensity insurgency” campaign, can now fight the IDF to an effective standstill on the ground.)      

The third point relates to the Palestinian issue.  From an Israeli perspective, keeping America focused on Iran as an urgent threat is useful in distracting Washington from working too seriously on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.   This is particularly attractive to a Prime Minister like Netanyahu, who is disinclined to take the concrete steps necessary to reach a two-state solution—whether in the near-term on settlements or in the longer-term on final status issues.  Netanyahu—or any other Israeli Prime Minister with a similar view of the Palestinian issue—will always argue for prioritizing Iran over the Palestinians.  An Israeli Prime Minister can always claim that his government’s bureaucratic and national security capacities—as well as his own political capital—are finite.  There is simply not enough of those resources for an Israeli government to deal effectively with an “existential threat” from Iran and, at the same time, make and implement the “painful concessions” entailed in a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians. 

Those who claim that the Obama Administration could use the argument that resolving the Palestinian issue would marginalize Iran to leverage greater cooperation from Israel on Arab-Israeli peacemaking miss this important reality:  the Israeli government is exagerating the Iranian “threat” as a way of fending off pressure to do more on the Palestinian issue, not as a way of facilitating greater American intervention on the Palestinian issue.  Moreover, this position ignores what we have frequently identified as a major weakness in the current U.S. position vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic and the Middle East more generally—at this point, the United States cannot broker negotiated settlements on the unresolved tracks of the Arab-Israeli peace process without a more positive and productive relationship with Tehran.     

–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett



  1. Liz says:

    If the statement below was made by an Iranian leader and not by Senator Lindsay Graham, what would have been the reaction in the American media? Some leading American politicians are pretty sick, but where is the media and its concern for the sanctity of human life?

    “If military force is ever employed, it should be done in a decisive fashion. The Iran government’s ability to wage conventional war against its neighbors and our troops in the region should not exist. They should not have one plane that can fly or one ship that can float.”

  2. James Canning says:

    Jon Harrison,

    I very much agree with you a unitary state (Israel/Palestine) would require a very large change of attitude of the part of all concerned. And not likely to be obtained, in the near term at least.

    Does Bibi Netanyahu assume that enough Palestinians can be forced to leave the country, so that overall Israeli control is retained? I wonder what Obama said to BN privately.

  3. James Canning says:


    Thanks. I agree Iran has every right to develop nuclear power (within NPT). I agree with Dan Cooper and kooshy that Ahmadinejad is demonized by the Israel lobby because Iran, and the Iranian president, speak out vociferously in support of the oppressed Palestinians. Mainstream US media help Aipac et al. conduct their campaign of slander, misrepresentation, etc. etc. etc. and most Americans haven’t a clue as to what the real issues are, or even where Iran is located.

  4. Jon Harrison says:

    Alan, I don’t see any evidence that the administration is using the threat of a deal with Iran to extract concessions on I/P. If this is their game, it sure as hell isn’t working.

    As regards your point about the administration and the military working separately toward similar goals, well, that’s pretty shrewd thinking. Could be. I tend to think, however, that the two will move in tandem if their goals are the same. It’s when the politicians and the military want different things that we see generals and admirals sneaking off the reservation. On Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the military itself is split. Is there a similar split over the value of the Israeli relationship? I don’t know. I don’t have active duty contacts anymore. I would be interested to know if anyone comes across any fresh reporting on this subject.

    President Ahmadinejad is an enigma to me. He will voice truths that many in the West have never encountered or taken seriously (for example, his pointed question as to why the Palestinians have to suffer for European crimes against the Jews), but then turn around and say something stupid that makes him appear to be a Holocaust-denier. To put it mildly, he has not helped Iran’s chances of getting a fair hearing in the West. He needs a good PR firm!

  5. kooshy says:

    Ahmadinejad slams West for supporting Israel

  6. kooshy says:


    If Mr. Obama really wants too, then he will first need, to get his B…released from the chief of staff hands, which has been holding them all along through that famous opening that we saw young Catharine Kennedy was crawling out.


