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Trump plays to the neocons and Netanyahu to get some establishment support

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Were you as frightened by Donald Trump’s October 13 speech on Iran as I was? The president used the word “regime” 29 times in that speech — this “rogue regime”, this “fanatical regime”, this “radical regime,” etc. Plus he sloppily linked Iran to Al Qaeda and other “terrorist networks”–

The regime remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provides assistance to al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist networks.

It sure sounded like George Bush’s warmongering speeches before we went into Iraq and changed that regime, with such disastrous results.

And just as it was during the Iraq war runup, Israel was hanging out in the wings of the White House. The administration’s official roll-call of praise for Trump’s speech began with Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement, “He boldly confronted Iran’s terrorist regime,” before listing 20 Republican politicians’ comments.

It was just like Netanyahu jumping to salute Trump after his last foreign policy splash, the shocking “rocket-man” speech at the U.N. in September. “In over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech,” Netanyahu said then.

The liberal media gave Trump the reputation of being an isolationist during last year’s campaign, but no one would say that today. In abandoning the antiwar creed that helped get him elected, Trump is plainly cultivating Israel and the neocons. Robert Parry argues at Consortium News that Netanyahu is pulling Trump’s strings. While former Obama aide Philip Gordon points out at Politico that Netanyahu played the same role during the Iraq war– and that should give people pause.

Netanyahu, however, would perhaps be a more reliable expert witness today had he not testified to Congress in 2002 that there was “no question whatsoever” that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons and if he had not “guaranteed” that an invasion of Iraq would have “enormous positive reverberations on the region,” especially on Iran.

Scott McConnell explained to me that Trump is making a big play for neoconservative support because being so beleaguered politically, he is doing what he can to cultivate an important bloc of the DC establishment. Neoconservatives are definitely available– as they always are, regardless of party.

But the mainstream press has largely avoided the Israel interest. It’s far more interested in Russian meddling in U.S. politics. This is a step backwards, because the last time the Iran deal was up for grabs, in 2015, the role of Israel and its lobby in pushing war with Iran was reported. Netanyahu’s shocking speech to Congress became a rallying point for the deal. At the height of the battle, President Obama declared boldly that he couldn’t defer to Israel’s interests without betraying the constitution.

This time round, the press is tiptoeing around the question. The most direct reference to Israel’s interest came from the president himself in a tweet when he learned that New York Senator Chuck Schumer was supporting the deal, this time around: “Tell that to Israel, Chuck!” Trump wrote.

Some journalists are doing their jobs, to document the neoconservative influence. Eli Clifton at Lobelog reports that Trump is motivated by three large donors, Bernard Marcus, Sheldon Adelson, and Paul Singer, all of whom are giant supporters of Israel.

[Trump] appears to have fallen in line with the views espoused by several of his top donors. These funders believe that Iran poses an apocalyptic threat only addressable through military action, including the use of nuclear weapons…

Clifton shows the staggering numbers that Adelson, Marcus and Singer have contributed to Trump– and that half the contributions to a prominent Republican Senate campaign fund come from these men:

Combined they contributed over $40 million to various pro-Trump political groups and causes…

Those three donors also contributed $65 million at the congressional level. That represents nearly half of the individual contributions made to the Senate Leadership Fund (CLF) and Congressional Leadership Fund(CLF), Super PACs dedicated to maintaining Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Those contributions provide a considerable incentive for Hill Republicans to stake out a hawkish position on the JCPOA.

The Arkansas political rocket Tom Cotton is now the leading neocon in the Senate; and he has provided Trump a lot of political support. Again, donors are important. Clifton reports that Paul Singer is the second largest contributor to Tom Cotton.

While at Politico, Eliana Johnson reports that Sheldon Adelson, using neocon warhorse John Bolton, may have helped inject language into Trump’s speech. Remember that Bolton was disqualified from the administration early this year because of Trump’s distaste for the Fuller brush mustache. But neocons never fade away.

