Rubio Calls for War on Iran, Syria– as Israeli Army Rejects Strike

GOP Vice-Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio on Wednesday called for unilateral US military action against Syria and Iran and blamed President Barack Obama for declining to send troops to Syria in the absence of a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force. He also said that in addition to sanctioning Iran, “We should also be preparing our allies, and the world, for the reality that unfortunately, if all else fails, preventing a nuclear Iran may, tragically, require a military solution.”

So Rubio is campaigning for the vice president slot in the Republican Party by promising to embroil our country in two major Middle East wars, and moreover to do so without the backing of international law. But this step is precisely the mistake George W. Bush made in Iraq, and it meant that the US was mostly on its own in fighting, dying and paying for that war. Syria is 2/3s the size of Iraq, and Iran is 3 times more populous, so Rubio is committing us not only to bear more thousands of war dead and badly wounded but also to spend trillions in distant Middle Eastern deserts.

The US now has a two-party system in which one party is systematically pledged to make the US an international outlaw, with all the immense costs that entails.

Meanwhile, the chief instigator of war with Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, has clearly lost the fight inside the Israeli security establishment and even among his own colleagues.

First, Israeli deputy premier and minister of intelligence and atomic energy Dan Meridor gave an interview with Aljazeera English in which he admitted that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never called for Israel to be ‘wiped off the face of the map.’

I made the same point in 2005 and was raked over the coals by the late Christopher Hitchens and his Neoconservative friends, and by Likudniks (Meridor is a member of the Likud Party!). My dispute with Hitchens was instanced as a reason I shouldn’t be allowed to teach in the History Department at Yale University, and Likud apparatchik-posing-as-historian Michael Oren also attacked me at that time (he was a visitor at Yale and is now Israeli ambassador to Washington). Ethan Bronner at the New York Times did a hatchet piece on my stance, concluding with no evidence that Ahmadinejad had said the words, and he even implied that I don’t know the difference between a transitive and intransitive verb in Persian. I have been grossly insulted many times in the press and cyberspace, but I mind that one most of all. And the Likudniks complained that I was on Aljazeera or cited it.

So now the deputy premier of Israel, 7 years later, admits publicly that I was right all along, on Aljazeera.

Worse for Netanyahu and Rubio, Israel’s military chief of staff, Gen. Benny Gantz, came out and said that Iranian leaders are rational actors and that they have no current nuclear weapons program, not having decided to go for warheads.

And, of course, I’ve been saying these things for years and vilified for it, but this is the Israeli Army chief of staff speaking now.

It seems obvious to me that Meridor and Gantz are attempting to box in PM Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, whom the Israeli officers and intelligence chiefs consider insane or at least ‘absolutely stupid’ on the Iran issue. Meridor completely pulled the rug out from under Netanyahu, who has quoted ‘wipe off the face of the map’ till he was blue in the face.

What Gantz said echoes the position of US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and of US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey. Netanyahu leaked vicious attacks on Dempsey, a shameful act for a supposed ally. Gantz inevitably depends heavily on the US Pentagon, and appears to have thrown in with Panetta and Dempsey against Netanyahu, both because the Obama administration wants him to, and because Israeli military and intelligence leaders are aware that a strike on Iran would potentially unleash a maelstrom in the Middle East with which Israel may not be well-equipped to deal in the absence of US backing (and Obama has made it clear there won’t be US backing). In part, Gantz’s statement, which undercut Netanyahu, may have been Dempsey’s revenge.

I should underline that I think Iran is often a bad actor in the Middle East, and agree its nuclear enrichment program should be watched like a hawk. I like Israel and Israelis and think they’d be much better off if they’d give the Palestinians the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and stop rampaging around stealing territory and launching fruitless wars. I don’t mind having been slammed for my stances; at least I won’t go to my grave with no one having noticed I was here. But I do mind that my prediction was correct, that unindicted felon and traitor Richard Bruce Cheney (much more guilty than Bradley Manning) has managed to clone himself in the next generation, and that if the Republicans capture the White House we could be back to unilateral wars in the Middle East. Our country is now stuck in a game of Russian roulette, and people like Rubio are the bullet in the chamber.

36 Responses

  1. Several times in the last few months an Israeli or US military or intelligence expert has stated that Iran is not doing anything that calls for a military response, or even sanctions. At the same time, politicians keep saying we need to have ever harsher sanctions and should prepare for war. The politicians don’t argue with the experts, they ignore them. They imply that Iran is an imminent threat. They know they don’t need to present evidence. Because people assume their leaders know what they’re doing. So it is strange to read the news, because of the bizarre mix of fact and propaganda.