  7. Alan says:

    Jon – regarding my hallucinations – you’re not alone ….

    It certainly seems equally possible that the US, having categorically rejected Israel’s attempt to link movement on I/P with US movement on Iran, is itself using the threat of a deal with Iran as a lever to get Israeli concessions on I/P. If so, we will have an unmitigated disaster on our hands. Surely they can’t be so stupid ….. can they?

    On the military – you may well be right. I don’t know; but is it necessary to have a comprehensive policy on the military itself simultaneously? Could it simply be that the military and the Administration’s interests genuinely coincide over Israel?

    James, the unitary state could of course only come about over many years and via a phased approach which would require a two-state interim solution anyway. I think the circumstances required for a successful 2-state are probably 75% of the way toward a 1-state. It is interesting to contemplate what would have happened if the original 1947 Partition Plan had gone through as proposed. I think it would almost certainly have become a single state long before now.

    Kooshy – I reckon Obama could quite like that formulation of Ahmadinejad’s. Maybe it won’t take too much to impress the Iranians after all?

  8. Dan Cooper says:


    Regarding Ahmadinejad’s comments:

    “In the entire west, there is not even one brave political leader who is capable of standing up to the Zionist and their atrocities.”

    I think Ahmadinejad is the only leader in the world who is brave enough to condemn Israel’s atrocities publicly.

    This is the reason why Israel lobby and the western media daily demonise him.

  9. kooshy says:

    Last night I watched a live broadcast of President Ahmadinijad, inaugurating a new dam on Karuoon River named Karuoon 4. During his speech, he made a few passages about the Iran’s policy with the west and US. A new and interesting part of his speech was regarding US/West policy toward Israel and Palestine.
    He said, you tell us, because the Zionist controls our media, money, and political parties, we are incapable of doing anything, to Israel’s inhuman treatment of the Palestinians. Well If this is the case the least you can do, is just do not say anything in their support, that is all we are asking (do not say anything in their support that is all we are asking) and do not back them up with their inhuman treatment of Palestinians.
    He further mentioned in the entire west, there is not even one brave political leader who is capable of standing up to the Zionist and their atrocities.

  10. Jon Harrison says:

    Mr. Canning, you misunderstand me. I was speaking hypothetically. For my idea of a unitary state to come to fruition, a revolution of attitudes among all parties would first have to take place. I was not presenting the idea as in any way a practical one at this time.

  11. khurshid says:

    james canning

    i never said Iran should make nuclear weapons. I wrote “nuclear ability” and “nuclear capable Iran” – meaning nuclear energy capability. Nuclear ability does not necessarily mean nuclear weapons.

  12. James Canning says:

    Jon Harrison,

    The primary problem of a unitary state, is that the Jews are in control of the security services, the legal system, etc. They would be most unlikely to relinquish this power to Muslims and Christians. The Palestinians can flourish if they are allowed to control their own destiny in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This means finding the means to force out all Israeli security services. A transition period of a number of years, with tens of thousands of non-Arab peacekeepers may very well be necessary. But Israeli security services have to leave.

  13. James Canning says:


    Iran should make its pitch to the world, and remain open to a diplomatic solution. The US clearly is incapable of acting sensibly in the best interests of the US itself, due to the overweening power of the Israel lobby.


    I think Iran would do itself great harm, and the Palestinians, by proceeding with development of nuclear weapons after years of denying any such intention. Hamas is demonized by the Israel lobby by tying it to a supposed nuclear “threat” from Iran.

  14. Jon Harrison says:

    Oh, another reason why I don’t think there’s a coordinated PR strategy involving the military: look at “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Recently JCS Chairman Mullen came out in favor of repeal. He had signaled as much earlier by allowing an article in favor of repeal to appear in the JCS’ monthly magazine. His view on this is obviously in line with Obama’s, but do his actions indicate that a coordinated strategy was being played out? Definitely not. Why do I say that? Because a short time after Mullen spoke up, the Chief of Staff of the Army and the Secretary of the Army told a Senate committee that they were opposed to repeal. Clearly, Obama hadn’t brought them in and told them that they were to follow the adminsitration’s line. (I couldn’t believe it. The President has got to show he’s in control before he completely loses the respect of important people here and abroad.)

