If news like this is openly making the papers about Israeli spies trying to sink the US negotiations on Iran on purpose, then Benjamin Netanyahu is finding out exactly how much hardball President Obama is willing to play.
And it’s a fight Bibi will not win.
Soon after the U.S. and other major powers entered negotiations last year to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, senior White House officials learned Israel was spying on the closed-door talks.
The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal, current and former U.S. officials said. In addition to eavesdropping, Israel acquired information from confidential U.S. briefings, informants and diplomatic contacts in Europe, the officials said.
The espionage didn’t upset the White House as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program, current and former officials said.
“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter.
The U.S. and Israel, longtime allies who routinely swap information on security threats, sometimes operate behind the scenes like spy-versus-spy rivals. The White House has largely tolerated Israeli snooping on U.S. policy makers—a posture Israel takes when the tables are turned.
The White House discovered the operation, in fact, when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel intercepted communications among Israeli officials that carried details the U.S. believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks, officials briefed on the matter said.
So Israel was feeding classified information from talks with Iran to Republicans in Congress, so that they could attack any deal. Again, for this to end up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal is nothing short of breathtaking.
This is a sitting US president calling Israel out publicly for trying to sabotage the talks by going to the opposition party in Congress. When’s the last time you’ve even heard of something like that happening?
And again, taking intel from a foreign power with the express intent of using it to sabotage US foreign policy to help the foreign power? There’s a term for that, and it’s not a pretty word. Israel is denying it, but the right-wing reaction to the story is not only dispensing with the denial but applauding Israel for trying to undermine the President, because of course.
The excuse from the right is that the deal with Iran is soooooooo awful that it has driven Israel to spy on us with, again, the express intent of undermining our foreign policy and involving other US elected officials in the effort. Israel had no other choice, you see to stop Iran from being months away from a nookular weapon, they way they’ve been for well over a decade now.
It does explain why the Obama administration has been less than cordial to Bibi over the last couple years. They knew the Israelis were spying on us and going to Congress over it and apparently President Obama has gotten sick of it. Puts that whole “Bibi endorsing Romney in 2012” thing in perspective, doesn’t it. Apparently that particular bad bet has continued for the last couple years.
U.S. officials said Israel has long topped the list of countries that aggressively spy on the U.S., along with China, Russia and France. The U.S. expends more counterintelligence resources fending off Israeli spy operations than any other close ally, U.S. officials said.
A senior official in the prime minister’s office said Monday: “These allegations are utterly false. The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies. The false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the United States and Israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share.”
And Israel doesn’t have any nuclear weapons, either, while we’re apparently making up stories that nobody actually believes.
This is going to be interesting.[UPDATE] The response from Tel Aviv, in the Times of Israel: “Official: White House was part of bid to oust Netanyahu“.
So Israel’s leadership is aligning with the Republican party? Interesting since most American Jews vote Democratic.
Ten years ago, you could not have found a more ardent and committed supporter of Israel than me.
“Only democracy in the Middle East,” check.
“If Palestinians gave up their weapons, peace – if the Israelis gave up their weapons, genocide,” check.
Silly cartoon of Israeli soldier protecting a baby, while Hamas uses one as a shield, check.
And now? After Lebanon, after Gaza, after its become clear that “Judea and Samaria” are more important than human rights and peace? Fuck ’em. No more Security Council cover. If Europe wants to impose sanctions, abstain.
@Patricia Kayden: American Jews are irrelevant to the Israeli right, expendable even.
North Korea should be a compare and contrast lesson on the efficacy of Democratic versus Republican approaches to nuclear non-proliferation, but despite Bush & Co’s staggering failure Republicans are taken seriously.
Or does Bibi want Iran to get the Bomb, which is why he is courting Republicans?
How long will it take the republicans to demand that the President stop spying on Israel?
@Gene108: Netanyahu seems to be of the opinion that the continued expansion of his territories is dependent on the rest of the region being lit up in flames and drenched in blood. It is a real strategy. If it is the type of strategy the United States should be supporting with money, troops, and credibility is another matter.
“The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies.”
Really, who does he think he’s fooling? Allies spy on each other as well as on their adversaries, and it’s really no big deal. As the song goes, it’s in the way that you use it – and when you spill your ally’s top secrets into the public domain, the question is: are you an ally any more?
We prop up Israel with money, with military and intelligence cooperation, by trying to control a potential adversary’s nuclear program, and by turning a blind eye to their own. I say that if they want our continued help, they’d better start acting like an ally. But if they want to keep acting like they’re acting towards the United States, they should be prepared to go it alone in the world.
Now we know there’s a ‘senior official’ whose job is making anonymous lies. Does he/she have a name?
That said, one should not underestimate the influence of US intelligence agencies on the White House– whether Republican or Democrat. And one should not underestimate their lack of positive vibes towards Israel. See “Pollard, Jonathan.”
This is a strange new Axis of Evil, isn’t it?
The next time a Republican accuses a Democrat of displaying insufficient fealty toward Israel, the Democrat should simply reply, “I work for the United States of America. For what country do you work?”
This all begs the question…France?
@Punchy: I recall reading long ago that France’s intelligence agencies are heavily geared toward industrial espionage.
My point as well. Israel gets boatloads of money from the US. And this is how they repay us? There needs to be some serious rethinking about Israel and their behavior towards us.
I am a secular Jew, a used-to-be Zionist, and this news enrages me. Not the spying per se – every state spies on every other state, including its allies – but sharing intel with the GOP to torpedo Presidential diplomatic initiatives?
Cut ’em loose. No more aid, no more cover at the UN; and certainly no more military support.
Congratulations to the GOP, Netanyahu, and Israeli voters: you’ve succeeded in reducing Israel to just another partisan issue. I am off the bus altogether.
wasn’t surprised in the least when I heard about this story on the radio this morning.
I need someone to explain to me why Iran is so ‘ scary’.
Never made any sense to me.
Glad you came around. Thanks for speaking out about it. Silence is easier in these cases, but it is pernicious.
