Posts Tagged ‘nuclear’


The Obama Administration has never had the best relationship with Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu has never hidden his disdain for Barack Obama, and worked for his defeat in 2012. But the level of invective between the US and Israel in recent days is quite unprecedented.

No doubt, a lot of this has to do with Netanyahu’s inability to chart a course for Israel that includes resolution of any of its conflicts–either diplomatically as the center-left would prefer or by massive exercise of force, as the right favors. Instead, he has chosen a path of perpetual conflict, which has not sat well in Washington and Brussels, where the past decade has whetted their appetites to turn attention elsewhere and, most of all, to extricate themselves from the spreading conflicts and increasingly hostile politics in the Middle East.

But a good deal also is due to an apparent determination on the parts of Obama and John Kerry to change the way the US pursues its agenda in the Mideast. Despite the hysteria of those, such as Abe Foxman, Malcolm Hoenlein, David Harris and Netanyahu himself, who prefer to see Israel in perpetual conflict, the US is not about to abandon Israel, nor its new BFF, Saudi Arabia. But Obama’s opponent in ’12, Mitt Romney, actually laid out the issue very well. When he describes how he would decide on US foreign policy in the Mideast, he said his first step would be to phone his friend, Netanyahu. That’s actually how it has worked for some time, and Obama is trying to change that, though the odds are against his success. I explore in Souciant.

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Hassan Rouhani is on a charm offensive. Bibi Netanyahu and the Emergency Committee for Israel have initiated an anti-Rouhani crusade. What does it all add up to? I explore at LobeLog.

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This article originally appeared at LobeLog

The new Israeli government features a security braintrust that might be a bit more reasonable on Iran, but is likely to be even more hawkish both in the immediate region

Netanyahu has a new and untested cabinet

Netanyahu has a new and untested cabinet

and within the country itself. Gone are voices from the Israeli right who favored a more reasoned and diplomatic approach to their right-wing agenda. They have been replaced by figures who want more direct action and refuse even the pretense of a two-state solution.

On Iran, the retirement of Ehud Barak removes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leading supporter in his effort for a strike on Iran sooner rather than later, whether that be carried out by Israel or, preferably, the United States. He is replaced by Moshe “Bogey” Ya’alon. Bogey is also an Iran hawk, but is not in favor of Israel launching an attack other than as a last resort. He is far more content than Barak to allow the United States to take the lead and wants Israel to act only if it becomes apparent that the US will not. That puts him pretty well in line with the Israeli military and intelligence leadership in practice, though he sees Iran as more of a threat than they do.

In fact, no one in the current or even the outgoing inner circle came close to matching Barak’s eagerness for military action against Iran. Only Netanyahu himself could match him, and he remains daunted by the lack of support for his position in Israel. The ongoing hawkishness in the US Congress and President Barack Obama’s repeated statements holding firm to a military option and refusing a policy of containment also blunt Netanyahu’s resolve. It would seem that, at least for the time being, the calls for war on Iran will be fueled more in the United States than in Israel.

Ya’alon is a former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, but he did not have a distinguished term of service there, was not well-liked and returns without a great deal of good will among the military and intelligence services’ leadership. In fact, colleagues in Israel tell me there is a good deal of consternation in those services regarding Bogey’s appointment. But for now, they will wait and see how he acts. For a deeper look at Ya’alon, see my recent piece on him here. (more…)

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My latest piece on Souciant looks at Germany’s relationship with Israel through the lens of the recent controversy over Gunter Grass’ poem criticizing Israel’s actions vis a vis Iran and its own possession of nuclear weapons. It’s also a new paragraph in the discussion about how people or governments can be pro-Israel and that simply doing what Israel wants is no more the right way to do that than it would be if one thought they were being a good friend to another by letting them do something self-destructive or immoral.

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My wrap-up of reporting on the AIPAC conference and implications for war with Iran. Again, I ask, is this really something Mighty AIPAC needed to be afraid of? Oringinally appeared at Inter Press Service News

WASHINGTON, Mar 7, 2012 (IPS) – More than 10,000 U.S. citizens descended on Capitol Hill Tuesday under the direction of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the leading voice of the powerful Israel lobby here, to urge their congressional representatives to take a more

Mitt Romney addressed AIPAC's policy conference via satellite feed

aggressive stance towards Iran.

Their swarming of Congressional offices marked the final act of their annual three-day conference, which this year featured speeches by President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, three of the four leading Republican contenders for the White House this fall, and the top leaders of both parties in Congress.

The dominant theme of the conference was Iran’s presumed effort to develop nuclear weapons and what to do about it. The tone was heavily tilted toward actual or an increased threat of military action. This stands in stark contrast to Tuesday’s announcement that the U.S., United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany had agreed to resume talks with Iran in hopes of reaching a diplomatic resolution on the Iranian nuclear programme.

President Obama’s speech, at the conference’s opening plenary and ahead of his meeting with Netanyahu the following day, reaffirmed his administration’s policy of applying “crippling” economic sanctions on Iran and leaving the military option as a last resort.

For his part, Netanyahu, who has recently been increasingly vocal about the need for stronger action regarding Iran, tried to strike a balance between avoiding a confrontational tone with Obama similar to the one he took during his controversial trip to Washington for last year’s AIPAC conference, and holding fast to his position that sanctions and diplomacy are not succeeding in their aim to deter Iran from its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.

One key area of disagreement between Netanyahu and Obama is where the critical “red line” would be drawn with Iran. Would it be at the point where Iran was about to actually acquire a nuclear weapon, or merely at it gaining the technical capability to do so, a point many analysts believe Iran has already reached.  (more…)

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Here is my first report for Inter Press Service on the AIPAC conference. I think it would have been fuller if I had been there, rather than having had to cover it by watching it remotely. you tell me if this is something AIPAC had to be afraid of.

This appeared originally at Inter Press Service News Agency

WASHINGTON, Mar 5 2012 (IPS) – U.S. President Barack Obama Sunday made a clear statement against a rush to war – either by the U.S. or Israel – with Iran, while also emphasising that he would pursue that option if alternatives were unsuccessful in ensuring that Iran would not develop a nuclear weapon.

Speaking at the annual policy convention of the powerful American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Obama decried the “loose talk of war”, and contended that sanctions and international pressure are working.

“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,” he said, noting that the recent drumbeat for war “has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil…”

He was no doubt referring to recent reports that Israel was preparing to strike Iranian nuclear targets this year, as well as exhortations by its supporters here, including three of the four major Republican presidential candidates, to take a more aggressive and threatening stance against Iran or to support Israel if it undertakes an attack against Tehran’s nuclear facilities on its own.

Obama began pushing back on that pressure last week in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic magazine in which he stated that “…our assessment, which is shared by the Israelis, is that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon and is not yet in a position to obtain a nuclear weapon without us having a pretty long lead time in which we will know that they are making that attempt.”

Obama went on to urge a diplomatic resolution, which, he contends, there is still time to achieve. He reiterated that point at the AIPAC conference Sunday. (more…)

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As I mentioned last week, I was on a radio show today on the subject of Iran, Israel and the US. Also on the show was the extremely informative Professor Ervand Abrahamian of Baruch College. It’s well worth listening to, and you can do so at this link.

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