  2. “And, of course, I’ve been saying these things for years and vilified for it, but this is the Israeli Army chief of staff speaking now.”

    One wonders whether the reality of can’t_afford_gas (deliberately ambiguous) has changed their thinking. Israel has always been playing a game with facts on the ground; change the reality then dare the US to tell them to go back to the original state – to unsteal what they have stolen.

    It appears that facts on the ground are now beyond Israel’s control. OBL, with the willing help of GWB, sought to bankrupt the US with a pointless war in Iraq. Pointless except for the way it soothed Sharon’s ego. (Mebbe Netanyahu’s ego isn’t big enough to take on Iran. heh heh)

    Israel has to find another supplier for natural gas – paying a fair price, and the US has to deal with declining affordable oil. It is too costly to attack Iran.

    Rubio is delusional.

  3. It angers and depresses me that no one is allowed on national television to utter the remarks made in this post. Only the hawks are allowed on the Sunday morning talk shows or programs like Morning Joe. Although Sunday’s 60 Minutes should be interesting.

    I was interested in one comment Prof. Cole made, that being “Iran is often a bad character in the middle east.” I must admit that since the demonazation of Iran by neocons began I have sound myself defending their right to have a nuclear program.

    To my knowledge Iran hasn’t, in the last several hundred years, invaded two soverign countries as in the case of our own country. Iran certainly hasn’t rained down death and destruction upon millions of civilians in the middle east killing innocent men, women and children. Iran has not unleash deadly drones on unsuspecting populations with the samll percentage hope of killing someone they think might be a terrorist. Iran doesn’t steal land or starve Palestinians in order to force the native population to leave their homeland. At least by those standards,Iran seems to be rather passive.

  4. “Our country is now stuck in a game of Russian roulette, and people like Rubio are the bullet in the chamber.”

    This game started with George W., and it is hard to argue that we are masters of our fates anymore. Whether we thrive or die will be a matter of contingent events.

  5. Successful propaganda often relies on repeating a lie over and over again.

    Someone should do a study showing the number of times the lie that Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be ‘wiped off the face of the map.’” was repeated.

    For example, how many times in the NY Times? How many times in WA Post?

    Maybe an organization like could do a study of Fox news.

  6. Hot off the press.

    Nations of the world set new record for military spending.

    “Almost every country with a military is on an insane path, spending more and more on missiles, aircraft, and guns,” remarked John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus. “These countries should be confronting the real threats of climate change, hunger, disease, and oppression, not wasting taxpayers’ money on their military.”

    Another case of BFO. B=Blinding F=Force O=obvious

    the link
    link to

    • Correction of a trivial point

      When I heard BFO years ago it was slightly different

      Blinding Flash Obvious

      This is probably better – you know, like see the light

  7. Well written, Juan. I might add that CNN’s Wolf Blitzer has often echoed the claim that Iran’s President Ahmadinijad said that Iran would ‘wipe Israel off of the map.’

  8. Juan, if you have time read Tony Judt’s last book “Thinking the Twentieth Century” or at least the last chapter, in which through conversation he and Tmothy Snyder reflect on events that brought the U.S. to the current “naive and immature” position you describe here.

  9. Juan, what to you think about Brookings Institute? That’s where this crack-pot gave his war speech. Tex Colson apparently wanted to firebomb it. What’s their deal? Are they CIA?

  10. Dear Mr. Cole:

    By supporting Israel as a Jewish state anywhere in Palestine you are aiding and abetting theft and injustice. I happen to be one of the Palestinian Christians whose parents and two siblings were pushed off their home in Jaffa in 1948 and a second time from Jerusalem, (with all the misery that goes along with it.) I was jailed in April of 1968 by the Israelis with 3 of my classmates, in a tiny cell, with one cot and one blanket (which cell was doused with cold water at night every night to make sure it was cold) for participating in a sit-in in front of the French embassy in Jerusalem for 7 days in 1968. I was beaten by 3 Israeli thugs daily. During the 1967 war, I saw with my own eyes two unarmed civilians one, a neighbor, shot in the eye and the other (the neighborhood baker) shot with 3 bullets in the back while he was lying on his bed. Right on my own doorstep there were the bodies of four young unarmed soldiers with their pants brought down and shot and killed in cold blood by the Israelis. I saw numerous bodies run over by tanks. (So please don’t tell me that the Israeli army is a moral army.

