Israel-US Row to Iran’s benefit; Sanctions Regime Watered Down

The far rightwing government of Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu may have a choice between expanding settlements in the West Bank or achieving a global consensus on the need to sanction and coerce Iran into giving up its nuclear enrichment program. Netanyahu is so dedicated to the settler project that he cannot see the ways in which it forestalls other, broader Israeli objectives.

The serious policy differences between Binyamin Netanyahu and the Obama administration are helping Iran,and reducing pressure on that country.

The Times of London reports that Netanyahu was put firmly in his place by President Obama during his visit to Washington earlier this week. At one point Obama is said to have left Netanyahu for dinner with Michele and the girls after urging the prime minister to contact him if anything changed.

Obama is said to have still been bristling at the slight of VP Joe Biden when the latter was in Israel (Netanyahu insisted on supporting continued colonial settlements on theWest Bank.the form of an announcement of the building of more homes on occupied Palestinian land. The Palestine Authority leadership, including President Mahmoud Abbas, refuses to restart peace negotiations as long as Netanyahu refuses to commit to a freeze of Israeli colonization efforts. Abbas had been about to set aside his objections and begin proximity talks when Netanyahu’s government announced a substantial settlement expansion. And they made the announcement on the very day of Joe Biden’s arrival to kick off the talks with the Palestinians. Predictably, the Palestinians pulled out of the talks.

There may have been more to the policy differences than just the lack of a state dinner. A report at the Herald Scotland site that the US was moving bunker busting bombs to the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia set off a flurry of speculation that the US was getting ready to move against Iran.

But in reality, the US may well have been sequestering the bunker busters and denying them to Israel. Netanyahu came to Washington in part to ask for jets and other materiel, including the bunker busters.

Netanyahu has called for “crippling” sanctions to be applied to Iran if it does not dismantle its civilian nuclear enrichment program. Among the sanctions Netanyahu sought was probably a gasoline embargo.

The call was immediately rejected by the Russian Federation(and probably by China behind the scenes).

The sanctions resolution being prepared by the US on behalf of the United Nations was abruptly watered down to meet Russian and Chinese objections. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded to the news, saying sanctions had no ability to harm or influence Iran. (He might have added, ‘especially watered down ones’!)

That China and Russia know how tense US-Israeli ties are at the moment may also incline them to avoid the sanctions route.

Netanyahu is convinced that Iran is committed to acquiring a nuclear weapon (a proposition for which there is no firm evidence), and is further convinced that such a development would pose an existential threat to Israel. It is unclear why he reaches that conclusion, since Mutual Assured Destruction would operate to deter Iran from attacking Israel (which has 200 nuclear warheads), lest it be devastated itself. It is a ludicrous idea that the shrewd and pragmatic leadership in Tehran, which has launched no wars since coming to power and has dealt cannily with a multitude of challenges, consists of erratic madmen who would risk seeing their capital annihilated. Not to mention that there is no good evidence that they have a weapons program, and every reason to think that they are a decade or more away from a nuclear warhead even if they did. Some of the more hysterical pronouncements attributed to Netanyahu and to his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, if true, would also raise questions about the safety of the nukes in Israel’s arsenal.

The long and the short of it is that Israel and the US have poor relations for the moment, and that the rest of the world is aware of it, making it harder for the two of them to pressure the UNSC.

End/ (Not Continued)

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Responses | Print |

12 Responses

  1. perhaps it is time for Obama to propose a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, collectively guaranteed by the US, Russia, China and India?

  2. Seventh paragraph should read Iran, not Iraq. An easy slip to make.

  3. Reminds me of the time Obama snatched the fly out of the air and stomped on it.

  4. Sanctions-proponents don't care whether they sanctions themselves are effective or "watered down" etc nor not. They see sanctions as simply an intermediate step towards their real goal of causing a war on Iran. With each step towards sanctions, the Obama administration is boxing itself in, and taking a step farther away from genuine engagement with Iran. And that's how the warmongers want it. Today ineffective sanctions, tomorrow blockages, followed by "pin-point strikes" and then all-out war.