    Petraeus, like Mullen on DADT, was speaking words the president loved to hear. But a coordinated strategy? Given what happened on DADT, it doesn’t seem likely, does it?

  15. Jon Harrison says:

    But Eric, the people I was speaking of would not necessarily see a US-faciliated or imposed settlement as “bad” for the Palestinians. Some of them, indeed, would favor a two-state solution that gives the Palestinians something very, very close to the 1967 borders. They believe that over time this Palestinian state could prosper in partnership with Israel. (Let me hasten to say that I don’t buy their argument. But some, perhaps even many of them, are sincere.)

    Personally, I favor a united Palestine in which Muslims, Jews, Christians and everybody else lives on a basis of equal citizenship. That to me is the only fair solution. I don’t think any two-state solution can be equitable, given the economic dependence of the West Bank and Gaza on the remainder of Palestine, i.e., Israel.

    Alan, my personal opinion is that you are hallucinating (on the issue of a “drip-drip” strategy, that is). The significance of Petraeus’ remarks has been a matter of debate over at Lobelog, with Lobe and Ali G. maintaining it signals a real change, with me dissenting. Mind you, I’m not privy to the major actors private thoughts; there could be a coordinated strategy for all I know. But I doubt it, mainly because what’s been said so far is too weak to have any effect. My larger point is that any such campaign is doomed to failure. I give my reasons in my posts over there, if anyone cares to read them.

    I will say here that I don’t believe the Christian Right has been in the least fazed by Petraeus’ remarks. Something much bigger must occur to peel even some of them off. Israel, a key landmark on their perceived road to Salvation, is more important to them even than the US military. Mark my words on this.

    I was interested in Persian Gulf’s last post. It is baffling to think that a superpower with a population of 300 million can have its hands tied by the contrary interests of a little state founded on colonialist lines. Yet that is the reality we experience — it’s not a conspiracy theory or a misunderstanding, it’s the way things are. Positively Orwellian.

  16. Eric A. Brill says:


    “In which case Netanyahu could yet prove to be Obama’s biggest asset.”

    You may be right. I’ve had my hopes falsely raised so many times over the past several decades that I’m somewhat skeptical, but you’re perking up my spirits again. One practice that I hope continues is (as you noted) Obama’s unwillingness to be photographed with Netanyahu.

  17. Eric A. Brill says:


    “Eric, the sentence to which you refer is long and perhaps a bit convoluted, but it makes sense to me. There are supporters of Israel who would like the US to facilitate a settlement in Palestine more or less on Israel’s terms.”

    Thanks. With that possible meaning for the “alternative” presented in that sentence, the sentence makes sense to me. I actually had suspected that was intended, but I found the possibility so depressing that I had (temporarily) pushed it out of my mind. The hope that “exaggerating the Iranian threat” will induce the US to press for an I/P settlement that leaves Palestinians with no hope for improvement implies an extremely cynical view of the US government. I harbor little hope that the US government will (at least soon) press Israel toward a settlement that improves the Palestinians’ situation, but I also believe it will not press for a settlement that locks in the status quo or make matters even worse.

    Mere weakness is a sufficient explanation for why an American leader does nothing to improve the situation. But for someone to hope that that leader will take affirmative steps to make matters even worse implies a belief that he is worse than just weak.

  18. Alan says:

    Eric – yes, a lot of people are attributing quite some significance to the military position. It’s not just now, I have the impression the military have been itching to have a say on how to handle Israel for some time.

    It gives me the impression that these various negative positions toward Israel are something of a co-ordinated drip-drip PR strategy to counter the Lobby, deployed in the wake of any inflammatory or insulting Israeli action. In which case Netanyahu could yet prove to be Obama’s biggest asset.