One question about this:
Do you now think this assertion was ever true?
@CaseyL: Turning everything into a partisan issue is a GOP and now Netanyahu strategy. Divide, divide, divide.
And then you whinge about Obama and Democrats being polarizing. Which the pollsters dutifully survey about.
@rikyrah: I agree. I’ve always felt that Iran is a natural ally of the US in that region. And we need one.
Without being unseemly about it — thanks for speaking up.
For that matter, Iran and Israel were “natural allies” — and actual allies for a while.
Me? When did I do this?
Never, that’s when.
I don’t have enough information to draw a strong conclusion. But the point I was trying to make is, I no longer care one way or the other. Even if it was true once – frankly even if it were true now – it’s not good enough.
I’m not sure, but I think perhaps “prop up” is a little strong.
If you take your best friend for granted, you deserve what you get, and you’ll probably get it soon
peach flavored shampoo
@Punchy: I see London, I see France….apparently they can see our underpants.
The phrasing took me aback as well but I concluded that that “you” was probably not you.
Fair enough. Thanks.
@CaseyL: Should have read “they” rather than “you.” No aspersions against you, Casey! My apologies for any hurt feelings.
It’s like the GEICO commercial. “If you’re a free range chicken, it’s what you do.”
If you’re a polarizing Republican, it’s what you do.
PS: this reminded me to drink my coffee, which is brewed.
No, it really doesn’t.
@Punchy: My hypothesis is that the French look at all the costs of running a huge intelligence establishment and figure it’s smarter to let the Americans bear the costs and then just steal their results.
And Republicans will whine “How else are we supposed to get information about the deal?”
@CaseyL: Sipping coffee, and I am so sorry for unintentionally insulting you with a sloppily worded comment.
As a bonus apology, here’s the GEICO chicken. I find this little critter far more appealing than the duplicitious Bibi.
@Elizabelle: The sweetest part of that commercial is how the chicken keeps sending selfies to the farmer. And the farmer’s wife has an uncomprehending stare that is priceless.
I saw a New Yorker cartoon a few weeks ago. No caption. Just a chicken sitting alone at a bar, in front of a martini glass. Huge picture window behind the chicken, revealing a road.
Rob in CT
I wonder if the US public will give a shit, though. I care, I’ve been in the “stop enabling them” camp for a long time now. I’m not representative at all. Will this put a dent in the poll numbers? We’ll see.
No apologies needed. I thought maybe that “you” was meant in a generic sense, but wasn’t sure.
Thanks for clarifying!
@CaseyL: This. And the person agreeing with you lives 2 minutes from the Tel Aviv beachfront.
I share your affiliation and your sentiments. Since the mid-70s when I refused to give money for aid to Israel following the war. I told the guy who knocked on my door soliciting donations that I’d read in a Boston newspaper that the money was really going to buy arms. After telling him I wouldn’t help with that, he yelled at me for being a bad Jew.
In the four decades since, very little has changed. Israel feels entitled to lie through their figurative teeth because their cause is so just and pure.
@beltane: Interesting; since to GOTea FundiEvangelicals, Israeli Jews are equally expendable. Cannon fodder for Armageddon and all that.
@Tokyokie: That sounds like an excellent suggestion – right along with having Congresscritters publicy display the badges of their primary
ownerscampaign fundraisers a la NASCAR. I’m not expecting either any time soon, though.
Wonder if little Johnny Pollard can be transferred to GITMO for some fun in the sun? That would seem to be an executive prerogative.
Personally, I don’t think he was interrogated in an enhanced enough fashion about his mission or contacts years ago.
Sigh. It should have been obvious after the speech stunt that something like this was happening, at least to me. And now he’s back for another four years! It’s definitely time for some abstentions at the UN. They want Judea and Samaria? Fine. Let it cost them.
And it pains me as a person with Jewish blood to say them. But they are not my brethren anymore.
@CaseyL: As a recent Jewish refugee from that same bus, I welcome and thank you.
Israel has always spied on the US. the only countries that spy more on us than Israel are Russia and China. Cuba and North Korea on wish they could spy on us as much as Israel. Some ally. pffft.
France is mostly interested in economic intelligence. They’re more interested in Microsoft than the Pentagon. And yes, even allies generally spy on each other, but there is a point where is goes beyond understanding what the other guy’s policy is (like the US listening to the Germans), and goes into more aggressive undermining the other nation’s interests. Israel long ago crossed that boundary.
I was struck by the fact that it was published in WSJ, of all places. No friend of Obama, at least in the editorial pages.
Bibi…take heed. Obama is definitely playing hardball now.
A responsa. They are REALLY trying to cut off the money spigot aren’t they?
Bibi really is a Republican, isn’t he? He has the projection aspect of this thing down pat.
I mean, fucking seriously, you make backroom deals with the opposition party in the US, and basically all but call Obama a Muslim-loving psychopath that wants Israel dead and destroyed, and then you claim, with zero proof, that Obama is the one interfering politically in your country? WTF you raging asshole.
The answer to your question is “1979”.
@Kryptik: It hasn’t gotten much attention, but Netanyahu’s campaign against Herzog was also a campaign against Obama, with ads and robocalls specifically mentioning how Netanyahu would stand up to “Hussein Obama”. Racism is an integral part of Netanyahu’s Likud party and has been since its beginning. It is not merely Obama who is being targeted, but the American public as well. We have no business supporting a regime like this.
@beltane: “Netanyahu seems to be of the opinion that the continued expansion of his territories is dependent on the rest of the region being lit up in flames and drenched in blood. It is a real strategy. If it is the type of strategy the United States should be supporting with money, troops, and credibility is another matter.”
That’s what I figured, after the Iraq War turned into a slaughterfest.
That took a country with potential (aside from the regime), and turned it into three regions, withe the technocratic class purged, and any hope of being other than a third world economy gone for a generation.
I can see Likud figuring that that would be good to do to Iran, Syria and a couple of other countries.
‘Make a desert, and call it peace’.
@Botsplainer: Do you support torture of spies as a general policy, or just the Jewish ones?
