The Israeli Factor in the Failed Middle East Diplomacy
Last week, seemingly frustrated with the stalemate around Iran's proposal for a simultaneous swap of its stockpile for imported enriched fuel rods, President Ahmadinejad announced that his government would produce its own higher-enriched uranium (20 percent), required for its medical use. A confidential document from the U.N. nuclear agency - International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - shared February 12 with The Associated Press, however, said Iran's initial effort at higher enrichment is modest, using only a small amount of feedstock and a fraction of its capacities. The document, relying on onsite reports from the IAEA inspectors, also cited Iranian experts at the country's enrichment plant at Natanz as saying that only about 10 kilograms - 22 pounds - of low enriched uranium had been fed into the cascade for further enrichment.
Nevertheless, while the Obama administration on Thursday (February 11) said it does not believe that Iran can enrich uranium at the level it claims it can, White House officials say work is underway for stronger international sanctions against Iran. One day earlier, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on Iran, freezing the assets in U.S. jurisdiction of a general in Iran's Revolutionary Guard -- Gen. Rostam Qasemi and four subsidiaries of a previously penalized construction firm he runs.
Such actions by the Obama administration are not unexpected given the fact that for the last few years Israel and her drumbeaters for war in the West have been making much noise in the media about how Iran has become an existential threat to nuclear-armed Israel. This, in spite of the clear revelation that Iran's nuclear capability, prior to latest claim of Ahmadinejad, has been limited to only 3.5 percent uranium enrichment level, far below 90 percent level required for making nuclear bombs. So pervasive is the pressure from the Israel-firsters within and outside his administration, President Obama cannot afford to appear soft on Iran.
Many of Obama's advisors on the Middle East are either Israeli/American dual citizens or promoters of the Israeli interest. To them, the Israeli interests take precedence over those of the USA. As such, there is very little hope for any improvement of relationship between Iran and the USA. The Obama administration has not revised many of the faulty policies of its predecessor. That's a non-starter and contrary to Obama's own statements of bringing a change in the U.S. foreign policy. As President Ahmadinejad commented last September during his trip to attend the UN General Assembly, "If Mr. Bush's policies are to be continued with new language, we will not be able to achieve much... If these policies do not change, no real change will happen."
Recently, senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman - both proud members of the "Amen Corner" inside the Senate - also introduced the Iran Human Rights Sanctions Act, which would identify and impose sanctions on human rights abusers in Iran. As I have noted elsewhere, on December 15, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the "Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act of 2009." It is very similar to the Senate bill. The latter extends sanctions to include companies that build oil and gas pipelines in Iran and provide tankers to move Iran's petroleum. It also prohibits the U.S. government from buying goods from foreign companies that work in Iran's energy sector. So, in effect, the Senate bill imposes sanctions on Iran's entire oil and natural gas industry.
What is so disingenuous in this entire heated debate around Iran's nuclear program is that America and her allies in Europe have conveniently forgotten IAEA's own findings that dispute such accusations and unsubstantiated claims about Iran's capabilities. Never mind that it is Israel with a massive record of war crimes, invasion and nuclear stockpile that poses the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East! The Obama administration is dispatching its envoys to the region to align the state leaders with its latest moves and agenda against Iran. The envoys' visits to Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have a common purpose: to reassure Iran's neighbors that the United States will stand firm against Tehran, and to enlist other countries in a global effort to put pressure on the Iranian authorities. Mrs. Clinton will play a central part in the effort, leaving Saturday for Qatar and Saudi Arabia, where she will meet with the Saudi leader, King Abdullah. Officials said she was expected to press the Saudis to reassure China that Saudi Arabia would offset any disruption in oil shipments that could occur if Beijing were to back new United Nations sanctions against Iran.
