At the rate we are going, the pro-Iran war lobby could get the war it wants in the next few months, right during the U.S. election campaign. AIPAC and its leadership cadre in Congress (led by Rep. Howard Berman) are now insisting the United States permit ZERO enrichment by Iran, i.e, denying it its rights under the NPT. Berman is a Democrat, speaking for Democrats, and his defection to the full Netanyahu approach makes it likely Obama will fold and give up on negotiations. Given that no Iranian government would ever accept such terms, a war is much more likely.
Many consider that impossible. After all, if President George W. Bush flat-out refused to give Israel permission to attack Iran , why would President Obama say “yes.”
The big difference is politics. When the Israelis (via their neocon proxies Vice President Cheney, Elliot Abrams, and others) demanded that Israel be allowed to attack before the ostensibly dovish Obama became president, the hawks had no cards to play.
Bush was leaving office and had no need to please the war crowd. Besides he knew that they had destroyed his presidency by duping him into invading Iraq. Why would he give them Iran when, as he told them, no one could predict the implications of attacking. In short, he responded to the idea of war in Iran as he should have reacted to the idea of invading Iraq: with skepticism. His “no” ended the discussion, leaving the war crowd despondent, believing that that their chances of success with Obama were nil.
Bush would have been unlikely to agree (following the Iraq failure) even if he had political considerations to worry about. Bush did not rely on AIPAC oriented donors to bankroll his campaigns. Republican presidential candidates (and that includes the likely 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney) are almost entirely funded by business interests.
Name a special interest (the old fashioned kind that donates to campaigns to ultimately put money in their own pockets like the Chamber of Commerce or Koch Brothers) and you will find it well-represented among GOP donors. But not the Israel lobby crowd which, no matter what you may think about it, is not about personal greed.
Check out the list of Romney’s top donors. These are not people who care about the West Bank, Iran nuclear enrichment or foreign policy issues in general. Their special interest is themselves.
This is not the case with Democratic donors. With corporate money flowing so heavily to the Republicans, Democrats need other sources.
One of the Democrats’ largest sources of funding comes from the “pro-Israel” crowd which, like Hollywood executives, have stuck with Democrats through thick and thin. Although the single-issue Israel types, would like to see Jews move toward the Republicans, they don’t. To their credit, even Jewish multi-millionaire business people tend to be liberals who reject the Republican party as being alien and, to be frank, hostile to all minorities – including Jews.
Most of these wealthy Jewish donors do not give to Democrats out of hawkishness on Israel although AIPAC and other “pro-Israel” organizations have successfully conveyed the falsehood that they do. In fact, as the polls demonstrate, Jews support Democrats because of their preference for a liberal, tolerant, economically just America not as a form of insurance that the U.S. will not push Israel toward peace. Nonetheless, the lobby has been very successful in conveying that if a donor’s name is Goldberg, the money is about Israel, and now Iran, even though it’s more likely to be about opposing racism or environmental destruction.
That is why Obama treads so lightly on all issues that touch the Middle East. His aides tell him that even the slightest deviation from the Netanyahu line will cause “pro-Israel” money to start flowing to the Republicans.
That is also why Vice President Biden met with pro-Israel groups right before the just-concluded Iran negotiations to assure them that the United States will not deviate an inch from Netanyahu’s. That commitment produced our refusal to even discuss the easing of sanctions in exchange for Iranian commitments to limit nuclear enrichment. And it was that refusal (and particularly the refusal to defer new onerous sanctions) that killed this round of negotiations and maybe negotiations altogether. After all, why would Iran give up anything unless we are prepared to lift sanctions? What country gives up anything in exchange for nothing or, at best, very little?
All this leads me to conclude that Netanyahu may decide to attack during the Obama presidency rather than wait for Romney. One, Romney is unlikely to win. And, two, if he does win, why would he be more willing to approve an attack than George Bush was?
Sure, his campaign rhetoric is stridently hawkish and he has indicated that neocons will dominate his foreign policy team. But that could be just campaign talk, just another Romney attempt to look crazy right to solidify support among the crazy right.
As president, however, he is likely to understand, as Bush did, that, as a Republican, he is free to do what he wants to do on the Middle East including refusing to authorize an Israeli attack. After all, unlike Obama, AIPAC-connected donors will not have played a significant role in his election and are unlikely to support him for re-election. Besides, pure business types like Romney (and his supporters) can be surprisingly dovish when it comes to disrupting the world economy not to mention their beloved oil market.
These calculations are all obvious enough that one can assume they have occurred to Netanyahu and his lobby too. Romney, for all his tough talk, is both a question mark and fairly immune to the intimidation of U.S. policymakers that is Netanyahu and his lobby’s stock-in-trade. Obama, on the other hand, has been led to believe he is utterly vulnerable to the lobby and its donors – which is why he has proven to be such a pushover for Netanyahu over the past three years.
In short, unless somehow there is a breakthrough in the next round of Iran negotiations (June 18 in Moscow), a breakthrough Netanyahu and his lobbyare working hard to prevent, war could be looming.
And not under President Romney. Under President Obama.
Yes, that could, in the end, cost him the election, but that is not what he is likely to hear from his top advisers these days: the people who raise the money. As always, they will tell Obama that he has no choice but to give Netanyahu what he wants. If past is prologue, he will.