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PORTSIDE  February 2012, Week 3

PORTSIDE February 2012, Week 3

Subject:

AIPAC Beating the Drums of War

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Date:

Thu, 16 Feb 2012 20:39:27 -0500

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Left Margin
Up Next in Washington: At AIPAC Beating the Drums of War

by Carl Bloice,
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board

The Black Commentator
February 16, 2012

http://www.blackcommentator.com/459/459_lm_drums.php

An alarming headline appeared in the English language
Jerusalem Post February 8: "Washington Watch: banging the
war drums." The article below it, written by Douglas
Bloomfield, president of Bloomfield Associates Inc., a
Washington lobbying and consulting firm, noted that Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, "who has a penchant for
dabbling in American politics," will be in Washington to
speak March 3 at the annual policy conference of the
American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) and meet
with President Obama.

"Look for him to whip up the activists long schooled in
lobbying for a get-tougher Iran policy," wrote Bloomfield.

"They'll take the message to Capitol Hill with enthusiasm."

Bloomfield knows of what he speaks. He served nine years as
AIPAC's legislative director and chief lobbyist.

Last year's AIPAC confab drew 10,000 delegates and guests -
including 70 U.S. Senators and 270 members of the House of
Representatives. This year a group calling itself
Occupy/AIPAC plans to demonstrate outside the Washington
Convention Center.

"If past performance is any indicator, Obama will tell the
Israeli leader that sanctions are showing results and, along
with diplomacy, should be given more time to work."
Bloomfield wrote. "Netanyahu will respond that the Iranians
are not serious about diplomacy and use it only to stall
while they go full speed ahead on their nuclear program.
Obama will repeat assurances of `ironclad' US support, and
Netanyahu will dodge the president's plea for patience and
his request for advance notice."

"It is no secret that senior American officials across the
board distrust Netanyahu, believing he does not level with
them, does not keep his commitments and is manipulative,"
continued Bloomfield. "Israeli analysts suggest Netanyahu
could decide to hit Iran during this election year,
believing Obama would be reluctant to try to block him for
fear of offending Jewish supporters. The window of political
opportunity is wide open, in Netanyahu's view.

"Republicans are trying to make support for Israel a wedge
issue and are accusing Obama of being hostile to the Jewish
state. They say his willingness to negotiate with the
Iranians is a sign of weakness. The president has been in
make-nice-to-Israel mode, effectively shelving any effort to
revive peace negotiations, which pleases Netanyahu. The
president's assumption is that peace process progress is
impossible, so why ruffle any feathers among Israel's
friends. Netanyahu has argued there can be no progress in
peace talks until the Iran problem is resolved.

"If Netanyahu does decide to strike Iran this year, with or
without US administration backing, Republicans could be
expected to turn that into a campaign issue against the
Democrats."

At first glance it might seem strange for such a candid view
of what the right wing Israeli government has in mind for
the U.S. to appear in a conservative Israeli newspaper that
supports the policies of Netanyahu's Likud Party-led
government. However, a kind of bravado often seeps into the
paper's coverage - a kind of transparency of motive and
intent.

Prime Minister Netanyahu's threats have more to do with
challenging Washington than with actually attacking Iran,
wrote Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons on Salon.com last
week. He wrote, "When articles invoking the Holocaust and
urging `creative destruction' in Iran appear on the same day
(Feb. 7) in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal,
Newsweek and Bloomberg News, a skeptical observer might be
forgiven for suspecting a well-coordinated propaganda
campaign."

That is clearly what is afoot.

It is doubtful that the government of any other country in
the world could so boldly inject itself in the internal
affairs of the U.S. without being called to task. And this
incursion comes at a critical and volatile moment in this
country's political life. Netanyahu and friends are not just
"dabbling' in our politics; this is a full court press.