With Mrs. Clinton on his side, Netanyahu truly does not require anyone to parroting Israel's hard line positions and concerns. Still the Israeli leader has Dennis Ross, Obama's "point man for Iran," as a trusted backup. In the early days of the Obama administration, Ross was appointed a special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia (which includes Iran) to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Since June 25 of 2009, he joined the National Security Council as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the "Central Region" with overall responsibility for the region. That region includes the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia. In their 2006 paper The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, John Mearsheimer, political science professor at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, academic dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, named Ross as a member of the "Israeli lobby" in the United States. Ross's ties to hawkish pro-Israel groups in the U.S. and to Israel itself are, thus, well-known. He parrots the Israeli position to punish Iran. He is the co-founder of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and former chair of the Jerusalem-based Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (a non-profit created by the Israeli government-funded Jewish Agency). He had received $421,775 in speaking fees in 2008 of which more than a half, $220,000, came from Israeli and Jewish political and religious organizations, including $40,000 from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Ross was a noted supporter of the Iraq war and he signed two Project for a New American Century (PNAC) letters in support of the war in March 2003.
James B. Steinberg is expected to be confirmed as a deputy to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mr. Steinberg was a deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration. He travels to Israel the week of Feb. 21 to take part in discussions with Israel that are likely to be dominated by Iran. It is worth noting here that Steinberg, along with Daniel Kurtzer and Dennis Ross, were among the principal authors of Barack Obama's address on the Middle East to AIPAC in June 2008, which was viewed as the Democratic nominee's most expansive on international affairs. In that speech, Obama was heard saying that "Jerusalem is Israel's capital" and that it should not be divided again. Daniel Kurtzer is a career diplomat who developed Middle East policy under President Bush and his father. He served as the U.S. ambassador to Israel from 2001 to 2005. He was also recently appointed the commissioner of the newly formed Israel Baseball League.
Jacob J. Lew, an orthodox Jew with strong feelings for the Jewish state who headed the Office of Management and Budget (1998-2001) under President Bill Clinton and newly appointed deputy to Secretary Clinton, is expected to leave this weekend for Egypt, Israel and Jordan. The agenda is all around Iran's nuclear program. Meanwhile, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President of Jewish ancestry, is aggressively pushing for new sanctions, especially in the energy sector against Iran in the United Nations Security Council, where France currently presides. The next member to hold the chair is Gabon, an African nation less likely to push hard for a resolution. So much for all the diplomatic activities around Iran's nuclear program!
Fourteen years ago in May of 1996, a month after the Qana massacre, journalist Ari Shavit of Ha'aretz wrote, "We killed 170 people in Lebanon, most of whom were refugees, during the month of April, 1996. Many of them were women, old people and children... We killed them because the increasingly wider gap between the sacrosanct character that we attribute to our own lives and the more limited character we give to theirs, allowed us to kill. We believe, in the most absolute manner, with the White House, the Senate, the Pentagon, and the New York Times on our side, that their lives do not have the same weight as ours."
An impartial analysis leads one to conclude that Israeli influence and her disproportionate use of violence against unarmed Palestinian and Lebanese civilians has not ebbed. Israel continues to act as a pariah state that is above the law, and is untouchable by punitive sanctions and condemnations. She can commit the most gruesome war crimes and yet with a sycophant media behind her side that sees no crime, she has craftily managed to portray her victims of aggression as terrorists.
Just between September 29, 2000 and February 23, 2009 some 6,348 Palestinians were killed of which children were 1,487. During the same period 1,072 Israelis were killed of which 123 were children. In this period the number of Palestinians injured was 39,019 compared to 8,864 on the Israeli side.
Since Israeli occupation of 1967, some twenty thousand Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel. Peter Hansen, Commissioner General of UNRWA, once said, "Any humanitarian looking at the sheer number of innocent civilians who have lost their homes can only condemn Israel's house demolition policy as a hugely disproportionate military response by an occupation army... It is a policy that creates only hardship and bitterness, and in the end can only undermine hope for future reconciliation and peace."
The UNRWA is not alone in condemning Israeli violence. In his book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, President Jimmy Carter cites the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem to state that "on average twelve innocent families lost their homes for every person accused of participation in attacks against Israelis, with almost half of the demolished homes never occupied by anyone suspected of involvement in any violent act against Israel, even throwing stones." In such demolitions, in fewer than 3% of the cases, advance warning was given by the IDF. B'Tselem concluded, "Israel's policy of punitive demolitions constitutes a grave breach of international humanitarian law, and therefore a war crime."
Since the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967, over 650,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel. This is equivalent to one-fifth the total Palestinian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Currently, there are some eleven thousand Palestinian political prisoners in Israel compared to just one Israeli held by the Hamas government.
