Netanyahu says Iran threatens US mainland, and AIPAC and Congress cowboy up for war

Speaking on Face The Nation on Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned that Iran is about to cross the nuclear red line he set down last September and that the United States had better do something about it.

Netanyahu was in full Halloween mode.  It is not just Israel that is in dire peril; it’s the United States too.

They [the Iranians]have taken heed of the red line that I sketched out at the U.N. They’re still approaching it and they’re approaching it after the Iranian elections. They’re building ICBMs to reach the American mainland within a few years. They’re pursuing an alternate route of plutonium, that is enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb. One route, plutonium.  Another route, ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles to reach you. They don’t need these missiles to reach us, they already have missiles that can reach us. They’re doing that after the election. So they haven’t yet reached it but they’re getting closer to it. And they have to be stopped.

Because the Iranians are now targeting our mainland too, it is our job to “make it clear to Iran that they won’t get away with it.

…they have to know that you’ll be prepared to take military action. That’s the only thing that will get their attention, to take military action. That’s the only thing that will get their attention.

There is nothing new about Netanyahu’s warnings. The first (of dozens) of such predictions came 21 years ago when Netanyahu warned that Iran would have the bomb by 1997 at the latest. Year by year he advances the date, as his predictions disappear into the vapor like a weatherman’s prediction of a massive snow storm that turns out to be a light rain.

But Netanyahu’s fear-mongering has made a difference.  The Israel lobby here has made confronting Iran the centerpiece of its activities on Capitol Hill, successfully drafting and easily convincing both Democrats and Republicans to enact sanctions that punish the Iranian people along with resolutions making clear that the U.S. will go to war if Iran doesn’t give up its nuclear program.

It is worth noting that right after Netanyahu spoke on the show, Sen, Dick Durbin, a dovish Democrat (except on Israel), who is up for re-election in 2014, piped in to say that he is with Netanyahu.  He said that “neither the American people nor Congress are seeking a war, we’re not looking for one. But the Iranian leadership shouldn’t push us to the brink.”

But what is the brink that Netanyahu and Durbin talking about?  The only thing that has changed in Iran since Netanyahu last did his war dance is that Iran has elected a new president who, unlike his radical predecessor, seems determined to tamp down tensions in the region.  In the words of Israel intelligence writer, Yossi Melman, writing for the Jewish Forward, Hassan Rowhani’s election is a “game changer for Iran, the West, and Israel” because he will “likely avoid nuclear confrontation.”

Remember Rowhani’s restraint. In 2003, as a top official in reformist President Mohammad Khatami’s administration and his chief nuclear negotiator with the West, it was Rowhani who directed the decision to freeze uranium enrichment.

He continues:

Rowhani’s election win signals a growing possibility that Iran will decide to slow down its nuclear project. That would be part of a policy of engaging with the United States (as everyone assumes that President Obama would dearly like to avoid waging war against Iran).

So here is another unexpected result: that Israel will be further isolated in its severe concern over Iran’s nuclear capabilities….The gap between Israel and America on these issues may well be further widened.

And that is why Netanyahu is so rattled.  He does not want Iran to “slow down its nuclear project.” As he said on Face The Nation, he insists (as the proud owner of some 75-200 nuclear weapons!) that Iran has to “stop their nuclear program.” Period.

They must give up the right to nuclear power completely because Iran’s government is “messianic, apocalyptic, extreme regime….”

As for Hassan Rowhani, Netanyahu says, even before he is sworn in, that he is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and he, Netanyahu, is not fooled.

But he is scared that everyone else is fooled and that the war option is, in Melman’s words, “buried even deeper.”

And so he has gotten the Israel lobby to go to work. The name of the game is pretending the Iranian election never happened, that everything is the same, and that more sanctions and, when they fail to accomplish Netanyahu’s goals, military action is the only answer.

If you doubt that is the plan, check out the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC’s) latest video message. It is less than two minutes long but it still manages to blame Iran for virtually every problem afflicting the region today, from Syria to Sudan, stating that “the Islamic Republic casts a dark shadow of hate, terror and oppression in the region….And all the while Iran is racing to build a nuclear weapons capability.”  There is, of course, no mention of the Iranian election. And that is the key point: Iran won’t change. It can’t change. Be afraid, be very afraid. The video ends:

We must act now to prevent Iran from becoming even more dangerous. Contact your Member of Congress and urge them to increase sanctions on Iran before it’s too late.

