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Paul Ryan’s adviser Abrams seeks to commit Obama to attack Iran

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What is the latest stage of Iran hysteria? Will the U.S. strike? Will Israel? Several recent opinions follow.

First Elliott Abrams, an adviser to Paul Ryan, calls for a war resolution to hold Obama’s feet to the fire on attacking Iran. Is this what this election is about? Will the media discuss this bargaining? From the Weekly Standard:

At the moment, no one is persuaded that the United States will use force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That situation worries Israelis and emboldens Iranians, not the outcome we want. A clear statement now that is backed by the nominees of both parties and elicits widespread support in Congress would demonstrate that, whatever the election results, American policy is set.

Meantime, Shai Feldman of Brandeis writes at Foreign Policy that Netanyahu’s game is played, and there will be no Israeli attack on Iran. Last weekend Israeli president Shimon Peres came out against an attack, and the sanity of Israel’s leadership was questioned by a former leading strategist, former Director of Military Intelligence General Uri Sagi. Feldman:

Sagi questioned, for the first time publicly, whether Israel can rely on the judgment and mental stability of its current leaders to guide it in time of war. Listing a number of past strategic errors made by Barak and hinting at Netanyahu’s ascribed tendency to traverse rapidly between euphoria and panic, Sagi expressed grave doubts whether Israel’s current leaders can take the pressures and stress entailed in managing a major military confrontation.

Contrary to what many think, Netanyahu and Barak never bluffed — they did not threaten war simply to extort an American commitment to take care of the problem. They genuinely believe that a nuclear Iran poses Israel with untold threats that should be avoided at almost any cost. They did not bluff, but they were defeated. With President Peres publicly joining the many formidable opponents of a military strike and General Sagi raising questions about the competence of Israel’s current leaders, Israel now lacks the minimal consensus required for a demanding military campaign to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations. The debate has been settled. At least for now. 

Speaking of mental instability, Michael Koplow, a PhD student, Georgetown, writes at his site that the overtures by war supporters to religious leader Ovadia Yosef that we covered yesterday are a cynical effort to sway one political figure, Eli Yishai of Shas.

Make no mistake about what is going on here in case it isn’t already abundantly clear: Netanyahu is trying to swing a vote to launch a strike against Iran by convincing a religious leader to order an acolyte to vote a certain way. He is not trying to convince Yishai by making a cogent case for military action – or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he has given up trying to do it this way – but is going above his head to Yishai’s rabbi, whom he knows Yishai is bound to follow, and telling a man with no national security experience at all and no training or education in evaluating intelligence or threat assessments that it is crucial to bomb Iran. Does anyone think that Amidror, a general and Israel’s equivalent of Tom Donilon, had any trouble at all convincing Rabbi Yosef about the urgent need to strike now in order to prevent Israel’s annihilation? For all of the outrageous things that go on in politics, and Israeli politics in particular, this represents an absolute low. It is a naked appeal to religious authority made to a theocratic party in which politicians serve as mouthpieces for rabbis.

A sharp friend writes me that the Israelis haven’t given up a plan to attack before the election: 

This is one of several stories in Haaretz today, all of them preoccupied with the likelihood of an attack on Iran in the coming weeks. The phrasing in Aluf Benn’s article, not “if” but “when,” must be purposeful. I guess he is a sort of Israeli Bill Keller. He wants it (though he doesn’t say so), but more than that, he really thinks it is going to happen.

I hate predictions but these coming in Haaretz may be right right. Because (1) Netanyahu has stirred such a panic in Israel that any serious climb-down would mean a loss of face and a permanent loss of political power. (2) Obama has done nothing but placate–hasn’t made any sort of counter-explanation in advance, to justify U.S. disapproval or failure to satisfy all Israeli demands in case of attack. Election-consequences frighten Obama more the prospect of another war.

And if it comes, there’s a strong possibility that September or October will be the time. The only risk for Netanyahu is that he might be accused of tampering with the American election. But he’d trust his U.S. propaganda machine and its subsidiaries for protection against that charge–a scandalously low-minded view of an ally in distress under existential threat. Any failure of the attack can be blamed on Obama’s lukewarmness (he should have let the U.S. do it), and the payoff then comes in further weakening his stature. 

Also, I think Iran is resigned to it: the provocative statement by Khamenei last week, saying that “Zionism will disappear from the map,” was an echo of the old provocation by Ahmadinejad, and something he had avoided until now.