    The bottom line is you need to distinguish between Hebrews who are Palestinian Jews and the rest of the Jews who are of different ethnicity that the Palestinians. (Helen Thomas IS right) These Zionists have no right to Palestine anymore than a Chinese or Indian Moslem have a right to Mecca. That is the truth and the only truth and no honest person can argue otherwise.

    The killing of Jews and other minorities during WWII is a tragedy but that still does not give Zionists, Americans or Europeans to catastrophically victimize the innocent Palestinians. (On the subject of the Holocaust, it is suspicious that it is made illegal to deny it in certain European countries. but that’s another matter.)

    Therefore, I believe that your moral , honest and correct position should be that of Ms. Thomas. All Palestinians allowed to go back to their homes, if they wish and all Zionists should be allowed go back where they came from.

    All other points of view are nothing but sheer hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty. I welcome your response.

  11. Juan:

    And, now about that job at Yale * * *

    I once heard a story about a prolific H/R author and professor at Harvard who applied to the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute to become a student. They refused him, saying that his work for humanity was too valuable for him to stop it or interrupt it by studying (or, presumably, practicing) psychoanalysis.

    IMO, your work here is that valuable. Many people have noticed that you are here. So, Yale?

  12. As I’ve said here on other occasions, this war scare is just that. It’s countries yakking and the media whipping up a nonsensical scenario. Now for some real news – courtesy of Josh Landis (link to

    “The Candidates for Parliamentary Elections in Syria have been published – They reveal that Bashar al-Assad’s supposed reforms are the ruse that most thought they would be. The candidates from Latakia are sprinkled liberally with the names of well known crooks and Baathists of the region as well as their sons. There does not seem to be any potential reform going on in Latakia. The Baath may have been disestablished, but its members insist that they will win the upcoming elections to parliament.”

    Yeah, there’s a real war taking place in the mideast and it’s being waged by the thugs in Damascus against the Syrian people. Thankyou Russia & China for your amazing indifference & cynicism. As for the rest of the world? Not much behind Kofi A. making more useless pit stops to visit Assad. He’s going to use everything at his disposal to cling to power.

  13. Yes, the statement by Gantz is a big deal. But the corporate media in the U.S. will do their best to ignore it.

  14. Perhaps this is similar to the run-up to the war in Iraq.
    Cooler heads in the Pentagon advised against war.
    However they were all fired, the intelligence was all
    cooked, and off to war we went!

    Could it be that the IDF is more sensible than the
    Pentagon? For Israel such a war would be real, for
    us it is just part of the Great Game redux.

    • Simple explanation: The IDF is run by sober professionals with deep experience and expertise. In contrast, governments in the mideast are all too often overseen by cheap political hacks.

  15. Consortium News has your back:

    “How Obama Recycled a Lie about Iran: President Obama has joined much of Official Washington in mistranslating a comment by Iran’s President Ahmadinejad into the provocative phrase, “wiping Israel off the map.” Obama’s falsehood recalls President George W. Bush’s bogus claim about Iraq seeking uranium in Africa, says ex-CIA analyst Elizabeth Murray. – link to

  16. the two factions of america’s single party, the republicans and democrats, as they are called, are not so different as you seem to think. imo

    • Do you know any actual Tea Party Republicans? I swear to you, here in Texas the entire rank and file are much crazier than you can possibly believe, and the leadership has no choice but to live with the monster its indoctrination has created, by feeding it even crazier indoctrination.

  17. Just another shameless “chicken-hawk” looking to kill anyone who gets in the way of his paymasters. Why do we tolerate such belligerent rhetoric and why do we put them in the position where they can actually act out their sick and twisted fantasies? It never stops to amaze me the single-mindedness that some people have in their desire to attack and kill the Persian people.

  18. Re’ your Rubio column today: I do believe Richard Chaney is an international war criminal. What makes you say he is a Traitor to the U.S.?

    Joe Brady

  19. I have to say it is very encouraging to me to see both the rejection of Netanyahu internally and the excellent exposition of the Israeli position on this blog. This post has given me hope that there may eventually be some road out of the impasse.

    “I like Israel and Israelis and think they’d be much better off if they’d give the Palestinians the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and stop rampaging around stealing territory and launching fruitless wars.”