    Or I could be hallucinating of course.

  19. Persian Gulf says:

    based on what I see here, one should totally believe that America’s foreign policies, at least in the greater middle east, is merely defined by few people to whom their only concern is to preserve a small land, and its mostly imported people, that was probably belonged to their unknown ancestors (how to define ancestor in a historically violated Mideast is itself very controversial) 3000 years ago. it was funny to see Netanyahu talking about 3000-4000 years ago’s history in his AIPAC speech. actually, I was thinking of the basic understanding of the audiences more than his nonsense sentences. it’s might be understandable to accept a certain aspect of those policies are shaped by Israelis and their lobbies, but it’s hard to image this business to go in the long run, specially in the U.S. I just can’t believe . as Kooshy sometimes says, there should be other valuable strategic concerns for the U.S as well, even from the very beginning.

    if that is really the case, I think, Obama has only till next AIPAC gathering to do something real for the U.S-Iran standoff. otherwise, the election would postpone any real change for at least 2 years. it’s senseless to put too many eggs in the basket of a weak president though. he was even unable to publicly dismiss Israel’s insult for his vice-president.

  20. Jon Harrison says:

    Eric, the sentence to which you refer is long and perhaps a bit convoluted, but it makes sense to me. There are supporters of Israel who would like the US to facilitate a settlement in Palestine more or less on Israel’s terms. In their minds a settlement of the I-P dispute would relieve pressure on Israel in the region and throughout the world, which in turn might lessen the Iranian “threat” or, failing that, leave Israel free to face an Iran lacking the “moral cover” of the Palestinians. Now, I know of no one in the Israeli government who thinks along these lines, but I believe there are Israelis on the left and American Jews of a similar persuasion who do think this way. I’m guessing the Leveretts were also thinking of this body of opinion. Of course, they can hit the keyboard and tell us themselves.

    Fiorangela, thanks for your well wishes. I have felt considerably better since yesterday afternoon. I know that anodyne CSPAN ain’t. But I watched anyway.

  21. Eric A. Brill says:


    “Simultaneously, we have the military pressing the line that Israel is causing them big(gish) problem [because of the danger posed to American troops by resentful Muslims]”

    This development seems to me to be an important qualitative step forward in the Israel/Palestine debate, principally because it has the potential to peel away a large and important group of American supporters of Israel — evangelical Christians, many of whom have sons and daughters in the military they’d rather not see die for no good reason.

    No surprise that some writers now claim that Biden never actually said this, nor that Jeffrey Goldberg was apparently first among them. (And, frankly, I’ve always had my own doubts that Biden ever said it.) But none of that really matters, for three reasons: (1) the report of Biden saying it will live on anyway; (2) military leaders are saying the same thing; and (3) it happens to be true.

    Let’s just hope the point is repeated frequently enough that Americans keep it in mind going forward.

  22. Alan says:

    This is a blinding article – hits the bullseye on every target.

    But what does it all mean in relation to the current US/Israel context though? Netanyahu has just met Obama for the second time in 6-7 months, both times in circumstances where Obama will not permit himself to be seen publically with him. This is in stark contrast to the nauseating feting of Israeli leaders in Washington that we have had to endure for decades.

    Simultaneously, we have the military pressing the line that Israel is causing them big(gish) problems, while Netanyahu and his cronies continue with their highly disrespectful words and deeds that directly target the Obama administration. The EU is adopting policy statements in support of Palestinians that would have been sacrilegous a year ago, and Fayyad’s idea for a unilateral declaration of the state of Palestine in August 2011 is gathering pace, unopposed by the US.

    In the meantime, Israel cranks up the provocation, with brutal killings in the West Bank, Gaza and Dubai, threatens Syria, repeatedly violates Lebanese airspace, approves more settlements, and expropriates hugely significant religious sites. Yet those being provoked have steadfastly held their fire.

    And all US talk of nuclear deadlines with Iran has vanished without trace. Dec 31 came and went with barely a murmur.