@Yatsuno: Netanyahu really is the Simon bar Kochba of our time. I think many American Jews are starting to realize this and are finally speaking out.
@rikyrah: Iran *was* scary in the late 70s because a theocratic regime had taken power more or less entirely on the popularity of “death to America”. Thirty-plus years later, the mullahs have spent enough time actually running the country that they’ve learned the most persuasive chants in the world do nothing if you can’t provide food and shelter for your people (and to the best of my knowledge, they do a decent job of it).
So unlike the ISIS and Al-Qaeda and the other extremists running around the Middle East, Iran has an actual country to run and for the most part acts like it. But their government came to power in a way that wounded the pride of a lot of our current leaders when they were just beginning their careers, so they always act like they’re dealing wit the Iran of 1985 rather than 2015.
The Likudniks know that Armageddon isn’t coming, so by courting the Talibangelicals they get unconditional support, and don’t have to offer anything in return but territorial expansion they already want to do. They’re the ultimate suckers.
@Redshift: It’s really the Likudniks who are the ultimate suckers. The Talibangelicals are fickle and Antisemitic by nature. It’s only a matter of time before they become impatient for Armageddon and take appropriate actions.
Gotta ask what’s the Israeli government’s endgame here? Is the long-term antagonism of the US Executive Branch really a wise strategy to pursue?
Doesn’t matter. Another plane’s gone down, so that’s all that’ll be on CNN for the next four days
I’m more angry at the GOP than Israel, and I’m plenty pissed at Israel.
At least you could make a plausible argument that Bibi and Israel are acting in their own self interest. I think they’re being idiots and harming Israel in the long-term, but you can kinda, sorta see their POV.
But if the GOP has been accepting this info. without informing the administration, that goes beyond the letter to Iran and verges on real treason.
Maybe. Would be interesting to pull the plug on our foreign aid to them, and see what happens to their economy without it.
@Jamey: What long term antagonism? They figure that either a Republican will win in 2016 or an avid Israel supporting Dem will.
What they haven’t taken into account is how many Dems who used to be strong supporters of Israel are having second thoughts about that commitment.
Because they have chosen to pursue their own interests as a sovereign nation rather than act like a good colony. That’s very scary to imperialists.
@Patrick: I agree! You do shit like that so that you can runandtellthat to that walking tanning bed and his merry band of creeps, but we are supposed to keep writing the checks and pat you on the back? Really, bitch?
Seriously, a rethink is in order.
I think we have a good enough pattern of interference behavior to obtain a Logan Act indictment now.
The ayatollahs took power more or less entirely on the popularity of a slogan?
That’s a little facile. The Shah was installed by the CIA — don’t forget their so-called “TPAJAX Project.” To make things worse, the Shah was a despot and for bloody decades his atrocities — remember the Savak — had our support, both tacit and material.
Had the Iranians done to us what we did to them for thirty years, there’s no telling who might have come to power in Washington.
(Well, there is, in a way, isn’t there?)
Then they aren’t as smart as they think they are. If the Tealiban doesn’t get the Armageddon they want, they’re going to try to create it. Those are not good allied to have.
In fact, one of their right-wingers, Naftali Bennett, says that if he had his druthers, Israel would stop “accepting” our money.
To assemble a coalition government so they can remain the Israeli government for another term. I honestly don’t think Bibi is thinking much further ahead than that, which is why his policy is such a mess.
Here’s the New Yorker’s chicken at a bar cartoon. Drawn by Mick Stevens.
Why did the chicken cross the road?
For dry, very dry. Shaken, not stirred.
It’s hard out there for a hen …
When she realized her egg-laying days were done, Edna worried that her value to Farmer Brown was severely compromised.
@Kylroy: Astute comment.
And Iran’s leaders believe in science!
@Kylroy: So, it’s the Asian Cuba, basically.
No, the lifespan of an Israeli government is not so predictable.
@Elizabelle: That’s the cartoon! She looks so tiny sitting at that bar.
Thanks for linking to it.
@Jamey: Eventually the oval office will be occupied by a Republican who will give Israel its war with Iran.
@Jamey: They figure they can wait and help put a more favorable administration in charge. Both Clinton or Cruz or Bush would be better in their minds. And probably will be.
@beltane: Well, they’re useful at one remove: the Republican Party has this delusion that they can use hardline support for Likud to carve American Jews off from the Democratic Party (it probably works to some degree, but I think they’ve mostly already got the fraction they’re going to get). To the extent that they believe that, Netanyahu can use it to manipulate Republicans.
@Germy Shoemangler: I like the chicken-sized cocktail glass, myself.
Hadn’t seen, and it’s a good cartoon.
WTF is one to do. I support Israel but not the Likud version. I support the all inclusive version. Bibi is not a friend of mine.
Well, certain chickens seem to be crossing Rubicon Road with a vengence, full-on parade style with brass bands blaring, flags waving and a sychronized stomp on those nest-eggs not of immediate personal value.
ETA. Will be interesting, ahem, to see who and what comes home to roost.
Iowa Old Lady
@Cervantes: My understanding is that a big chunk of our aid to them comes back to US arms manufacturers.
@Iowa Old Lady:
While the United Nations doesn’t recognise it as such (and neither does the US) Israel’s de facto capital is Jerusalem, where government offices, the Knesset, the president’s residence, etc. are sited. If an Israeli response has government fingerprints on it, those fingerprints were applied in Jerusalem.
And bear in mind that Pollard’s stolen secrets were promptly transferred to the Soviet Union, as part of a deal the Israeli government made to protect Soviet refusnik Jews.
Every country has its own agenda, which is why the divided loyalties of American Christianists are so naive.
@Iowa Old Lady:
That is true, to an extent. Money is fungible. If the US gives money to Israel, which Israel then spends it buying US weapons, that means Israel can spend its own money on other things, like expanding settlements on the West Bank. Just as our support for Arab monarchies in Saudi Arabia and Jordan allow them to engage in domestic policies that are not in our interest, so it is with Israel.