On 15 May, 2009 the NRG website published testimonies of IDF Col. Itai Virob, commander of Kfir Brigade, and of Lt. Col. Shimon, commander of Shimshon Battalion before a military court. These clearly indicate that their orders included permission for extensive use of violence and injurious, even lethal means, against Palestinians, and harassment. The two explained that sweeping permission was given to forces under their command to use direct physical violence "to extract information," and as part of what is referred to as "interrogation." Col. Virob said, "Of all the means of pressure that we use, the vast majority are against persons who are not involved." Complaints regarding military conduct of this kind have been filed in the past, but are usually denied by the military establishment.
As to Israel's settlement policies, the least said the better. In a New York Times Op/Ed Roger Cohen recently wrote, "The U.S. objective is a two-state peace. But day by day, square meter by square meter, the physical space for the second state, Palestine, is disappearing. Can the Gaza sardine can and fractured labyrinth of the West Bank now be seen as anything but a grotesque caricature of a putative state? America has allowed this self-defeating process to advance to near irreversibility." The USA government and its friends cannot evade the responsibility behind bankrolling billions to help those settlements and bring Israel to a status where it is self-defeating its much publicized 'opposition' to the settlement activities inside the Occupied Palestine. In so doing, the USA is losing its credibility as an honest broker. Do these people realize that if two state formula is not honored today there will be one state between the river and the sea and very soon there will be more Palestinian Arabs in it than Jews? Then the Zionists would have to answer to their own folks: "What then will become of the Zionist dream?" It's time for President Obama to ask such tough questions in public and demand of Israel that it work in practice to share the land rather than divide and rule it.
It is a foregone conclusion today that no foreign country and no minority flex as much influence on the USA as the state of Israel and the Jewish population. To understand this influence, just ponder on the fact that the single biggest donor to American politicians is Israeli billionaire and media mogul Haim Saban. In January 2007 it was revealed that he had donated approximately $13 billion to various US political candidates. The New York Times has noted Saban's ardent devotion to the Jewish state: "He has since emerged as perhaps the most politically connected mogul in Hollywood, throwing his weight and money around Washington, and increasingly, the world, trying to influence all things Israeli. 'I'm a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel,' he said."
In an interview in 1983, Admiral Thomas Moorer, former Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "I've never seen a President -- I don't care who he is -- stand up to them [the Israelis]. It just boggles the mind. They always get what they want. The Israelis know what is going on all the time. I got to the point where I wasn't writing anything down. If the American people understood what a grip those people have got on our government, they would rise up in arms. Our citizens certainly don't have any idea what goes on."
It is obvious that the situation has not improved an iota in the last 27 years. In a 2002 article in the Guardian, Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner, candidly stated: "But you know as well as I do that, somehow, the Israeli government is placed on a pedestal [in the US], and to criticize it is to be immediately dubbed anti-Semitic ... People are scared in this country, to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful -- very powerful." In their studies, professors Mearsheimer and Walt once again confirmed such assertions. These powerful Israel lobbies have simply made the elected representatives in the Capitol Hill to behave like parrots of the state of Israel. With the Supreme Court vote lately in favor of corporate election money, there is no doubt that the true spirit of democracy and people's representation has been nailed a deathblow from which it may never recover.
With so much control over the elected representatives in the USA, it is not difficult to understand how Israel can afford to behave like a rogue nation ignoring world opinion against her. On April 8, 2002, a frustrated Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, was heard saying in Madrid, "The whole world is demanding that Israel withdraw [from occupied Palestinian territories]. I don't think the whole world... can be wrong."
A recent report showed that six companies, owned by pro-Israel Jews, control 96% of world media. By permitting Zionists to control the world media, especially in the USA and the western countries, our generation has given them decisive influence on our political system and virtual control of our government. And not only that we have also given them control over our minds and souls. It's a sad time for any socially conscious human being to live in this new century and see what's happening to their lives! Israel and her friends in high place must be confronted from making our world a living hell. The sooner the better!
Dr Siddiqui has authored nine books. His book: "Democracy, Politics and Terrorism - America's Quest for Security in the Age of Insecurity" is available at Amazon.com.
Topics: Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Occupation Channel: Opinion