Israel’s Gurkha Regiment and Iran

July 31, 2010 § 2 Comments

Israel’s fifth column in the United States has long used the American military as what Juan Cole memorably called Israel’s ‘Gurkha Regiment’. They used the September 11 attacks as an opportunity to push the United States into a disastrous war against Israel’s regional enemies. The war was planned and executed in Washington, but its inspiration came from Tel Aviv. David Ben Gurion’s periphery doctrine had by the early 1980s evolved into Likud’s elaborate plan for dominating the region. It was developed and articulated by veteran Israeli diplomat Oded Yinon in the World Zionist Organization’s inhouse publication Kivunim. Ariel Sharon’s abortive attempt to implement the plan backfired after its invasion of Lebanon turned into a political and military fiasco. Israel soon realized the limits of its power when fighting a popular resistance as opposed to the ill-equipped and poorly led Arab armies which it had handily defeated. Meanwhile Yinon’s ideas were picked up and adapted by David Wurmser, the principal author of the infamous ‘Clean Break‘ and its lesser known, but more important follow up, ‘Coping with Crumbling States‘. (In a clear breach of the 1798 Logan Act, Wurmser, Feith and Perle also advised Israeli leaders on ways to undercut US foreign policy.) They were given their fullest expression in Wurmser’s 1999 book Tyranny’s Ally published by AEI and endorsed by Richard Perle et al.

At a time when Israel and the Likudnik neoconservatives were divided as to which regional rival needed confronting first — Iran or Iraq — Wurmser came up with a conceptual breakthrough which would neutralize both with a single stroke. In the place of the US strategy of ‘dual containment’ (developed by Israel lobbyist Martin Indyk), Wurmser proposed a strategy of ‘dual rollback’. By invading Iraq, encouraging sectarian segregation, and empowering the Shia, the United States could eliminate Iraq as a major threat while at the same time exploiting the Iraq-Iranian doctrinal schism over Khomeini’s concept of wilayat-e-faqih to rollback the Iranian revolution. Iraq and its present Grand Ayatullah command higher authority among Shias, he noted, and unlike the Iranian clergy, they don’t subscribe to wilayat-e-faqih. An assertive Iraqi Shia populace would therefore displace Iran as a center of the Shia world, its example would also spur the Saudi Shia to agitate against the central government.

So it was that in 2002 the neoconservatives leveraged their privileged access to Cheney and Rumsfeld to defeat the sceptics in the foreign policy establishment, the military joint chiefs of staff, and the intelligence agencies. They waged a war that has destroyed over a million Iraqi lives, dispalced nearly 5 million, and impoverished the world by burning up nearly six trillion dollars (half of those costs will be born by the US alone).But if you thought these agents of a foreign power would be laying low lest they draw more attention to themselves, you’d be disappointed. Deja vu: the neoconservatives now want the United States to wage another war for Israel. The cast is familiar, so is the script. The only question is how long the audience will put up with the charade. The US military has repeatedly put its foot down: it doesn’t want to fight another war for Israel. US businesses are even more sceptical. Even Obama is not listening. But the danger, as Zbigniew Brzezinski had warned, is that Israel could stage an event to force American hand and embroil it in a war that it does not want. So, where are the antiwar voices, and when will they call the Israel lobby on its treacherous machinations?

The following article by investigative journalist Gareth Porter is a must read. (Also see my 2007 article on the campaign against Iran)

The Real Aim of Israel’s Bomb Iran Campaign

by Gareth Porter

Reuel Marc Gerecht’s screed justifying an Israeli bombing attack on Iran coincides with the opening of  the new Israel lobby campaign marked by the introduction of House Resolution 1553 expressing full support for such an Israeli attack.

What is important to understand about this campaign is that the aim of Gerecht and of the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu is to support an attack by Israel so that the United States can be drawn into direct, full-scale war with Iran.

That has long been the Israeli strategy for Iran, because Israel cannot fight a war with Iran without full U.S. involvement. Israel needs to know that the United States will finish the war that Israel wants to start.

Gerecht openly expresses the hope that any Iranian response to the Israeli attack would trigger full-scale U.S. war against Iran. “If Khamenei has a death-wish, he’ll let the Revolutionary Guards mine the strait, the entrance to the Persian Gulf,” writes Gerecht. “It might be the only thing that would push President Obama to strike Iran militarily….” Gerecht suggest that the same logic would apply to any Iranian “terrorism against the United States after an Israeli strike,” by which we really means any attack on a U.S. target in the Middle East. Gerecht writes that Obama might be “obliged” to threaten major retaliation “immediately after an Israeli surprise attack.”

