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Neocons and AIPAC both want war– but AIPAC has the Dems

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on 24 Comments
Elliott Abrams
Elliott Abrams, at Council on Foreign Relations

The other day Alex Kane linked a piece by Jim Lobe explaining the role of the core Israel lobby and the neoconservatives in the push for war with Iran. It’s such a great peeling of the onion, I needed to excerpt it. Lobe:

There’s an important point that I’ve been wanting to write about for some time and still hope to at some greater length: while the Iraq invasion was an adventure championed by neo-conservatives, as well as aggressive nationalists and the Christian Right, the conventional Israel lobby, led by AIPAC, did not play a leading role in the drive to that war (although Netanyahu, who is very close to neo-conservatives, was quite enthusiastic and even testified before Congress in its favor). What I think happened was that then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who had long asserted that Iran was far more dangerous to Israel that Iraq, was quite skeptical of the idea. But, after becoming convinced that Bush was bound and determined to invade, he got on the bandwagon and told AIPAC to do the same in order to preserve his close ties with and influence on Bush. But AIPAC and other major lobby actors never fought for the war with the nearly same conviction and enthusiasm as the neo-cons.

With respect to Iran, I think we see a different dynamic, one in which the main impetus for war is coming from the political leadership of Israel and the lobby here, with the neo-cons acting for now as the most visible point of the spear. And because the lobby enjoys much more influence with Democrats than the neo-cons ever have, it’s a significantly more formidable force, as recent votes in Congress make clear.

While neo-conservatives and the lobby overlap and often share common goals, they do not always agree. Neo-cons typically think they know better than the Israeli government (and the U.S. government, of course) what is in its interests, while organizations like AIPAC tend to defer more (however reluctantly, given the increasingly right-wing sympathies of its leadership) to Jerusalem’s judgment. You can see this in the contrasting attitudes of the two groups to the situation in Syria: the neo-cons are united, as they have been for years, in wanting to see Assad deposed by any means necessary… AIPAC, while it clearly prefers such an outcome, seems much less committed to it, no doubt reflecting the ambivalence on the issue that exists in Jerusalem.

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24 Responses

  1. Dan Crowther
    Dan Crowther
    February 26, 2012, 11:52 am

    Keith Weissman’s “confession” kind of confirms this – he says “What the Jews’ war will be is Iran,” he says. “Not Iraq.”

    • seafoid
      February 26, 2012, 3:56 pm

      I can’t stop thinking of all the decent people in Iran and what Zionism is going to attempt to do to their country.

      “the other night you said you might try to kill that thing I love
      it is too strong for you”

  2. LeaNder
    February 26, 2012, 12:50 pm

    How to challenge the 10.000 AIPAC activist invading Capitol Hill in three weeks? Would it help at all?

  3. Les
    February 26, 2012, 1:44 pm

    It’s time for Occupy AIPAC.

  4. Dan Crowther
    Dan Crowther
    February 26, 2012, 3:38 pm

    One thing is for sure – this story and a thousand more like it will not sway so called liberals away from the democratic party. “rachel maddow politics” are much more important than being anti-war/anti-imperialist.

    My version of Maddow:

    Wiki leaks today revealed that US soldiers executed an Iraqi family in cold blood…….now on to our top story, our continuing coverage of Uganda’s anti-gay legislation….

    Say what you want, you know im right

  5. seafoid
    February 26, 2012, 4:25 pm

    Israel wants to destroy Iran because it has judged that Iran may at some point in the future be a threat to Israel. This throws 60 years of international law out the window and will be enough to condemn Israel to unwarranted attack in the name of vague undefined threats in the future. Only one of these these needs to work for Israel to collapse. Israel really should operate within the law. It doesn’t make sense for 5.5 million Zionist Jews to think they’ll have the whip hand in the region forever.

    • OlegR
      February 27, 2012, 7:45 am

      /Israel wants to destroy Iran because it has judged that Iran may at some point in the future be a threat to Israel./
      False Israel does not want Iran destroyed it wants Iran to stop threatening Israel’s
      existence while developing Nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
      And financing Israel’s enemies in the near circle.

