Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Israel warned US against Iraq attack - is this the end of the Jews started the Iraq war lie?

Anti-Israel "analysts" and media people in the United States and Europe have long insisted that the Iraq war was fought on the instigation of the "Zionists" or the "Israel Lobby" or more crudely, "the Jews."  Prominent proponents of this theory include professors Mearsheimer and Walt (whose article about the Jewish question is now coming out as a book and soon will be available as a major motion picture no doubt), the late Thomas Stauffer, Brian Whitaker of the Guardian, and Jason Vest of The Nation and Jim Lobe of IPS. Less sophisticated proponents of this view include an assortment of racists who are too uncouth to hide their views behind euphemisms like "neo-conservative" and "Israel lobby."
Vest fabricated a story based on selective quotes from a document prepared by an obscure right-wing Washington think tank, "A Clean Break" in 1996. That rather fatuous document was not in any case reflective of the policies of the Sharon government. It  had recommended that Israel pursue a policy of independent regional alliances in the Middle East, to break free of Israeli dependence on the United States and integrate Israel into the Middle East. Only by quoting out of context, could it be made to seem that instead of regional cooperation against Saddam, independent of the United States, the document was advocating Israeli pressure to get the United States to attack Iraq. To this was added the imaginative remarks of  Meyrav Wurmser and others, who explained how the fall of Saddam was supposed to catalyze democracy in the Middle East. Before Jason Vest had written his article in the nation, hardly anyone had ever heard of the unfortunately named "Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs "(JINSA) which soon became synonymous with the "International Jewish Conspiracy."  An example of the ignorant nonsense written about JINSA and Clean Break is at thornwalker.com/ditch/snieg_conc2.htm. 
However, neither Wurmser nor anyone else quoted in these stories was every privy to Israeli policy decisions or represented the policy of the Israeli government.
Thomas Stauffer, less well known, insisted that that the Pentagon was riddled with agents of the Mossad. This McCarthyite view may have been shared by many others, who were wise enough not to go on record with it.  
The Israeli government itself mostly kept silent. Following the war, increasing evidence as emerged that points in the opposite direction: Israel strongly urged the Bush administration in private not to get involved in Iraq, certainly not on the account of Israel. A review of this evidence was presented by Martin Kramer, and not long after, Yossi Alpher reported in the Forward that Ariel Sharon had cautioned Bush against invading Iraq. Bob Woodward's book showed that Bush was determined to topple Saddam Hussein, and made the decision on his own.  Now, Gareth Porter provides further evidence that far from encouraging the US to invade Iraq, Israeli officials tried discretely to stop the impending invasion, according to  former administration official Lawrence Wilkerson, who asserts that Israel Warned US Not to Invade Iraq after 9/11 (full story below).

This is hardly surprising, since there was never any real evidence that Israel had favored the invasion. The evidence was created by innuendo and mistaken inference. Right wing American Jews are supposed to be "close to the Likud." The reader, and perhaps the writer, might be naive enough to believe that because someone in the United States has right wing opinions, they can sit in on Israeli security cabinet meetings and are privy to Israeli policy, just as the readers of the fantasies of Uzi Mahnaimi and others might believe that the Israeli Air Force will conveniently leak top secret plans to attack Iran using non-existent refeuling capabilities.
Without doubt, those who wish to continue to believe the "Jews caused the Iraq war" story will do so, regardless of evidence. There are still people who believe that Jews poison wells and prepare Matzot from the blood of slaughtered Chrisian children. However, the rest of us should understand that there just isn't any real evidence beyond the fabrications of such over-imaginative, ignorant or malicious "analysts." 
Ami Isseroff

WASHINGTON, Aug 28 (IPS) - Israeli officials warned the George W. Bush administration that an invasion of Iraq would be destabilising to the region and urged the United States to instead target Iran as the primary enemy, according to former administration official Lawrence Wilkerson.

Wilkerson, then a member of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff and later chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, recalled in an interview with IPS that the Israelis reacted immediately to indications that the Bush administration was thinking of war against Iraq. After the Israeli government picked up the first signs of that intention, Wilkerson says, "The Israelis were telling us Iraq is not the enemy -- Iran is the enemy."

Wilkerson describes the Israeli message to the Bush administration in early 2002 as being, "If you are going to destabilise the balance of power, do it against the main enemy."

The warning against an invasion of Iraq was "pervasive" in Israeli communications with the administration, Wilkerson recalls. It was conveyed to the administration by a wide range of Israeli sources, including political figures, intelligence and private citizens.