Then there’s the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. As Gordon writes at Politico, in a piece titled, “Trump’s Iran strategy looks ominously familiar,” the FDD is the latest neoconservative warmongering thinktank with a back door to the Oval Office:

In the run-up to the Iraq War, it was experts at the American Enterprise Institute and Project for a New American Century such as Richard Perle and John Bolton who were making the case that Iraq had links to Al Qaeda, had resumed its development of weapons of mass destruction, and—perhaps most important and most erroneous—that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators after an invasion. Today, the lead outside role in selling (and overselling) decertification is being played by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Institute for Science and International Security and their respective directors Mark Dubowitz and David Albright.

Dubowitz is dedicated to regime change in Iran, as both Ben Armbrister at Lobelog and Colin Kahl at Foreign Policy note, citing a litany of statements.

But Dubowitz does not have that reputation in the press. The Washington Post describes Dubowitz as an “expert” but does not tell you about his love for regime change. The New York Times has also given Dubowitz a platform as an expert without describing his history. And Dubowitz was paired with Rob Malley on PBS’s News Hour, as a plausible observer.

How has Dubowitz gotten away with it? He hasn’t got a mustache, that’s for sure. Ben Armbrister at Lobelog says Dubowitz’s style is far more nuanced than Bolton’s:

Dubowitz… is more subtle in his advocacy, perhaps understanding that publicly pushing another costly war in the Middle East isn’t necessarily the best way to win mainstream support these days.

That strategy has helped Dubowitz publish op-eds in prominent media outlets, testify on Capitol Hill, and, as was the case this week at the Atlantic Council, establish credible relationships with key reporters covering this issue….

But his goals are belligerent ones, to put the “United States on a fast track to war.”

This is precisely what Dubowitz and a well-funded cadre of neocons and their allies in Washington and beyond want. They don’t want a “better deal” (which can’t be achieved anyway). In fact, they don’t want a deal with Iran at all. Their goal, ultimately, is regime change in Tehran.

And Dubowitz represents the Israel lobby. During the last fight for the Iran deal, back in 2015, John Judis did an incisive report for Slate showing that Dubowitz’s shop, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, originated as a pro-Israel group in 2002, funded by those three rightwing Jewish donors, Adelson, Marcus, and Singer: “FDD’s chief funders have been drawn almost entirely from American Jews who have a long history of funding pro-Israel organizations.”

Its chief influence is on the Republican side, Judis wrote, and its interest is a narrow one:

[I]t has conducted its research from a particular vantage point and with a relatively narrow focus. Its research and advocacy have centered on the Middle East and in particular on conflicts and issues that impinge on Israel. And its positions have closely tracked those of the Likud party and its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—not just on the Iran deal, but on the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the desirability of a two-state solution. Understanding the think tank’s ideological affinity with the Israeli government, and the roots of that affinity, helps explain the special role that FDD has played in opposing the Iran deal and may shed light on what FDD hopes to accomplish by derailing President Obama’s signature foreign policy accomplishment..

[A]s the journalist Ali Gharib has noted, it arose out of an organization committed to burnishing Israel’s reputation in the United States. On April 24, 2001, three major pro-Israel donors incorporated an organization called EMET (Hebrew for “truth”). In an application to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status, [founder Clifford] May explained that the group “was to provide education to enhance Israel’s image in North America and the public’s understanding of issues affecting Israeli-Arab relations.”

The neoconservatives never fade away because few in the mainstream bust them; and so they keep on popping up, in one form or another. I don’t think we’ll ever defeat the lobby till we call it out. Neither the media nor the Democrats are yet prepared to do so.

P.S. Bill Kristol and Chemi Shalev have both decried Trump’s tweet to Schumer, Tell it to Israel, Chuck, as an anti-semitic allegation of dual loyalty. But Schumer loves to tell pro-Israel audiences that his name means Guardian in Hebrew, and he is guarding Israel.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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14 Responses

  1. eljay on October 23, 2017, 2:15 pm

    … In abandoning the antiwar creed that helped get him elected, Trump is plainly cultivating Israel and the neocons. …

    Trump’s been cultivating Israel and neocons for a while now:
    All eyes are on Sheldon Adelson, and even Trump courts him with Israel rant

    The World According to Trump:

    “I’m very pro-Israel. … People are born with hatred, they’re taught hatred. And I have to say, it’s mostly on the one side, not on the other side. But they’re taught hatred. … ”

    “It serves no purpose to say that you have a good guy and a bad guy. … it doesn’t help if I start saying– I’m very pro-Israel. Very. More than anybody on the stage. But it doesn’t do any good to start demeaning the neighbors because I would love to do something with regard to negotiating peace peace, finally for Israel, and for their neighbors… As a negotiator, I cannot do that as well if I’m taking big, big sides. With that being said, I am totally pro-Israel.”

