Israel Planning a September/October Surprise?
By Ray McGovern
International Clearing House — You say you expected more rhetoric than reality from Senators Obama and McCain yesterday in their speeches on Iraq and Afghanistan? Well, that’s certainly what you got.
What I find nonetheless amazing is how they, and the pundits, have taken such little notice of the dramatic change in the political landscape occasioned by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s bombshell on July 7 — his insistence on a “timetable” for withdrawal of US troops before any accord is reached on their staying past the turn of the year.
Responding to a question at his press conference yesterday, President George W. Bush showed that he was vaguely aware that the timetable is, as Robert Dreyfuss says (in Truthout, July 7), a “big deal.” Bush even alluded haltingly to the possibility of extending the UN mandate still further.
But it is far from clear that Maliki, who is under great domestic pressure, would be able to sell that to the various factions upon which he depends for support, much less to those which he must keep at bay. As Dreyfuss points out, Maliki and his Shiite allies are also under considerable pressure from Iran, which remains the chief ally of the ruling alliance of Shiites. Most important, Maliki is by no means in control of what happens next.
Here’s where it gets sticky. No one who knows about third rails in US politics would expect the candidates or the fawning corporate media (FCM) to address how those now running Israel are likely to be looking at the implications of a large US troop withdrawal from Iraq next year.
I am remembering how I was pilloried on June 16, 2005, immediately after Congressman John Conyers’ rump-Judiciary Committee hearing in the bowels of the Capitol, for a candid answer to a question from one of his colleagues; i. e., if the invasion of Iraq was not about WMD, and not about non-existent ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda, then why did we attack?
In answer, I used the acronym OIL. O for oil; I for Israel; and L for Logistics, meaning the military bases deemed by neoconservatives as necessary to protect both. Neither the House members present nor the media people seemed to have any problem with oil and military bases as factors-in itself an interesting commentary.
However, the suggestion that one main motive was an attempt to make that part of the Middle East safer for Israel (yes, folks, the neocons really thought that attacking Iraq would do that) — well, that was anathema.
As it is anathema today to suggest that this is still one of the main reasons, besides oil, that Elliott Abrams, other neocons — not to mention Vice President Dick Cheney and his team — insist we must stay, Maliki and his associates be damned. (See the cartoon in the Washington Times today showing Maliki and words telling him “We are NOT leaving.”)
Here in Washington we can sit back and quibble over the implications of such remarks by Maliki and other Iraqi leaders. The Israelis have to take such statements seriously. No agreement on US forces staying into 2009 without a timetable for withdrawal? For Tel Aviv, this is getting very serious.
My guess is the Israeli leaders are apoplectic. The fiasco in Iraq clearly has made the region much more dangerous for Israel. There are actually real “terrorists” and “extremists” now in Iraq, and the prospect of US troops leaving has got to be a cause of acute concern in Tel Aviv.
Keeping the US Entangled: Iran
This dramatic change — or even just the specter of it — greatly increases Israel’s incentive to ensure the kind of US involvement in the area that would have to endure for several years. The Israelis need to create “facts on the ground” — something to guarantee that Washington will stand by what U.S. candidates, including Sen. Obama, call “our ally.” (Never mind that there is no mutual US-Israel defense treaty.) Israel is all too painfully aware that it has only six more months of Bush and Cheney.
The legislation drafted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) being so zealously promoted in Congress calls for the equivalent of a blockade of Iran. That would be one way to entangle; there are many others.
The point is that the growing danger that the Israelis perceive will probably prompt them to find a way to get the US involved in hostilities with Iran. Cheney and Bush have pretty much given them that license, with the president regularly pledging to defend “our ally” if Israel is attacked.
All Israel has to do is to arrange to be attacked. Not a problem.
There are endless possibilities among which Israel can choose to catalyze such a confrontation — with or without a wink and a nod from Cheney and Abrams. The so-called “amber light” said to have been given to the Israelis is, I believe, already seen as quite sufficient; they are not likely to feel a need to wait until it turns green.
So far, the resistance of U.S. senior military has been the only real obstacle to the madness of hostilities with Iran. (And one need only read Scott Ritter’s article on Truthdig this week to get a sense for why they would be chary.)
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, has been described as warning the Israelis that a “Third Front” in the Middle East would be a disaster. I think, rather, he was trying to warn anyone who might listen in Washington, including until now tone-deaf lawmakers.
Even if the pundits are correct in suggesting that Mullen is joined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in trying to resist the neocons and Cheney, Mullen’s tone at his press conference two weeks ago suggested he is fighting a rear guard action-against the “crazies” in the White House, as well as those in Tel Aviv. And when is the last time the crazies lost a political battle with such implications for Israel?
