As the Iran talks go to the wire, we can only marvel at the political fireworks we are seeing.
To being with, there’s the Wall Street Journal report that Israel was spying on the US talks and leaking details to friendly members of congress. Jeff Stein follows up at Newsweek that the revelation has angered many in the administration, and the rage goes at the Israel lobby:
One former U.S. intelligence operative with long, firsthand familiarity with Israeli operations called the revelation “appalling but not surprising,” especially under Netanyahu…
“The fact that there is such manipulation of our institutions by a so-called ally must be exposed, and the ‘useful idiots’ in [the U.S.] government who toe the Likud line will someday be looked back upon as men and women who sacrificed the U.S. national interest for a foreign ideology—Likud right-wing Zionism,” the operative said, on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
“We know publicly that the administration is seething,” he added, “but I can assure you that behind closed doors the gloves are coming off. Bibi is in the administration’s crosshairs. If this is what is being allowed to leak publicly, you can bet that, behind the scenes, folks both in the White House and the foreign policy-intel community [are prepared to] act on that anger.”
This is not the end of it, he predicted. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which critics say has morphed from a powerful “pro-Israel” lobby to a powerful pro-Likud lobby over the years, will be Obama officials’ next target.
“I’m betting there are going to be some willing leakers now about stories such as AIPAC’s operations against Congress,” the former operative said.
AIPAC is working hard against the Iran talks. It has announced six conditions for a deal with Iran that are all deal-breakers.
MJ Rosenberg echoes my own opinion of Obama right now. He’s risen to the occasion:
Stop saying #BarackObama is not gutsy. First president to smash mouth #israel and its lobby since 1956!
The Jerusalem Post reports that leading Democrats who Israel and its friends hoped would swing against the Iran talks are sticking by the president, among them Tim Kaine. Though according to Newsweek, the Virginian Senator is covering his bases on the spying controversy, standing up for the Israelis:
But if Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, is any barometer, the Israelis have little to worry about.
“I just don’t look at that as spying,” Kaine said of the Journal’s allegations. “Their deep existential interest in such a deal, that they would try to figure out anything that they could, that they would have an opinion on it…I don’t find any of that that controversial.”
Kaine is a Hillary Clinton supporter who has been mentioned as a likely vice-presidential pick. He is also a J Street Democrat, He has been supported by the liberal Zionist lobby group– which opposes AIPAC inside the establishment– as a possible savior of the peace process.
Another important report in Newsweek says that Netanyahu alienated a crucial constituency he needed to block an Iran deal: black Congresspeople. They disliked his upstaging of Obama, most of them boycotted his speech, and they saw his racebaiting on election day:
According to aides, the South Carolina Democrat [James Clyburn] bluntly told [Israeli legislator Yuli] Edelstein he regarded the prime minister’s upcoming speech as an “affront to America’s first black president.”…
But for black Democrats like Clyburn, it was Netanyahu’s coded election-day warning that Israel’s Arab citizens were headed to the polls “in droves” to vote him out of office that pushed them from anger to outrage. Netanyahu later apologized for his remark, but his contrition appeared to have no effect on Clyburn and company. “The Congressional Black Caucus is gone,” a Democratic congressional aide told Newsweek, referring to its support for Israel under Netanyahu.
As negotiators from the U.S., Iran and five major powers close in on a framework nuclear accord in Geneva to meet an end-of-March deadline, Netanyahu’s loss of black support on Capitol Hill probably means he’s lost his gamble to create a way for Congress to pass a bill that would block an agreement. “Bibi,” a congressional aide said, using Netanyahu’s nickname, “ensured there will be no veto-proof majority in the House.”
Reporting the struggle between Congress and the White House, the Daily Beast quotes congresspeople saying the spying allegations are no big deal. But the administration’s leaks are!
A senior congressional staffer called Obama administration allegations of Israeli spying “deeply irresponsible innuendo and destructive hearsay,” telling The Daily Beast that “these unsubstantiated allegations are all the more galling in light of the fact that this Administration has leaked, consistently and aggressively, details of Iran proposals to the front page of The New York Times and other news outlets, as well as to sympathetic think-tankers and pro-Iranian groups outside of government.”
It’s crazy, huh. Like if the government was going after the U.S. communist party for disloyalty but most of Congress were strong devoted Communists who shared the party’s loyalty to Moscow. I see the upside, this is the decadent period of the Israel lobby.
J Street is supporting Obama in freezing Netanyahu:
While many in our community accepted [Netanyahu’s] walkbacks [of his two-state repudiation] in hopes that we could return to business as usual, the White House took a reasonable, principled stance and said that it’s time to rethink our approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Then it came under attack for speaking the truth.
Given the Prime Minister’s rejection of two-states, we agree the time has come for a change. We thank President Obama for looking at this issue with open eyes, and vow to back US leaders doing what’s necessary to bring us closer to peace. Join us:
Just now on MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd referenced White House chief of staff Denis McDonough’s speech to J Street last week in which he slammed nearly 50 years of occupation as a politically significant act. Mitchell said that the Israelis are now signalling they will accept some type of Iran deal after all. Todd said that the Israelis are concerned about the Security Council resolution for a Palestinian state that is now inevitable– and seeking to make it as agreeable as possible to themselves, by trying to make Europeans happy. So it all comes down to the Palestinians, doesn’t it?
Speaking of nuclear leaks, people are talking about the recent release by the US government of a Defense Department document showing that the US and Israel were working together on Israel’s development of a hydrogen bomb in the 1980s. The story broke in February on Courthouse News:
[A] researcher has won the release of a decades-old Defense Department report detailing the U.S. government’s extensive help to Israel in that nation’s development of a nuclear bomb.
“I am struck by the degree of cooperation on specialized war making devices between Israel and the US,” said Roger Mattson, a former member of the Atomic Energy Commission technical staff.
The 1987 report, “Critical Technology Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations,” compares the key Israeli facilities developing nuclear weapons to Los Alamos and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, the principal U.S. laboratories that developed the bomb for the United States.
The researcher who sprung the doc, Grant Smith of IRMEP (Institute for Research: Middle East Policy), tells me that “the report was never classified. Never ‘top secret.’ But it was tightly controlled and subject to DoD release authority.” Last November Smith wrote a letter to the president and then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging them to release the document. He has no idea if they played any role in the release.
But in a January court response to IRMEP, the Defense Department said it was seeking Israel’s OK before releasing the document.
This Israeli site sees the release as politically significant:
In a development that has largely been missed by mainstream media, the Pentagon early last month quietly declassified a Department of Defense top-secret document detailing Israel’s nuclear program, a highly covert topic that Israel has never formally announced to avoid a regional nuclear arms race, and which the US until now has respected by remaining silent.
Oh and let’s not forget the war party. Bill Kristol on Twitter:
I’m in Israel. Talking to savvy, hardened, matter-of-fact foreign policy professionals. All think Iran deal a truly momentous disaster.
John Bolton in the New York Times op-ed page calls for a joint US Israel military attack on Iran now:
The inescapable conclusion is that Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program. Nor will sanctions block its building a broad and deep weapons infrastructure. The inconvenient truth is that only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor, designed and built by North Korea, can accomplish what is required. Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed.
Rendering inoperable the Natanz and Fordow uranium-enrichment installations and the Arak heavy-water production facility and reactor would be priorities. So, too, would be the little-noticed but critical uranium-conversion facility at Isfahan. An attack need not destroy all of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but by breaking key links in the nuclear-fuel cycle, it could set back its program by three to five years. The United States could do a thorough job of destruction, but Israel alone can do what’s necessary.
Isn’t that what Jeffrey Goldberg was ordering up five years ago?