Netanyahu's mission in the U.S. will clearly have two
objectives: to raise the level of threats against the
government of Iran over its nuclear program and gain support
for Tel Aviv's continued hold on the occupied territories in
the face of near complete international disapproval. There
is widespread concern that Israel might carry out a
unilateral military attack on Iran at some point between now
and November, confident that Washington would not demur,
this being an election year.

Asserting that an attack on Iran "could set the entire
Middle East aflame," Lyon wrote on Salon, "You'd think the
Israelis, of all people, would recognize that threatening a
people with death and destruction hardens their resolve. Yet
the New York Times reports that Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu `told visitors that he believes the
Tehran government to be deeply unpopular, indeed despised,
and that a careful attack on its nuclear facilities might
even be welcomed by Iranian citizens.'"

Needless to say, bombs over Bagdad didn't bring cheering
crowds into the streets, nor would bombs over Teheran. But
of course, Netanyahu knows that.

"Assuming that the Israeli prime minister's motives for
threatening a unilateral Israeli strike against Iranian
nuclear facilities are as reported - I suspect they are
not," continued Lyon. "To put it bluntly, it's not so much
the regime in Tehran that Netanyahu is keen to destabilize
as the one in Washington. The question now is how far he's
willing to take it."

Lyon went on to note that in his State of the Union speech,
Obama, while reiterating his determination to prevent Iran's
getting nuclear weapons, "also expressed hope that
international sanctions could lead to a peaceful
resolution."

"On cue, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen called this
`startlingly naïve.' Only a fool or a Frenchman, the same
pundit once opined, could doubt the existence of Saddam
Hussein's WMD. Bombs away!"

"Netanyahu appears to see an Obama second term as an
impediment to further Israeli expansion into the West Bank .
and has cast his lot with the Republican right," Lyon wrote.
He noted that the Israeli leader has made public appearances
with such reactionary notables as Glenn Beck, "End Times"
evangelist John Hagee and multibillionaire Las Vegas casino
tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who has largely financed Newt
Gingrich's futile attempt to gain momentum in the Republican
Presidential primary race and who has signaled that he is
prepared to throw his weight and his dollars behind anyone
in a relentless drive to defeat Obama.

Rob Kall, editor and publisher of OpEdNews.com, wrote last
week that if there is any truth in the picture that people
like Lyon draw of Israeli intent to jump into the U.S.
Presidential election, "then progressives need to take
action, particularly Jewish progressives. They (we) need to
do a lot more to stand up in opposition to the right-wingers
leading Israel. Democrats need help articulating a
conversation that enables them to support Israel while
opposing the hawkish, politically motivated threats and
machinations purportedly about Iran, but practically, aimed
against US Democrats."

Interestingly, Bloomfield is clear on what is at stake in
the threat of an attack on Iran. "Obama can expect to be
accused of forcing Israel to attack by failing to stop the
Iranian nuclear program, and blamed for any Iranian
retaliation. War in the Gulf, even a brief one, will
certainly cause a major disruption in oil supplies and a
spike in fuel prices, and if Iran carries through on its
threats to close the Straits of Hormuz, it could damage an
already fragile global economy.

"America is vulnerable to Iranian retaliation because it has
extensive assets in the region, including ships, bases, tens
of thousands of troops and civilians and many American
businesses. Retaliation against them would trigger a major
American military response, sparking a wider war this
country cannot afford."

"The American public does not want another war in the Middle
East, and President Obama will be blamed if one erupts,
whether triggered by an Israeli attack or Iranian
retaliation," noted Bloomfield. "Republicans may criticize
the president for cautioning against another conflict, but
Jewish voters, who traditionally support Democrats 3:1, are
not likely to shift to the GOP because it bangs the war
drums loudly and wants to follow Netanyahu into battle with
Iran."

[BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Carl Bloice is
a writer in San Francisco, is one of the moderators of
Portside, and is a member of the National Coordinating
Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy
and Socialism and formerly worked for a healthcare union.]

___________________________________________

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