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Obama wiretapped a cunning and dishonest foreign leader, for the sake of world peace

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The press is reporting criticisms of President Obama for wiretapping Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But Obama did the right and necessary thing.

Let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s say Netanyahu and his allies in the Congress (including many Democrats) had succeeded in sabotaging the Iran Deal this year. What are the possible outcomes? These Israel-loving US politicians claimed they wanted a better deal, but it was plainly impossible. The Russians, for instance, were on board with this deal; they are Iran’s ally, so they would not come back to Vienna to drive a harder bargain.

So there would be no deal. And no doubt: there are rightwing elements within Iran, pushing to go nuclear.  In another five or ten years, Iran gets small nuclear weapons — which completely destabilizes the Middle East. Israel, by now with an even more far-right-wing government, bombs Iran like the Iraq/Osirak strike of 1981. And the far rightists in power in Iran demand retaliation, and we get what is euphemistically called “a limited nuclear exchange.”

Can you imagine how much death destruction and unrest a “limited nuclear exchange” would unleash?

And the US is dragged in with who can say what hellish consequences because, like it or not, America is still  the policeman of the world. Washington tries to hold Israel back, but can’t.

So if you think things are bad now, look at how the Middle East would look in a few years with no Iran Deal. A nuclear exchange. In a volatile nuclearized Middle East, that would drag the U.S. into a spreading regional conflict, which makes the current crisis look like a tea party.

President Obama wasn’t just trying to score political points against a bitter rival in authorizing the wiretap. He was addressing the major threat in the near-to-medium future to not just stability in the Middle East but to overall world peace. The president was very clear about this goal. He did not at any stage say, we’re trying to strengthen the moderates in Iran and bring Iran back to the community of nations. It wasn’t about the Israeli occupation (though it has surely increased world pressure on the occupation). It wasn’t about the American hostages either. It was straightforward: We’re trying to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons in the only way possible, because an Iran with nuclear weapons would destabilize the Middle East.

Obama was trying to do a principled thing, a courageous undertaking that he struggled to get through the Congress, spending considerable political capital to do so. And he did so in the interests first and foremost of the people of the United States.

In trying to stave off this threat to world peace, he used serious tactics, yes — which included wiretaps on the Israeli prime minister. He needed to know what this man was capable of doing.

Remember, Benjamin Netanyahu had come to this country without the invitation of the president, in fact defying the president, and addressed both houses of Congress to oppose the president. This was an unprecedented step by an unprincipled, politically cunning, desperate man, who would, as he demonstrated in March (with racist appeals to Israeli voters), do anything to hold on to his office. Netanyahu sought to compromise US sovereignty, but this is really not about sovereignty in the end; it is about world peace.

For world peace, President Obama had to know what this wily, dishonest man was doing to sink the deal.

P.S. The press and the politicians are missing this story. The Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, says he’ll have a hearing on the spying. Arutz Sheva:

He said his goal would be to “get the facts” about the situation.

“We’re going to play this right down the middle and determine whether or not somebody did something wrong,” Nunes told AP by phone from California….

Earlier on Wednesday, [Israeli] Likud ministers responded angrily to the report and demanded that Israel protest Washington’s action.

And the neocon golden boy, Marco Rubio, condemned the spying publicly, but was caught off-mike saying this is what leaders do.

“We spy on everyone,” Rubio told [South Carolina Rep. Trey] Gowdy, defending the practice of spying on a U.S. ally. “That’s the nature of intelligence.”

“It’s more complicated than the [original Wall Street Journal] story makes it seem,” Rubio added.


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29 Responses

  1. ahadhaadam
    December 31, 2015, 3:04 pm

    The US is not and never has been the world policeman, please stop repeating this silly mantra. Also, the odds of a nuclear exchange would have been very low. At most it would create a detente and curb Israel’s aggression. That would pave the way for real peace in the long run.

    • pabelmont
      December 31, 2015, 9:39 pm

      I tend to agree but given Israel’s propensity to act “crazy” and to talk “crazy” (tendencies which they are proud of and boast about) — a two-nuke M/E might not be a stable stand-off but a destabilized and unpredictable game of double Russian roulette.

      Recall that Israel always says that it listens to its enemies and believes there is danger to it when those enemies speak “danger”. Well, Israel speaks “crazy” and means it as its frequent trashing of Gaza and Lebanon clearly show. Israel is a great and present danger. But since there’s been no Israel/Iran war yet, perhaps the status quo is a good one.

