Today’s Internet is increasingly carrying articles from both American and foreign sources to the effect that Israel is pulling out the stops trying to get the United States involved in military action against Iran.
During the past few months, we have been told in the press by the Israelis that all the previous estimates by the U.S. intelligence community have been wrong and that Iran is, in fact, working assiduously on building an atomic weapon. It should be noted here that this assessment is not shared either by the International Atomic Energy Agency or the U.S. intelligence community .
Further, this allegation has come in spite of the fact that three former chiefs of Israeli intelligence services have said not only that they did not believe the allegation to be true, but that Iran does not represent any sort of existential threat to Israel.
It has been reported that the recent rise in gasoline prices here at home is the result of fears of an Israeli strike on Iran and that that fear is in turn based in a large measure on statements by the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Barak has “leaked” what he alleges to be a U.S. national intelligence estimate, normally a sensitive, classified document, which he claimed says the U.S. intelligence community is changing its view and getting closer to the Likud view.
Given the thrust of this Israeli activity, it would appear that there are elements in both Israel and the United States who would like to see the U.S. involved in such military action.
There are two likely purposes in this campaign. First, a poll last week by Israel Channel 10 shows that 46 percent of Israelis are against a unilateral attack on Iran and only 26 percent in favor. According to a recent poll published by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, a majority of Jewish Israelis (60.7 percent) opposes an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities without U.S. cooperation.
It would appear that the Likud leadership is trying, through an internal Israeli propaganda operation, to sway the Israeli people to support an attack on Iran. This campaign has not only involved the purported NIE “leaks,” but has traded on Israeli concerns about the Holocaust and nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, fueled by a Netanyahu article in Haaretz.
The major concern here is that Israelis believe, probably correctly, that Israel does not have the military capability to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities successfully.
It might be said parenthetically that there is serious doubt in American military circles that the U.S. military establishment would be any more successful in such an attack.
So the obvious next step for Netanyahu and Barak, frustrated by the disinclination of their countrymen to support such an attack, has been to turn their propaganda guns on the U.S.
This campaign has not worked on the Obama administration and would be less likely to be successful if Obama were elected to a second term in which he would have no concerns about re-election and could really act in the American national interest.
The wild card comes in a Romney presidential victory. Romney has consistently said that “Israel policy will be our policy.” In addition, his foreign policy advisers are heavily populated with the same neoconservatives who got us militarily involved in Afghanistan and Iraq and who continue to favor U.S. military intervention in the Middle East. Who knows what a President Romney would do in the face of such Israeli pressures?
And all of this comes at a time when American polling shows that only small numbers (under 15 percent) of Americans support a pre-emptive attack on Iran absent an existential threat to Israel. Yet Netanyahu and his Likud followers persist in trying to get the U.S. to attack Iran. If this persists, this will do nothing but threaten long-term U.S.-Israeli relations.
Do normally pro-Israel groups here in America want Israel to declare war in the hope of American military support? Do they wish to strongly influence U.S. policy in that direction? Are they not aware of flagging American public enthusiasm for U.S. military activity in the Middle East in the wake of Afghanistan and Iraq? And do any of them consider what such a conflict would mean in economic terms to the United States?
It is really difficult to see that any attack on Iran, absent any Iranian attack on us or our allies, is consistent with the U.S. national interest.
Editor’s note: Haviland Smith is a retired CIA station chief who served in Prague, Berlin, Beirut and Tehran and as chief of the counterterrorism staff. He lives in Williston.