By Pepe Escobar – Even before their fateful encounter at the White House this Monday, US President Barack Obama made it clear, on the record, that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu wouldn’t face him down.
Or did he?
No matter what the rhetorical gymnastics performed by Obama, a case can be made that Bibi the Bully wags the American dog full-time. Worse; the Likud-dominated Israeli administration, single-handedly, is playing with dispatching vast spheres of the global economy into total depression, as its hysterics progressively hurl oil prices towards the stratosphere.
The world is a hostage of Israel’s whims even as the 120-plus members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) support Iran’s right to enrich uranium and BRICS members Russia, China and India, as well as Turkey, dismiss the US and the EU’s oil embargo – a true declaration of economic war – on Iran.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) get-together in Washington takes place in an intimidating, cavernous Colosseum where the wealthy crowd ululates in unison for Iranian blood. A passable tactician but a lousy strategist, Bibi the Bully’s only game in town is “Bomb Iran”.
This is justified by the “existential threat” posed by non-nuclear Iran to a nuclear-armed garrison state/settler colony that is literally, graphically wiping a whole people (the Palestinians) off the map.
Still one more proof of the “existential threat” fallacy was provided last week by Iran’s Supreme Leader himself, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, even before the absolute victory of his supporters in Friday’s parliamentary elections – which effectively turned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad into a lame duck.
Khamenei’s words must be reproduced again and again and again – because the baying-for-blood US corporate media simply won’t do it.
He said, “The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.”
Mr president, tear down this wall
Yet once again, the graphic proof that Israel exercises virtual complete control of US foreign policy was the sight of an American president defensively addressing the AIPAC Colosseum. Apart from a festival of Orwellian intimations, to his credit at least Obama emphasized the word “diplomacy”, did not specify any “red lines”, nor endorsed the mere “capability” of Iran to build a nuclear weapon as a casus belli. After all, he knows he already has more American Jewish voters in the bag than among the US electorate as a whole.
But ultimately Obama did cave in to Bibi the Bully – as the rhetoric was not unlike Tony Soprano’s and the ominous “military component” remained very much on the table.
Still, Bibi the Bully – mimicking his voracity in devouring Palestinian land – wants more.
Whatever route they take – overflying Syria and Turkey, and even if they hit the crucial targets of Natanz, Arak, Isfahan and Fordow – Israel’s Jericho missiles have zero chances of paralyzing, not to mention destroying, the complex decision apparatus of the Islamic Republic. Forget about “humiliation” and regime change. Even Major General Amos Gilad, head of the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau, acknowledged last October that Israel cannot win. That’s why Bibi the Bully badly wants to extract a formal promise that the US will do the dirty work.
According to a recent poll in Israel, 34% are against bombing Iran. But 42% are in favor if the US is at least supporting it. How sweet it is to enrol a superpower to fight your fictional “existential threats”.
Bibi the Bully badly wants a Republican to take out Obama in November. Obama knows he can’t be defeated by King of Flip Flop Mitt Romney or Ayatollah Rick Santorum. But he can be defeated by the proverbial US gas pump. The problem is, submitting or not to Bibi the Bully’s absolutist demands, oil prices go up; they have already have by 20%, and this growth may reach 50% or more if speculators deem an attack imminent.
Tehran may hold the key to defuse the whole psychodrama – and the demented speculation on oil prices. By late March or early April, with his authority immensely strengthened, negotiators on behalf of Ayatollah Khamenei will be back on the table discussing the nuclear dossier with the P5+1 – US, France, Britain, Russia and China, plus Germany.
Obama himself may also hold the key. He could pull a Nixon – as in going to China to meet Mao in 1972 – and offer a face-to-face to Khamenei. The industrial-military-media complex, Big Oil, the Israeli firsters and especially Bibi the Bully will be seeing all shades of red. But it does take balls to really earn a Nobel Peace Prize. Obama, will you tear down this wall (of mistrust)?
This is the section of Obama’s speech at AIPAC centered on Iran:
Today there is no doubt – anywhere in the world – that the United States will insist upon Israel’s security and legitimacy. That will also be true as we continue our efforts to our pursuit of peace. And that will be true when it comes to the issue that is such a focus for all of us today: Iran’s nuclear program – a threat that has the potential to bring together the worst rhetoric about Israel’s destruction with the world’s most dangerous weapons.
