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Big Dog, Little Tail: The American Elite Resolves on War With Iran


Friday 4 July 2008

Let’s be clear about one thing: Israel will not attack Iran without the full knowledge and approval of the United States government. The trigger of the “warning shot” of Israel’s long-range air-strike exercise last week was actually pulled in Washington. The Israelis will not force or deceive the U.S. government into an attack on Iran; that attack – which grows more certain by the hour – will take place because America’s bipartisan foreign policy establishment and military-industrial complex (to the extent that there is any real difference between the two) want it to happen, or are willing to let it happen.

It is of course an article of faith for some people that the Israeli tails wags the big American dog. This rather ludicrous assertion is nothing more than the pernicious doctrine of “American exceptionalism” tricked out in “dissident” drag. For its underlying assumption is that good ole true-blue American elites would never commit war crimes or seek empire and geopolitical dominion unless they had somehow been tricked into it by those wily Jews. This is exactly backwards. If Israel was of no use to the American elite’s domination agenda, then it would be discarded, or at least downgraded in terms of military, economic and diplomatic support.

When a nation serves the American elite’s interests well, it is rewarded, and its various shortcomings are overlooked, however egregious they might be. Saudi Arabia is a prime example. Egypt is another. Iraq is a negative example. When Saddam’s regime was thought useful, it was supported, copiously. When Saddam was no longer useful – especially when he threatened the Bush Family’s long-time business partners in Kuwait – then he became “a new Hitler.” When Iran was governed by a tyrant friendly to Washington, it was lauded – and larded with the usual military support and diplomatic muscle. When unfriendly tyrants took over, Iran became a land of Persian devils. The list of such examples from American history goes on and on.

If Israel had, say, opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, it would have found itself shorn of much of its American largess very quickly. Israel is in fact almost entirely dependent on the United States for its military and economic well-being; in return it gives unstinting support to the interests of the American elite. It is in many ways one of the most abject client states in the world today, outside of Iraq or Afghanistan. The fact that there is a convergence of interests and ideology between militarist elites in the United States and Israel is hardly surprising. It would only be surprising if this were not the case. And so we see a cross-pollination of ideas, strategies, techniques, technologies – and even, in some cases, personnel (e.g. the “Clean Break” group) – between these elites.

For the same reasons, we also see a strong “Jewish Lobby” in the United States. For although those lobbying organizations do not actually represent the viewpoint of the majority of American Jews, they do offer unwavering support to the American elite’s domination agenda. These organizations – like Israel itself – also serve as useful stalking horses and lightning rods. In the first instance, they can stake out radical positions which would be too impolitic for America’s governing elite to espouse too openly. In the second instance, they can always be conveniently blamed for “radicalizing” or “duping” the American elite if one of the latter’s schemes for loot and dominion go wrong. And of course they can be used to punish domestic politicians who fail to hew slavishly enough to the elite’s imperial line. But if AIPAC came out tomorrow with, say, a demand that America dismantle its worldwide empire of military bases, or condemned the invasion of Iraq as a war crime, we would see its influence decline almost instantly. Again, it is the convergence of interests with the American elite, and their willingness to serve those interests, that give the government of Israel and non-representative organizations like AIPAC such a prominent role.

For example, AIPAC has played the stalking horse in helping push Resolution 362, the “Iran War Resolution,” toward its virtually guaranteed passage by the House. The bill – supported by the usual broad spectrum of the “bipartisan foreign policy establishment” – calls for, among other things, a full blockade of Iran. This is of course an outright act of war, and one aimed directly and purposely at the Iranian people, who would be subjected to the same kind of treatment that left at least a million Iraqis dead during the many years of American-led, bipartisan sanctions against Saddam’s regime. This fact – an impending act of war that could inflict untold suffering upon millions of innocent people, even before the first shot is fired – does not seem to trouble anyone in the American establishment, nor in the “progressive blogosphere.”

