Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israeli-Inspired U.S. Pressure May Backfire in Iran

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israeli-Inspired U.S. Pressure May Backfire in Iran

Article excerpt

Israeli-Inspired U.S. Pressure May Backfire in Iran

By Andrew I. Killgore

"Israel is attempting to convince the United States that Iranian-inspired extremism and Iran's rearmament drive have become a major threat to the stability of the Middle East and the interests of the West."

--David Hoffman, Washington Post, March 13, 1993

Barely two years after David Hoffman wrote the words quoted above, Israel did convince the United States that Iran was a threat to the stability of the Middle East and the interests of the West. Or rather President Bill Clinton appeared to be convinced when on April 30 he announced an American trade embargo against Iran, charging that Iran's goal is to acquire nucleaar weapons.

There is ample reason to doubt whether Clinton acted out of honest conviction. Newspaper accounts of the president's last visit to Moscow show that while he was at pains to persuade Russian President Boris Yeltsin that selling a nuclear reactor to Iran would further that country's alleged plans to produce the "bomb," he was unable to provide Yeltsin with a satellite photograph of an Iranian nuclear headquarters from which a nuclear weapons program might be directed. This was because, a New York times article explained, no such center existed.

A second reason was supplied by Gary Sick at a recent Washington seminar. Sick, head of the Middle East section of the National Security Council under President Jimmy Carter, cited a press conference remark made on July 18, 1994 by Secretary of State Warren Christopher that Iran was behind the destruction earlier that year of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. When the surprised Argentine foreign minister asked Christopher if he had any new intelligence report on the outrage, however, Christopher conceded that he had nothing new.

Perhaps the strongest sign of skepticism about Clinton's action is that neither Japan nor any of our European allies joined the embargo. Or perhaps, just possibly, if any do believe Iran plans to produce nuclear weapons, they do not agree that a trade embargo is the best way to dissuade Tehran.

The simplest explanation of Washington's anti-Iranian policy is domestic politics. Bill Clinton believes that he cannot be re-elected without overwhelming media and financial support from the Israel lobby and those who take their cues from it. Thus he and Warren Christopher are ready to "buy" Israeli exaggerations of the dangers emanating from Iran, whether they really believe them or not.

Israel's maneuvers with respect to Iran aim at a restoration of the 1972-1978 "golden era" of de facto alliance between Jerusalem and Tehran. This was inaugurated on May 23, 1972 by President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger when Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was told in Tehran that he could buy all the American weapons he wanted, other than nuclear arms.

The simplest explanation of Washington's anti-Iranian policy is domestic politics.

With Iran appointed the de facto American surrogate in the Persian Gulf, Israel won profitable contracts there and Iran surreptitiously sold petroleum to Israel in definance of the Arab oil boycott. Only a few years earlier, Israel had captured large Arab territories. Now effectively allied with Iran, and counting on the latter's old animosities toward the Arabs, Israel no longer needed to fear the preponderance in Arab manpower. The alliance also held out an exciting prospect that Israel would play a critical role in the marketing of petroleum from the Arab/Persian Gulf area, site of about two-thirds of the world's total known reserves.

President Clinton's Israel-induced U.S. embargo on trade with Iran, and the president's veto of a huge project by the largely American-owned Conoco oil company to develop Iran's offshore Sirri oil field in the lower Gulf (a project which the Iranians now have awarded to a French company) were first steps. They were to signal to Tehran that it could not escape its deepening poverty except by restoring cordial relations with Washington, and that such cordial relations were not possible until the present Iranian regime is replaced by one ready to do business with Israel. …

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