That is increase sanctions now to let Iran know that anything  Rowahani does short of meeting Netanyahu’s demands for total surrender on the nuclear issue is of no interest to us.

Will Congress heed that message? Will it follow AIPAC and Netanyahu’s lead and reject any possibility that the new Iranian leadership should be heard out before piling on new sanctions?  Will it continue to demand that President Obama reject the idea of relaxing sanctions no matter what Iran offers?

To those questions the answers are yes, yes and yes.  The 2014 election season has begun and those donors close to AIPAC are of critical importance to Democrats. As for Republicans, they believe military  force is the answer to most foreign problems and, unlike Democrats, don’t make Israel the big exception to their overall approach to foreign policy.

Obama, on the other hand, clearly does not want war.  As I’ve written before, I believe that he allows Israel to do whatever it wants to in the West Bank to make it easier to say no to attacking Iran. All his appeasing of Netanyahu is designed to build up the credit with the Israeli people, if not Netanyahu, so he is both able to resist Netanyahu’s pleas that we go to war and to forbid Israel (our largest aid recipient) from doing so itself. That is unfortunate but it’s better than both enabling the oppression of the Palestinians and  becoming embroiled in another Middle East war.

Of course, it would be infinitely better to stop facilitating the occupation and say no to war with Iran too. But, get serious. As we can see from Secretary of State John Kerry’s failed peace mission, that will not happen due to the U.S. refusal to put direct pressure on Israel. But we can avoid a third Middle East war in a decade. And that is critical.

This post appeared on MJ Rosenberg’s blog on July 17th.

About M.J. Rosenberg

M.J. Rosenberg served as a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow with Media Matters Action Network, and prior to that worked on Capitol Hill for various Democratic members of the House and Senate for 15 years. He was also a Clinton political appointee at USAID. In the early 1980s, he was editor of AIPACs weekly newsletter Near East Report. From 1998-2009, he was director of policy at Israel Policy Forum. You can follow his work at mjayrosenberg.com.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 20 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. For all the talk that “arabs only understand violence”. Obviously it is Israel that only understand violence. Netanyahus brazen psychopathy and lust for war is THE threat to world peace.
    God knows what Netanyahu will do to get his war-schemes to prevail. False flag attacks on american soil?

    And please stop sucking up for Obama that ‘he doesnt want war’. What Obama have already done against Iran is considered act of war!

    • @Just – - Obama in fact does not want war. But he may be forced into an attack on Iran, thanks to Israel lobby and its blocking of any nuclear deal with Iran.

  2. US Citizen says:

    All Bob Scheiffer or anyone on that panel had to say, if they had the balls and were not cowed by AIPAC and the Israel Lobby, to Netanyahoo is this: “And tell us Prime Minister when Israel intends to sign the NNPT which Iran has done already. Please tell us when Israel will allow IAEA inspections as Iran has done because if Israel wants Iranian nuclear transparency then Israel better be just as transparent. And as long as Israel defends nuclear ambiguity as ‘strategic advantage’, Iran can also defend it’s nuclear ambiguity as ‘strategic advantage’. Iran is sovereign state and is allowed under the NNPT to enrich uranium. How do you response to that Mr. Netanyahoo?” And watch Netanyahoo squirm, deflect, and lie on American television. Our “journalists” never really do their job and that is the shameful thing here, they never ask the hard questions, not even Bob Schieffer. For shame.

    • Shingo says:

      I’d prefer he asked Netenyahu why anyone should take him seriously, given that his predictions Iran would have a nuke every sux months for the last 20 years has been false – and the fact that his own intelligence agencies as well as all US intelligence agencies refute his claim that Iran is producing nukes.

    • @US Citizen. Bravo. And a shame it is indeed. And of course dangerous to national security.

  3. Ismail says:

    “…As I’ve written before, I believe that he allows Israel to do whatever it wants to in the West Bank to make it easier to say no to attacking Iran. All his appeasing of Netanyahu is designed to build up the credit with the Israeli people, if not Netanyahu, so he is both able to resist Netanyahu’s pleas that we go to war and to forbid Israel (our largest aid recipient) from doing so itself….”

    I disagree with this.