    “I am a great friend of Israel. I was the Grand Marshal of the Israeli Day Parade… I have so many friends. In fact one of them, one of my great friends — where is Jared, my son-in-law? Where is he? My son-in-law is Jewish, and he’s fantastic … So, there is nobody closer — and Bibi Netanyahu asked me to do a commercial for him, for his campaign. I did a commercial for him.”

  2. annie on October 23, 2017, 3:37 pm

    yeah, it’s pretty clear israel and the neocons want the US to make war on iran for them. they want all the countries in the ME totally destroyed. one big massive warring sea of madness and the little shining star israel burning bright smack dab in the middle of it. how charming. and they want us to make that happen for them.

    • Brewer on October 24, 2017, 12:04 am

      It is little more than a gut feeling at present but I think Putin may have planned his legacy – the taming of Israel and the neo-cons.
      It was the Russian AT-13 Saxhorn-2 that disabled 50 Merkava tanks forcing Israel to a cease-fire in 2006 despite Hezbollah having virtually no anti-aircraft defense. During that affray, an Iranian modified missile severely damaged an Israeli Sa’ar 5-class corvette 10 miles off the coast.
      The other day an Israeli aircraft was reportedly hit by a Soviet era S-200 (the IDF admitted damage but said it was “bird-strike”).
      Good analysis of 2006 here:
      Nasrallah has stated that Hezbollah now has the capability to target all major cities in Israel with missiles and he is not known to issue idle threats. I’d love to know if Israeli civilians are moving out of Bekaa and the Golan. I think it highly likely.
      Right now I think that the IDF will be very nervous about attacking anyone or even possibly defending the Golan if Syria and its allies decide to take it back.
      The incremental nature indicates a chess-player’s mind in back of these events. If the cooperation between Hezbollah, the SAA and Iran holds, Israel is between a rock and a hard place – particularly if Jordan grows a pair and joins up.
      I believe this is why the push is on to degrade Iran. How Putin would respond is anybody’s guess but no doubt he has a contingency plan.
      Interesting times.

  3. just on October 23, 2017, 3:53 pm

    Is Trump both conflicted and/or seeking unending conflicts? Either? Neither?

    “Trump Praises Evangelical Pastor Who Once Said Jews Can’t Be Saved

    Trump tweets praise for new book by Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist pastor who leads a televised ministry in Dallas and serves as an informal advisor to Trump on faith-based issues”

    read more:

    Oh yeah, and this:

    “Rabbi Who Oversaw Ivanka Trump’s Conversion To Judaism Slams President

    “We are deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation President Trump has offered in his response to this act of violence [in Charlottesville].”

    This really ticks me off six thousand ways to Sunday:

    “U.S. Presses Saudi Arabia and Iraq to Come Together in Bid to Contain Iran

    Tillerson told reporters that an independent and prosperous Iraq would be a foil to Iran’s ‘malign behavior'”

    read much more:

    As if KSA’s ‘malign behavior’ in Yemen and elsewhere is of no concern to anyone with a conscience. And just the who is Tillerson of the USA to dictate to Iraq who killed millions of Iranians with the help of the US? The US(!)~ the same country that killed millions all over MENA~ including Iraq! OK, gotta stop there. Making sense ungrammatically can cause others to scratch their heads and mutter…

    As for “rocket-man”, try this one on and seek/gain some solace for the weary:

  4. lonely rico on October 23, 2017, 8:04 pm

    Their goal, ultimately, is regime change in Tehran. (sic)

    The wonderful thing about zionists, they know what is best for Iranians, and Americans, and just about everybody else. Unfortunately, the un-chosen are not quick learners, and usually their education requires violence, cruelty and death. So Iran now should be taken out, nuked perhaps, to educate the Iranian people. Tough luck for the untermensch.

