Al-Ahram Weekly Online   15 - 21 March 2012
Issue No. 1089
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Surrendering to the lobby?

Has Obama become a Zionist bedside rug in his attitude towards Iran, asks Ludwig Watzal*

Having perceived the hype surrounding the yearly gathering of the Israel lobby organised by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, DC, and having listened to President Barack Obama's speech to the AIPAC audience, I was flabbergasted by the twists and turns taken by the leader of the sole "hyper-power" to please the well-organised bunch of lobbyists who advocate a war of aggression against Iran.

Despite knowing better, Obama kowtowed before this propaganda event. Instead of confronting Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Israel lobbyists head-on with the political consequences of a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran, he gave a lesson in political opportunism and begged for his job.

"Over the last three years, as president of the United States, I have kept my commitments to the state of Israel. At every crucial juncture, at every fork in the road, we have been there for Israel. Every single time," he said.

Starting out as a lion roaring against illegal Israeli settlements, president Obama has ended up as a Zionist bedside rug. Obama appears to be a driven by Netanyahu, who also addressed this forum and paid the obligatory visit to the White House. For the president, Netanyahu's visit was another ordeal because they dislike each other. The most Netanyahu got out of Obama was the banality that any country has the right to defend itself. Generally speaking, Netanyahu is not only considered by France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, but also by Obama, as a pain in the neck.

From the outside, US foreign policy towards the Middle East appears to be formulated and predetermined by what is called the US Israel lobby, or by Israel itself. If that were true, Obama would be nothing other than Netanyahu's or the lobby's puppet. However, such an impression is incorrect and leads the public astray about the real geopolitical motives of the US. Israel's hegemonic goals in the Middle East would be worthless without US consent. From the point of view of real power, it seems impossible that a tiny country, such as Israel, highly dependent on its master's largesse and political support, could determine Washington's policy towards the Middle East, let alone global policy in general.

There are many examples showing that the US reigns in Israel. When Israel attacked Egypt in collusion with the European colonial powers of France and Great Britain in 1956, president Eisenhower intervened. Israel had to back off and leave the occupied Egyptian Sinai. In 1981, the US condemned Israel's bombing of Iraq's nuclear reactor and voted against the country in the UN Security Council.

On the other side, there is also much evidence of ambivalent US behaviour, reflecting America's subservience to Israel's whims and US support of Israel's illegal political actions that violate the norms of international law. Until today, nobody can explain why the US has drawn a veil over the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in international waters on 8 June 1967, in which 34 US marines died and over 174 were wounded. Why has the US Congress failed to investigate this murder of US soldiers until today?

The colonisation of the Palestinian occupied territories is another case in point. Without US political and financial support, the Israeli colonisation project could not have been so successful. When US Vice-President Joe Biden arrived in Israel in 2010, he said "good to be at home." Apparently, he considered Israel to be a part of the United States. Yet, Israeli politicians publicly humiliated him.

Apart from the disinformation and political rhetoric, no "existential threat" to Israel or to the United States, let alone to international peace, emanates from Iran. All talk of an Iranian nuclear threat is bogus. America's National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) of 2007 and 2010 clearly state that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons programme in 2003. And the US political class sees no imminent need to attack Iran's civil nuclear programme, which it is entitled to develop, like every other nation. Even the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not come up with reliable facts that prove otherwise, although its inspectors move in and out of Iran's nuclear installations.

On the other hand, Israel has a huge nuclear arsenal (200 to 300 nuclear warheads), in additional to biological and chemical weapons, and it refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), not to speak of this treaty's supplementary protocol that allows inspections by the IAEA. In December 2003, Iran signed this protocol. However, Israel refuses not only to allow inspections by the IAEA, but also does not acknowledge the fact that it has nuclear weapons, even though this is common knowledge.

Iran has repeatedly called for a nuclear-free Middle East, but Israel's political class has rejected this. As long as the western powers do not demand that Israel open its nuclear facilities for international inspection, their sabre- rattling and demonisation of Iran is hypocritical. The UN General Assembly has also repeatedly called for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, and it is incumbent upon western states to enforce this resolution.

Israel's prime minister uses every opportunity to scapegoat Iran's leadership and warn of "another Holocaust." He compares Iran to Germany in the 1930s, and describes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a new version of Adolf Hitler and as someone who denies not only the Holocaust but also wants to "to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth," as he claimed in the Israeli Knesset on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Although Ahmadinejad may hold some wrong views on the Holocaust, he did not say that Israel should be wiped off the face of the Earth or wiped off the map, let alone that its people should vanish. According to an official translation, he referred to Imam Khomeini saying that "this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time." Two years later, Ahmadinejad clarified his views on Israel/Palestine by saying that any decision taken by the Palestinian people about their future in free elections would be acceptable to Iran.

Perhaps scientific expertise can convince western politicians, although I doubt it. Martin van Creveld, a well-known Israeli professor of military history, said the following about the alleged "existential threat" to his country in 2002: "we have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that this will happen before Israel goes under." He remarked in 2004 about the threat Iran is facing from the US that the Iranians "would be crazy not to build nuclear weapons considering the security threats they face." And three years later he added that, "the world must now learn to live with a nuclear Iran the way we learned to live with a nuclear Soviet Union and a nuclear China. We Israelis have what it takes to deter an Iranian attack. We are in no danger at all of having an Iranian nuclear weapon dropped on us. Thanks to the Iranian threat, we are getting weapons from the US and Germany."

After Netanyahu's recent visit, Obama ordered US secretary of defense Leon Panetta to approve the sale of refueling aircraft and GBU- 28 bunker-buster bombs to Israel. Both are essential for carrying out a successful attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. All the political signs point to a war of aggression by Israel, although the whole US security and intelligence establishment declared at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 16th that an Iranian threat does not exist.

Iran's supreme religious authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has declared many times that on religious grounds Iran will not build nuclear weapons. He has said that such weapons are contrary to all ethics. Western pundits claim that he is lying out of racism and neo- orientalism. In this view, Muslims supposedly cannot be trusted, and they furthermore act "irrationally".

This kind of stereotyping pervades the entire debate on Iran. The latest Iranian elections wrought a significant defeat to Ahmedinejad's supporters. In one year, his second term will be over. In the Iranian hierarchy of power, the president ranks third behind Khamenei and the president of the parliament, Ali Laridschani. The commander-in-chief of the Iranian military is Ayatollah Khamenei.

The truth about Iran's nuclear programme can still prevail over the irrational and baseless accusations being leveled against Iran, but the time for the truth is running out. Will Obama win some time by convincing Netanyahu that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has to go first before Iran is attacked? US senators such as John McCain are calling for war on Syria. War on Iran can only be prevented if Russia and China make it crystal clear to the aggressors that an attack on Iran would be tantamount to an attack on them.

The only way to stop America's quest towards total hegemony over the Middle East appears to be credible deterrence. If this fails, China will someday be next. The US has already started to encircle China by building military bases in Central Asia and Australia. The lust for world domination and hegemony is part of America's fateful destiny, as eternal war is a result of the military-industrial complex. The two are identical twins.

* The writer is a journalist and editor based in Bonn, Germany.

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

Issue 1089 Front Page
Front Page | Egypt | Economy | Region | Focus | International | Opinion | Press review | Readers' corner | Culture | Special | Entertainment | Living | Features | Heritage | Sports | Cartoons | People | Sky High | Listings | BOOKS | TRAVEL
Current issue | Previous issue | Site map