The Gulf Arabs’ urgent engagement with the US to urge de-escalation with Iran from the current crescendo reached after the aerial assassination of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on 3 January is expected considering their physical proximity to Iran. The Saudis emphasized they were not part of the planned hit as well.
The GCC’s general aversion to facing an Iranian missile onslaught many times greater than what it faced with the Aramco attack months ago is augmented by war-weariness after an unsuccessful Yemen campaign, where the pro-Iran ‘Houthi’ group is stronger than ever. It signaled intent toward de-escalating its own tensions with Iran far prior to the Soleimani assassination following repeated Houthi strikes at economically crucial Saudi targets.
If not the GCC, then, who constitutes the interest group promoting US-Iran war and even historically sabotaging active efforts by the diplomatic and military bureaucracies on the US and Iranian side to reach détente? The latter point is perhaps as important to emphasize as is tracing the roots of hostility to Iran in the US’ sprawling domestic political scene, since it exemplifies the US pursuing goals which rational minds in US policy circles opposed and sometimes even recognized as private – not national – interests.
The answer is evidently Israel and the series of Zionist organizations in the US which helped create it and help sustain it. It is difficult to find any actor genuinely interested in a US-Iran war aside from Israel and Israel’s US Lobby has taken great pains to ensure anti-war voices within the US are smeared, isolated and quashed as it promotes the Iran war.
Legal limits have also not perturbed Israel from doing anything it can to get the US to attack Iran. In June 2005, a Pentagon Iran analyst, Larry Franklin, was caught by the FBI having passed classified information regarding security threats to US troops in Iraq to senior officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Franklin met the officials at a restaurant outside Washington already bugged by the FBI as a major Israeli espionage venue and was heard via wiretapping of claiming to possess information about Iran-affiliated groups in Iraq planning to attack US troops. The AIPAC officials were later caught by the FBI passing the information to Washington Post reporters so that a public push for war with Iran after Iraq could gain momentum.
AIPAC championed this agenda for a long time for the sake of Israel – have the US take out Iran as a regional power and rival regardless of the disastrous global implications of attacking Iran. This, of course, involved portraying Iran as an aggressive state practicing anti-US policies for the sake of it and also claiming it has an aggressive nuclear weapons programme.
Manufacturing an ‘Iranian threat’ to justify an Iran war was an Israeli job since the beginning. Despite repeated verifications by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and even US intelligence agencies that Iran does not pursue weapons-grade uranium enrichment, Israel Lobby groups have campaigned since the 1980s to present as fact Israeli claims about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons ambitions. These claims, represented best by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s famous ‘Iran will have the bomb within months’ predictions dating back to 1982, have faced numerous instances of resistance from level-headed quarters within US politics – all of which have been countered through smear campaigns, censorship drives and other tactics by the Lobby.
In Chapter 1 of his seminal book ‘Big Israel: How Israel’s Lobby Moves America’, director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy Grant F Smith states of the role of the Israel Lobby in the manufacturing the Iran nuclear scare:
‘Though not accurately reflected in mainstream media, the entire Iran nuclear scare was largely a “manufactured crisis” that focused pressure on Israel’s regional rivals and away from the longest running – and arguably most damaging to the US — regional conflict —that between Israel and Palestine. That a primary objective of many such IAO (Israel Affinity Organization) initiatives is to divert attention away from the problems created by Israel is a perception increasingly gaining traction among informed Americans.’
Such IAOs promoting the Iranian nuclear scare and subsequent case for attacking Iran have become highly prominent in both media campaigns and lobbying US Congress. Examples include United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI), whose advisory board included former Israeli Mossad chief Meir Dagan until his demise in 2016 and which specialized in public smear campaigns against entities it baselessly accused of doing business with Iran in contravention of US sanctions and Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) which a 2017 al Jazeera undercover documentary-investigation of the Israel Lobby revealed along with several similar organizations to be covertly colluding with the Israeli intelligence in spying on US citizens supporting Palestinian human rights and criticizing Israel.
The reason Israel wants Iran subdued is evident: Iran supports armed movements preventing Israeli consolidation and expansion of its frontiers to accommodate its aggressive Jewish settlements scheme. Groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza – where Israel is unable to extend settlements as compared to the West Bank – and Hezbollah in Lebanon have expanded their rocket and missile stockpiles with supply and training from Iran considerably over the years.
The nuclear scare helps augment the case for punishing Iran on account of its alliances in the Middle East, albeit the fraudulence underlying it has often led to quarters within US policymaking eventually trying to curtail it. In these instances, the Israel Lobby has lashed out to discredit such voices of sanity and even utilized its uncanny influence over the US Congress – for whose members AIPAC in particular galvanizes large amounts of funds during electoral cycles – to create inter-governmental discord over going ‘soft’ on Iran.
Professor Kirk Beattie of the Political Science and International Relations Department at Simmons College in his 2015 book ‘Congress and the Shaping of the Middle East’ describes Congress’ stunning Israeli-centric opposition to then-President Barack Obama’s diplomacy with Iran which culminated in the short-lived Iran nuclear deal (2015-18):
‘Meanwhile, before any agreement with Iran was hammered out, some forty-seven US senators took the extraordinary measure of penning a letter to Iran’s leaders, forewarning them that any deal struck by Obama and his foreign allies would meet with fierce opposition from Congress. The acrimonious relationship between the American president and his own Congress was played out under the klieg lights of global media. It highlighted the strong bond between many members of Congress and Israel, the power many members of Congress possess to obstruct presidential foreign policymaking, and those congresspersons’ willingness to exercise that power when it comes to matters affecting the Middle East. In short, all of these points serve to reinforce the value of arriving at a deeper understanding of Congress, and what motivates the behavior of US congresspersons who are shaping US Mideast policy.’
What happened with the deal and diplomacy in general between then and the recent flare-up in US-Iran tensions is plainly visible.
For the Gulf Arabs, physically the most proximate to Iran’s missiles out of all Iran’s rivals, the lust for war exhibited by Israel and its lobbyists is not visible. Their relationship to the US is nothing like that of Israel’s, who is confident it can continue to use the US as its bludgeon to punish states with no natural dispute with the US but who come in the way of Israel’s aggressive expansionist schemes.