Obama to Pro-Israel Lobby Group: ‘Too Much Loose Talk of War’

Here is my first report for Inter Press Service on the AIPAC conference. I think it would have been fuller if I had been there, rather than having had to cover it by watching it remotely. you tell me if this is something AIPAC had to be afraid of.

This appeared originally at Inter Press Service News Agency

WASHINGTON, Mar 5 2012 (IPS) – U.S. President Barack Obama Sunday made a clear statement against a rush to war – either by the U.S. or Israel – with Iran, while also emphasising that he would pursue that option if alternatives were unsuccessful in ensuring that Iran would not develop a nuclear weapon.

Speaking at the annual policy convention of the powerful American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Obama decried the “loose talk of war”, and contended that sanctions and international pressure are working.

“Now is not the time for bluster; now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition that we have built,” he said, noting that the recent drumbeat for war “has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil…”

He was no doubt referring to recent reports that Israel was preparing to strike Iranian nuclear targets this year, as well as exhortations by its supporters here, including three of the four major Republican presidential candidates, to take a more aggressive and threatening stance against Iran or to support Israel if it undertakes an attack against Tehran’s nuclear facilities on its own.

Obama began pushing back on that pressure last week in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic magazine in which he stated that “…our assessment, which is shared by the Israelis, is that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon and is not yet in a position to obtain a nuclear weapon without us having a pretty long lead time in which we will know that they are making that attempt.”

Obama went on to urge a diplomatic resolution, which, he contends, there is still time to achieve. He reiterated that point at the AIPAC conference Sunday. Continue reading

Radio Show on Iran

As I mentioned last week, I was on a radio show today on the subject of Iran, Israel and the US. Also on the show was the extremely informative Professor Ervand Abrahamian of Baruch College. It’s well worth listening to, and you can do so at this link.

Bibi Wants War

In my latest piece for Souciant, I explore the ways in which the Netanyahu government, along with their allies in Washington, are working to push for war with Iran, preferably with the United States doing the shooting. A host of recent events point in this direction. I’ve preached for a long time that a war with Iran is not going to happen. I still believe it, but that belief is being pushed hard these days by Bibi and his pals.

Most Israelis Favour a Nuclear-Free Middle East, Poll Shows

My latest piece of reporting for IPS News is about a pair of polls released yesterday examining the views of Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel on a range of subjects. Some of the results might surprise you.

A Nuclear Iran: What’s Real And What’s Not?

When I’ve spoken at public gatherings, one of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked has been about Iran and its nuclear program. I’ve followed this issue very closely since the early 1990s and since 2001, my answer has been the same, and everything that’s happened since has bolstered my view of this issue.

In my view, Iran certainly has worked to develop a nuclear weapons capacity. It is almost unfathomable that they wouldn’t do so.

This is the sort of propaganda we have gotten too used to regarding a nuclear Iran. How much concern is really warranted?

The incentives are massive. It starts with the hostility the country faces, justified or not, from two major nuclear powers, the United States and Israel. An Iranian nuke would also change the regional balance of power, breaking Israel’s Middle Eastern monopoly on nuclear weapons.

But it doesn’t end there. The Iranian neighborhood outside of the Mideast is a heavily nuclear one, including Pakistan, which borders Iran, India, which has an unsteady standoff with Pakistan, as well as Russia and China. There’s no immediate threat to Iran there, but there has been in the past, particularly from the USSR, and could be again someday. Things change.

And what are the disincentives? Well, they’re significant enough that Iran pursued its nuclear program clandestinely. It includes tension with Europe, which Iran desperately needs as a trading partner, and in the past it included the potential for a nuclear race with Iraq.

But the disincentives do not include an American or Israeli attack. This I have maintained for a decade and nothing has dissuaded me from that view.

True enough, there are significant forces in both the US and Israel that want to launch an attack on Iran. But they have largely been reduced to saber-rattling by the logistical difficulties and the regional ramifications of such an attack. Cooler heads, even among those who would like to attack Iran if the risks and consequences were not so dire, have prevailed.

It is also the case that anyone familiar with Iran knows that, despite its repressive theocracy and its deliberately provocative and offensive President, the country is not an irrational actor. They’ve never launched an aggressive war, and their very real support for radical Islamic groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, though often exaggerated, is based on a clear political calculus.

Those well-versed in Iran know they are not seeking a weapon which, once they have it, will be launched against Israel. Indeed, Israel knows this very well, as Ehud Barak himself recently confirmed. But the fear mongering, in both the US and Israel, is politically useful and Israel is indeed very worried that their nuclear monopoly will be broken. So are the Saudis, who, like Israel, would have a much more serious opponent to deal with in a nuclear Iran.

The issue remains alive, however, despite the fact that successive National Intelligence Estimates in the US, as well as other reports from international bodies have consistently stated that, despite Iran’s less than total cooperation with inspections, the conclusion is that Iran halted its active development of a nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has not resumed it since. Continue reading