Candidates Punt on Iraq-Israel

Ray’s Stray Thoughts

Candidates Speak: Un-Reality About Iraq (Updated)

You say you expected more rhetoric than reality from Senators Obama and McCain yesterday in their speeches on Iraq and Afghanistan?  Well, that’s certainly what you got.

What I find nonetheless amazing is how they, and the pundits, have taken such little notice of the dramatic change in the political landscape occasioned by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s bombshell on July 7—his insistence on a “timetable” for withdrawal of US troops before any accord is reached on their staying past the turn of the year.

Responding to a question at his press conference yesterday, President George W. Bush showed that he was vaguely aware that the timetable is, as Robert Dreyfuss says (in Truthout, July 7), a “big deal.”  Bush even alluded haltingly to the possibility of extending the UN mandate still further.

But it is far from clear that Maliki, who is under great domestic pressure, would be able to sell that to the various factions upon which he depends for support, much less to those which he must keep at bay.  As Dreyfuss points out, Maliki and his Shiite allies are also under considerable pressure from Iran, which remains the chief ally of the ruling alliance of Shiites.  Most important, Maliki is by no means in control of what happens next.


Here’s where it gets sticky.  No one who knows about third rails in US politics would expect the candidates or the fawning corporate media (FCM) to address how those now running Israel are likely to be looking at the implications of a large US troop withdrawal from Iraq next year.

I am remembering how I was pilloried on June 16, 2005, immediately after Congressman John Conyers’ rump-Judiciary Committee hearing in the bowels of the Capitol, for a candid answer to a question from one of his colleagues; i. e., if the invasion of Iraq was not about WMD, and not about non-existent ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda, then why did we attack?

In answer, I used the acronym OIL.  O for oil; I for Israel; and L for Logistics, meaning the military bases deemed by neoconservatives as necessary to protect both.  Neither the House members present nor the media people seemed to have any problem with oil and military bases as factors—in itself an interesting commentary.

However, the suggestion that one main motive was an attempt to make that part of the Middle East safer for Israel (yes, folks, the neocons really thought that attacking Iraq would do that)—well, that was anathema.

As it is anathema today to suggest that this is still one of the main reasons, besides oil, that Elliott Abrams, other neocons—not to mention Vice President Dick Cheney and his team—insist we must stay, Maliki and his associates be damned.  (See the cartoon in the Washington Times today showing Maliki and words telling him “We are NOT leaving.”)

Here in Washington we can sit back and quibble over the implications of such remarks by Maliki and other Iraqi leaders.  The Israelis have to take such statements seriously.  No agreement on US forces staying into 2009 without a timetable for withdrawal?  For Tel Aviv, this is getting very serious.

My guess is the Israeli leaders are apoplectic.  The fiasco in Iraq clearly has made the region much more dangerous for Israel.  There are actually real “terrorists” and “extremists” now in Iraq, and the prospect of US troops leaving has got to be a cause of acute concern in Tel Aviv.

Keeping the US Entangled: Iran

This dramatic change—or even just the specter of it—greatly increases Israel’s incentive to ensure the kind of US involvement in the area that would have to endure for several years.  The Israelis need to create “facts on the ground”—something to guarantee that Washington will stand by what U.S. candidates, including Sen. Obama, call “our ally.”  (Never mind that there is no mutual US-Israel defense treaty.)  Israel is all too painfully aware that it has only six more months of Bush and Cheney.

The legislation drafted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) being so zealously promoted in Congress calls for the equivalent of a blockade of Iran.  That would be one way to entangle; there are many others.

The point is that the growing danger that the Israelis perceive will probably prompt them to find a way to get the US involved in hostilities with Iran.  Cheney and Bush have pretty much given them that license, with the president regularly pledging to defend “our ally” if Israel is attacked.

All Israel has to do is to arrange to be attacked.  Not a problem.

There are endless possibilities among which Israel can choose to catalyze such a confrontation—with or without a wink and a nod from Cheney and Abrams.  The so-called “amber light” said to have been given to the Israelis is, I believe, already seen as quite sufficient; they are not likely to feel a need to wait until it turns green.

So far, the resistance of U.S. senior military has been the only real obstacle to the madness of hostilities with Iran.  (And one need only read Scott Ritter’s article on Truthdig this week to get a sense for why they would be chary.)

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, has been described as warning the Israelis that a “Third Front” in the Middle East would be a disaster.  I think, rather, he was trying to warn anyone who might listen in Washington, including until now tone-deaf lawmakers.

