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    Middle East
     Mar 14, 2008

Israel raises the ante against Iran
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

"We are in no danger at all of having an Iranian nuclear weapon dropped on us. We cannot say so too openly, however, because we have a history of using any threat in order to get weapons ... thanks to the Iranian threat, we are getting weapons from the US and Germany."
- Israeli author, Martin van Crevled, June 2007.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is on a speaking tour in the United States, putting her considerable personal charm in the service of a shrewd salesmanship - of a US war on Iran.

Although considered a dove by Israeli standards, Livni is now on a historic mission that has begun with a pre-travel warmer in the form of a highly publicized telephone call to the Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, assuring him that there is

direct linkage "between Iran and the terror groups".

Coinciding with the ominous news that US CENTCOM chief Admiral William Fallon has resigned - or been sacked - for his opposition to a war with Iran, Livni hopes to harvest a blowing wind of war against another Middle Eastern country that dares to challenge Israel's regional hegemony. It is a familiar story with a recent precedent in Iraq and a script for action, requiring high-pitched public diplomacy with the help of a vast network of sympathetic media pundits, that Israel has fully mastered.

Last week, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's pressure on Israel "to honor peace obligations" fell on deaf ears and as far as Israel is concerned the so-called "Annapolis roadmap" - to have a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital - is a sideshow to a sideshow, with the central focus on the "Iran threat", just as it was on the "Iraq threat" a mere few years ago.

But, of course, the Israelis and their infinite reservoir of support in the US would rather the world fall into a Nietzschean "sham of forgetfulness" on how aptly, and cunningly, they sold the perception of Saddam Hussein's ties to al-Qaeda and even his direct connection to the September 11, 2001, atrocities.

Although the US government has conclusively found no evidence of such connections, the various pro-Israel pundits who excelled in their assignment to propagate that false image, refuse to acknowledge their error, let alone recant.

Chief among the latter is Laurie Mylroie, who was given free access to the US media as a "terrorism expert" prior to the US's invasion of Iraq, advertising her book on Saddam and September 11, time and again repeating the line that the September 11 attacks "had to be sponsored by a state", that is, Iraq.

In compensation for a job well done, Mylroie landed a full professorship at a US university, despite the fully questionable and empirically refuted nature of her unfounded allegations against Saddam. Who knows, maybe she is even the recipient of an Israeli medal of honor for her unique salesmanship of war.

This time, however, with the stakes on Iran relatively higher, the discrete charm of the affable Livni is fully required to pave the way for another disastrous war in the Middle East, since Israel is incapable of peace with the Palestinians and is in dire need of other pretexts to channel public attention away from its oppressive policies against the Palestinian people.

This is reflected in the Israeli government's blunt announcement of a new settlement in the West Bank, timed with Rice's visit, which must have surely sent a signal that no matter how it may be interpreted as a provocation that belies the peace process, Israel's policy of annexation and confiscation of Palestinian lands will continue unabated.

But not everything proceeds according to Israel's wishes, given the United Nations' recent condemnation of Israel's "excessive force" against the Palestinians in Gaza. Much as Livni and other Israeli officials hope otherwise, there is a limit to the gullibility of US public, who are averse toward another costly US "proxy war" on Israel's behalf. No matter how many US editorials spin their services in this direction, the fact remains there is a growing healthy concern in the US regarding the undue influence of Israel on US foreign policy.

Unfortunately, that healthy skepticism is presently staved off by a sophisticated public relations ploy on Israel's part that blames Iran 
for the death of the peace process and exonerates Israel, while presenting a caricature of independence-seeking Palestinians as mere proxies of Iran's "messianic fundamentalists".

Such self-serving image projections of the Iranian enemy conveniently overlook US-Iran shared interests in the region and, instead, seek desperately to paint a black and white picture of US-Iran relations as a zero-sum game. Of course, this is a harder sell, as the US and Iran both support the same regimes in Baghdad and Kabul and also have a vested interest in preventing the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Sunni insurgency in Iraq.

Meanwhile, amid new US allegations of Iranian subversive activities in Iraq, a fourth round of US-Iran talks has been postponed and, per an informed Iranian analyst, that is simply because the US does not want to negotiate with Iran from the position of weakness since Tehran has gained much as a result of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent trip to Baghdad. "The US should make a strategic adjustment with Iran or continue with its cold war crusade that is disfunctional because Iran and the US have common interests in the region," the analyst insisted.

So, the clever Israelis and their friends have mounted a serious campaign to convince the world that Iran is in bed with the Taliban and also with al-Qaeda, as well as with practically "every terror group opposed to the US", to paraphrase Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns at his recent talk at Harvard University.

Burns, who was the US's pointman on Iran until recently, boasted of his role in US-Israel strategic dialogue and put a complete seal of approval on Israel's warmongering policy with regard to Iran. Surely, this will earn Burns a suitable position in the next US administration, another reminder of how real change in US foreign policy is foreclosed by the recycling of complaint, pro-Israel voices in the US government. [1]

In conclusion, the waning months of the George W Bush administration represent a golden opportunity for Israel to ignite another Middle East conflict that, in essence, is rooted in Israel's structural inability to make peace with the Arab and Muslim world.
1. At his Harvard talk, Burns discounted the importance of the recent US intelligence report on Iran, regarding Iran's peaceful nuclear work, and insisted the US is determined to stop Iran's development of its "nuclear weapon capability", which he defined first and foremost in terms of Iran's uranium enrichment program. He dispensed with the argument that the International Atomic Energy Agency can detect any diversion from that program, which is allowed under the articles of the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, nor did Burns address the question of why the US continues to refuse giving security guarantees to Iran.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) and co-author of "Negotiating Iran's Nuclear Populism", Brown Journal of World Affairs, Volume XII, Issue 2, Summer 2005, with Mustafa Kibaroglu. He also wrote "Keeping Iran's nuclear potential latent", Harvard International Review, and is author of
Iran's Nuclear Program: Debating Facts Versus Fiction.

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