    What’s this with getting the Israeli public on his (Obama’s) side? Like Netanyahu and his coven, already practiced at manipulating that (increasingly smaller) portion of the Israeli public that doesn’t automatically sign onto his paranoid and bellicose worldview, will be challenged by an Israeli electorate grateful enough for Obama’s imprimatur to efface the Arabs from Palestine that they will ignore their leadership’s cheerleading for war with Iran? In what world does this sort of hondling with a national public actually exist?

    “Gee, Obama doesn’t give us grief about the checkpoints and the colonies. I guess he’s not an antisemite after all. So if he says Iran’s off limits, that’s good enough for me”.

    Really?

  4. Shingo says:

    There is nothing new about Netanyahu’s warnings.

    Actually there is. This is the first time anyone has suggested that Irsn us now going down the route of producing plutonium nukes, which again , there is not a scrap of evidence to support.

    Not even the wackiest of theoried until has alluded to that claim.

    And whet has Bibbi also rattled, is that Russia and China refused to pass new resolutions at the UNSC against Iran’s missile testing. Russia and Chins have had enough of pandering to Washington on Iran.

  5. Rusty Pipes says:

    Iran’s new leader a “wolf in sheep’s clothing?” You’d think Netanyahu would have vetted this fear mongering speech with the Foreign Ministry or Reut before using such imagery. How many more times will Israel cry “wolf” before Americans tune out?

  6. How many more times will Israel cry “wolf” before Americans tune out?

    I don’t want us to “tune out” – I want us to become painfully aware of what is going on with the lobby’s purchase of our venal politicians and vote them out of office. All it needs is a handful of these politicians to visibly fall because of their support for Israel’s wars, and the rest will trample over each other in their rush to the door.

    Now, more than ever before, with the EU starting to make some moves, and the BDS starting to get more popular, a rare opportunity may have presented itself to awaken the American populace to what is being done to them by traitors in our midst. Antiwar sentiment has been steadily rising, and will soon reach a crescendo. The pain of unemployment and poverty at home is reaching unbearable heights. We just need to connect the dots and make our fellow citizens aware of the causal relationship of one with the other, and the tidal waves will come crashing to the shores.

    Pitchfork and torch time!

  7. Taxi says:

    “They [the Iranians]have taken heed of the red line that I sketched out at the U.N. ”
    link to youtube.com

    Oh boy, someone please tell Netanyahu that his UN “red line” speech is the most embarrassing moment of his political career. Well, that and the charge that he and his wife Sarah stole the Prime Ministerial silverware when they left office the first time round.

  8. piotr says:

    Someone who did not forget high school physics must find Netanyahu revelations a true learning experience.

    First, plutonium as “enriched uranium”. Second, ballistic missiles so deceptively slow that they reach America over the course of several years. I guess they will be camouflaged as drifting clouds. With pistachio flavor. I suspect those are fantasies induced by ice-cream deprivation.

  9. David Nelson says:

    Apparently no one gave the Prime Minister the memo that his September performance at the UN was a flop. lol.

    Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of a foreign government is advising agents of that government (AIPAC) to push America into a war neither the American President nor the American people want. This is extremely foul behavior. Our politicians should be having hernias over this man’s ingratitude toward the security guarantees the American nation provides to Israel. And to be urging us into a war that would be financially and militarily disastrous for America. Who is the real enemy here? Some person of high standing should lecture Mr. Netanyahu about how damaging his incessant war crying is to Israeli interests in the US.

    If anyone thinks the Iraq war was a disaster for the US position in the region, an Iran war will end in a tenfold disaster and the eventual US retreat. It is ludicrous to be speaking of a war against Iran, clearly a war not in the US interest in terms of economics or prestige. America in the Middle East is already the bully that no one likes, we already have soldiers who cannot deal with their PTSD, we already have Abu Gharaib and extraordinary rendition, we already have an NSA recording and violating the details of our ordinary lives, what new forms of insults to the American people and our ideals will this new war for Israel bring?

    Netanyahu is full of it if he thinks he hasn’t yet lost this argument. There is no will to fight his stupid war here in America. He needs to go back home and learn to live in peace, not through domination, but through mutual agreements– Just like everybody else.

    It is Netanyahu and his government who must yield. It is he and Israel who must offer up concessions. He and they are the obstacle to peace.