Even if the pundits are correct in suggesting that Mullen is joined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in trying to resist the neocons and Cheney, Mullen’s tone at his press conference two weeks ago suggested he is fighting a rear guard action—against the “crazies” in the White House, as well as those in Tel Aviv.  And when is the last time the crazies lost a political battle with such implications for Israel?

Mullen had just returned from Tel Aviv.  He appreciates better than most the fecklessness of endless speculation over whether Israel or the U.S. might strike Iran first.  Even if the Israeli leaders have no explicit assurances from the White House, they almost certainly calculate that, once a casus belli is established, their friends in Washington—and the troops they command—are likely to be committed to the fray big time.

Seatbelts Please…

Viewed from Tel Aviv it appears an increasingly threatening situation, with more urgent need to “embed” (so to speak) the United States even more deeply in the region—in a confrontation involving both countries with Iran.

A perfect storm is brewing:

— Petraeus ex Machina, with a record of doing Vice President Dick Cheney’s bidding, takes command of CENTCOM in September;

— Sen. McCain’s numbers are likely to be in the toilet at that point (because of the economy as much as anything else);

— McCain will be seen by the White House as the only candidate with something to gain by a wider war (just as by another “terrorist incident”);

— The Bush/Cheney months will be down to three;

— And Maliki will not be able to cave in to Washington on the timeline requirement he has publicly set.

In sum, Israel is likely to be preparing a September/October surprise designed to keep the US bogged down in Iraq and in the wider region by provoking hostilities with Iran.  And don’t be surprised if it starts as early as August.  Israel’s leaders may well plead for understanding on the part of those U.S. officials not tipped off in advance, claiming that they could not distinguish amber from green with their night-vision goggles on.

Would they hesitate?  Please tell me who…just who is likely to turn on the siren, pull them over, and even think of giving them a summons—once the patrol car computer confirms their privileged licenses?

33 thoughts on “Candidates Punt on Iraq-Israel”

  1. A chilling but plausible scenario. And McGovern’s sense of powerlessness is compelling. Who with any unalloyed interest in peace these last several years hasn’t felt powerless? And from the sound of it, when the best the supposedly FISA outraged left can produce is Glenn Greenwald and his campaign to “hold politicians responsible”, all the while finding itself entirely comfortable with an Obama presidency, there’ll be a lot more powerlessness to come. I don’t think Israel will need to fear the absence of an American presence in the Middle East if an Iraq pullout is managed. Obama already has his sights set on a wider war in Afghanistan. That’s what happens to you when you just can’t get outside the box.

  2. Best regards, Mr. McGovern, and here’s a handshake over the miles.

    Why did we invade Iraq? You laid it on the line with your simple explanation: OIL (Oil, Israel, and Logistics). As you say, many accepted the Oil and Logistics part, but everyone got hot and bothered that Israel was part of the equation! It’s true: Israel is the “51st state,” and whatever the boys in Tel Aviv want, they get, no questions asked.

    Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki wants America to start getting the hell out of his country. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, you understand: America invaded and devastated Iraq, and killed its people.) The thing is, the boys in Tel Aviv want very much for America to stay mired down in the Middle East. Everything Israel does–egging America on to attack Iran, asking American “permission” to attack Iran, blah blah blah–is based on that.

    Admiral William Fallon, USN was fired as CENTCOM C-in-C because of his opposition to war with Iran. General David Petraeus, AUS, that four-star stooge, will take over CENTCOM in September. Yes, the boys in Tel Aviv will keep the pressure on for war with Iran, via AIPAC and the rest of the Lobby.

    Let’s pray that, somehow, sanity prevails in the otherwise insane world of the Liar-in-Chief.

    1. It’s true: Israel is the “51st state”

      Nah, you’ve got it all backwards. The “United States” is Israel’s westernmost province.

  3. Perhaps Ray McGovern feels “powerless”. I don’t know.

    One thing I *do* know, however, is that Antiwar Radio is *not* powerless.

    Neither is the alternative media, nor the Internet media (like, nor the mainstream media “powerless”.

    Nor are the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious ‘authorities’ “powerless”; *all* of whom continue to fan the flames of theological conflict; which, in all likelihood, will soon result in genocide far beyond anyone’s *wildest* nightmares.

    Yet, *every one* of these media and religious ‘authorities’ has used the power that they do have to *ignore* the fundamental theological issues underlying all of these conflicts throughout the Middle East; while giving all manner of publicity to military analysts, geo-strategic analysts, economists, political analysts, etc. etc. etc.