At its worst in the seventies and eighties, Iran was “scary” in the same way as a bad neighborhood in Detroit. No, it’s not a place most people would want to go after dark (or even before), yes, something bad probably will happen to you if you do, and yes, the violence in the neighborhood will occasionally spill over into some of the neighborhoods immediately next door. On the other hand, if you’re not actually in the bad neighborhood or immediately next door, you’re probably fine. It was never a significant national security threat to the West, or even to Israel.
Yeah, pretty much. I’m far less disgusted by Israel for pushing around a country they’ve discovered they can push around, than I am in my own fellow countrymen for this nauseatingly servile attitude we have towards Israel.
Yes. The article’s headline (“Official: White House was part of bid to oust Netanyahu“) was posted and linked above. In the article itself, the sub-head begins: “Senior Jerusalem source says …”
Mike in NC
Bring back the 1950s style loyalty oaths and force Republicans to state whether they support America or Israel. Those who prefer the latter would be invited to resign their seats and leave the country.
A very good analogy, yes, on both sides of the equation. From the American POV, it’s a nation-state that’s behaved as a rational actor for long enough that we really should’ve started treating it as such, but wounded pride plus decades of mythmaking creating an image of “Cuba” or “Iran” with no resemblance to the real one means we simply can’t bring ourselves to do it.
From the other side, the Iranian regime, like the Cuban one, has a huge part of its legitimacy resting on basic nationalism and the narrative of a small power that threw off the yoke of foreign control, and survived. It’s a very simple thing but one that’s incomprehensible to many Americans, because they simply can’t fathom what the world looks like from the POV of someone who’s not a hyperpower (and also because one of the side effects of American Exceptionalism is the inability to understand that everyone else has nationalism, too). A regime may not be able to sustain itself on that kind of pride forever, but it can get a hell of a lot of mileage out of it.
@Mike in NC: May I suggest the “Republicans in America” should declare their allegience to … locution to twist the blade a little?
Obama is not going to play hardball, for the same reason he hasn’t closed Guantanamo. Congress will not stand for it. The presidency is not an all-powerful office.
The Fundies are not going to betray the Likud any time in the foreseeable future. They don’t just want Armageddon. They’re racist hawks who believe a holy war is already happening, have believed this for decades but more so all the time, and they see Israel as the only country willing to man up and do what has to be done. The Likud want to wipe out all Arabs/Muslims (they can’t tell the difference). So do American conservatives. They are allies and will remain allies.
Netenyahu is a true believer as well as a politician. His end game is the complete elimination of Palestine as a concept, a political force, and an ethnicity. I know ultra-orthodox like him, and they see that as the only solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. They think all Arabs/Muslims are inherently terrorist scum who have it coming, including the children. After Israel is the undisputed ruler of its entire theoretical territory, they will move the goalposts to wiping the whole Middle East clean of Muslims/Arabs.
So, the fact that Saudi Arabia funded the branch of Islam- Wahhabi – spreading it around the globe, which has as its main tenent – Death to the West..
How come this never comes up?
Calgary Cruz wants to imagine an American president that stands 100% with Israel. I would prefer an American president that stands 100% with America. Since Cruz and his like ‘thinkers’ have such a commitment to Israel then I suggest they move their butts to Tel Aviv
What’s Congress gonna do?
They can stop Gitmo from closing, but can’t do shit in regards to Obama vs Bibi.
As I said on a thread yesterday, Obama plays very very hard hardball once you have proven you deserve it. And its not that cheesy stupid shit name calling and sophomoric stuff that the Republicans like to do. It is deep and meant to cause “internal damage”. I am not sure this time he will draw the line on punishing Israel along with Netanyahu, since the Israeli people said that they backed this guy’s approach. We will see. Things have changed for Israel and I am very glad. I think that the Republicans adopted this strategy to win a few percentage points for themselves with Democratic Jews in the next election. They may have peeled off a little, but the cost of that very small percentage will not make up for the damage that they did to Israel — which isn’t just for its relationship with the US (which is bad enough), but its relations with the world. Ask South Africa, Israel… All this to peel off a percentage of the Jewish vote in the US which altogether is about 2 – 3% of the US population… Nice job Brownies!
Sadly, this is a possibility. Before Bush/Cheney, I thought that Republicans were sane despite their bellicose ramblings, and would stop short of war. But now, the only thing that might stop them would be opposition from the nutcase isolationist wing of the Tea Party.
I think the Iraelies can justify/rationalize spying on the Nuclear talks as not spying on the US, but as spying on Iran.
But, yeah….his statement is way over the top.
Not so fast. Not sure this would happen at all. The US has other strategic economic issues and vulnerabilities that would be driving our foreign policy and that is the Pacific. Our middle and long term economic as well as security interests are increasingly driven by that reality. Not all the morons in the Republican party might get that yet, but many of the smarter ones already do. We are not going to be looking for more open ended adventures there in the ME, but how to divest ourselves from as much skin as possible there. If Israel doesn’t get that, well, they are in denial. The US wants balanced strategic relationships there and will play one off the other to achieve that. We have a load on our hands to deal with in the Pacific. China would be thrilled to have us mired in another ME misadventure.
@AxelFoley: My takeaway from one of the WSJ articles I read this morning was that if we abstain at the UN vote on Palestine, then our congress will de-fund the united nations. Apparently Bibi & company are already lobbying congress in this direction, and the article mentioned the Orange Man’s threat to do just that.
I don’t have a direct link, but I got to the article by following the link up top and then other links from there.
edited for clarity
@Cervantes: I’m not saying there weren’t very good reasons that “Death to America” resonated with the people of 1970s Iran. Just that it did, and that people chanting for the death of your country are scary.
Yeah, they can lobby for that at the risk of furthering infuriating the world. Israel has to think about not just the US, but world relationships which are not improving. This is a country that wants to sell its IT electronics and related stuff. Their economic bravado has come from that. Are they safe economically in an increasing pariah status? Hmmm. Dunno. All I am saying is that there is more to consider than the UN and US.