Though you might mention that my scholarly betters (truly) on this subject including Trita Parsi, M.J. Rosenberg, and recently Gareth Porter all are almost certain it’s a bluff by Israel, only thrown up to lure Obama in.

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10 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    August 22, 2012, 10:21 am

    Apart from Iran-related bluff, fear, ambition, etc., N’yahu is playing the (not Iran related) game of Israeli domination of the USA (via AIPAC and the big-money-boice), and this is also a game which plays best when played for keeps. They really don’t like to lose. Irrespective of the purpose or result of the particular intervention. If AIPAC decided to bring on world-wide nuclear holocaust, they’d pursue it with the very same determination and energy. The two trillion-dollar wars (Iraq, Afghanistan) are examples of this determination at work.

    Keep Obama and Romney behaving like obedient lap-dogs is the theme and only purpose of this feel-good game (among Americans, feel-good for the big-money-boyce alone, of course).

    Still looking for a proper spelling, don’t like to call these Bozos “Boys” after all.

    So that’s another consideration

  2. Krauss
    August 22, 2012, 12:22 pm

    I’m glad you noticed, Phil, I was thinking when you were going to post it.

    This is now officially a campaign waged by the lobby on all fronts, in all camps and on all outlets.


    Commentary did a piece on this. Jeff Goldberg did one too at Bloomberg News(funny how the only thing he ever writes about is either Israel, Iran or something with Jews. He has an incredibly slim repertoire, yet he’s given all that privilege while others toil in the shadow).

    Then you had the Fredd Hiatt-approved Op-Ed last week in Washington Post from a former member of Israel’s security establishment essentially urging Obama to visit Israel as fast as possible.

    They are all saying the same thing, it’s a drumbeat now.
    It’s a coordinated effort.

    This is how it works with the lobby. You have a message, you pump it out to all channels. Jeff Goldberg via Bloomberg, Hiatt at WaPo gives room for everyone, the neocon crowd works the Republican channels.

    It’s a bipartisan push, the lobby at it’s finest.
    Yet if you think about it, this is also a risky move.
    Because it’s obvious that Obama doens’t want to, he hasn’t so far. Yet by being so publicy pushed(which means they begun in private and went nowhere), he is being tested on his mettle.

    If he folds, especially after such a public campaign, the message is clear to all: Even though we publicly say this is anti-Semitism, privately we want you to think that we own him, after all, see how he caved?.

    Obama has been humiliated three straight times. Will he go for a fourth? The man’s inner pride resists on all levels.

    The problem for Israel and it’s lobby is that the whole psychological warfare campaign against Iran (and to some extent Obama’s political fortunes and re-election chances) has backfired. Everyone knows that Israel won’t attack before the election or right after it(whoever wins).

    Also, the whole supposed ‘leak’ that Obama has given them a timeline to June 2013 is complete bullshit. If it was remotely true and it was leaked the Obama WH would be totally furious and you’d see a flurry of extremely damaging leaks against Israel and even public attacks via surrogates like Biden, Clinton etc.

    And since Bibi has said that this is ‘1938’ since almost 10 years now, nobody takes him seriously, he looks like a clown and a loose cannon, in no small part because he is.

    So what now? Israel has overplayed it’s hand, it looks idiotic and Bibi has been outplayed.

    Now it needs Obama to save the situation that they themselves have created. And they’re doing it from U.S. publications via their surrogates!

    Of course, one could ask how appropriate it is that ex-Israeli security officials are using public Op-Ed pages in American newspapers to push an agenda against a sitting president – from U.S. soil.

    After all, isn’t that the very definition of meddling with a nation’s internal affairs? Yet they are not called out on it because the lobby would attack whoever pointed out the obvious as an ‘anti-Semite’.

    But, within the WH, they must see what we see. They see the open and brazen contempt for American democracy, the fools who have burned themselves, turned themselves into clowns nobody takes seriously(least of all the Iranians themselves) and now they demand that Obama save them from themselves, essentially.

    Obama must be enjoying himself so far, but if he does it too long, the drumbeat will continue and the smears will continue to grow at the margins and then start to creep in…(secret muslim, anti-Semite, black nationalist supporter etc etc).

    It’ll be interesting to see what he does.

    • dbroncos
      August 22, 2012, 10:47 pm

      “Obama has been humiliated three straight times. Will he go for a fourth? The man’s inner pride resists on all levels.”