      We get a bit paranoid when a theocratic dictatorship with apocalyptic tradition says that it will wipe our state from the face of the world.
      I am sure you can understand why.

      • Chaos4700
        February 27, 2012, 9:12 am

        There’s only one country in the Middle East (if one considers Pakistan to be part of Asia proper) that is an existential nuclear threat to anyone, and that’s Israel. You have HUNDREDS of nukes aimed at Muslim (and Christian) population centers throughout the region. And by some accounts, that includes European cities as well!

        Somebody who moved from the Soviet bloc to specifically cast his lot in with the fanatical Jewish theocracy that is Zionism has no room to criticize Iran.

      • seafoid
        February 27, 2012, 9:36 am

        “theocratic dictatorship with apocalyptic tradition ”


        How many Iranians must be murdered to appease the Golden Calf of the settlers?

  6. jewishgoyim
    February 26, 2012, 4:57 pm

    AIPAC stayed on the sideline because it was not needed. The main thrust for invasion was coming from within the Bush administration. And no one wanted to draw any attention to the fact that the Iraq war was in Israel’s interest as described in the Clean Break Report in 1996 by Perle/Wurmser/Feith.

    So I’d agree with Lobe about AIPAC not being at the forefront for the Iraq invasion. His explanation about Sharon not supporting the Iraq war from the get go is just plain wrong from an August 2002 guardian article “Israel Urges US to strike” (there may be better stuff to prove this but it does the job) :

    “Any postponement of an attack on Iraq at this stage will serve no purpose,” Raanan Gissin, a senior Sharon adviser, said yesterday.

    “It will only give Saddam Hussein more of an opportunity to accelerate his program of weapons of mass destruction.”

    Israeli intelligence officials had new evidence that Iraq was speeding up efforts to produce biological and chemical weapons, he said.

    I’m almost sure there was a direct quote from Sharon to this effect too. I’ve never seen this idea that he had been skeptical or anything. I’d love to see Lobe back it up. It was clear that Israel was discreet in the run-up to war. But “skeptical” at any point? Where does this one come from? And I respect and I am a huge fan of Jim Lobe but on this one, it’s just not what I remember.

    • jewishgoyim
      February 26, 2012, 7:45 pm

      Huh. Replying to my own post here but I followed the link to Lobe’s article and I would suggest people interested read the second comment by Stephen Sniegoski who wrote a book about the rise up to war because he says too that Jim Lobe is pushing it but characterizing Sharon as “skeptical”.

      “But I differ somewhat with Jim Lobe’s view that Sharon “was quite skeptical” of the neocons’ plan to attack Iraq. Sharon and most Israeli strategists had held that Iran was far more dangerous to Israel than Iraq. But the neocons saw attacking Iraq as merely the first step to attacking Iran and Israel’s other enemies as part of the reconfiguration of the entire Middle East.”

      A possible explanation is that Jim Lobe is talking about the period right after 9/11. I’d be surprised if Iraq being the target had ever been questioned by Sharon publicly. We have to remember that Iraq was the natural target after years of beating the drum of war against it.

      I do remember reading that “the real threat was Iran” but Iraq was the low hanging fruit militarily. A very good starting point for “securing the realm” (subtitle of the Clean Break Report). Did Sharon try to talk to the Americans about taking Iran first? I’d be surprised… Did Sharon think at some point that having the Americans not invading a huge Muslim country so close to Israel was not a good thing? Knowing what we know of the guy, it does not make any sense. So it is clear that from 9/11 on, Sharon was behind the Iraq attack and not skeptical at all. I think Jim Lobe is flat out WRONG.

      • jewishgoyim
        February 26, 2012, 8:05 pm

        Me replying to me again but my last edit did not go through:

        Sharon knew from the get go (9/11) that Iran was a much higher hanging fruit than Iraq. And you can be sure he was all for invading and taking down Iraq as a power. So I’m quite confident that from 9/11 to the invasion, Sharon has been “skeptical” about invading Iraq for zero second.