Yeah, the last fifteen years have made me very wary of any “that’s too crazy even for them” reassurances. Bush’s appointment by Supreme Court fiat, the Iraq war, and the current unprecedented level of obstruction no matter the consequences are all things that, if you’d said would happen before they in fact happened, would probably have had people calling the men in white lab coats. The only thing I’m certain of about the conservative movement is that I haven’t seen it all yet.
@rikyrah: The rea$on completely e$cape$ me.
@WaterGirl: Obama can just wait until November next year to abstain from any UN votes he wishes. If the Democrats are in control after the election, it doesn’t matter, and if the Republicans are, well, they can stuff it. Although I heavily doubt Obama would do that considering the precedent it sets for what an end-of-term President could do.
Congress is going to keep giving Israel money. If they’re passionate enough – and a whole lot of Dem congressmen love the Holy War Against Islam – they can order Obama to help Israel bomb Iran. Obama can thumb his nose at Netenyahu, but everything that makes an actual difference is congress’s power.
@Kylroy: Very well said, and exactly right, I think. The psychology of Americans over 50 vis-a-vis Iran drives our policy toward them. That’s why it seems so incongruous to hear someone like Marco Rubio exclaiming about their pure evil. Anyone his age should be more aware of what Iran is today and less blinkered by their memory of the hostage crisis. Argo was an entertaining movie set long ago to Gen X and younger.
I agree that the right is pretty scary and unpredictable. I also know, however, that there are truly laws of physics that eventually play — no matter how intense the crazy. The US is no longer the only superpower and China particularly is closing the gap on a lot of fronts. We, of course, know that. The mouth droolers aside, we can’t afford to take our eye off the ball. This isn’t about military might, but economic power to make our way in this world and get our share of resources. Western Europe is seeing our weakened state politically after all our battles with internal politics and will align themselves, for their own purpose, with “the winner”. Playing to Israel’s foreign policy needs has a romantic appeal for some on the right, but those who know better will be looking elsewhere to guide our strategic policy.
Why should he be shy about setting precedents? Boehner asking Netanyahu and that creepy letter were precedents too. There are consequences on actions we take. Maybe they should learn that too.
Because the Saudis, like other powers, have no problems playing both ends against each other to support their own national interests.
The Saudis love the West. They love doing business with the West. And they are in power to a large degree because of the West. But, much like Pakistan, they have backed some extremists because it provides them some anti-imperialist street cred, while allowing them to control or at least throttle back opponents to their regime.
It is a dangerous game, unless you play it well. And the Saudis play it very well.
@Elie: At some point, I would like to see some of these traitorous republicans brought up on charges. When your loyalty lies with a foreign government to the detriment of your own, you are unfit to serve in government.
Yes, I’m well aware that this is unlikely to happen, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen.
The best revenge is to make them disappear through irrelevance. They don’t deserve the honor of being charged and put through a formal process. Just ignored and stepped over on our way to do the real business of our country. They aren’t good enough to blow our noses on.
I haven’t yet read the articles on this, but I would love for it to be the case that senior Republicans were aware that they were getting leaked/spied for information, and then didn’t come to the White House. NAME NAMES and put those f’ers on the defensive for the next year and a half. Make this their Benghazi. Start using the word treason, no matter how inaccurate it is. Poison the public’s trust in the Republican Party when it comes to foreign policy. This is politics, and this might be a golden opportunity to use the GOP playbook against them.
I really wish the President would get up and give us a boring, substance-laden, hour-long lecture about Iran and nuclear capabilities and the Middle East generally, and then at the end of it just lay into Republicans, their outdated b.s. talking points, and the implicit policy position of “ground war with Iran is the only alternative to them nuking the world” if you buy their view. Then some public chastising and reminders of what the Chief Executive is elected by the people of the United States to do without being stabbed in the back.
@Redshift: A Teahadi pResident with his finger on the button and a h#rd-0n for End Times and Rapture, though, would bring all the worst parts of Revelations into being – whether Gun-Totin’ Capitalist Jeebus arrives to save the survivors or not. Likudniks should be very afraid that such a situation is only a handful of gerrymanders and one serious terrrrrist event away. “Knowing Armageddon isn’t coming” may not be appropriate here: “being comfortable the Predictions of Ancient Iudeans aren’t likely to occur as written/translated” isn’t the same as “believing there’ll never be that b#sth!t-crazy a Xtian warmonger in the WH”.
Of course, we do it back. They balance interests to manage their relationship with the US. We do also and are playing at it much harder — which is what they are upset about (along with Israel). They don’t want to be balanced against an increasingly visible and empowered Shia Iran. Neither does Turkey. Or Israel. But that is what is shifting and what all the noise is about. They don’t want to be played off of each other… each of them wants their own agenda and priorities to top ours. For once, under this administration, that is happening. You can see its causing a lot of “trouble” and a lot of noise.
Why would our generation know better, though? Most of us don’t follow the news any more carefully than our elders and are just as likely to have our impressions of Iran shaped by their memories and what we learned in school about the hostage crisis.
True; I just hope there are enough of “those who know better” to steer the country.
Saudi elites are like America’s elites in Wall Street and the GOP. They get along fine with each other – the relationship there goes back decades and decades – but they’ve also allied themselves with the most reactionary, fundamentalist bigots in their culture for the sake of domestic politics, the kind of people who hate the other side. And they need to appease them at least a little in order to stay where they are.
So historically, American elites have turned a blind eye to the Saudis’ terrorist-funding hobby, and Saudi elites have turned a blind eye to the Americans’ country-invading hobby. Not that they’ve ever really been happy about it, but the relationship between the two groups of elites is important enough to both of them that they’ve been willing to let it go when the other side lets off some steam – and important enough that when it’s their turn to let off steam, they try to direct it towards other targets.
Amen to that. As always.
@Elie: Totally disagree. Ignoring them means they will be rewarded by their constituents for everything they’ve done, and most of the remainder of the country, who would be morally outraged by their actions if presented the information through the correct filter, will even hear about it. They won’t go away by ignoring them.