    The folks at Antiwar Radio could just as easily choose to interview me about the theological dimension of these conflicts–something which is being *absolutely* ignored by the mainstream media and the Internet media–as any of these other analysts.

    But it has chosen not to do so…

    Apparently under the impression that it will “make no difference”.

    We’ll see.

    Michael Cecil

    1. Most of the Israli firsters are not religious at all,and they are the biggest promoters of death and deastructions.

  4. By “safer for Israel”, they didn’t mean to protect them from an Iraq that didn’t have an air force, navy or modern army. They mean to protect them from demographics. The reason the occupation has been so desperate to forcibly transfer the Arab population of Iraq into separate religious ghettos, is because it will serve as a pretext for population transfer (i.e. expulsion) in Palestine.

    Though if you get your news from propaganda outlets like, it’s the Iranians/Iraqis/”phony al Qaeda in Iraq” who are actually doing this and the virtuous occupation is there to stop it. Very ineffectually apparently, but it would surely be worse if they left!

    1. Yes, this is not about Israel’s safety. This is about advancing Israeli strategic goals that go far beyond “safety” in any legitimate sense. More appropriate words are “aggrandizement”, “expansionism,” “domination”, or “hegemony”, rather than “safety”.

  5. Mr McGovern,

    In an hypothetical israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, what routes would israeli aircraft fly and use to refuel, in your opinion?

    Through Iraqi airspace? Syrian-Turkish? Saudi? Along the Red Sea and around the Arabian peninsula (over 4000 K one way)?

    The Iranians would naturally consider any third country that permitted israeli aircraft to fly over its territory in order to attack Iran to be participants in the (hypothetical) attack. Iran would thus be justified in retaliating against that or those countries as well as israel.

    Al-Maliki has already made it clear that Iraqi airspace is off limits to israeli aircraft. If the israelis ignore that prohibition and (hypothetically) attack Iran anyway that gives the Iranians carte blanche to commit full resources to destabilisation of the Iraqi government and to target American assets and troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I suspect this is what Adm. Mullen has been telling the israelis: “If you attack Iran, after you fly back to the safety of israel American troops will still be in place on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. American troops, American assets and American interests will receive the Iranian retaliation while you’re back in israel laughing and telling jokes.”

  6. I can’t think of one single thing the U.S. gains from its alliance with Israel. Without it, it could live in peace with the Arab world. This “alliance” may be the most lopsidedly beneficial one in all of history. Israel gets all the benefits, the USA gets only grief. The USA would be better off in every possible way if it had never had any ties or connections to Israel. Why does the U.S. give Israel 3-4 billion dollars EVERY YEAR! What for? How does this unasked for shakedown of the American taxpayer help Americans? The 4 billion given one year could have rebuilt Detroit. The next year it could have built hospitals in Ohio. Another year that 4 billion might have repaved all the highways in Georgia. And on it goes. Unreal.

    1. That’s a good question. Walter Russell Mead takes a stab at it here.

      According to Mead, a lot of Americans sympathize with Israel for religious and historical reasons, while there’s no countervailing sympathy for Islam, or for Arabs more generally.

      1. I should add that it’s a little unclear how Mead thinks this alleged sympathy gets translated into foreign policy, but I suppose the outlines of that argument are easy to guess.

      2. These same Americans appearntly have had no sympathy for Palestinian Christians either.Uprooting thousands of Palestnian Christians was all fine with their fine coreligious brethren in the US.They are Ayrabs after all.Maybe the missunderstandings and missreadings of the Bible explain a lot of the American attitudes.Truman is that he once remarked that he has a huge number of Jewish votes to contend with.

  7. How about global blow back from the increase in oil prices from the Iranian response to an attack?

    1. Of course, that’s no problem for Israel. They’ll just push through “our” Congress an “emergency aid” package for Israel large enough to cancel out any economic cost to the Holy Nation.

      1. I could see our Congress doing that. How about the idea of a “Global Depression” resulting from the war with Iran? I bet the ruling oligarchies will have their hands full managing angry citizens if the global economies are severely affected. Of course our media will blame it on Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or something besides the actual cause. The rest of the world will know who to blame.

    1. Oh, but we all must understand that they are a “traumatized people”, which gives them a permanent license to act exactly as if they were assholes.

    2. Ah, Pat Buchanan. I can remember him urging Americans not to “Abandon America” and vote for the Republican Party’s candidate the second time George W. Bush was trying to get elected to the White House. Perhaps that is the problem with America, really. The part of it that does, bangs on about Israel like mad, and then when the time comes, guess what, Israel IS your ally.