Mullen had just returned from Tel Aviv. He appreciates better than most the fecklessness of endless speculation over whether Israel or the U.S. might strike Iran first. Even if the Israeli leaders have no explicit assurances from the White House, they almost certainly calculate that, once a casus belli is established, their friends in Washington — and the troops they command — are likely to be committed to the fray big time.
Viewed from Tel Aviv it appears an increasingly threatening situation, with more urgent need to “embed” (so to speak) the United States even more deeply in the region — in a confrontation involving both countries with Iran.
A perfect storm is brewing:
Petraeus ex Machina, with a record of doing Vice President Dick Cheney’s bidding, takes command of CENTCOM in September;
Sen. McCain’s numbers are likely to be in the toilet at that point (because of the economy as much as anything else);
McCain will be seen by the White House as the only candidate with something to gain by a wider war (just as by another “terrorist incident”);
The Bush/Cheney months will be down to three;
And Maliki will not be able to cave in to Washington on the timeline requirement he has publicly set.
In sum, Israel is likely to be preparing a September/October surprise designed to keep the US bogged down in Iraq and in the wider region by provoking hostilities with Iran. And don’t be surprised if it starts as early as August. Israel’s leaders may well plead for understanding on the part of those U.S. officials not tipped off in advance, claiming that they could not distinguish amber from green with their night-vision goggles on.
Would they hesitate? Please tell me who…just who is likely to turn on the siren, pull them over, and even think of giving them a summons-once the patrol car computer confirms their privileged licenses?
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. A former Army intelligence officer and CIA analyst, he is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
A shorter version of this article appeared first on www.Consortiumnews.com .
Source URL: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info
July 17, 2008 Ex-CIA Ray McGovern on Obama’s ‘new world’ Will Obama pull troops out of Iraq and will he face up to BIG OIL?
McGovern: “The game is over with Iraq and so the question is how does this strategic change affect the real players in the area. The Israeli right wants a confrontation with Iran to keep US forces in the region. The US military leadership is against a “third front” but has to contend with Cheney.
Raymond McGovern is a retired CIA officer. McGovern was a Federal employee under seven US presidents for over 27 years, presenting the morning intelligence briefings at the White House for many of them. McGovern was born and raised in Bronx, graduated summa cum laude from Fordham University, received an M.A. in Russian Studies from Fordham, a certificate in Theological Studies from Georgetown University, and graduated from Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program. Transcript
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Ray McGovern was for many years a senior CIA analyst who briefed President Reagan. He’s retired now and is a commentator and analyst of strategic geopolitical events, and he joins us now from Washington. On Tuesday, three American political leaders gave speeches on what they think should be American foreign policy, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the major speech of the day was by Barack Obama.
TRANSCRIPT CLIP BEGINS
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (D): I will give our military a new mission on my first day in office: ending this war. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. After this redeployment, we will keep a residual force to perform specific missions in Iraq, targeting any remnants of al-Qaeda, protecting our service members and diplomats, and training and supporting Iraq’s security forces, so long as the Iraqis make political progress. And, yes, we will make tactical adjustments as we implement this strategy.
The question that comes to me is: who’s going to own Iraqi oil? There’s a lot of blood–and I hate using the phrase “blood and treasure,” but that seems to be the phrase–been expended to try to get an advantageous position for American oil companies in Iraq.
RAY MCGOVERN, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Well, the difference, Paul, was the one that Cheney brought in with him, the thought that you have to control the oil in Iraq and places like that in order to have a fair share of it. They’re not going to be able to control it now. They know that. They’re not going to have permanent military bases. Indeed, the bulk of American troops are going to be out of Iraq within a year. And we know that–at least I know that–exchange from what al-Maliki and al-Rubaie, the national security advisor for Iraq, were saying. So if this is about oil, they’re going to have to go back to the old sharing and buying oil, and a fair share for the various companies involved. The game is over with Iraq. And so the question is: how does this strategic change affect the real players in the area? And I find it very notable that one of the main strategic players in the area, if not the main, is the State of Israel, is not mentioned once by Barack Obama. They are pulling out their hair right now at the prospect of US troops leaving Iraq. And the implications of that, in my view, are that they will do everything they can, that is, the Likudniks, the whatever-you-call-them, Kadima or whatever, the rightist extremists that run the Israeli government, not the Israeli citizens, but the people in control there will do all they can–all they can–to get us more deeply involved in that area. And they have–.
JAY: Well, what can they do?