I don’t necessarily need formal charges – just create some nattering about the possibility of them in the press and get them running with it and letting people hang in the wind for a few months. While at the same time hammering home the message that Republicans are duplicitous, have no respect for the Office of the President, and put Israel’s national interests above our own. Make them defend themselves.
Sure. For example, if I had been a three-year-old at the time, with no idea what was behind the chant, its “scariness” might well have been its most salient feature.
I think that the Republicans delivered their own message of incompetence. Their “great idea/s” along with Bibi/Israel’s hubris have led them to a very stupid place that is going to become increasingly obvious over the next weeks and months. Why step on that by making them “victims” in some sort of calling out strategy. They don’t deserve anything but the consequences of their bad actions.. watching Bibi squirm is like watching all of them squirm by proxy. Every apology you should consider an apology from John McCain, Boehner and all the nitwits. Its delicious and I just hope it gets even better…this was completely self inflicted.
The Republicans are not rational, and do not have a rational foreign policy. The Iraq War was an insane disaster that destabilized the Middle East. And yet the Republicans still insist on a fantasy in which we could still “win” if only traitor Obama had not sided with our enemies. Or worse, that only a white man could possibly instill sufficient fear in inferior peoples and make them cower in the face of American will.
There are many astute posts here about Bibi’s arrogance and how it negatively impacts US/Israeli relations. And yet from another perspective, Netanyahu is a dupe being used by the GOP to undermine Obama. The Republicans don’t give a rat’s ass about Israel or Israel’s security, and would stupidly put Israel at risk as the stalking horse in another regional war.
Don’t think so. China’s economic success is dependent upon the stability of the US and Western nations.
There is insanity to some extent in the Republicans. Not sure it is absolute as you seem to indicate — where they would not have any strategic sense. Yes, the ME was a huge mistake that was born of a misunderstanding of US power-and its limits. Even the nitwits got that message, though they would have loved to have it be different. They will always want to sing that hymn but I think even the nuttiest of them would hesitate putting a large US land army in the ME. Just don’t think so. I can of course, always be wrong since I am not clairvoyant or an expert. I follow foreign affairs because I find them interesting and compeling to know in evaluating what is happening in this world.
We live in an interconnected world that has dynamic interests and power relationships. I think you overstate it when you say that China is just dependent on US and the western nations to have economic success. Yes and no. Its not sitting idly by and has taken measures, for example, to move around the US supported World Bank to make relations with European countries. They make a move and we move also — both to better our situations, no?
@Cervantes: And if most people had been any age at the time, the scariness would have been the most salient feature. When threatened with death, the proportion of the population that responds by thinking “Hmm, do these people have good reason to be threatening my life?” is vanishingly small.
The Saudis and Gulf Arabs are also more careful with how they lobby. Yes, the Saudis have had a welcome mat laid out for them since FDR, and have been cozy with Republicans and Democrats since then. When they lobby Congress, they do so discreetly, and have oil companies and other energy concerns speak up for them.
Economically, Israel is not an important trading partner to the US. We do more business with the Arab nations, and Iran with 70 million people and aging oil infrastructure in need of replacement makes a tempting partner. Dubai is now the aviation hub of the Middle East, with millions of Westerners flying through it onward to growth markets in India, China, and SE Asia. Tel Aviv is an aviation backwater – little interest from Boeing or Airbus.
Militarily, Israel is of little value. We have no bases there, while our most important naval base is in Qatar. Even Israel’s reputation for being a fighting force is overblown. In Summer 2006, the Bush WH was stunned by how poorly Israel fought against Hezbollah, relying solely on air power to destroy Lebanese infrastructure, while not making an impact on Hezbollah’s fighting ability. The Pentagon determined that any Israeli plans to launch strikes on Iran would be useless, since they have no means to refuel there and back, and if they could not handle Hezbollah, they could not be counted on to achieve their aims against Iran.
Even last year’s slaughter in Gaza was an eye-opener. Once again, Israel’s over-reliance on air power to try and browbeat Hamas did not work. Like Hezbollah, Hamas learned the art of bunker-building. When Israel did finally send ground troops in, Hamas mowed down 60+ troops in less than 3 days – a shocking figure for the regions “pre-eminent” military. Meanwhile, Israel was losing the propoganda war, when even channels like CNN were showing videos of kids playing soccer on a beach being blown up by Israeli fire and Erin Burnett is telling Ambassador Dermer that they are being sloppy with how they are conducting the war.
Israel is like Sharon Stone in Casino – she was hot & attractive, but then you realize how crazy and self-destructive she i, but you can’t get rid of her.
Infantile reactions are sadly common, I agree — but as Chris (also) pointed out in response to you above, Iran “was never a significant national security threat to the West, or even to Israel.”
The Shah was no Saddam Hussein, he did a lot of good for poor people and to modernize the country, that was why the mullahs were against him. Of course there was always Savak – who I’m sure killed way less people than the revolution did.
Many of those in the forefront of the revolution, like in France 1789, were not trying to achieve what they ended up with. Women were very prominent in the beginning, look where they are now. People thought they were going to get democracy with the Shah gone, what they ended up with was worse.
Not to defend the mullahs, but a woman in Iran is (on average) far better educated and has access to better health care than her Arab counter-part. Women in Tehran can get by with just a head-scarf, while a woman in Riyadh must be covered head to toe in that suffocating abayah. Women in Iran can drive, Saudi women cannot. Women in Iran can get a passport and travel overseas, while Saudi women need permission from a male relative.
Yes, threatening. As in issuing a threat. Didn’t say it was a *credible* threat, but a threat doesn’t need to be credible to spook most people.
Iran a national security threat? No. Threat to control all Middle Eastern oil outside of the Arabian Peninsula (and the then-U.S.S.R.)? Yes.
Threat to Israel? Not in general, maybe with nukes. Problem is we’ve done such a bang up job of preventing Iran from getting nukes that the apocalyptic urgency of the threat has faded, especially as we are on the verge of completing another round of negotiations to nudge them away from being nuke-capable.
