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Iran tests power of Israel Lobby

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    Iran showdown tests power of `Israel lobby By Jim Lobe Apr 26, 2006 http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/article_2562.shtml George W. Bush addresses AIPAC
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2006
      Iran showdown tests power of `Israel lobby'
      By Jim Lobe
      Apr 26, 2006

      George W. Bush addresses AIPAC members in Washington on May 18, 2004.
      To his right is AIPAC's executive director Howard Kohr and to his left
      is AIPAC president Bernice Manocherian. Photo: Wikipedia"No lobby has
      managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American
      national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously
      convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially
      the same."
      WASHINGTON (IPS/GIN) - One month after the publication by two
      influential international relations scholars of a highly controversial
      essay on the so-called "Israel Lobby," their thesis that the lobby
      exercises "unmatched power" in Washington is being tested by rapidly
      rising tensions with Iran.

      The Israel Lobby—defined by professors John Mearsheimer of the
      University of Chicago and Stephen Walt, academic dean of Harvard's
      Kennedy School of Government, as "the loose coalition of individuals
      and organizations who actively work to shape U.S. foreign policy in a
      pro-Israel direction"—has pushed, far more visibly than any other
      domestic constituency, both Congress and the Bush administration
      toward confrontation with Tehran.

      Leading the charge has been a familiar group of neo-conservatives,
      such as former Defense Policy Board (DPB) chairman Richard Perle and
      former CIA director James Woolsey, who championed the war in Iraq, but
      who have increasingly focused their energies over the past year on
      building support for "regime change" and, if necessary, military
      action against Iran if it does not abandon its nuclear program.

      The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the premier
      Israel lobby group whose annual convention last year featured a giant,
      multimedia exhibit on how Iran is "pursuing nuclear weapons and how it
      can be stopped," has also been pushing hard on Capitol Hill for
      legislation to promote regime change. Despite White House objections,
      the group has sought tough sanctions against foreign companies with
      investments in Iran.

      Similarly, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), whose leadership is
      considered slightly less hawkish than AIPAC, has recently taken out
      full-page ads in influential U.S. newspapers entitled "A Nuclear Iran
      Threatens All," depicting radiating circles on an Iran-centered map to
      show where its missiles could strike.

      In their 81-page essay, entitled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign
      Policy" and condensed in a shorter essay published in March in the
      London Review of Books, professors Mearsheimer and Walt, pillars of
      the "realist" school of international relations, argue that
      Washington's Middle East policy is too closely tied to Israel to serve
      its own national interests in the region, particularly in the
      so-called "war on terror."

      They believe that the power of the Israel Lobby—derived, among other
      things, from its ability to marshal financial support for Democratic
      as well as Republican politicians, its grassroots organizational
      prowess and its ability to stigmatize critics as "anti-Semitic"—is
      largely responsible.

      "No lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what
      the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while
      simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests
      are essentially the same," the authors argued. They note that the
      lobby, while predominantly Jewish, also includes prominent Christian
      evangelicals and non-Jewish neo-conservatives, such as Mr. Woolsey and
      former Education Secretary William Bennett.

      In the administration's decision to invade Iraq, pressure from Israel
      and the lobby played a "critical"—although not exclusive—role,
      according to the paper, which cited pre-war public prodding by Israeli
      leaders and by leaders of many major Jewish organizations as evidence,
      although it notes that most U.S. Jews were skeptical and have since
      turned strongly against the war.

      Neo-conservatives closely associated with the right-wing views of
      Israel's Likud party, both in and outside the administration, played a
      particularly important role in gaining support for "regime change" in
      Iraq stretching back to the mid-1990s, according to the paper.

      But even during the run-up to the Iraq war, Israeli leaders, notably
      then-Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Prime Minister Ariel
      Sharon, depicted Iran as the greater threat, a theme that was picked
      up by the Lobby, led by the neo-conservatives, immediately after
      Baghdad's fall.

      "The liberation of Iraq was the first great battle for the future of
      the Middle East. ... But the next great battle—not, we hope a military
      one—will be for Iran," wrote the Weekly Standard's neo-conservative
      editor, William Kristol, in early May 2003.

      Shortly thereafter, neo-conservatives and other hawks led by Vice
      President Dick Cheney succeeded in cutting off ongoing U.S.-Iranian
      talks on Afghanistan and Iran and killing an offer by Tehran to engage
      in a broader negotiation on all outstanding differences.

      What makes the growing confrontation with Iran so remarkable is that
      the Israel Lobby appears to be the only major organized force here
      that is actively pushing it toward crisis.

      Mainstream analysts, including arms control hawks that favor strong
      pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, have spoken out against
      military action as far too risky and almost certainly
      counter-productive. Even analysts at the right-wing Heritage
      Foundation have voiced doubts. "It just doesn't make any sense from a
      geopolitical standpoint," said Heritage's James Carifano, noting
      Iran's capacity to retaliate against the U.S. in Iraq.

      The Iranian exile community, which has generally favored more pressure
      on Tehran, similarly appears divided about the consequences of a
      military attack, with some leaders fearing that it would strengthen
      the regime, Mr. Walt told IPS.

      While insisting that military action against Iran's nuclear program
      should only be a last resort, the Israel Lobby, on the other hand,
      appears united in the conviction that an attack will indeed be
      necessary if diplomatic efforts, economic pressure and covert action fail.

      "Iranian President Mahmoud (Ahmadinejad) sees the West as wimps and
      thinks we will eventually cave in," Patrick Clawson, deputy director
      of research of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think
      tank established by AIPAC, told New Yorker investigative reporter
      Seymour Hersh. "We have to be ready to deal with Iran if the crisis

      Mr. Hersh summarized Mr. Clawson's bottom line as: "Iran had no choice
      other than to accede to America's demands or face a military attack."

      That was much the same message delivered by Mr. Perle and rapturously
      received by the attendees at AIPAC's 2006 convention in March. The
      convention, at which the keynoter, none other than the
      administration's ultimate hawk, Mr. Cheney, vowed "meaningful
      consequences" if Iran did not freeze its nuclear program, drew several
      hundred Democratic and Republican lawmakers in what could only be
      described as a show of raw political power.

      "I don't think there's another group in the country that has two
      successive conferences in which the centerpiece was beating the drums
      for war in Iran," noted one senior official with another major
      pro-Israel organization, who asked not to be identified. "They are the
      main force behind this."



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