That’s the key sentence in this very long Gerecht argument. Obama is not going to be “obliged” to join Israeli aggression against Iran unless he feels that domestic political pressures to do so are too strong to resist. That’s why the Israelis are determined to line up a strong majority in Congress and public opinion for war to foreclose Obama’s options.

In the absence of confidence that Obama would be ready to come into the war fully behind Israel, there cannot be an Israeli strike.

Gerecht’s argument for war relies on a fanciful nightmare scenario of Iran doling out nuclear weapons to Islamic extremists all over the Middle East. But the real concern of the Israelis and their lobbyists, as Gerecht’s past writing has explicitly stated, is to destroy Iran’s Islamic regime in a paroxysm of U.S. military violence.

Gerecht first revealed this Israeli-neocon fantasy as early as 2000, before the Iranian nuclear program was even taken seriously, in an essay written for a book published by the Project for a New American Century.  Gerecht argued that, if Iran could be caught in a “terrorist act,” the U.S. Navy should “retaliate with fury”. The purpose of such a military response, he wrote, should be to “strike with truly devastating effect against the ruling mullahs and the repressive institutions that maintain them.”

And lest anyone fail to understand what he meant by that, Gerecht was more explicit: “That is, no cruise missiles at midnight to minimize the body count. The clerics will almost certainly strike back unless Washington uses overwhelming, paralyzing force.”

In 2006-07, the Israeli war party had reason to believed that it could hijack U.S. policy long enough to get the war it wanted, because it had placed one of its most militant agents, David Wurmser, in a strategic position to influence that policy.

We now know that Wurmser, formerly a close adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu and during that period Vice President Dick Cheney’s main adviser on the Middle East, urged a policy of overwhelming U.S. military force against Iran.  After leaving the administration in 2007, Wurmser revealed that he had advocated a U.S. war on Iran, not to set back the nuclear program but to achieve regime change.

“Only if what we do is placed in the framework of a fundamental assault on the survival of the regime will it have a pick-up among ordinary Iranians,” Wurmser told The Telegraph.  The U.S. attack was not to be limited to nuclear targets but was to be quite thorough and massively destructive. “If we start shooting, we must be prepared to fire the last shot. Don’t shoot a bear if you’re not going to kill it.”

Of course, that kind of war could not be launched out of the blue.  It would have required a casus belli to justify a limited initial attack that would then allow a rapid escalation of U.S. military force.  In 2007, Cheney acted on Wurmser’s advice and tried to get Bush to provoke a war with Iran over Iraq, but it was foiled by the Pentagon.

As Wurmser was beginning to whisper that advice in Cheney’s ear in 2006, Gerecht was making the same argument in The Weekly Standard:

Bombing the nuclear facilities once would mean we were declaring war on the clerical regime. We shouldn’t have any illusions about that. We could not stand idly by and watch the mullahs build other sites. If the ruling mullahs were to go forward with rebuilding what they’d lost–and it would be surprising to discover the clerical regime knuckling after an initial bombing run–we’d have to strike until they stopped. And if we had any doubt about where their new facilities were (and it’s a good bet the clerical regime would try to bury new sites deep under heavily populated areas), and we were reasonably suspicious they were building again, we’d have to consider, at a minimum, using special-operations forces to penetrate suspected sites.

The idea of waging a U.S. war of destruction against Iran is obvious lunacy, which is why U.S. military leaders have strongly resisted it both during the Bush and Obama administrations.  But  Gerecht makes it clear that Israel believes it can use its control of Congress to pound Obama into submission. Democrats in Congress, he boasts, “are mentally in a different galaxy than they were under President Bush.” Even though Israel has increasingly been regarded around the world as a rogue state after its Gaza atrocities and the commando killings of unarmed civilians on board the Mavi Marmara, its grip on the U.S. Congress appears as strong as ever.Moreover, polling data for 2010 show that a majority of Americans have already been manipulated into supporting war against Iran – in large part because more than two-thirds of those polled have gotten the impression that Iran already has nuclear weapons.  The Israelis are apparently hoping to exploit that advantage. “If the Israelis bomb now, American public opinion will probably be with them,” writes Gerecht. “Perhaps decisively so.”   Netanyahu must be feeling good about the prospects for pressuring Barack Obama to join an Israeli war of aggression against Iran.  It was Netanyahu, after all, who declared in 2001, “I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in the way.”

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist on U.S. national security policy who has been independent since a brief period of university teaching in the 1980s. Dr. Porter is the author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2005). He has written regularly for Inter Press Service on U.S. policy toward Iraq and Iran since 2005.

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