Thursday, December 16, 2010

Don't Mention the Lobby!

Yet another (WikiLeaks-inspired) gem from Australia's 'most influential foreign affairs commentator', Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan:

"One of the clear revelations from these leaked cables is that numerous Arab leaders have asked the Americans to take military action to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons. One might note that this does rather give the lie to the insane notion - peddled not least by US academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt - that an all-powerful Jewish lobby is the only group in the world so exercised about a nuclear Iran as to consider supporting military action." (Cables expose Arab states' hypocrisy over Iran, The Australian, 4/12/10)

While one is busy noting along with Sheridan, one might also care to note that Sheridan completely misrepresents Mearsheimer and Walt.

At no point in their groundbreaking book (about the Israel, not Jewish lobby as Sheridan slants it) do M&W talk of an all-powerful Jewish lobby. If anything, they understate their thesis, venturing no further than to claim that the Israel lobby has a "significant influence on American foreign policy, especially in the Middle East." (The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy, 2007, p 6)

Regarding Sheridan's accusation that they peddle an insane notion that the Israel lobby is the only group in the world so exercised about a nuclear Iran as to consider supporting military action, M&W's position is far more nuanced than Sheridan's caricature allows, factoring in both the United States and Iran's Arab neighbours: "The United States, Israel, and Iran's Arab neighbors, including many of America's Gulf allies, have an independent interest in keeping Iran non-nuclear and preventing it from becoming a regional hegemon. Washington would be committed to keeping Iran in check even if Israel did not exist, so as to prevent the other Gulf states from being conquered or cowed by Tehran."

However, "[o]ver the past 15 years, Israel and the lobby have pushed the United States to pursue a strategically unwise policy toward Iran. In particular, they are the central forces today [2007] behind all the talk in the Bush administration and on Capitol Hill about using military force to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities. Unfortunately, such rhetoric makes it harder, not easier, to stop Iran from going nuclear. During the 1990s, Israel and its American supporters encouraged the Clinton administration to pursue a confrontational policy toward Iran, even though Iran was interested in improving relations between the two countries. That same pattern was at play again in the early years of the Bush administration, as well as in December 2006, when Israel and the lobby made a concerted effort to undermine the Iraq Study Group's recommendation that President Bush negotiate with Iran. Were it not for the lobby, the US would almost certainly have a different and more effective Iran policy." (ibid p 282)

We now know, thanks to WikiLeaks, that some Arab leaders have privately urged war to stymie Iran's nuclear program (See my 4/12/10 post WikiLeaks 2). However, to illustrate the absurdity of Sheridan's implication that these US clients are somehow the Israel lobby's equal in pushing for a war against Iran, read the following extract from M&W, substituting the Gulf Cooperation Council for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and try keeping a straight face while doing so: "Perhaps the best evidence of AIPAC's influence on US policy toward Iran was revealed in mid-March 2007, when Congress was attempting to attach a provision to a Pentagon spending bill that would have required President Bush to get its approval before attacking Iran. In light of what has happened in the Iraq war, this was a popular measure on Capitol Hill and appeared likely to gain approval. It was also consistent with Congress's consitutional authority. But AIPAC was firmly opposed, because it saw the legislation as effectively taking the military option against Iran off the table. It went to work in the halls of Congress, and with the help of a handful of pro-Israel representatives... the provision was removed from the spending bill. One month later, when Congressman Michael Capuano (D-MA) was asked why the language on Iran was stripped out of the bill, he answered with one word: 'AIPAC'. Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) offered the same assessment." (ibid p 301)

Frankly, I don't believe for a moment Sheridan's even read M&W.

As the Australian corporate media's leading Israel advocate, Sheridan never misses an opportunity to burnish Israel's image. Hence we read: "[T]he cables show the weakness, one might even say the hypocrisy, of much Arab politics. The only Middle Eastern leader who seems to talk about Iran in private in exactly the same way as he talks about them in public is Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu."

Typically, he's not interested in why: While polls reveal a majority of Israelis see Iran as a threat and support an attack on it, a majority in the Arab world are favorably disposed toward Iran's nuclear program and see Israel and the US as the primary threat. (2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll) It is understandable, therefore, that while Arab leaders aligned with the US are prepared to sing in private the kind of anti-Iranian tunes they know American diplomats want to hear, mindful that the Arab street is humming a decidedly different tune, they wouldn't dare do so in public. Certainly, none of them seem inclined to join in with Israel's sabre-rattling.

Oh, and speaking of WikiLeaks and a certain all-powerful/ significantly influential/ whatever lobby, how's this for an admission of who really rules the Middle Eastern roost: "Israel has been largely untroubled by the leaks because US views on key Middle East issues are so close to its own." (Outrage, admiration & indifference: Responses on WikiLeaks from world leaders depend on their relationship with the US, Sydney Morning Herald, 11/12/10)

1 comment:

Fred said...


I think that you are taking these heavily vetted (by the NY Times etc) WikiLeaks far too much at face value. They are almost certainly heavily compromised if not entirely specifically leaked and spiked by intelligence agencies with a particular anti-Iranian agenda. See some reviews here