Wilkerson notes that the main point of their communications was not that the United States should immediately attack Iran, but that "it should not be distracted by Iraq and Saddam Hussein" from a focus on the threat from Iran.

The Israeli advice against using military force against Iraq was apparently triggered by reports reaching Israeli officials in December 2001 that the Bush administration was beginning serious planning for an attack on Iraq. Journalist Bob Woodward revealed in "Plan of Attack" that on Dec. 1, 2001, Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld had ordered the Central Command chief Gen. Tommy Franks to come up with the first formal briefing on a new war plan for Iraq on Dec. 4. That started a period of intense discussions of war planning between Rumsfeld and Franks.

Soon after Israeli officials got wind of that planning, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asked for a meeting with Bush primarily to discuss U.S. intentions to invade Iraq. In the weeks preceding Sharon's meeting with Bush on Feb. 7, 2002, a procession of Israeli officials conveyed the message to the Bush administration that Iran represented a greater threat, according to a Washington Post report on the eve of the meeting.

Israeli Defence Minister Fouad Ben-Eliezer, who was visiting Washington with Sharon, revealed the essence of the strategic differences between Tel Aviv and Washington over military force. He was quoted by the Post as saying, "Today, everybody is busy with Iraq. Iraq is a problem...But you should understand, if you ask me, today Iran is more dangerous than Iraq."

Sharon, who died of a stroke in early 2006, never revealed publicly what he said to Bush in the Feb. 7 meeting. But Yossi Alpher, a former adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Barak, wrote in an article in the Forward last January that Sharon advised Bush not to occupy Iraq, according to a knowledgeable source. Alpher wrote that Sharon also assured Bush that Israel would not "push one way or another" regarding his plan to take down Saddam Hussein.

Alpher noted that Washington did not want public support by Israel and in fact requested that Israel refrain from openly supporting the invasion in order to avoid an automatic negative reaction from Iraq's Arab neighbours.

After that meeting, the Sharon government generally remained silent on the issue of an invasion of Iraq. A notable exception, however, was a statement on Aug. 16, 2002 by Ranaan Gissin, an aide to Sharon. Ranaan declared, "Any postponement of an attack on Iraq at this stage will serve no purpose. It will only give [Hussein] more of an opportunity to accelerate his programme of weapons of mass destruction."

As late as October 2002, however, there were still signs of continuing Israeli grumbling about the Bush administration's obsession with taking over Iraq. Both the Israeli Defence Forces' chief of staff and its chief of military intelligence made public statements that month implicitly dismissing the Bush administration's position that Saddam Hussein's alleged quest for nuclear weapons made him the main threat. Both officials suggested that Israel's military advantage over Iraq had continued to increase over the decade since the Gulf War as Iraq had grown weaker.

The Israeli chief of military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Aharon Farkash, said Iraq had not deployed any missiles that could strike Israel directly and challenged the Bush administration's argument that Iraq could obtain nuclear weapons within a relatively short time. He gave an interview to Israeli television in which he said army intelligence had concluded that Iraq could not have nuclear weapons in less than four years. He insisted that Iran was as much of a nuclear threat as Iraq.

Israeli strategists generally believed that taking down the Hussein regime could further upset an Iran-Iraq power balance that had already tilted in favour of Iran after the U.S. defeat of Hussein's army in the 1991 Gulf War. By 1996, however, neoconservatives with ties to the Likud Party were beginning to argue for a more aggressive joint U.S.-Israeli strategy aimed at a "rollback" of all of Israel's enemies in the region, including Iran, but beginning by taking down Hussein and putting a pro-Israeli regime in power there.

That was the thrust of the 1996 report of a task force led by Richard Perle for the right-wing Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies and aimed at the Likud Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

But most strategists in the Israeli government and the Likud Party -- including Sharon himself -- did not share that viewpoint. Despite agreement between neoconservatives and Israeli officials on many issues, the dominant Israeli strategic judgment on the issue of invading Iraq diverged from that of U.S. neoconservatives because of differing political-military interests.

Israel was more concerned with the relative military threat posed by Iran and Iraq, whereas neoconservatives in the Bush administration were focused on regime change in Iraq as a low-cost way of leveraging more ambitious changes in the region. From the neoconservative perspective, the very military weakness of Hussein's Iraq made it the logical target for the use of U.S. military power.

*Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. His latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in June 2005.


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