    • Shingo says:

      Apparently no one gave the Prime Minister the memo that his September performance at the UN was a flop. lol.

      Actually, it became a viral comedy skit, so it was kind of a cult classic.

  10. Nevada Ned says:

    A lot of Mondoweiss readers are missing the big picture here. Of course, what Netanyahu is saying about Iran as a threat to the US is a bunch of lies. Of course. But why do US politicians pretend to believe them? Yes, the influence of the Israel lobby is important. But there is another reason: to keep countries in the US empire.

    Iran had a revolution in 1979, overthrew the Shah, and left the US empire. Under the Shah, Iran was a US oil colony. After the Shah was overthrown in 1979, Iran left the US empire.
    The US has been trying ever since then to regain control over Iran and its vast oil supply.
    Control over the oil of the Middle East would give the US enormous power: power over Japan and China and Europe (for example).

    For a couple of decades now, this sorry charade has been played out repeatedly: Israel claims Iran is just about to develop a nuclear weapon. The US plays along with this story, and slaps sanctions on Iran for refusing to give up its (nonexistent) nuclear weapons program. From the US point of view, economic sanctions (really, an economic blockade) of Iran are the real goal. And in recent years the US has had success in getting Europe to join the economic blockade of Iran.
    Will it work on Iran? It did once already, in 1953, when the US enforced economic sanctions on the Iranian government, paving the way for the CIA to overthrow the elected Iranian government and installed the Shah, a pro-US military dictator.
    The goal of sanctions is to wreck the economy, causing the Iranian population to stop supporting the Iranian government.
    It is worth noting that the US has had an economic blockade against Cuba since 1960 (over a half century). Although the US has not succeeded in overthrowing the Cuban revolution, it has done a lot of damage to the Cuban economy.
    And economic sanctions (and a contra war) were part of the US campaign to overthrow the Sandinistas in Nicaragua after the 1979 revolution, a campaign that was successful.

    So that’s the big picture: keeping countries in the US empire.
    Of course, you don’t see this discussed in the mainstream media, where even the existence of a US empire is denied.

    • @Nevada Ned – - Does China “control” the oil of Saudi Arabia, in months where China is the largest buyer of Saudi crude?

      US hostility to Iran has EVERYTHING to do with efforts to “protect” Israel, and NOTHING to do with gaining “control” of Iranian oil.

  11. Sumud says:

    They must give up the right to nuclear power completely because Iran’s Israel’s government is “messianic, apocalyptic, extreme regime….”

    There we go, fixed that up for you Netanyahu..

  12. Netanyahu had pressed Obama to set a “red line” for amount of 20% enriched uranium Iran needed to stockpile, to trigger US attack. Obama refused.

    Now, Netanyahu presses the plutonium issue.

    We should remember that the US very stupidly forced Iran to begin enriching uranium to 20%.

  13. piotr says:

    Why do American politicians pretend to believe Netanyahu?

    The issue if our politician are idiots or merely pretend to be is academic: what matters is how they behave, not what they think. The fault is the whole scheme of control of the public discourse that bestows labels “mainstream” (safe to say) and “radical” (you will not be a serious person ever again). Loud disbelief of Natanyahu is radical.

    In the same time, proposing to boycott Olympics in Russia if the Russian Federation does not send Snowden in chains back to USA is “mainstream”. Perhaps very stupid, but a Senator spouting something like that has “his heart in the right place”. And a functional brain is not a”mainstream” requirement.

  14. @piotr – - American politicians seen as stooges of Israel lobby tend to enjoy good press in the US. Foolish ranting against Russia also can win points.

    • piotr says:

      Today I read a columnist in WP chiding Rep. Steve Cohen for the following infraction: “Cohen may have created a whole new issue for himself, telling a female reporter, “You’re very attractive, but I’m not talking about it,” according to the reporter, Real Clear Politics’ Caitlin Huey-Burns.

      One really should write a book or a web resource for things that are OK to say and those that are not.

      OK: “We should deal with Snowden like Charles XII of Sweden dealt with Patkul (actually, this would be criticized, as no mainstream person would understand what is it about)

      Wrong: admitting that a female member of the species is a bipedal mammalian. (I think that all female bipedal mammalians are ipso facto attractive, and in a certain age bracket they are very attractive.)