Arthur Silber has a few choice words on this situation here, including:


The stated casus belli in the “Iran War Resolution” – which replicates exactly the bellicose intentions and deceptions of the Bush Administration – is Iran’s “nuclear enrichment activities.” This is presented as an unmitigated evil worthy of the most severe measures, including an act of war like a blockade. The truth, of course, is that these enrichment activities are entirely legal under international treaties governing nuclear proliferation, and are being carried out under the most extensive and stringent international supervision ever imposed on a nation, as Kaveh Afrasiabi notes in the Asia Times. Afrasiabi also details the rank falsehoods about Iran’s nuclear programme, and the international inspection program overseeing it, that permeate the American media:

...in an article in The Wall Street Journal, US Congresswoman Jane Harman, who chairs the powerful Homeland Security Intelligence Committee, cites Iran’s steady progress in installing new centrifuges and the dangers posed by “unsupervised, weapons-grade material” in Tehran’s hands.

Never mind that IAEA reports clearly confirm that all of Iran’s enrichment-related facilities are under the agency’s “containment and monitoring”, or that IAEA inspectors have had nine “unannounced visits” at the enrichment facility in Natanz since March 2007.

Thus, for instance, in a front-page article in the New York Times, dated June 20, Michael Gordon and Eric Schmitt break the sensational news about Israel’s extensive maneuvers in preparation for an attack on Iran, indirectly rationalizing Israel’s belligerency by omitting any mention of the IAEA’s latest report confirming the absence of any evidence of military nuclear diversion and, instead, confining themselves to the following comment: “In late May, the IAEA reported that Iran’s suspected work on nuclear matters was a ’matter of serious concern’ and that the Iranians owed the agency ’substantial explanation’.”

What ought to have been added was that the same IAEA report states unequivocally that it had received “no credible information” regarding the alleged “weaponization studies”, nor has the agency detected any nuclear activity connected to those alleged studies. Besides, the same IAEA report more than a dozen times stresses the evidence of peacefulness of Iran’s nuclear program...

To turn to another example of flawed coverage of Iran by the US media, a recent editorial in the Dallas News states categorically that the IAEA “has recently accused Iran of developing its program of enriching uranium”. The editors appear unaware that the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a signatory, does not prohibit Iran’s uranium-enrichment program.

The IAEA has never declared Iran in material breach of its obligations and, certainly, has never “accused” Iran of pursuing a program sanctioned under the NPT. Rather, the governing board of the IAEA has simply requested from Iran to suspend its sensitive nuclear program as a “confidence-building measure”, that is, as a time-bound and thus temporary “legally non-binding” step.
As Sam Gardiner notes, Bush and his minions are now pounding the “enrichment” theme as their chief drumbeat for war with Iran. And they have obviously succeeded in demonizing the entirely legal and carefully supervised process of enrichment, as demonstrated by the Congressional resolution and the press coverage, both of which also take up “enrichment” as an evil that must be stopped at all costs.

No doubt this is in response to the IAEA reports noted by Afrasiabi, which have found no credible information about “weaponization studies.” (And those are just studies, mind you, not actual weaponization programs.) This is of course not the first time that the Bush Administration has moved the goalposts in its fearmongering campaign. As we noted here last December, just after the Administration’s own intelligence agencies declared that Iran had no active nuclear weapons program, Bush announced that

Iran will not be “allowed” to acquire even the “scientific knowledge” required to build a nuclear weapon. Previous “red lines” which could trigger an attack had been based on Iran actually building a weapon; now even nibbling at the forbidden fruit of nuclear knowledge could serve as “justification” for a “pre-emptive strike” to quell the “danger.” After all, as Bush rather illiterately told reporters, “What’s to say they couldn’t start another covert nuclear weapons program?” Better safe than sorry, right?

And at the very least, moving the goalposts in this manner will allow the Bush Regime to portray Iran as a dangerous, defiant menace for merely carrying on with its fully legal nuclear power program, as authorized by international treaty and monitored by the IAEA. Thus no matter what Iran actually does – or doesn’t do – the Bushists will continue to use the “Persian menace” as fodder for the imperial war machine.

We see this playing out again today, in the scary talk – and Congressional resolutions – damning Iran’s “enrichment activities.” What was true then is true now: there is literally nothing that Iran can do – or not do – to divert the American elite’s desire to strike at their land and bring it under domination. And apparently there is nothing that anyone in America with any power or a major platform will do to stop it either.

Arthur Silber concludes his damning analysis of our unforced march to new horror with a heartbreaking quote from Martin Luther King Jr. Let it serve as the last word here as well; no one will put it better:

There is such a thing as being too late.... Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with lost opportunity.... Over the bleached bones of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.”