  8. My take is that Pelosi and Conyers would love to Impeach the President but they want to make sure there is general public support for it. By having the unofficial Impeachment hearings they can test the waters and they can let the President know they are serious about Conyers’ letter promising to Impeach the President if the US Invades Iraq. Because no one wants another war.

    See here:

  9. Israel recently and inexplicably released some Islamo terrorist thugs in exchange for the bodies of soldiers. One of these low life SCUM thugs shot a man in front of his four year old daughter in 1979. Then after murdering her father he took the butt of his rifle and violently smashed the little girls skull into about 500 pieces. During the same raid an infant was smothered to death by her own mother who was trying to keep her from crying as they hid in a crawl space.

    So what happens when he gets back to Lebannon? They cheer for him. They celebrate. They hug and kiss this baby killer as if he were a heroe. Well, you know what? For all those on here who keep telling me how peaceful these radical Muslim scum are, that they are no more violent and ruthless then Christians or Jews, that we just need to talk to them, you know what I say? Bullshit!

    If Israel or the West had any guts they would have dropped abomb right on this guys head as he was being honored by the President of Lebannon and Nasrallah, that low life scum who is the head of Hizzbolah.

    1. Tim, it’s almost like you aren’t aware that atrocities have been committed by both sides. I don’t think anyone’s been telling you that the radical Muslims are peaceful. I think they’ve been telling you that not all Muslims are radical. And now here you are, advocating a form of violent retribution against this man–bombing him in a public ceremony–that would likely kill many innocent civilians. It’s almost like the pot is calling the kettle black.

      1. Weston, I object to it when ANYBODY, including Israel or anybody else intentionally kills innocent civilians. However, this piece of garbage, this low life, this pathetic excuse for a human being, smashed the skull of a little 4 year old girl's head with the butt of his rifle. That was after he shot her father in front of her eyes. And now the President of Lebannon and the Head of Hizzbolah are there to kiss and hug and honor this animal? No, he is not an animal! Animals don't commit these sort of crimes so I shan't slander the animal kingdom by comparing him to animals. He is lower than any animal. And the crowd of thousands comes out to cheer and celebrate this ruthless, cold blooded killer? They are not innocent civilians. They are acomplices after the fact. They are not innocent.

  10. Maybe after bombing this released Palestinian someone should execute the Israeli who ground Rachel Corrie into the dirt with his bulldozer, right?

    1. R. Nelson,

      Do you have any proof that the Rachel Corrie case was intentional? And if it was then yes it was murder and the guy who did it is just as much of a murderous thug.

      Second, question, were there celebrations in Israel to honor the guy in the bulldozer for what he did? When was the last time Israeli’s celebrated when someone killed an innocent baby? But in Lebannon and elsewhere the Muslims actually celebrate this stuff. I still have newspapers that I held on to in the days following 9/11/01 and I can see for myself the pictures of the Muslims on the west bank and in Lebannon celebrating as it if were a national holiday. I still have those newspapers so no one can tell me otherwise. And I still vividly remember the scenes of celebration on CNN.

      Thugs! Low life scum, that is what they are.

      1. “Thugs! Low life scum, that is what they are.”

        Wow. Been a while since I’ve read comments here. Your desperation is very obvious in your ever more overt trolling.

        When the winning side does nothing but win, people no longer celebrate what is accepted as standard operating procedure. When the oppressed finally begin to win against the world’s most prolific villain, you’re damn right they’re going to celebrate, though for your stupid request for proof of intent regarding Rachel Corrie, I ask you for proof that Muslims celebrate the death of an innocent baby, along with proof that those celebrations you refered to took place where you claim and celebrate what you claim. “I still have those newspapers” lol! And there’s no WAY a newspaper can be handed a picture with faultly accompanying information, at least when they support your increasingly delusional fantasies.

        Stick around Tim. Your increasing desperation is matched by Israel’s. There’s a reason for their increasing desperation: they know their morally bankrupt fight is a losing battle and with them go their blind supporter losers. The heroic Hezbollah victory is now one of history’s famous underdog triumphs, just like North Vietnam’s (as ever, things must be explained in detail for you to grasp: a side can win every battle and lose the war ever harder as a result). Unfortunately for us, Hezbollah’s was just one battle in a lost war that ultimately all of us Americans will pay for, as all of us little guys lose everything to the powerful few who’ll clean up to the expense of the suckers like you who helped them along. Within all the suffering to come I look forward to seeing you come down with the rest of us. It will be one source of gratification within our worlds of misery.

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