        This all stuff about “Iran being the real threat” (to Israel of course…), “Real men go to Tehran” is just neocons’ snobbish “smarter than thou” daydreaming. It was never in the cards. And I doubt Sharon is a huge daydreamer. (addendum: notwithstanding his present situation to which I did not intend to refer originally. For an average person I probably would have changed the wording but really I don’t feel the need here.)

    • Thomson Rutherford
      Thomson Rutherford
      February 26, 2012, 9:14 pm

      AIPAC, CPMAJA, WINEP, and other elements of the Jewish-American Israel Lobby did not sit on the sidelines in the run-up to the unprovoked invasion of Iraq. They were major players, both publicly and behind the scenes, in the stampede to war. This should have been clear to anyone paying attention during the whole year of 2002.

      If you really doubt this, reread Mearsheimer and Walt, The Israel Lobby (2007). With unbiased eyes, pay attention to the text and the cited references (many more could have been included and weren’t).

      I have no idea why Jim Lobe wants to draw a sharp distinction between neocons and the Israel Lobby. The neoconservative movement was initiated and has always been dominated by right-leaning Jews whose primary focus has been Israel. The movement’s leaders have always been associated with the Israel Lobby, in one way or another. For many decades now, the Lobby has politically dominated foreign policy positions of both parties – Democrats and Republicans. The implementation of those policies has been achieved in the Republican Party by neoconservative Zionists (not all Jewish) and in the Democratic Party by “liberal Zionists” (an oxymoron).

      I do think that in his career Jim Lobe has tended to devote more attention to the neoconservative movement than to the broader Israel Lobby. Neoconservatism is one arm of the Israel Lobby, but not separate from it.

      Neoconservatives and the Israel Lobby are all part of Zionism in America – a great ill that has befallen our country. They consistently favor and seek to advance any military intervention that they think will work to Israel’s advantage – including the ill-fated war on Iraq and its people.

      But I certainly agree that the Israel Lobby, led by AIPAC, has been much more open this time in publicly pushing for war with Iran. As the years have passed in the post-9/11 era, the Lobby has become ever more brazenly emboldened. One dreadful anti-Zionist hope, held by many, is that the Lobby’s hubris will result in such overreach that its house will crumble down upon it.

      • Tuyzentfloot
        February 27, 2012, 8:25 am

        I have no idea why Jim Lobe wants to draw a sharp distinction between neocons and the Israel Lobby.

        But you mention Mearsheimer and Walt, and the explanation may be that Lobe uses a similar approach. They define the Israel Lobby as a rather loose association of groups and they emphasize that they don’t always agree amongst themselves. One can consider this as “avoiding the trap of thinking they’re all the same”. For one thing they consider the Iraq war a neocon design and not an AIPAC/Israeli design, which is what Lobe does as well.

        Probably neither of them would use the metaphor “an arm of the lobby” because it suggests an internal structure they believe is not there.

    • Anar Green
      Anar Green
      February 27, 2012, 9:39 am

      “AIPAC stayed on the sideline because it was not needed.”

      Indeed. So many people around Cheney and Rumsfeld! But I also wonder why, despite the fact that the neo-cons and AIPAC do not surround President Cheney anymore, they have become more brazen. Is Obama particularly weak, or is the target (Iran) easier to turn into a menace? You’d think that the sheer disaster that has befallen the States would make them ease down, but no!
      The explanation might be simpler, though: once you’ve hired rabid war-dogs (see the Jeffrey Wiesenfeld article) to push your war, it’s hard to pull them back from the frenzy.

  7. Kathleen
    February 26, 2012, 5:25 pm

    Abrams spinning the facts. Before the invasion of Iraq in Aipacs action alert section there was a continual push for the invasion of Iraq. Most of the neo cons are associated with Aipac, Jinsa other pro pro Israel organizations.