RAY: They have the initiative. They can get us involved in a war with Iran, and I see the prospects as better than even that they will succeed in doing that, because they can cause that to happen. They can cause the kind of provocation that Iran will be forced to respond to, and the president of the United States has made it clear that if that happens, the United States of America is in there with both feet.
JAY: I want to get back to Obama’s residual force. He doesn’t mention, discuss at all, the issue of the private armies and private contractors, which number something equivalent to the numbers of US forces. He doesn’t talk about, really, what the mission of a residual US force will be, except to chase al-Qaeda, which seems a little preposterous to me. It’s not the US forces that are going to chase al-Qaeda. The Iraqis have been chasing quite successfully al-Qaeda themselves. And when it comes to the issue of oil, a rational policy would be just buy the oil off the open market, but is Obama ready to defy or take on American oil companies?
RAY: Well, that remains to be seen, but I don’t think that American oil companies are in the driver’s seat anymore. I don’t think the American administration is in a driver’s seat. There has been supreme resistance among the Iraqis themselves–surprise, surprise–to the notion that we’ll do what we did in 1953 and take over their oil again. It’s not going to happen, and neither are the permanent military bases. And what I was really refreshed to see in Obama’s speech was his pledge not to seek permanent military bases. And so the situation really is very different. And, yeah, I think getting oil on the open market is what’s going to have to happen. And what I worry about is the repercussions of how this will look in terms of Israeli interests, as well as other interests in the Gulf, and whether people will be able to resign themselves to the fact that Iran is the preeminent force in that part of the world, and it has to be regarded as such and dealt with as such. There’s no reason why we can’t talk to Iranians.
JAY: The American military leadership has made it quite clear, it seems, publicly and, we assume, privately, that they don’t want Israel to take any kind of action against Iran, they don’t want a third front. You think there’s a possibility Israel will do the same?
RAY: I think the chances are better than even that that will happen precisely, Paul, and let me tell you why. If you look at Admiral Mullen, when he got back from his trip to Israel, two weeks ago now, people are saying that he was wagging his finger at the Israelis and said, “You’d better not do this.” I interpret that as a defensive maneuver. He and Gates and others are trying to make the case that this would be crazy, this would be a terrible, to open a third front. Think of those words, “a third front.” Those words were deliberately chosen. Now, why would they do that? I don’t think that they’re from a position of power. I think that they’re worried sick that Cheney and Abrams, the people who gave us Hamas, the people who gave us the trouble in Gaza, that they will go off half-cocked and order our military forces to commit virtual suicide–and I use that term advisedly, because the reason Admiral Fallon quit was he didn’t want to be on the receiving end of orders from the likes of Elliott Abrams and Dick Cheney to risk half of his forces in the southern part of Iraq. And that’s what would happen.
JAY: Were you not concerned at all that Obama did not give any kind of reference in his speech that would take off the table an option of–there was no reference to the potential of an Israeli attack on Iran. There was no cautionary note against it. And, in fact, there was one sentence I thought was particularly peculiar to have chosen, where he talked about, from the terrorist caves on the Pakistan-Afghan border to centrifuges rotating beneath the soil of Iran, to link bin Laden and Iran is sounding pretty close to the way McCain sounded when he was last in the Middle East, and it’s the kind of rhetoric one would use to create the conditions for some kind of attack.
RAY: Well, Paul, I grant you “rhetoric” is precisely the right word. You’ve got to stick in, you’ve got to take that rhetoric for what it’s worth in these speeches. You know, caves in Afghanistan, centrifuges in Iran, those are little [inaudible] to the people who will say, “Why didn’t you mention these things?” What I see Obama as doing, really, is trying to face this realistically, to look at what the prospects are with respect to that part of the world and what kind of a role Iran really is playing. Is Iran really a strategic threat to the United States? Balderdash. It is not. To whom might it construed to be a strategic threat? Surprise, surprise–the State of Israel. Now, is it? Well, that’s a matter of opinion. If you’re an Israeli–and I’d put myself in the position of the Israelis after the experience I’ve been through the last several decades, I would worry about Iran getting a nuclear weapon if indeed they’re working on one, which US intelligence says they are not. But I would worry about that. So the question is how you handle that. Do you handle that by overwhelming force, by attacking Iran? I don’t think so. You handle that in the traditional way, the Marshall Plan way, the old, traditional methods of diplomacy–you talk to these people, find out what their grievances are, find out what their fears are, and, indeed, the head of the national intelligence council just last weekend said, you know, the Iranians have reason to fear us; whether they’re right or not, a reason to fear us. And certainly they do.