IRAQ, IRAN, AND THE LOBBY
It wasn't supposed to be like this: we weren't supposed to be "celebrating" the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. It was going to be a "cakewalk," the Iraqis would rise up and shower us with rose petals, and Johnny would come marching home in no time. Remember? Besides that, the whole deal would be cost-free, you see, because the revived Iraqi oil industry, no longer under sanctions, would pay the costs of the war. Or so Paul Wolfowitz assured us.
Well, we know all too well what happened instead, yet one can't help wondering: how it is that the very people who got us into this war in the first place are still in a position to get us into another – and are rapidly proceeding to do so?
In most democratic countries, a government that had birthed such a disaster as the Iraq war would have fallen long ago, but this one endures, and, in any case, its probable successor is not going to have a very different approach to foreign policy. This was brought home by the recent action of the Democratic congressional leadership in stripping the military appropriations bill of a provision that would have required the president to seek congressional approval before attacking Iran. Speaker Pelosi had just been booed at the AIPAC conference for criticizing the Iraq war when she rushed back to her office and struck the Iran provision from the bill – just as the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group had been insisting, albeit not too loudly.
After all, the AIPAC conference was supposed to be toning down the ongoing campaign to get us into a shooting war with Iran, but, as the Jerusalem Post pointed out, "the effort was laid to waste once Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert addressed the audience at the gala dinner Monday night." There is supposedly a taboo against Israeli government officials intruding too aggressively in their efforts to influence American politics, although that never stopped Ariel Sharon from openly calling for the U.S. to invade Iraq – as a prelude to taking on Syria and Iran. Olmert went beyond anything Sharon ever attempted, however, in his AIPAC speech:
"I know that… all of you who are concerned about the security and the future of the State of Israel understand the importance of strong American leadership addressing the Iranian threat, and I am sure you will not hamper or restrain that strong leadership unnecessarily."
As we have seen, he was right to be "sure" – Nancy must have skedaddled right back to her office pretty darn fast to excise the offending passage from her bill. But Olmert didn't stop there:
"Those who are concerned for Israel's security, for the security of the Gulf States, and for the stability of the entire Middle East should recognize the need for American success in Iraq and responsible exit. Any outcome that will not help America's strength and would, in the eyes of the people in the region, undercut America's ability to deal effectively with the threat posed by the Iranian regime will be very negative."
With the Democrats in control of Congress – and, in my view at least, more than likely to regain the White House – the Israelis are rightly concerned that their future is not so bright. Israel is finally getting its fair share of criticism of late, and a new boldness in Democratic Party circles – as well as among Republican "realists" – in calling the "special relationship" into question does not augur well for Tel Aviv. This kind of open intervention in U.S. politics by the Israeli leadership can be read as an act of desperation. Faced with what they believe is an "existential" threat from Iran, the Israelis apparently believe they can no longer afford the luxury of subtlety.