@KXB: This is because Iran is an actual country that needs to run itself, rather than a cartel that is both supported by and directs blame to foreign powers.
Bush, but especially Cheney, not only misunderstood US power and its limits, but was intent on showing America and the world that weak Democrats and gutless Republicans lost Vietnam. Iraq would be Vietnam done right. This is a long time to nurse a stupid political grudge. And despite the disastrous results, the GOP wants to do it again in Iran.
The GOP may hesitate to put a large land army in the Middle East, but the GOP (and most Americans) have no idea how to stave off the disruption in the ME that our Iraq and Afghanistan folly has already caused. Again, the GOP wants to ignore what has happened and move on to Iran. It appears to be easy to harp on the message, “We must prevent Iran from getting nukes in order to protect Israel,” but this is really simple-minded grade school level foreign policy.
Attacking Iran would be insane. Destabilizing Iran would also be insane. And yet, recent GOP and Israeli actions give moderate Iranians (if there are any left) any reason to try to deal honestly with the US. This is not good for anyone.
You are right to note that China is not totally dependent on us for their economic success. I should have said that I do not see that China would be thrilled to see us mired in another Middle East world. It would not provide anything to China’s advantage, and the potential disruption to international trade would be a problem for everyone.
@KXB: The point is, they were signing up for democracy, not theocracy.
Prior to the revolution you did not need to wear a headscarf at all. Poor uneducated women wore the chador, that was all.
Well I agree with you that things are complicated and any country’s interests and political path can’t always be predicted successfully. I’m just seeing the press on world economies as making US degrees of freedom much more restricted and a world much more “competitive” and therefore, not necessarily in line with our interests. We truly cannot afford to do another Iraq – financially or otherwise — which as you say doesn’t mean we won’t but its going to be less easy to ignore the threats from other directions. The war colleges and state department as well as our economic leaders model this new more complicated world and know way better than I what the risks are. Of course, people being people, still make mistakes. Bibi made a mistake here and he knows it. Boehner and the Klown Kavalcade know they made a mistake too. There will be a lot done to distract from that, but they know it, Obama knows it and we know it.
As for China and other Asian actors, there is a lot going on. They don’t have a clean slate and have their own worries for sure, but they aren’t standing still and are making the Pacific a strong theater of operations. This is great for many other players in the Pacific. S Korea is one. We are so lagging behind on education of our children to compete in the world of increasing technological dominance. Future wars will not be hot, but cold and played on the internets and other related communication technologies. Hot war is old school. We have to get ready to protect our interests with a focus of our resources in that arena… not funding Israel’s land acquisition dreams or protecting Saudi Arabia’s interests against our own.
Quaker in a Basement
I can do it in two words: Nationalized oil.
I truly believe that Obama is trying to set our path to a new paradigm. It is essential that he be successful — not just because I/We like him but because it is based on a cold assessment of what the next ten and 20 years will present. If we want to be a or the lead dog, we have to be about pursuing what that new reality presents. That is not ISIS, the house of Saud and Israel but increasingly complicated relationships and power balance. It also involves other key strategic policy involving education and research — areas that the US has lost ground in over the last decade. That must be corrected and it has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans…
@Elie: …except that Republicans are actively hostile to both education and changing course in our foreign policy.
@Kryptik: The word you’re looking for is ‘chutzpah’[email protected]NorthLeft12: They can try to justify the spying by saying Iran was the target, but they can’t justify sharing the intelligence with the Republicans. However the more egregious transgression would be Republicans failing to divulge the source of their information. In fact, members of congress accepting intelligence from Israel in order to sabotage negotiations would seem to warrant an FBI wiretap or two.
Oh, yes. Netanyahu better run to the bank pronto and cash the latest aid check before Obama puts a hold on it.
Maybe, but this backbiting of Netanyahu in the press coupled with no meaningful action in the real world has been going on for a while now and is starting to get tedious.
...now I try to be amused
Typically, a revolutionary regime can sustain itself on pride as long as the generation that experienced the revolution (and remember what life was like before the revolution) is alive. Then the succeeding generations ask why can’t they have nice things.
I am an ardent supporter of a deal with Iran and can’t wait for Bibi to get his comeuppance. I think though that it is also important not to erase the historical record and forget that Iran have been behind quite a few pretty horrid attacks (I am thinking of the two in Argentina where over 100 innocent people died), also their support of Assad in Syria and Hezbollah, not to mention the treatment of the opposition within (the treatment of gays?). All of this can still be true and be ok for us to sign a nuclear deal with them. Engagement is the only way to contain them. Not because they are not scary but because its the way diplomacy works.
ETA: this of course does not erase the horrible history of US-Iranian relationship, going back to the Shah. Our policies can be horrid and their regime can also be scary at the same time. The two can be true simultaneously.
There are a few more dances to go in this little farce. John Boehner, who is shocked, shocked to learn that there was Israeli snooping of the Iran talks, is scheduled to visit Israel at the end of March. But what was originally going to be a victory dance celebrating bringing that Great Satan, Obama, to heel, will now be two blustering dopes doing a moon walk back pedal to explain how they are not interfering in US foreign policy.
Unless, of course, Boehner has orange balls of steel, and will still stay on message about how “this president better start doing what the Republicans demand.”
I’m sure you’ll find my point was just that those chants (“Marg bar Amrika!”), however one translates them, came from a sordid history of American action in favor of a despot and against the people. Being “scared” by those chants was an emotional reaction but not a very analytical one.
If meanwhile your point is that the Shah’s “modernizing” regime had its advantages, then I’d ask what the appropriate exchange rate is between cruel despotism and economic progress. For example, how much broken glass in a dissident’s rectum does it take to generate one percentage point of economic growth? How many rapes?
Whereas if your point is that you are sure “Savak […] killed way less people than the revolution did,” then I’d ask how you know. Meanwhile, I can point you to estimates that the ministry tortured tens of thousands of people and killed thousands more. And yes, the revolutionaries killed numerous supporters and employees of the Shah, but see also Daniel Ritter’s recent dissertation (UT Austin, 2010) entitled “Why the Iranian Revolution was Nonviolent.”