    So what’s going on?

  23. liz says:

    Its very simple: When Nixon went to China, he kicked Taiwan to the curb, and ignored the powerful pro-Taiwanese lobby. Israel does not want to be in Taiwan’s position should Obama decide to go to Iran, metaphorically speaking. That’s the real “threat” that Iran poses to Israel. Israel has a good thing going with the US and doesn’t want to have to share. So, you have the constant drumbeat of war and “theats” etc about Iran. It remains to be seen if Obama has what it takes to pull a Nixon. I highly doubt it. Israel will fight to the last US Marine to ensure that it continues to receive billions of dollars of US taxpayer money to kill yet more Palestinians. Its not a state so much as an organized criminal conspiracy.

  24. Dan Cooper says:

    The Lobby has spoken and Washington has listened:

    Israel is to be supported,

    their lies are truths,

    their invasion is defensive,

    their ‘anguish’ is real,

    their life is a ‘nightmare’,

    the ‘others’ are terrorists.

  25. Dan Cooper says:

    Israel has over 200 illegal nuclear bombs, Iran has none. How can Iran be a threat to Israel?

    In reality, Israel is certainly an existential threat to Iran and the biggest threat to world peace.

    Even if Iran had a nuclear bomb, Ahmadinejad could never ever be able to use it against Israel because it would simply kill all the Palestinians too as well as Israelis and the nuclear clouds could also kill some people from the neighbouring countries such as Hezbollah from Lebanon.

    USA and Israel together with the western media are using lies and propaganda to paint Ahmadinejad as a threat in order to brainwash the international public opinion and justify an attack on Iran.

    This is exactly what they have done to Iraq.

    The portrayal of Ahmadinejad wanting to wipe Israel off the map is nothing but a sick propaganda to demonize him in the eyes of public opinion.

    The entire world knows that it is Israel, which is wiping Palestine off the map, but sadly, the so called democratic countries such as Uk, USA, France, Germany etc, have kept their silence and LET “the criminal leaders of Israel” slaughter more than 700 innocent and defenceless Palestinian women and children In Gaza carnage In January 2009, and get away with murder.

  26. Fiorangela Leone says:

    Jon Harrison – hope you feel better soon, but can’t imagine why you would think C Span is soothing medicine.

  27. Fiorangela Leone says:

    When Israelis state that Iranians leaders act “irrationally,” they mean it from the point of view of Iron Wall doctrine: A “rational” actor will be crushed by Israeli military force and punishment, and will submit to Israeli dominance; Iran “irrationally” refuses to submit, no matter the punishment meted out.

    This was the tenor of David Wurmser’s whining at a conference sponsored by Israel Project immediately before Annapolis Conference: “Iran is self-confident; it tells it Islamic neighbors not to allow themselves to be humiliated by Israel.”

    What is the solution? Israel needs more than a regime change: one difference between Israel and Iran is that in Iran, only the leadership is deemed problematic; in Israel, the Israeli people have been thoroughly propagandized by their government, by the controlling ideology of zionism, by perpetual infliction of Holocaust “PTSD.” Israeli soldiers shot in the head a young Palestinian farmer, killed 3 others. What kind of insanity has overtaken these young men? Do our American soldiers act with similar callous disregard for the Other? (I’m afraid to answer that.)

    The Arab League may bring about the solution that eludes the US. Miami Herald reported that Arab League Chief Pushes for Closer Ties With Iran published an AP report that the 22-member Arab League (which includes Palestine) will push for closer ties with Iran and Turkey, and will will propose attempting to negotiate directly between their organization and Iran to resolve regional issues. The League believes that US and Israeli sabre-rattling over Iran could result in considerable instability in their member states.

    “Another factor behind the Arab push for their own Iran strategy is linked to their frustration over the failure of Washington to stand up to Israel over its insistence on building on land the Palestinians want for a future state.”

