It almost goes without saying that yesterday was one of the most depressing days in memory. Here was a massive fragile edifice of recent history, the Iran deal, that had seemed to almost all of us such a great step forward, a labor of statesmanship by so many diverse figures around the globe working together to advance cross-cultural respect and comity, and Trump took a dufus’s sledge hammer to it. You could hear fear in anchors’ voices: suddenly the world was less safe.
If there was one bright spot in the day, it was the almost universal anger and anguish that followed Trump’s speech, and the determination to try and undo his action by any means the rest of us can. Even the neoconservatives who have pushed this action seemed afraid of what it meant. Even Chuck Schumer, who had opposed his own president on the Iran deal three years ago because of the “threat to Israel,” was against Trump.
The grievous action would thus seem to be somewhat self-healing, inasmuch as it discredits the U.S. in the eyes of the world, and even lifts the prestige of Iran. “There are now two Wests. One, led by the leaders of Germany, France + UK, which believes in liberal democracy and international law,” Peter Beinart writes. “And a second, headquartered in Washington + Jerusalem, which holds those values in contempt.”
Jerusalem. That is the other great breakthrough in Trump’s nihilism. There’s no doubt whose fingerprints are all over this action: the Israeli government and its lobby. The foolish State Department briefing on the decision makes it clear how important to Trump was Netanyahu’s dog-and-pony act of a week before, featuring old intelligence to state that Iran lied about its nuclear ambitions. The New York Times front-page analysis is also frank about Netanyahu’s role in giving Trump the pretext for his announcement (though of course Saudi influence is uppermost in the view of the Times).
Ali Abunimah was blunter:
BREAKING: Donald Trump, spokesperson for US President Benjamin Netanyahu, announces pullout from Iran nuclear deal.
This represents a breakthrough because in defending the deal and making its destruction a political issue, as they promise they will, Democrats will have to take on Israel and the lobby. Yes, they will cover their behind by saying what J Street and Nancy Pelosi do, lots of former Israeli security chiefs were for the deal. But that’s a figleaf. There is a powerful rightwing Israel lobby, and Netanyahu is the leader. These are the same forces that pushed for the Iraq war 16 years ago to such ill effect for the Middle East, and they are sowing destruction once again.
During the Iraq debacle there was a reluctance to call out the Israel lobby for its role. Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer were smeared for stating what Col. Lawrence Wilkerson said was “obvious,” that the war probably wouldn’t have happened without the lobby. To this day the Democratic Party is afraid of that analysis–surely because it could divide the base and endanger campaign fundraising.
But that analysis seems inevitable today because the politics are now so envenomed, and Israel’s influence is so transparent. Netanyahu is one of the most hated figures for the progressive Democratic base, and the hate temperature just went up, a lot. Dylan Williams of J Street puts out Netanyahu’s crazy speech recommending the Iraq War to Congress 16 years ago, and J Street is vowing revenge. “All of those who have sought to undermine the agreement by spreading fear and misinformation about it will bear their share of the culpability,” it writes. Ben Cardin, Bob Menendez and Chuck Schumer better keep their heads down.
Lobelog, the most honest site about policy-making in Washington, is filled with frank descriptions of Israel’s influence. Minutes after Trump ripped through the awning, Eli Clifton reported on the three billionaires behind Trump who should be blamed for the decision, Sheldon Adelson, Bernard Marcus, and Paul Singer, all of them rightwing Jewish supporters of Israel.
Paul Pillar called out the Israel lobby in a piece titled “Hold the Deal-Killers Accountable.”
The other major motivation [for Trump] is to stay in step with the preferences of the right-wing government of Israel. The political and financial mechanisms include fear among American politicians of antagonizing the lobby that works on that government’s behalf. They also include wealthy supporters of that government bankrolling advocacy groups dedicated to sustaining tension and confrontation with Iran, with opposition to the JCPOA at the core of that effort.
At Foreign Policy, Steve Walt also named the forces behind the decision: “Israel, the hard-line wing of the Israel lobby (e.g., the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, United Against Nuclear Iran), and hawks including National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and many others. Their great fear was that the United States and its Middle East allies might eventually have to acknowledge Iran as a legitimate regional power and grant it some degree of regional influence.”
This spring both wings of the Israel lobby, AIPAC on the right and J Street on the left, vowed that support for Israel must stay bipartisan. Trump’s Iran destruction has ended any hope that the two sides can stay synchronized. AIPAC is now making nice to Trump even as J Street is pledging resistance.
Resistance means calling out Netanyahu and his neoconservative allies. It means identifying Israel’s very non-existential interest in destroying the Iran deal: because Iran and Hezbollah are a threat to its regional hegemony. It means making clear that when Trump says Iranian missiles threaten the U.S., he is parroting the lies of his dear friend Netanyahu.
Netanyahu embodies the security state of Israel; his rightwing coalition is not going anywhere, and the center left mimics it. All those good leftists support the slaughter of unarmed Gaza protesters.
Avenging the Iran deal means speaking plainly about Netanyahu’s influence in our politics. Obama defeated Netanyahu three years ago. Now Netanyahu has defeated Obama. In the wreckage lies the outline of a strategy. Resisting Trump means resisting Israel.
Thanks to Scott Roth and James North.