Many observers have expressed concern that Israel could sabotage the Iran deal: fomenting a war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, and soon, so that the Israel lobby flips out in the U.S. and Iran and the United States are suddenly at dagger points rather than at the table.
Trita Parsi (of the National Iranian American Council) and Paul Pillar (the CIA veteran) articulate the threat clearly in a piece at Huffington Post:
Israel has been pushing this angle for several months. In February, 28 US lawmakers came to Israel’s aid and wrote the Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-moon, demanding that the UN stop Hezbollah from rearming. The letter accused the UN of failing to enforce resolutions, including one that requires the “disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.”
“The violence in the area caused by Hezbollah is horrific, and it results from the failure of the United Nations to enforce Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701,” the lawmakers wrote.
The case for preventive military action against Hezbollah was recently made by Ambassador Dore Gold, who is considered close to Netanyahu and was just appointed director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Accusing the UN of having failed to stop Hezbollah, Gold argues that “Either the IDF will have to destroy the weapons now being stored in southern Lebanon, or let Hezbollah fire thousands of rockets into Israel. What would you do?“…
Clearly, if Israel and Hezbollah do go to war, killing the Iran agreement would not be the only motivation. But the prospect that such a war would greatly support the rhetoric of those in the United States arguing against the deal with Iran would certainly be a major consideration in the minds of Israeli policymakers. The temptation of being able to kill the Iran agreement may become the deciding factor in Israel’s decision-making.
Gold is of course the new head of the Foreign Ministry under Benjamin Netanyahu. He likened Lebanon to Gaza in the Facebook post that Pillar and Parsi quote, 12 days ago, and said that Lebanese civilians were now legitimate targets:
Hezbollah, supplied, trained, and funded by Iran, is building new military strongholds in Lebanese border villages. By doing so, Hezbollah has turned Lebanese civilians into human shields – much like Hamas did in the Gaza Strip. Hezbollah’s rearmament is a blatant violation of Resolution 1701. Is anyone stopping this?
UNIFIL, the UN force in Lebanon, was supposed to oversee the implementation of Resolution 1701. But do any of you think UNIFIL is going to enter a Shiite village and remove rockets stored in houses?
The UN is thus leaving Israel with a horrible choice if war breaks out again: Either the IDF will have to destroy the weapons now being stored in southern Lebanon, or let Hezbollah fire thousands of rockets into Israel. What would you do? Under the laws of war, Israel will have every right to destroy a house that has become a legitimate military target. Shouldn’t the UN avert this outcome by taking action now? Don’t hold your breath.
The issue here of course is American passivity, the ways that the United States would be folded into Israel’s plans. Writes a friend:
The next “cutting the grass” to the north and on a pretty tight schedule, this summer. It mustn’t leave time for the powers to ratify the P+5 agreement with Iran. Netanyahu’s design, Parsi and Pillar suggest, is to draw Hezbollah into attacking Israel, by provocations it can’t but respond to (tricky enough to be represented as unprovoked in the American MSM). Iran won’t let Hezbollah suffer defeat without a show of support; even if they allow it, Israel can manufacture evidence of support – and then: “Remember, Obama, you have our back.” End of treaty, goal achieved: everlasting hostility between the US and Iran. (Parsi and Pillar are separate planets – I don’t think they have collaborated before – they must be strongly impressed by the danger.)
This possibility requires an understanding of the power of the Israel lobby in its many manifestations. My friend cites the New York Times’s choices here as suspicious. The paper has a piece today on new disagreements between the French and the Iranians over the inspection protocols in the prospective deal; the piece includes a French claim that the U.S. was too flexible in the negotiations, as well as accounts of the “discord” that the Iranian leadership faces in its own ranks. And there’s a second piece by veteran Iran panic monger David Sanger reporting that Wendy Sherman, the chief State Department negotiator for the US in the P5+1 agreement, intends to quit immediately after the treaty deadline but before ratification, maybe to go to work for her old friend Hillary Clinton, and this means that all the top U.S. negotiators of the deal will have left the administration and so who is going to work out the details– suggesting a lack of commitment to the deal inside the government.
We described the New York Times’ recumbent role in the Lebanon warmaking process 2 weeks ago. I see that Belen Fernandez at Jacobin has also scored the paper of record.
In addition to repeatedly referencing the general views of “Israel,” “Israelis,” and “Israeli military officials and experts,” [Isabel] Kershner offers five direct quotes from representatives of the state and military apparatus. Team Hezbollah, on the other hand, is permitted one solitary defender, an anonymous “Hezbollah sympathizer” who points out that Israel has killed civilians in Lebanon.