    In the same report, Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit will spearhead an initiative to persuade the League

    “to focus on what is widely believed to be a secret nuclear weapons program in Israel and pressure it to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

    “The priority of Arab countries should be to force Israel to join the NPT and place its nuclear facilities under the IAEA guarantees,” Aboul Gheit said, referring to the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency. “

  28. Fiorangela Leone says:

    @ 2:16 John Canning wrote: “No. 2 problem is Israel’s foolish and dangerous election of continuing use of overwhelming military firepower to slaughter civilians in neighboring countries, in an insane belief this somehow “protects” Israel.”

    Israel’s use of military force is worse than “an insane belief that it protects Israel.”
    Jabotinsky wrote the ‘Iron Wall’ doctrine that Israel is following. Iron Wall is, in Ian Lustick’s words, a “pedagogic” tool: persistently punish Arabs with overwhelming and disproportionate military force until you’ve “beat into their heads” that they can’t defeat Israel. Eventually, the doctrine goes, more Arabs will become “rational” and willing to accept the half-loaf that Israel offers them; those who resist, who continue to say, No, will become the minority, then there will be peace. Killing people is used to teach them to submit to Israeli dominance. This is one of the foundational doctrines of the State of Israel. (Jefferson, Madison, Washington looking better and better).

  29. khurshid says:

    The Leverett’s are completely right, Iran is not the real threat to Israel. The article mentioned Hizbollah nexus in the Iran Israel riddle but didn’t mention Hamas. I like to add that nuclear capable Iran will strengthen Hamas because with Israel’s hegemony reduced, if not diminished completely, it will have to come around and negotiate with Hamas – something Israel refuses to do at this point in time. If Hamas becomes strong as a natural consequence of Iran’s nuclear ability than Israel will have no choice but to recognize Hamas as an elected government of Palestine and thus will not be able to conduct murderous military terrorism in Palestine. This would reduce Israel’s invincibility in the eyes of its neighboring countries and perhaps encourage others to take more bold stand against Israel.

  30. kooshy says:


    I am sure Iran will continue to negotiate but not in US terms, as what they have done in past few years, as carpet merchants if one thing, Iran is famously good at, is bazaar style negotiation. They are well experienced on how to deal with tough customers, who do not know what to take home.

  31. The problem is that rational analysis, such as presented by Flynt and Hilary, does not sell nearly as well as hystrionics and war mongering.

  32. James Canning says:


    Iran should continue its efforts to find a negotiated settlement, regarding its nuclear program. No doubt it is annoying, for many Iranians, given the bad faith demonstrated so often by the US (and other countries). Iran should keep the moral high ground, and to do so requires remaining open to diplomacy. Sadly, the Aipac propaganda machine is well-oiled and continually serviced by numerous prominent, and foolish, American politicians.

  33. James Canning says:


    Great post. Too few Americans are even aware now, that Rafsanjani tried to restore normal US/Iran relations. For that matter, most Americans are not aware of Iranian initiatives in this direction, that have taken place over the past ten years.

    The so-called “threat” from Iran is essentially a scam, enabling Israel to deflect attention fromn the continuing oppression of the Palestinians, and of course the preposterous Iranian “threat” is a useful tool for the armaments salesmen, lawyers, lobbyists, other influence peddlers, etc., who exult in the squandering of further hundreds of billions of dollars each year on “defense”.

  34. kooshy says:

    Cyrus you are right, the problem is not the nuclear issue, it never was, even if Iran suspends, which they did will do US no good and in fact, it did not. This is exactly why the issue is not the Israel that is feeling threatened, the issue precisely is, that the US cannot accept the Iranian Revolution and its exemplification for the region. Since the revolution (read independence) is the issue, is not even worth for Iran, to argue and negotiate about the nuclear standoff. As you mentioned, like the Iraqi model the nuclear issue is a reason but not the cause. This became obvious for Iran back in early 2005 and that was the reason they reversed the gears back then.