    Phil/Others today on Chris Hayes Sunday program up so much there about Iran, I/P conflict, Syria. Jeremy Scahill on with Anne Marie Slaughter who went inflammatory rhetoric and Scahill just brought her down with one fact after another. Great 2 hour program. Lots there. Chris Hayes did allow AMS to repeat the debunked “Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map” hooey. Chris Hayes also asked AMS if the US could do anything to stop an attack on Iran by Israel if they decide to do it. Slaughter “no” But right after that show I watched Fareed Zakaria’s GPS program. He had Dr. Zbig on who had plenty to say about US middle east foreign policy with Iran and Israel. He made it clear that he thinks Obama really needs to draw the line with Netanyahu on March 5th. That the US needs to let Israel know we do not support the attack in very clear terms. That we will not follow them into such an action and will not allow them to fly through US controlled airspace. Lots of material on both of those shows today. Encourage others to watch and listen.

    Scahill said “the elephant in the room is Israels stockpilies of nuclear weapons” Good programs to watch. Both of them. As well as General Dempsey on Fareed Zakaria last Sunday

  8. Justice Please
    Justice Please
    February 26, 2012, 5:25 pm

    Solving this problem should be really easy for Americans:

    Elect Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich and other politicians (regardless of party affiliation) who are prepared to put the US national interest above foreign interventionists.

    In addition, mount Occupy Washington with 3 million+ people, all united in one order for their public servants: ‘Don’t attack Iran’. And since that doesn’t require any actual work from the government, add ‘use the intelligence agencies of the US to detect any false-flag shenanigans Israel might play’.

    Finally your tax dollars would effect something positive regarding Iran.

  9. Patrick
    February 26, 2012, 10:38 pm

    “With respect to Iran, … the main impetus for war is coming from the political leadership of Israel and the lobby here, with … the lobby enjoy[ing] much more influence with Democrats than the neo-cons ever have”

    Surely these Democrats are going to take note of the price of gas in the country is hitting new highs (in fact an all time high for this time of year). This is something that really matters to their constituents. And they are also bound to realize that high gas and oil prices are putting Obama’s and their own re-elections in serious jeopardy. They must also have some understanding, however dim, that starting a war with Iran is going exacerbate this situation tremendously.

  10. Sin Nombre
    Sin Nombre
    February 27, 2012, 12:16 am

    I think it’s not all that important to make an issue of Lobe’s comments to the effect that the Israelis were not as full-throated behind the attack on Iraq as they are about attacking Iran, essentially because that’s the difference: The degree of open throatedness they devoted to the former as opposed to what they doing now.

    Look at it from Israel’s/Sharon’s point of view back before the Iraq invasion:

    First, like everyone else, they weren’t as stupid as Bush and likely thought about the idea that deposing Saddam meant empowering Iran.

    Second, for all his bluster Saddam was more inward-looking and didn’t devote great resources to helping those trying to whack Israel.

    Third, the Israeli’s were in new territory in terms of openly inciting the U.S. to attack another ME state: Thus, they had to weigh the limited benefit of such an attack to themselves against the downside of seeming to manipulate the U.S. into that war, with all its uncertainties at the time.

    Fourth, they probably had a very uncertain understanding of Saddam’s capabilities to attack them if the U.S. attacked Saddam: Both as regards missiles, and perhaps even chem/bio weapons.

    Fifth: To some degree one suspects some of the Lobby elements in the U.S. were already more forward-leaning than Sharon was, and not instantly callable to heel. Remember, there was some discontent with Sharon for evacuating Gaza, and some of those U.S. lobby elements were more sure of themselves in being able to push the Iraq invasion without blowback than Sharon knew.

    And on and on. Thus of course Israel was at first more hesitant about the wisdom of the U.S. attacking Iraq, and then more sotto voce about it even when the supported it, which they may well have seen as just supporting what was going to happen regardless of what they said.

    • OlegR
      February 27, 2012, 7:50 am

      That actually is more accurate depiction of things.
      I remember the debates in our press about the wisdom of such an operation.
      And you have left out that during this time Israel was preoccupied with the second
      intifada and really didn’t care about anything else all that much.
      Suicide bombings tend to have such an effect on people.

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