And finally, if your point is that the Shah “did a lot of good for poor people” (and the middle class?), then I’d ask why in 1978 and 1979, millions of them were in the streets crying “Marg bar Shah!”
Here I agree, for the most part.
Yes, that is true right now. I do believe however that this is not true for all of them AND that in the short term “local boys” will have narrow or retro agendas. However there will be no denying what we need to do as time goes on and they will be irrelevant. We will always have sock puppets who have other interests — but they won’t chart the direction of this country, ultimately (in my opinion)
Who is scared by a threat that is not credible?
And (why) should they be?
@Cervantes: I know! I know! Anyone who watches Fox “News”?
You are voicing what I believe is essential – a sense of pragmatism about how we achieve our ends. Many times imperfect. We are not making agreements with perfect nations/countries, but we are making them to address complex needs and balance best we can, competing and very difficult relationships and interests. Aint none of the players in this clean — including us.
Are you prepared to contact your Congress Critters early and often to propose cutting off Israel? Because nothing happens due to blog comments.
I have told mine that aid to Israel must be reduced unless / until they get serious about a fair two-state solution. I think a 20% cut (based upon the pre-cut level of ALL aid) in aid every year that they continue to form and expand settlements in the West Bank is a good start. But, there is no public push for any sort of consequences for Israeli behavior. I felt the same way when Sharon accused the Bush Admin of appeasement. Jimmy Carter said Israel was moving toward being an apartheid state. It brought him a world of grief. Without a second state, how can Israel continue to be a Jewish state without denying civil rights to Palestinians?
@Cervantes: I vaguely remember a thing called the Iran Contra scandal. And I also vaguely remember Israel selling American weapons to their ally Iran at the behest of their ally Reagan, illegally since Iran was an enemy ofthe US and under arms embargo by the US Congress, so that Reagan could fund rogue illegal operations against the Contras that were prohibited by Congress, but which Reagan wanted to go do anyway so fuck everyone else. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran_contra
Going further back, Remember the Liberty. And there are probably other lesser slights that we (or I) do not know about. The intelligence agencies are not quick to forgive.
Pissing off both B. Obama and the U.S. intelligence agencies was a bad move. (Among several made by B.N. and co.)
@Chris: Paul Krugman nailed this in 2004 in his “Great Unraveling” book. He described the right in the US as a revolutionary force, and a nihilistic one bent on destruction, and as such they could not be negotiated with, reasoned with, or trusted to hold to any deal or not to violate any convention. They are also apocalyptic, which means they are playing Prisoners Dilemma as a single-trial game: you can’t make the argument that whatever bridge they blow up will cause problems when they try to cross back over it themselves because they do not intend ever to cross back over it themselves. Their march is one-way: into oblivion. The fact that it’s going on 10 years now since he published it and people are only starting to get this, is very frightening.
Yes, infantile reactions are sadly common, I agree — again.
@Cervantes: I had to read your comment a second time. The first time I thought you were telling my that my infantile reactions are sadly common. (case in point: my “I know, I know!”)
The “again” referred to my previous statement of the same notion. (I should have linked to it for clarity.)
@Cervantes: Not to worry, I was pretty sure that my second reading was the correct one!
This is a perfect example of why this quote from George Bernard Shaw is one of my favorites:
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
A valuable reminder — thanks — but it’s not Shaw.
To compensate, here are some related Shavian gems:
and (this is Shaw, I hasten to emphasize):
And an unrelated bonus:
This last was published in the New York Times.
@Elie: The Republicans have delivered a message of incompetence and sabotage to the tiny, tiny minority of America, like those on this blog, who have an inkling of an informed opinion on the Middle East. But in today’s environment, if a tree falls in the forest and no Democrat is there to scream bloody murder about it, no one in the broader public will ever know or understand the implications. It’s all business as usual, both sides do it and it’s probably Obama’s fault in most of their minds, because that’s all they’ve heard in recent years. It doesn’t matter how much Republicans step on their own dicks – they’re not punished for it, and it’s not because everyone who votes for them is a mouthbreathing petty idiot gleeful in them sticking it to the Kenyan in the Oval Office. It’s because the level of outrageousness of their actions NEVER filters through the mainstream media.
@Cervantes: If it wasn’t Shaw, then who was it? The google tells me it’s shaw.
I liked 3 of the other 4 quotes quite a bit but did not understand one of them.
exactly, glad you said that.
I think its important to have a realistic picture of who we are dealing with: both with allies and not-allies. Makes foreign policy decisions clearer.
See here for discussion of provenance.
Yes, and when you hear Republicans crowing about Reagan’s prowess in foreign policy, remind them that, by the time his cunning “arms for hostages” plan was exposed and terminated, there were more American hostages in the Middle East, not fewer.
@Cervantes: As somebody famous once said…
I remember that. If memory serves, he described the GOP as a “revisionist power,” the equivalent to Napoleon’s France or Hitler’s Germany in the international system – a nation that did not recognize the existing order as legitimate and might, if it was practical, sign a few Munich Agreements here and there but with no intention of ever being bound by them. Which I find to be a very accurate summary of how the GOP does business, for sure.
@Cervantes: Yeah, unfortunately we’re stuck with this “democracy” thing where people don’t need to be right, just popular.
@Valdivia: quite a few pretty horrid attacks (I am thinking of the two in Argentina where over 100 innocent people died),
It has never been proven that those attacks were perpetrated by Iran. Israel accuses Iraq of it, but there are many reasons to doubt it.
The recent death of Nisman in Argentina, with its many suspicious aspects, has brought all these questions to light again.
but, but…. telephone metadata
Were those attacks perpetrated by the Iranian government?
Just FYI: The original thought — the one I discussed — was not about the scariness of the “regime” or its actions. It was this: “People chanting for the death of your country are scary.”
Sounds like a new episode of Spy v. Spy.
Is the US the white spy or the black one?
I wonder how many commenters have any idea of what I am referring to. ;=)