As the U.S. risks a major conflict with Iran, many have pointed out that the U.S. intelligence on alleged Iranian attacks is reminiscent of the faulty intelligence leading up to the Iraq war. And several mainstream sources have said that Israel is behind some of that intelligence. Because, as even the New York Times says, “The gathering clouds seemed of a piece with Mr. Netanyahu’s agenda.”
If Donald Trump has an agenda in the Middle East, it’s Benjamin Netanyahu’s. Lately the president has gone to the extraordinary length of endorsing Netanyahu’s desperate efforts to build a governing coalition– interfering in another country’s election process.
But as usual, Israel is maintaining a low profile in the story of the U.S.’s aggressive actions aimed at Iran. It’s more of a murmurous undertone in the reporting.
Let’s review some of the reporting on Israel’s push for war with a regional rival, at a time when the U.S. is deploying ships and 1500 soldiers to the Gulf, and John Bolton, the national security adviser who came to Trump straight outta Sheldon Adelson’s back pocket, is threatening “unrelenting force” and regime change re Iran.
Last Friday the Pentagon gave a briefing on numerous “threat streams” from Iran. Vice Admiral Mike Gilday, a high Pentagon official described “a campaign designed by the Iranians against U.S. interests” and specified three attacks/threats: attacks on oil tankers in the port of Fujairah, in the UAE; an attack on a Saudi pipeline apparently by rocket from Iraq; and missiles placed on Iranian fishing boats, or dhows, in the strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping lane. He also cited “multiple credible reports that Iranian proxy groups intend to attack U.S. personnel in the Middle East.”
The press grilled Gilday for the source of those claims, but he refused to offer any evidence beyond the repetition that the reports are credible. Fujairah became his battlecry. Look at all the supposition here:
Gilday: The attack against the shipping in Fujairah, we attribute it to the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]
Q. You haven’t provided any evidence.
ADM. GILDAY: … through — through intelligence sources that we have… So the Iranians said that they were going to close the Strait of Hormuz. The Iranians struck those — those tankers. The Iranians struck the — that pipeline facility in Saudi Arabia through their proxies in Yemen.
We know that they’re tied directly to those proxies. We know that they’re tied directly to the proxies in Iraq that launched the rocket.
Q: Not enough.
Q: But you’re just saying that. You’re not — you — can you provide us with anything that backs this up?
ADM. GILDAY: I can’t reveal — I can’t reveal the sources of that reporting except to say, that in very high confidence, we tie the Iranians to those — to those …
Q: Well that sounds like WMD. What do you have to back up your case?
ADM. GILDAY: I’m not reverse engineering this. The Iranians — the Iranians have said publicly they were going to do things. We learned more through intelligence reporting they have acted upon those threats and they’ve actually — they’ve actually attacked.
Though Israel never came up in that presser, three mainstream sources have said Israel provided much of that alleged intelligence about Iran’s hostile actions/threats: Israel’s Channel 13, Newsweek, and The New York Times.
Back on May 16, The New York Times noted the push by Israel for the U.S. to confront Iran. The Times was very dubious about the Israeli “intelligence about potential Iranian attacks.”
Israeli experts say, without any clear-cut proof, that Iran was behind a pair of recent purported attacks.
On Sunday [May 12], the United Arab Emirates said that four oil tankers had been sabotaged off the port of Fujairah, south of the Strait of Hormuz. And on Tuesday [May 14], Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are backed by Iran, claimed responsibility for drone strikes on a Saudi oil pipeline to the Red Sea.
Israel was providing this intelligence “quietly,” the Times said.
Israel has quietly played an instrumental role in the recently escalating tensions in the Middle East.
In meetings in Washington and Tel Aviv in the past few weeks, Israeli intelligence warned the United States that Iran or its proxies were planning to strike American targets in Iraq, a senior Middle Eastern intelligence official said.
Barak Ravid of Channel 13 in Israel made a similar report on May 6: that Israel has passed on “information” about a supposed Iranian plot to attack the U.S., leading to threats by John Bolton.
Israel passed information on an alleged Iranian plot to attack U.S. interests in the Gulf to the U.S. before national security adviser John Bolton threatened Iran with “unrelenting force” last night, senior Israeli officials told me… An Israeli official told me Mossad drew several scenarios for what the Iranians might be planning:
“It is still unclear to us what the Iranians are trying to do and how they are planning to do it, but it is clear to us that the Iranian temperature is on the rise as a result of the growing U.S. pressure campaign against them, and they are considering retaliating against U.S. interests in the Gulf.”
Scenarios Iran might be planning. How vague can you get, huh?
Then there are those dhows.
Newsweek reported on May 16, that the satellite imagery of loading missiles into dhows came not from U.S. sources but Israel and was therefore questionable. Jim LaPorta and Tom O’Connor wrote:
Newsweek has further learned from one Pentagon official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, that this evidence was based on satellite imagery provided to U.S. officials by Israel, an avowed foe of the Islamic Republic…
LaPorta and O’Connor said Netanyahu was “influential” to Trump’s decisionmaking and they dared to write that Israel had done this before: when it pushed the Iraq war in 2003 against a longtime enemy, and provided faulty intelligence.