    • JLewisDickerson
      December 31, 2015, 11:02 pm

      RE: “The US is not and never has been the world policeman.” ~

      DAF – Der Sheriff (unzensiert) with English Subtitles
      A searing and pithy allegorical statement about U.S. imperialism by Deutsch Amerikanische Freundshaft (DAF).

      P.S. FROM WIKIPEDIA (Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft): A few months before the 2003 invasion of Iraq D.A.F. released “The Sheriff” . . .

  2. Boomer
    December 31, 2015, 3:05 pm

    re: “Obama was trying to do a principled thing, a courageous undertaking that he struggled to get through the Congress, spending considerable political capital to do so. And he did so in the interests first and foremost of the people of the United States.”

    Yes, he deserves credit for that. (Ironically, it also served Israel’s interests to have a deal with Iran, leaving Israel free to be the only nuclear power in the region, though Israel screamed about it for political reasons. Also ironically, one reason it served our interests is that the sanctions regime was likely to collapse soon anyway, as the world grew weary of our pressure to maintain it.)

    I don’t mind your optimism and good feelings about Obama, since I guess you have to have some hope to keep doing the good work of this site. But I have to ask, what has he actually done to help Palestinians, or to reduce America’s complicity in their oppression?

    I recall seeing someone here describe their hope that after the election in November Obama will actually do something. I guess some people will hope until the next President takes the oath of office.

    • joemowrey
      January 1, 2016, 3:16 pm

      Yes, Boomer. And let’s not forget, Obama himself is a “cunning and dishonest” leader. The current state of horrific instability and unrest throughout the Middle East (and elsewhere) is largely a result of his foreign policy. He currently has started more direct and proxy wars of aggression than any other President in our history. He oversees the extrajudicial murder of scores of innocent men, woman and children on a nearly daily basis.Along with Netanyahu, he should be on trial in the Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and should not be the subject of praise for any of his actions until he is held accountable for his many crimes.

      • Boomer
        January 2, 2016, 6:22 am

        re “He currently has started more direct and proxy wars of aggression than any other President in our history.”

        That may be true (though I haven’t counted), but in fairness we should note that at least they aren’t nearly as big as some of the wars started by some of his predecessors.

  3. Keith
    December 31, 2015, 4:37 pm

    PHIL- “…like it or not, America is still the policeman of the world.”

    Policeman? Has the militarization of the US police gone so far that you can say this with a straight face? A more honest appraisal is that Uncle Sam is the foremost serial killer of nations and people.

    This whole article is probably the absolute worst thing you have ever written, so far out of touch with reality that I question your ability to be minimally objective. When it comes to Obama, you manifest what is usually described as battered wives syndrome. The worse Obama behaves, the more you feel compelled to make excuses.

    As for Iran, Obama is considering renewing sanctions over their missile development program. The agreement with Iran was merely a short term tactic, not a change in strategic objectives. Syria has been effectively destroyed, the Ukraine also. Iran, Russia and China remain targeted. The Obama administration is the most militaristic administration in US history. When combined with its aggressive neoliberalism, it is the most destructive administration in US history. A quote and a link:

    “US President Barack Obama’s administration is reportedly preparing fresh sanctions on international companies and individuals over Iran’s missile program.


    US officials claim the new sanctions are in line with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear agreement, and the Treasury Department can impose new sanctions on Iran over its missile development.

    Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of the state, has made it clear that Iran would consider any new sanctions a breach of the JCPOA.”

  4. David Doppler
    December 31, 2015, 4:45 pm

    As I read the reports, the surveillance has been pretty much constant since long before the Merkel affair resulted in some foreign leaders being exempted, and the NSA brought these materials to the White House’s attention; it wasn’t the President acting to “order a wiretap.” As I further read it, the White House even declined to give NSA any specific direction, merely asking NSA to disclose to them what it thought it should know.

    Here’s former CIA officer Phil Giraldi’s take at the American Conservative:

    His comments lead one to speculate that at least some Congresspersons, when asked, “what does it take to get you on board?” responded with a “quid” for that “pro,” but that NSA hasn’t necessarily turned any of that over to anyone. Apparently, if they turn over to the Administration that a specific congressperson was observed or overheard, they must also disclose that to the Congressional Intelligence Committees. Given what happened with the effort to prosecute Rosen with Lawrence Franklin, perhaps Justice would be shy about prosecuting illegal influence, just as many in the news media are shy about expressing anything about the propriety of Israel buying influence in Congress.