    I don’t think we’ll ever defeat the lobby till we call it out. Neither the media nor the Democrats are yet prepared to do so.

    Republocrats and the media have access to, are ruled by concentrated wealth, which has for too long bought acquiescence to the zionist cause.
    BDS (worldwide) doesn’t answer to that racist folly; rather it calls out Israel for their appalling violence and cruelty to the Palestinian people, ongoing for 70+ years.

  5. James Canning on October 24, 2017, 1:10 pm

    Is Trump an idiot, or merely devious, dishonest, a liar, etc etc etc? Iran is the enemy of Al Qaeda.

    • echinococcus on October 24, 2017, 4:11 pm

      He’s all of the above. Exactly as O’bama and the Clintons and the Bushes, etc etc
      A pity the Nuremberg executorship was discontinued nefore the Zionists Got a stranglehold on the US

  6. Bandolero on October 24, 2017, 9:15 pm


    Trump and his guys are really doing a good job so far. They are giving the neocons and the Israeli war lobby a lot of lip service while facts on the ground go exactly the other way.

    T-Rex made a superb joke on Sunday: “Tillerson: Iranian militias need to leave Iraq.” Of course, Tillerson knows full well that the only Iranian militia operating in Iraq is the “Peshmerga” militia led by Hussein Yazdanpana, under the command of israel’s darling Barzani – though – since they are priding themselves to continue attacks in Iran while receiving US training – terrorists would be a better word for them, I suggest. Seth Frantzman – educated at at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya – just reported that he was hanging around with that Iranian militia in Iraq.

    Of course, these bunch of terrorists are not the Iranian militias T-Rex was allegedly speaking about. Instead he referred to parts of the Iraqi security forces as Iranian militias – just because they have ties to Iran. I’m sure, T-Rex knew that. And he also must have guessed that the only thing his remarks would achieve in Iraq was sparking a debate of all foreign forces go home from Iraq – and of course, that’s primarily US forces. Also, the joke he says he’s building a coalition of Iraq and Saudi Arabia to counter Iran. Iran welcomed these efforts, because improving Iraqi-Saudi relations helps Iran countering malign Israeli influence in the region.

    But the greatest thing is Trump saying he does not take sides as Israel’s stooge Barzani is crashed. Barzani held a referendum which Israel supported, but the US opposed, and now, as Barzani is crashed for that, Trump and the US military do nothing to help him. Though not reported in mass media so far, latest reports from the ground seem to indicate that Iraqi forces are already very close to the Iraqi-Syrian-Turkish triangle border point. That Trump didn’t help Barzani likely means that all Israeli designs to partition Iraq and Syria have fallen flat, and US troops have no other option than leaving Iraq and Syria for good. The next big step in this developing situation is likely to get rid of Israel’s puppet Barzani in Kurdish-Iraqi talks.

    The neocons following the situation on the ground are enraged. Michael Weiss, who wrote almost six years ago the first plan of the “Syrian opposition” to get the US to do a military intervention in Syria, just published on CNN: How America sided with Iran over Iraq’s Kurds. The Weekly Standard has just published a similarily lined editorial: ‘Not Taking Sides’ in Iraq Is Really Just Taking the Wrong Side.

    They are not happy, but we can be happy for this. These are very promising and crucial developments on the ground in Iraq and Syria.

  7. JLewisDickerson on October 25, 2017, 12:25 am

    RE: In over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech,” Netanyahu said

    MY QUESTION: So, would that include speeches given by Netanyahu in his 30 years of experience with the UN? Is Netanyahu admitting that Trump’s speech was “bolder and more courageous” than any speech Netanyahu gave during his 30 years of experience with the UN?

  8. Elizabeth Block on October 26, 2017, 9:59 am

    Does anyone remember how candidate, or prospective candidate, Trump told us that he was so rich that he didn’t need money from donors, and so wouldn’t owe them anything? Guess he lied about that too.

    • Bandolero on October 26, 2017, 5:28 pm


      Yes, it’s disgusting. Trump lies so much, he even seemed to have lied about that he loves Israel.

      • RoHa on October 26, 2017, 7:31 pm

        Of course he lies. Why so surprised?

        He’s the president of the USA. Lying is part of the job, and part of what has to be done to get the job.

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