Netanyahu served as foreign minister in the months leading up to the Iraq War and aided in promoting the Bush administration’s messaging that Baghdad presented a threat to regional security. Iraq was a part of Arab coalitions that fought three wars with Israel in past decades, and Hussein fired a volley of missiles against the country in 1991, a decade after Israeli jets conducted a bold series of strikes against an Iraqi nuclear reactor.
As with Iran today, Netanyahu argued in 2002 that Iraq presented an existential threat due its outward hostility and threats to rain down missiles on Tel Aviv, already in range of groups suspected of receiving Iranian support in the Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Syria.
“During the lead up to the Iraq War, in 2002, Benjamin Netanyahu told a congressional hearing that there was no question that Saddam Hussein was seeking a nuclear bomb,” Holly Dagres, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, and editor of their IranSource blog, told Newsweek.
“That was proven disastrously inaccurate,” she added. “International experts have once again discredited Netanyahu’s statements about Iran. But the Israeli prime minister has closer ties with Donald Trump than any of the previous U.S. presidents.”..
“Both [Saudi Arabia and Israel] would love to see the U.S. military topple the Islamic Republic and install a more palpable regime while not spending any capital of their own,” she added. “Because of their special ties with the United States, they have a role in shaping U.S. foreign policy. This creates a dangerous situation that could pave the way toward an unnecessary war.”
Bolton confirmed meeting with Israel’s national security adviser, Meir Ben Shabbat, on April 15 at the White House, but said no more about it, Gareth Porter writes at the American Conservative. Porter describes the threat assessments as “organized US-Israel subterfuge” springing from a pact reached between the U.S. and Israel more than a year ago to take on Iran.
That April 15 [2019 White House] meeting was only the most recent one between top U.S. and Israeli national security officials over the past year, according to Ravid. These meetings were conducted under a still-secret U.S.-Israeli agreement on a joint plan of action against Iran reached after two days of unannounced meetings at the White House between Ben Shabbat and then-national security advisor H.R. McMaster on December 12, 2017…
Ravid’s story provided details on the four working groups that were formed under the agreement, including one on “Joint U.S.-Israeli preparation for different escalation scenarios in the region, concerning Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.” The Mossad “scenarios” apparently provided the central ideas with which to justify the Trump administration’s subsequent escalatory moves against Iran, including ostentatiously moving an aircraft carrier and a B-52 bomber group into the region…
You’d think this would be a scandal on MSNBC and CNN. The same jokers who helped get us into the worst foreign policy move in US history are at it again. But while the Iraq war is biting Bill Kristol in the butt on Twitter, where Bernie Sanders has called on him to apologize for his role the last time, mainstream sources are doing nothing to remind us that Trump’s biggest donor, Sheldon Adelson, on whom his 2020 fortunes surely rest to some large degree, called for nuking Iran back in 2013.
Adelson and wife Miriam gave $177 million to Donald Trump’s campaign and Republican causes in 2016-2018. They have been repaid by the transactional president in countless ways, notably the destruction of the Iran nuclear deal and the move of the embassy and the presidential medal of freedom for Miriam. Trump surely needs the Adelsons’ cash in 2020; and the Adelsons say themselves that their “mission in life” is protecting Israel. Here Sheldon is in an illegal Israeli settlement just the other day.
Sheldon Adelson is very close to Netanyahu. In fact Netanyahu called for elections in 2015 specifically to head off legislative action against Adelson’s newpaper.
Why shouldn’t we conclude that Trump is Adelson’s pawn yet again on Iran?
Back in 2015 President Obama said that every nation in the world that had spoken out on the Iran deal was in support except one country, Israel. (Even the Saudis were publicly supportive.) Trying to rally political backing for the deal, Obama mentioned Israel 24 times in a major strategic speech at American University, in which he said that he would be abrogating his constitutional duty if he sided with Netanyahu.
I recognize that Prime Minister Netanyahu disagrees — disagrees strongly. I do not doubt his sincerity. But I believe he is wrong. I believe the facts support this deal. I believe they are in America’s interest and Israel’s interest. And as President of the United States, it would be an abrogation of my constitutional duty to act against my best judgment simply because it causes temporary friction with a dear friend and ally. I do not believe that would be the right thing to do for the United States.
Obama got smeared as anti-Semitic for talking about Israel, as Ben Rhodes wrote:
Even to acknowledge the fact that AIPAC was spending tens of millions to defeat the Iran deal was anti-Semitic. To observe that the same people who supported the war in Iraq also opposed the Iran deal was similarly off limits. It was an offensive way for people to avoid accountability for their own positions.
Today politicians avoid the Israel reference, and our news sources aren’t jumping on the angle either.
The Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has repeatedly said that the three B’s want war: Bibi Netanyahu, Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, and Mohammed bin Zayed of the UAE. He tweeted on May 20:
Trump rightly deplores “military-industrial complex” pushing U.S. to
#ForeverWars But allowing #B_Team to trash diplomacy & abet war crimes—by milking despotic butchers via massive arms sales—achieves nothing but empowering that same complex. Time to #DrainTheSwamp?
It looks like the Foreign Minister is a lot more plausible than the Trump officials, and their sources.
Thanks to Donald Johnson and James North.