Let’s begin with a basic truth that you all understand: no Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map, and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel’s destruction. And so I understand the profound historical obligation that weighs on the shoulders of Bibi Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, and all of Israel’s leaders.
A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel’s security interests. But it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States. Indeed, the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. A nuclear-armed Iran would thoroughly undermine the non-proliferation regime that we have done so much to build. There are risks that an Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of a terrorist organization. It is almost certain that others in the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon, triggering an arms race in one of the most volatile regions in the world. It would embolden a regime that has brutalized its own people, and it would embolden Iran’s proxies, who have carried out terrorist attacks from the Levant to southwest Asia.
That is why, four years ago, I made a commitment to the American people, and said that we would use all elements of American power to pressure Iran and prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. That is what we have done.
When I took office, the efforts to apply pressure on Iran were in tatters. Iran had gone from zero centrifuges spinning to thousands, without facing broad pushback from the world. In the region, Iran was ascendant – increasingly popular, and extending its reach. In other words, the Iranian leadership was united and on the move, and the international community was divided about how to go forward.
And so from my first months in office, we put forward a very clear choice to the Iranian regime: a path that would allow them to rejoin the community of nations if they meet their international obligations, or a path that leads to an escalating series of consequences if they don’t. In fact, our policy of engagement – quickly rebuffed by the Iranian regime – allowed us to rally the international community as never before; to expose Iran’s intransigence; and to apply pressure that goes far beyond anything that the United States could do on our own.
Because of our efforts, Iran is under greater pressure than ever before. People predicted that Russia and China wouldn’t join us in moving toward pressure. They did, and in 2010 the UN Security Council overwhelmingly supported a comprehensive sanctions effort. Few thought that sanctions could have an immediate bite on the Iranian regime. They have, slowing the Iranian nuclear program and virtually grinding the Iranian economy to a halt in 2011. Many questioned whether we could hold our coalition together as we moved against Iran’s Central Bank and oil exports. But our friends in Europe and Asia and elsewhere are joining us. And in 2012, the Iranian government faces the prospect of even more crippling sanctions.
That is where we are today. Iran is isolated, its leadership divided and under pressure. And the Arab Spring has only increased these trends, as the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime is exposed, and its ally – the Assad regime – is crumbling.
Of course, so long as Iran fails to meet its obligations, this problem remains unsolved. The effective implementation of our policy is not enough – we must accomplish our objective.
In that effort, I firmly believe that an opportunity remains for diplomacy – backed by pressure – to succeed. The United States and Israel both assess that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon, and we are exceedingly vigilant in monitoring their program. Now, the international community has a responsibility to use the time and space that exists. Sanctions are continuing to increase, and this July – thanks to our diplomatic coordination – a European ban on Iranian oil imports will take hold. Faced with these increasingly dire consequences, Iran’s leaders still have the opportunity to make the right decision. They can choose a path that brings them back into the community of nations, or they can continue down a dead end.
Given their history, there are of course no guarantees that the Iranian regime will make the right choice. But both Israel and the United States have an interest in seeing this challenge resolved diplomatically. After all, the only way to truly solve this problem is for the Iranian government to make a decision to forsake nuclear weapons. That’s what history tells us.
Moreover, as President and Commander-in-Chief, I have a deeply held preference for peace over war. I have sent men and women into harm’s way. I have seen the consequences of those decisions in the eyes of those I meet who have come back gravely wounded, and the absence of those who don’t make it home. Long after I leave this office, I will remember those moments as the most searing of my presidency. For this reason, as part of my solemn obligation to the American people, I only use force when the time and circumstances demand it. And I know that Israeli leaders also know all too well the costs and consequences of war, even as they recognize their obligation to defend their country.
We all prefer to resolve this issue diplomatically. Having said that, Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States, just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs. I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power. A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort to impose crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.
Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I’ve made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.
Moving forward, I would ask that we all remember the weightiness of these issues; the stakes involved for Israel, for America, and for the world. Already, there is too much loose talk of war. Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend upon to fund their nuclear program. For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster; now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition that we have built. Now is the time to heed that timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: speak softly, but carry a big stick. As we do, rest assured that the Iranian government will know our resolve, and that our coordination with Israel will continue. “
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His most recent book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org