    I can’t for the life of me understand why this isn’t the prevalent position.

  20. Israel: “kill Iran, they want to kill us” , U.S.: “ok but not yet, after the election” Iran: “we have no nukes nor plan to have them, but if YOU strike us, we will strike back” U.S. Media: “Iran is threatening us!!!! They have soldiers in America!!!! Ahh!!!!!!” and that’s “foreign policy” in a nutshell

  21. The us has BEEN an “international outlaw” for quite a while, who will we blackmail or force to fight with us for these wars WE choose? We want regime change for dics who are us friendly, nit French friendly not Russian or Chinese

  22. Some of the most sensible statements in recent years coming out of Israel has come out of the ranks of their military and intelligence agencies.

    A few years ago, four retired Shin Bet directors issued a joint statement urging political resolution to the Palestinian question, since Israel could not continue to be considered a democracy with the extraodinary security measures being implemented in Israeli society to thwart terrorism activities.

    During Operation Cast Lead and more recently during Gaza missile attacks on Southern Israel it was former IDF Chief of Staff Barak who urged the Prime Minister to exercise restraint.

    Another former IDF chief of staff, Shaul Mofaz, has urged and campaigned on a platform of a non-military option as to the Iran nuclear program in his quest for the prime minister’s office as a Kadima candidate. Kadima lost the prime minister’s office and multiple seats in the Knesset immmediately after the 2008-2009 Gaza incurson.

  23. Professor Cole,

    Whilst I have been referring to your original translation of the mythological ‘wipe Israel off of the map’ claim since you first made us aware, I find I nevertheless face incredulity whether amongst Iranian ex-pats, or ought-to-know better colleagues.

    ‘The Huns were bayonetting babies’ lasted throughout WWI in Great Britain and repeated for WWII. No doubt there are a few old-timers who remember their parents insisting it was true long after proved false by anyone who spoke German, an officer who defected or was caught, and/or later field reports made public.

    Surely you know, therefore, that the main stream media (MSM)- and the White House – cannot afford to walk back their collective repetition of the Iranian mistranslation [sic] now.

    Let us therefore try a little academic exercise: Now that Dan Meridor is on record confirming the comment false, we must document every single time the MSM, campaign staff, think tank staffers, administration officials, or candidates for the presidency continue to repeat it.

    Then let us see just who is perpetuating an intent.

  24. Why not Rubio for Veep? The GOP gave us a bunch of disasters for president, so if you like your luggage to match, why not offer another bunch of absurdities for second banana? Rubio from one of the more corrupt political assemblies in the nation. Condi Rice who helped promote the war on Iraq with her mushroom clouds. If the Nuremberg principles applied she would be in the first batch in the dock. Mitch Daniels, former OMB director, who estimated the Iraq war would only cost $60 billion. Scott Walker of Wisconsin who might be looking for a new job next month. Michelle Bachmann who spotted that Cain’s 999 turned upside down is 666. That’s the kind of perspicacity we need available at the White House. There are more at the bottom of the barrel.

  25. I don’t think Israel would directly take on Iran. Instead, they would prefer the USA to attack Iran, while the Israelis would attack Lebanon and avenge their 2006 repulse.

    Therefore, when Israeli brass demur from attacking Iran, that doesn’t mean they don’t want a war with Iran to happen. It just means that they’re too lazy or too timid to fight it themselves.

    But really, why should Iranians ever be in a situation in which they have to worry about whom Americans elect? Better by far if the Iranians could simply rest assured in the potency of their retaliatory forces.

    Nuclear proliferation is the only way to make the warmongers shut up. In a well-proliferated future, the world could regard the antics of an American coronation with bland detachment, as they should.

  26. Of course, on the Democratic side Biden is nothing to be proud of. He was one of the Democratic Party leaders for the war on Iraq and the bankruptcy laws written for the benefit of credit card companies and in lockstep with AIPAC and the Likud Party. Among other catastrophes.

    • And back in 1988, when the hair plugs were still freshly planted in that pre-bald pate, ol’ Joe Biden had a little problem coming up with original material. link to But who remembers stuff like that?

      His current imago, if not pristine, sure has been puffed and buffed and blow-dried into a neo-comb-over, marking him as a Serious Person(a).

      We are being had, folks, and why are do many of us just insist on staying deeply “invested” in this fraud-raddled market?

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