Pushing war with Iran

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is arguably Washington’s most powerful lobby group. The organisation holds extreme views on the Israel/Palestine conflict and has been a long-time opponent of negotiation with the Palestinians. Indeed, AIPAC’s public and private persona couldn’t be more different. Jeffrey Blankfort reported in 2003: “It [AIPAC] wanted to appear to be supportive of the ‘road map,’ while working to derail it.” The uniformity of consensus within Washington towards Israel is partly due to the effectiveness of AIPAC’s intense lobbying. Any Congressman or woman who dares speak out against Israel or its policies will find a better funded opponent next election.

Last August came a bombshell. It emerged that Larry Franklin, the Pengaton’s then top Iran desk officer, met repeatedly with Naor Gilon, head of the political department at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and a specialist on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Juan Cole reported last year: “Franklin did succeed in giving a confidential draft presidential directive on Iran to AIPAC officials, who then passed it to someone at the Israeli Embassy, perhaps Gilon. It is telling that the official took hard copy from AIPAC, presumably because he trusted them implicitly, whereas Gilon had rejected it from Franklin.”

But does all this mean? The facts in this case still remain unclear but more pieces of the puzzle are emerging. AIPAC supports “regime change” in Iran. The removal of the mullahs in Tehran would eradicate another regional enemy of Israel, so the thinking goes. A number of senior members of the Bush administration are also opposed to Iran and support military action against the country’s supposed nuclear capabilities. The involvement of a lobby group in the formulation of government policy strikes at the heart of America’s faltering democracy.

Franklin surrendered to the FBI yesterday to face charges of illegal disclosure of classified information to AIPAC. This development, and much of this story, has received virtually no media coverage in Australia, and little in the US. Gorilla in the Room has summarised the major questions arising out of the latest revelations. These include:

– Franklin is known to have passed onto two now former senior AIPAC officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, “a draft Presidential decision directive which would have, if approved, made regime change rather than negotiation official U.S. policy toward Iran.”

– A major goal of the Israeli government is military action against Iran. AIPAC, an American proxy of the Israeli government, with Franklin’s help, has been pressuring members of Congress to support military strikes against Iran.

– What does the FBI have on AIPAC? It is quite possible that the Jewish lobby group would be exposed as leading the charge against Iraq. Phonetaps undoubtedly exist. Gorilla: “After all, the Office of Special Plans at the Pentagon was very heavily staffed with political appointees with very close personal ties to Israel. (This is the truth that dare not speak its name, but it’s critical to understanding how the U.S. got snookered into invading Iraq.)”

– How much of the bogus intelligence used by America and its allies to justify action against Iraq came from Israeli intelligence sources? And is similarly flawed intelligence being used to lead the charge against Iran? When Ariel Sharon recently met Bush, he presented the US President with evidence that “proved” Iran was “near a point of no return” on its nuclear program.

– The infamous case of the forged documents related to alleged sales of uranium yellowcake from Niger to Iraq, infamously used by Bush in his State of the Union address in 2003. Somebody forged the documents. But whom? It seems unlikely that the Israelis did it, despite their large support for the Iraq invasion. Exposure would have resulted in a uncomfortable relationship between Israel and the US. But did one of the neo-cons do it for them? Larry Franklin perhaps? A timeline suggests this may have been the case.

The seriousness of these allegations has resulted in the mainstream media backing away from covering it in much detail at all. Discussion of the influence of Israel and its agents in America, and indeed Australia, remains one of the last great taboos.

Journalists should be demanding answers to these key questions:

1) Did we (America and its allies) invade Iraq partially due to pressure from the Israel lobby?

2) Are we moving in a similiar direction with Iran based on identical motives?

3) Does AIPAC’s equivalent in Australia, AIJAC – a long-time supporter of war against Iraq and now making hawkish noises towards Iran – present Australian government officials with intelligence of Iran’s “imminent threat”? Is there a possibility that a Larry Franklin equivalent exists in Australia, passing classified information to Israeli lobby groups?

Until a full investigation is conducted into AIPAC and its proxies in the Bush administration (unlikely to happen in the current political climate in Washington) we won’t know the true impact and long-time ramifications of even partially subverting foreign policy to the Middle East only “democracy.”

UPDATE: Haaretz provides a less than thorough “analysis” of the latest developments.

UPDATE 2: The New York Times covers the case.

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