    So, sheer speculation here on my part, if there were Congresspersons caught in compromising deal-making on those phone calls, it’s possible an intrepid spy, might instead of disclosing it, file that information away – a la J. Edgar Hoover – for potential one-on-one use in their own dealings with Congress.

  5. JWalters
    December 31, 2015, 6:59 pm

    This is an excellent, straightforward analysis of Obama’s actions in this case.

    This plain analysis is not presented in the mainstream press because Israel effectively controls the mainstream press. Israel also controls all the Republicans and most of the Democrats in Congress.

    Despite this overwhelming power of the banking / war profiteering / Israeli / neocon cabal, many progressives persist in thinking a U.S. president could simple do “something” to bring them all down. The reality is that for any action he took in that direction he would be attacked ferociously by the oligarchy through their media and political puppets. Even for proposing Republican ideas he has been subjected to relentless character assassination. Even most of his own party deserted him in the 2014 elections, refusing to defend the ACA, with Alison Grimes in KY being a standout example, cowering before the race-baiting, divide and conquer tactic of the ruthless oligarchy.

    Some people talk casually about rogue CIA agents trying to control the world. “Rogue” CIA agents are working for somebody with immense financial resources. Big money lies behind this vast network of deception and control. Here is an early article that recognized the immense forces Obama is up against.

    Obama has OBVIOUSLY worked hard against these fierce forces to avoid a war with Iran. Why is it so hard to acknowledge the significance of that? He has also clearly sought to minimize American involvement in Middle East combat while still taking some actions to help stabilize a very volatile region, with volatility being continually and purposely provoked by Israel. Yet even the progressive press quibbles about what “boots on the ground” means. What other American president since JFK has acted so strongly to resist Israel’s corrupt, immense power?

  6. Bandolero
    December 31, 2015, 7:20 pm

    I never thought I would ever agree on anything with Rubio, but here I agree with Rubio’s first quoted sentence:

    “We spy on everyone,” Rubio told

    I think that is the simple and whole truth in the story: the US spies on everyone. And everybody should know that in the post Snowden era. The US listens to the phone of Merkel, to the fax machines of the EU and the UN, to the email and phone calls of everyone, to whatever communication the US can get it’s fingers on, be it sensible or not.

    This time though, I agree, the spying may had helped to reach a good result, ie to outmanover Bibi in his sabotage of the Iran deal.

    Btw: Happy new year to everyone here.

  7. MaxNarr
    December 31, 2015, 10:07 pm

    The spying was illegal and people will go to jail for this. How is ensuring Iran obtain nukes for “world peace”?

  8. Kay24
    December 31, 2015, 10:10 pm

    Why is the MSM giving Obama so much grief over this? Why are they not mentioning the way we have been treated by our so called “ally”. They have used Jewish Americans like Pollard, Richard Perle, and other devoted zionists to betray their own country, and we also have ugly industrial spying:

    “The Jewish state’s primary target: America’s industrial and technical secrets. “No other country close to the United States continues to cross the line on espionage like the Israelis do,” said a former congressional staffer who attended another classified briefing in late 2013, one of several in recent months given by officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the State Department, the FBI and the National Counterintelligence Directorate. The intelligence agencies didn’t go into specifics, the former aide said, but cited “industrial espionage—folks coming over here on trade missions or with Israeli companies working in collaboration with American companies, [or] intelligence operatives being run directly by the government, which I assume meant out of the [Israeli] Embassy.”

    A scathing article on Israel’s spying:

    The US media should stop being sickeningly devoted to that pariah nation, and be honest in their reporting.

    During the Iran Nuclear deal negotiations, Israel had used their brainless minions to spy on those negotiations giving their leader the ammunition to try and sabotage Obama’s efforts.
    Shouldn’t the media focus on that?

  9. John Douglas
    January 1, 2016, 11:42 am

    I hope that if and when the hearings take place on the spying, the administration is smart enough to take advantage of the opportunity. Number one, don’t be defensive. When pressed, explain clearly why it was necessary? Israel was spying on the talks. Israel spied on The US secretary of State, Israel was attempting to prevent an agreement. The agreement and Iran’s actions has already proven itself. Israel was colluding with American legislators to kill the agreement. The security of the American people is the first and foremost responsibility of any leader in DC.
    (Actually I don’t believe this last sentence. Protecting the Constitution is the first responsiblity.)