  5. With all the links to other news paper, it is very interesting and informative.

    No TV channel or news paper has covered so comprehensively as your blog, Professor Cole.

    I only would like to say keep up the good work true & unbiased.

    Viva Professor Cole.
    Viva Obama, Viva Obama

  6. "Netanyahu is convinced that Iran is committed to acquiring a nuclear weapon (a proposition for which there is no firm evidence), and is further convinced that such a development would pose an existential threat to Israel."

    I'm not sure that they are really convinced of this. Rather, I think Iran stands in the way of a vision for a middle east which is allied to the west, with Israel as the sole regional power. Statements by leaders in Israel,Britain, and the US have hinted at this over the past few years. I believe the Iraq invasion was a big dice roll towards this scenario. The Iran/nuclear issue is a pretext the same as Saddam/WMD.

  7. Israel sees Iran having a nuclear weapons capability because Israeli strategists believe Israel's long-term survival depends on its neighbors believing Israel cannot be countered militarily.

    If Iran has a nuclear capability, it can adopt the policy that if Israel was to use nuclear weapons on Cairo, Mecca, Riyadh, Beirut Baghdad or Damascus it would rush to build a weapon it could use to retaliate.

    Even though this scenario would not play out, the fact that it could play out takes the edge off of the ultimate threat that Israel carries today.

    Israeli strategists who believe a credible if extreme last resort threat to use nuclear weapons on its adversaries is necessary for Israel's survival necessarily believe that anything that removes that Israeli option is a threat to Israel's survival.

    When Netanyahu describes Iran as an existential threat, I assume this is what he means. The Israelis who devoted tremendous resources to establishing a nuclear threat for Israel did so because they believed this threat is existentially necessary for Israel. Netanyahu agrees with them.

    A summary of this point of view presented by Ariel Roth of the Council on Foreign Relations is here.

  8. There was a lot of hand-wringing on the airwaves today over the rift beyween our President and the PM of Israel. "What does it mean? What is going on?"

    I don't think it is confusing at all.

    1) Obama said he wants to see a final peace deal during his first term in office.

    2) Settlements prevent a peace deal.

    3) Netanyahu refuses to stop settlements.

    4) Obama signaled that he means business.

    The only hand-wringing should be whether Netanyahu understands that the next signal will be more serious. Obama got health care. He intends to get a peace deal.

    I think a wise man would get out of his way. Is Netanyahu a wise man, or is he merely a loud man?

  9. The Israeli position that Iran having a nuclear weapons is an existential threat to their existence is not strictly rational because of MAD. Getting Iran destroyed is not what either the 'good' guys or the 'bad' guys in Iran are about. None of them is that kind of crazy. Netanyahu's is a willful position and comes with the arrogance of power. He can hold position because he has the power to hold the position. They can draw a line one inch from you and thirty feet from them, because they can do it. We have nuclear weapons so we can destroy you, but you can't have nuclear weapons to retaliate. You step on our toe, we cut off your head. Why? We have the power. It's sadly fun and satisfying at some level and makes you feel good. This what the chauvinism that's contaminants almost all countries and ethnic groups to some degree is about. Being a super-patriot and pushing people around makes you feel safe and powerful. It's the drug of choice in international power politics. Netanyahu has more votes in Congress than Obama does, that's why he can publicly humiliate the Vice-President and the American leadership. Israelis have done this before. It's the way they treat their neighbors even those who tried to make peace with them. Remember how they undercut Sadat after he made peace. The Israeli leadership is more extreme so they have moved it up a notch.

  10. Netanyahu lack of respect to the USA,its elected officials and Military is appalling. He should not be allowed in the White House.

  11. Basically Israel has a state of the art, start to finish nuclear weapon production plant at Dimona-Negev. It seems to be an open secret. So when anyone talks about nuclear threats in the middle east without talking first and foremost about Dimona, it's a farce, and that fact is Ahmadinejad's greatest political asset.

    Fortunately there is also strong and growing progressive-zionism/dissent/peace movement happening in Israel and world wide.

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