The tragedy of the United States’ policy in the Middle East is that it is not US policy – it’s Israel’s.
It is the first time ever, in an alliance, where the smaller, weaker power determines what the more powerful partner says and does. The Israeli lobby has such a grip on Congress that even when confronted with evidence that its unconditional support of Israel is damaging to America’s interests, the US government will not change course.
That evidence of damage was presented by David Petreaus, then the army general in charge of the US forces in the Middle East, who told a Senate committee on March 16, 2010: “Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontation. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of US favouritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of US partnerships with government and people [in the region].”
“Double standards favouritism” is the accusation against America throughout the Middle East. Israel flouts UN Security Council resolutions and the US protects it. Since the Clinton administration, it has been the US, not Russia or China, which has wielded the veto most often, always on behalf of Israel.
Now, with Asia slowing down economically, Europe teetering on the brink of another deep recession and the US barely starting to recover from the great banking crisis, American Middle East policy is being driven by Israel towards a military attack on Iran, the consequences of which will be a catastrophic rise in oil prices, driving the world economy into a slump and renewed Islamic terrorism.
President Obama’s speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful lobby in Washington, shows that he knows just how big a catastrophe it will be for the world if Iran is struck by the US. He emphasised the need for a diplomatic solution to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme, but had to play to the Israeli gallery by saying that he will stop Iran getting nuclear weapons and will use force if it does not give in to his demands.
Obama is in election year. He dare not oppose the Israeli lobby and that lobby is the voice of the Israeli government inside the government of the US. So, after Iraq and Afghanistan, it is now another Muslim state, Iran, that the US – with the UK in tow – is drawing up plans to attack. That is the policy of the Israeli government, adopted by the US.
To justify this lunacy, Obama and his Israeli allies have done as George Bush and Tony Blair did over Iraq – demonise the regime to be attacked and tell lies. Just before Obama spoke at the AIPAC annual meeting, Israeli president Shimon Peres said: “Iran is an evil, cruel, morally corrupt regime. It is based on destruction and is an affront to human dignity. Iran is the centre, the sponsor, the financier of world terror. Iran is a danger to the entire world.
“It threatens Berlin as well as Madrid, Delhi as well as Bangkok. Not just Israel, Iran’s ambition is to control the Middle East, so it can control a major part of the world’s economy. It must be stopped. And it will be stopped.”
Personally, I thought it was America’s ambition to control the Middle East and its oil, but what would I know?
The Iranian regime is a nasty one. It has a penchant for hanging offenders from cranes as part of public executions and it stones people to death for having sex outside of marriage. It is authoritarian, oppressive, and vicious towards internal opponents, but it is not the centre, sponsor or financier of world terror. When Obama came to speak, he did not correct Peres’ lies. He lavished praise upon him and announced he was to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Obama did admit that “the US and Israel both assess that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon” but “there are risks that an Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of a terrorist organisation”.
Iran is a state with a highly efficient security apparatus. There is no reason to believe it would be so careless as to let terrorists wander in and steal a bomb. But the Peres line, backed by Obama, is calculated to demonise Iran and make us all acquiesce in military action against it.
Bush and Blair became the recruiting sergeants for al-Qaeda. Obama, doing Israel’s bidding, will rebuild al-Qaeda with new recruits if the missiles fall on Iranians.
There is an irony in all this. If you were Iran, constantly threatened with military attack, would you not hurry up and get a nuclear weapon which, as North Korea has demonstrated, keeps you safe? I know I would.