    • JWalters
      January 1, 2016, 4:15 pm

      Good points.

      ” Israel was colluding with American legislators to kill the agreement”

      More precisely, Israel was attempting to BRIBE members of Congress, as in “name your price”. Which is to say, Israel was trying to CORRUPT members of Congress. Members of Congress have, from time to time, been convicted of corruption and sent to prison.

      Regarding the Constitution and the people, it seems to me the Constitution exists to serve the people rather than the reverse. I agree the Constitution deserves great protection as a precious milestone for humanity.

  10. JoelReinstein
    January 1, 2016, 11:49 am

    Obama is the president of a state that owns and has used the most nukes, is currently bombing a fistful of countries in the Middle East, regularly overthrows democratically elected governments (like Honduras in 2009, which would be under the Obama administration). Nothing the US does is about world peace. Its president is not magically exempt for being a compelling speaker or The First Black President! any more than Israel being “Jewish” exempts it from history and geopolitics.

    It is *impractical and unrealistic* to support Palestinians by cheerleading for their enemies.

    • Mooser
      January 1, 2016, 12:51 pm

      “It is *impractical and unrealistic* to support Palestinians by cheerleading for their enemies. “

      Oh, look, something new! Not satisfied with abusing quote marks (” and “) they have decided to enlist the asterisk (*) in the cause of Hasbara.

    • eljay
      January 1, 2016, 1:48 pm

      || JoelReinstein: … Nothing the US does is about world peace. Its president is not magically exempt for being a compelling speaker or The First Black President! any more than Israel being “Jewish” exempts it from history and geopolitics. … ||

      It certainly does seem that America cares more about America than it does about the universal and consistent application of justice, accountability and equality.

      || … It is *impractical and unrealistic* to support Palestinians by cheerleading for their enemies. … ||

      I agree. The cheerleading should be saved for those who propose justice, accountability and equality in the I-P conflict (and elsewhere).

    • JWalters
      January 1, 2016, 4:39 pm

      “Nothing the US does is about world peace.”

      It seems to me you have a logical fallacy here. Specifically, you assume the US is a single mind in its intentions and actions, that the abolitionists and the slave owners were the same, that the Peace Corps and the war profiteers are the same.

      Yet you yourself are proof that not everyone in the country agrees with the imperialist parts of its foreign policy. And some people like yourself will have sufficient interest and motivation to attempt to enter the political fray with the goal of steering the US toward its ideals, rather than using those as a cover for piracy.

      And given the current balance of power in the political arena, some good people will have to hold their fire much of the time, and wait for opportunities where they can score an actual victory, rather than just going down in a “glorious” charge of a too-light brigade.

      I recall a poster at another site in the early days of Obama’s first term who was very frustrated that Obama did not go on TV and tell the country all about the “deep state”. He acknowledged it would be a political “suicide mission”, but he thought it would be the best thing for Obama to do.

      In somewhat parallel circumstances, Abraham Lincoln valued the extreme anti-slavery voice of William Garrison, even though tactically he could not associate himself with Garrison. But Garrison’s writings helped prepare the ground for Lincoln’s actions. And when the ground was ready (sometimes barely), Lincoln acted, in a series of actions highlighted by the Emancipation Proclamation and the Constitutional abolition of slavery.

      Yet Lincoln’s political terrain was so complex, and his maneuvering was so complex, that even today some people deny he fought the Civil War to end slavery. They claim he wasn’t really opposed to slavery, even though he abhorred slavery from his early days in Illinois.

  11. gingershot
    January 1, 2016, 12:55 pm

    Israel and the Israeli lobby/Jewish lobby in the US are a clear and present danger to the United States of America.

    Please support President Barack Obama as a AIPAC’s girl Hillary, the Israel lobby (Schumer, Graham, McCain, Kirk, AIPAC, etc.), and Israelis/ including dual citizens (Netanyahu, Dermer, Haim Saban , Sheldon Allison, and other media/political/financial Sayanim) are removed from power on the American political landscape.