      LOL. Inner pride? I’ve seen nary a scrap of evidence that Obama has any “inner pride”, if by inner pride you mean backbone. Obama has had more than one chance to slam the door shut on Israel’s war plans by cutting a deal with Iran concerning its nuclear enrichment options. With a signed deal in hand he could have declared, “Problem solved! Now take a hike, Israel.” But the Israelis and their supporters cowed him into telling Iran to take a hike, thus moving him closer to war. War is fast becoming the most likely endgame for a President who has his credibility and his re election campaign to consider and who has repeated over and over that “We will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.” Obama blows and fingers his lute while the really power drunk, power mad Zionist war mongers show us who has the real backbone in this frightening and all too real drama.

      • American
        August 23, 2012, 12:38 am

        Well, either Obama has no pride or balls—or else—he’s a Master poker player.
        If he’s re elected maybe we will find out which.

    • American
      August 23, 2012, 1:22 am

      “This is now officially a campaign waged by the lobby on all fronts, in all camps and on all outlets.”

      Yea, but that’s what makes me think that Obama’s policy is set – against a strike on Iran, before the election anyway–and they know it.
      And if Obama is re elected?……then they have to come up with some more or different pressure. What will they and Israel use that they haven’t already used in that event? After the zios try to politically black mail a US President using our elections…where do they go from there if it fails?

  3. DICKERSON3870
    August 22, 2012, 5:26 pm

    RE: “A clear statement now that is backed by the nominees of both parties and elicits widespread support in Congress would demonstrate that, whatever the election results, American policy is set.” ~ Elliott Abrams, convicted liar and now an adviser to Paul Ryan

    MY COMMENT: So unless Obama makes certain statements in public and ‘on the record’ (and precisely as dictated by Netanyahu) by the end of September or so, Netanyahu is at least implicitly threatening to wreak havoc on the November elections by attacking Iran this October.
    This is nothing short of an “extortion racket” like those most commonly associated with organized crime groups. –
    I, for one, have had enough of it. The U.S. should adamantly refuse to submit to such extortion by Israel even if it means that we run the risk of being the target of Israel’s 200 or so nukes. After all, like the Lostprophets say: “If You Don’t Stand For Something, You’ll Fall For Anything.”

    Jill Stein for President (Stein/Honkala 2012)
    [Contributions of up to a total of $250 are matched by federal matching funds.]

    P.S. No more battered spouse voter syndrome for me!

  4. American
    August 23, 2012, 12:14 am

    Is Netanyahu a true megalomaniac or not?
    I think he is and there are others in his circle like him.
    If he really is, then Israel striking Iran depends entirely on whether he can be contain by others in Israeli government and military or not.
    I think that is what it comes down to now.

    The polls are showing Obama leading and as long that holds Netanyahu has less political pressure to use.

  5. ColinWright
    August 23, 2012, 1:22 am

    The thing about a war resolution is that not only Obama, but a whole lot of congressmen are going to oppose it.

    Take that last attempt to run through something that more or less called for an attack on Iran. Only forty four senators would sign it (neither of mine would, I was happy to see). Some of the these people do apparently feel there’s a limit.

    So should someone concoct a war resolution, not only would many congressmen oppose it, but they’d be around to stiffen Obama’s backbone when it came to responding to it. They might even get him to make a stand — and since most Americans don’t actually want to wind up fighting in Iran, it’d be a stand he’d win.

    I don’t think either AIPAC or the Republicans are going to want to chance it.

  6. David Samel
    August 23, 2012, 9:18 am

    To add to your list of those who think it’s a bluff, there’s Uri Avnery, who has been saying this for a long time. But all these people are only predicting, based upon their sober evaluation of what a disaster it would be for all concerned. No one should rely on the principle of sanity to guide Bibi or any other leader for that matter. He may feel that he’s talked up the necessity for war so much that he had to follow through or lose face. He may be thinking about his legacy and will not want to be remembered in history as a wimp. Who knows? He is the “decider” and how many examples do we need of disastrous decisions?

    I have long argued that Israel does face an “existential threat,” not a military one, but one posed by the principle of human equality. To this I must add insane decisions of its own leaders. If Bibi attacks Iran, he’ll be igniting a conflagration that will be a death warrant for many of his countrymen, and that is not the way I want to see Israel threatened. Of course, the Iranian death toll will be much higher, but it will only be Israel whose very existence will truly be threatened after all the lies we’ve heard about external threats.

  7. dbroncos
    August 23, 2012, 6:42 pm

    In the event of a war on Iran we could discover that the most organized and determined Iranian counter attack will happen in the US.

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