23 July 2020   Leave a comment

Paul Pillar has written an excellent essay on the recent attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities. He was an analyst for the CIA and left that post after arguing that the George W. Bush Administration had “cherry-picked” intelligence in order to justify a war against Iraq in 2003. In the article, published in The National Interest, Pillar makes clear that he believes that Israel and the US are behind the attacks. Iran itself has yet to make that accusation. But he also argues that US interests and Israeli interests in this matter are not compatible. He lays most of the blame on the Netanyahu government:

“To the extent the Trump administration is condoning, turning a blind eye toward, or even colluding with Israeli attacks on Iran, this is bad news for U.S. interests. U.S. interests are different from those of Israel, and even more different from those of the current Benjamin Netanyahu-led government. 

“That government has an interest in perpetuating high tension with Iran to keep Iran as a bête noire blamable for all the ills of the Middle East, to preclude any rapprochement between Washington and Tehran, to promote Israeli relations with the Gulf Arab states, and to distract attention from issues that bring international scrutiny and criticism on Israel. At the moment, Netanyahu’s incentives in this regard are stronger than ever, which may help to explain the timing of the recent wave of attacks. The distraction value of stoking the conflict with Iran has increased as Netanyahu contemplates formal annexation of parts of the West Bank and the international condemnation that will come with it.

“Netanyahu also, like the Iranians, is aware of the U.S. electoral calendar and American opinion polls. He may see the next few months as an optimum and limited time for stirring the regional pot even more than Israel has in the past, while his friend Donald Trump is still in power. To the extent the stirring helps his friend’s re-election chances, so much the better from his point of view. 

“Netanyahu is unlikely to be worrying about escalation into a bigger war, which would serve his purposes even more dramatically. Goading Iran into retaliating in a way that would spark such a war may have been one of the objectives of the recent attacks. And it would not be Netanyahu’s job to count the ensuing American casualties. “

It is unlikely that US President Trump is aware of the divergent interests of Israel and the US. But it also seems clear that both Netanyahu and Trump are motivated more by personal, rather than national interests. The challenges to Iran are continuing: the press is reporting that Israeli or US jets harassed an Iranian passenger plane over Syria today. Over the last few months, Iran has significantly increased its contacts with both Russia and China. And Iran is far closer to building a nuclear weapon than it was when the Iranian nuclear agreement was being observed. US policy toward Iran has been nothing short of a disaster.

Posted July 23, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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