    Courage is contagious … It’s the Second American revolution

  12. James Canning
    January 1, 2016, 2:27 pm

    Obama clearly acted correctly. Thank goodness.

  13. Boo
    January 1, 2016, 2:44 pm

    “Obama had to spy on Netanyahu — for the sake of world peace”

    It’d be legally safer, and more accurate as well, to say that he did it “for the sake of national security”. One could add “international” security as well.

  14. xanadou
    January 1, 2016, 3:05 pm

    I don’t like Obama and consider his presidency largely to be a colossal failure and a waste of time at a very fragile moment in human history. But he did get this one right.

    A nation’s leader is elected for two purposes only: to provide reasonable economic and domestic security to his/her constituents. The POTUS has the additional responsibility towards global humanity because of the massive deployment of US forces, whether as warring parties, currently spread over the ME and S/E Asia, and now spreading across Africa. Add to that the more than 1000 (one thousand) military bases established in 140+ countries, and the epithet as world policeman becomes clear.

    Obama, may not be able to grasp the consequences of this malignant presence overseas, but he did get what a country with its own uranium resources could do if left to its own devices without binding agreements. Iran is much more likely to honour such agreements. Iran is a contiguous country with 80 million people. On the other hand…

    … there is an unsophisticed in statesmanship tiny country with a massive global Fifth Column network ready to their master’s bidding. Not out of patriotic duty, but for profit, whether a cushy job or monetary reward. In effect diverting yet more funds from the ailing economy and Israelis, severely impacting Israel’s future as a safe and economically viable place for its own people. This might explain why the Israelis have so much contempt for the diaspora, but I digress…

    The hopelessly inane brainwashing of Israelis intended as the govt’s useful idiots and killing machine is as cruel as that of the no-more USSR. Not even the latter’s massive natural resources were enough to secure its existence beyond the few decades. When the colossus crashed, it barely survived into the present. How does Israel expect to survive its descent into the widening bottomless sinkhole? It has nothing outside a few oil wells, most stolen from the neighbouring countries and Palestine. Just like the USSR, Israel is surrounded by a growing distrustful, even hostile, world.

    What the exclusive mutual admiration society, aka Israeli govt has failed to grasp is that the world is not its bully playpen or sandbox without limits. Not least of all, no one, including the ordinary, if unenlightened Israelis, wishes to be incinerated to satisfy a group of pathocrats who have believed their own PR b/s.

    Pres.Hollande did not want Netanyahoo in France following the Hebdo affair. Obama doesn’t want a wounded bully in a china shop to run amok on the world scene.

    For once, the POTUS did his duty as defined by his job description.

    • Froggy
      January 1, 2016, 4:08 pm

      xanadou :: “Pres.Hollande did not want Netanyahoo in France following the Hebdo affair.”

      Credit where it’s due for Obama.

      I think that Hollande should have had Netanyahu and his entourage detained upon their landing at the airport, with orders to have this rude guest and his lackeys held, strip-searched, with all their phones, cameras, and laptops confiscated, whilst being repeatedly interrogated by impolite officials all of them asking the same questions. He should have had Netanyahu et cie held until the marches, ceremonies, and demonstrations in Paris were over, and only then ordered them to be deported on the next plane to Israel.

      • xanadou
        January 1, 2016, 9:57 pm

        Mx. Froggy,

        Obama clearly detests the First Yahoo. Whereas the former is a classy dude when it comes to statesmanship, and knows how to play that game, the latter comes across as a pretentious fraud.

        Obama and Hollande accept the rules of diplomacy, the First Hustler does not. Presented with a fait accompli upon N’s arrival, it was too late for Pres.H to do anything without creating a scandal, something that N. had likely hoped for to feed his tired “antisemitic Europe” narrative. Yet, despite his bravado during the march, N. was visibly uncomfortable: his stunt had clearly backfired. On the good side, it had alerted world leaders that N. cannot be trusted to play by the rules designed to keep the massive personalities in check. Moreover, this incident may have contributed to one of any number of reasons why N. has to be monitored.

        The rules of diplomacy ask for smiles and appearance of collegiality in public. What goes on behind the scenes is an entirely different story.

        N has created an image of a pariah for himself, all by himself. Ultimately a much better outcome than if he were subjected to a treatment that he deserved and you described.

        Or to paraphrase a proverb: A man took a shot, but the good lord carried the ammunition. Amen.

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