  35. Eric A. Brill says:

    The Leveretts wrote:

    “Those who claim that the Obama Administration could use the argument that resolving the Palestinian issue would marginalize Iran to leverage greater cooperation from Israel on Arab-Israeli peacemaking miss this important reality: the Israeli government is exaggerating the Iranian ‘threat’ as a way of fending off pressure to do more on the Palestinian issue, not as a way of facilitating greater American intervention on the Palestinian issue.”

    I’ve read this long sentence several times and I’m still confused by it. If one assumes (as this sentence does) that the Israelis are exaggerating the Iranian threat, the first possible explanation stated in the sentence is plausible. But if that’s not the explanation, I can’t imagine that the alternative explanation stated in the sentence could even be considered possible: that the Israelis are exaggerating the Iranian threat because they want the Americans to intervene on the Palestinian issue. Why would Israel want that? I understand the Leveretts dismiss this alternative explanation; what I don’t understand is how it could even be considered as an alternative.

    It’s possible I’m simply misunderstanding this sentence. If so, I’ll appreciate someone clarifying it for me.

  36. Cyrus says:

    Israeli officials can’t seem to make up their mind on whether Iran is an “existential threat” or not. Brigadier-General Uzi Eilam, Defense Minister Ehubd Barak, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, all have at some point said that Iran is not a threat, among others.

    The real “existential” threat to Israel is Israel’s own policies which are causing massive emigration OUT of Israel (the exact figures are not disclosed by the Israeli gov’t; only figures for immigration into Israel are disclosed) In 2004, Ian Lustick of the University of Pennsylvania wrote that since 2002, no more than 30% of the immigrants to Israel from the fUSSR have been classified by the government as Jewish. In mid-2003 it was reported a “moribund” annual rate of 1,000 immigrants from North America, with 50% of them leaving Israel after their arrival.

    Trita Parsi has written: “”[I]t wasn’t Iran that turned the Israeli-Iranian cold war warm – it was Israel . . . The Israeli reversal on Iran was partially motivated by the fear that its strategic importance would diminish significantly in the post-cold war middle east if the then president (1989-97) Hashemi Rafsanjani’s outreach to the Bush Sr administration was successful.”

    Walt & Mearsheimer explain: “Portraying Israel as beleaguered and vulnerable, and issuing dire warnings about continued or growing anti-Semitism helps maintain a high level of concern among political supporters and thus helps ensure these organizations’ continued existence.”

  37. Jon Harrison says:

    You took the words right out of my mouth. Everything you say in this piece is 100% correct. I too have written that an Iran with one or ten or twenty nuclear weapons is no threat to the US or Israel. Yet we are subjected to a constant mantra on the part of, not just Israelis and members of the Lobby, but American leaders as well, that a nuclear Iran constitutes an “existential threat.” Bullshit.

    I’ve been down with a mild case of the flu and had plenty of time to watch CSPAN’s coverage of the AIPAC conference. Clinton’s speech was nauseating — absolutely craven. Imagine an American Secretary of State virtually groveling before the likes of AIPAC. Men like Washington, Hamilton, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Patton, and Marshall must be spinning in their graves.

    It’s terribly dispiriting to see Americans of influence exhibit the ignorance (or was it simply gutlessness?) that was on display — and is on display every day in the halls of Congress and in the media. It leaves one almost in despair.

  38. James Canning says:

    The so-called “threat” posed by Iran is a spurious means of deflecting attention from the core problems in the Middle East, with Israeli oppression of the Palestinians being No. 1. No. 2 problem is Israel’s foolish and dangerous election of continuing use of overwhelming military firepower to slaughter civilians in neighboring countries, in an insane belief this somehow “protects” Israel. Israel must blend into its neighborhood, and encourage a prosperous Palestine within the 22% of Palestine still remaining (West Bank plus Gaza Strip).

  39. James Canning says:

    What an astonishing and dangerous situation: Christian Zionists encouraging Israel to oppress the Christians in the Holy Land! And lobbying their own government in the US to protect idiotic suppression of the Palestinians by the Israelis, even if that costs the US taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars!