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Another Example of Why Congress Should Not Let the Bibi Dog Wag the U.S. Tail

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent claim that Hezbollah launched a missile attack on Israel—even when Israeli intelligence analysts say the Iranian-backed militia likely wasn't responsible—illustrates a key problem with an Iran sanctions bill before Congress, which would pledge U.S. support for any purportedly "defensive" Israeli military actions against Iran or its proxies.

LobeLog

The front-page article by Jodi Rudoren about Israel’s “Castle Strategy” in Sunday’s New York Times offers yet one more example — and right in the opening paragraph — of why the KirkMenendez “Wag the Dog” Ac t of 2013 is so dangerous to the security of the United States. Here it is:

After a Katyusha rocket fired from Lebanon landed in Israel last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hezbollah, the Shiite militia, and its Iranian backers. But Israeli security officials attributed the attack to a Sunni jihadist group linked to Al Qaeda.

Unfortunately, Rudoren does not elaborate on what she calls this “disconnect,” but it once again strongly suggests that Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has no hesitation about blaming Iran or its alleged surrogates, most importantly Hezbollah, for anything untoward, even when professionals in Israel’s national-security apparatus disagree. Perhaps Bibi is completely sincere in his belief that Hezbollah was behind this attack and that Israel’s intelligence community was wrong, in which case one has to ask whether the Israeli leader has his own “Office of Special Plans,”Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney to distort and politicize the intelligence to support his own policy preferences and whether our own Congress is paying attention.

But bearing in mind this disconnect between Israel’s political leadership and its national-security apparatus, consider two provisions in the Kirk-Menendez bill, otherwise known as the “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013.”

First, there’s the provision that requires the President to certify that “Iran has not directly, or through a proxy, supported, financed, planned, or otherwise carried out an act of terrorism against the United States or United States persons or property anywhere in the world.” If he does not so certify, then the enhanced sanctions set forth in the bill would automatically take effect. As Ed Levine pointed out in his analysis,

“…[I]f, say, Hezbollah were to explode a bomb outside a U.S. firm’s office in Beirut, the sanctions would go into effect (because Iran gives financial and other support to Hezbollah) even if Iran’s nuclear activities and negotiations were completely in good faith.”

Presumably, the same logic could well apply if a missile launched from Lebanon struck somewhere in northern Israel and a U.S. person were killed or injured in the strike, and the Israelis — meaning Netanyahu, as the head of government — claimed that Hezbollah was responsible. Remember back when the Begin government accused the PLO of responsibility for the attempted assassination of Israel’s ambassador to Britain — even though the Abu Nidal group, which had broken with the PLO eight years before and was openly at war with it, was responsible – in order to justify Israel’s (ultimately disastrous) invasion of Lebanon in 1982?

Second, of course, is the “Wag the Dog” provision:

…if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with the law of the United States and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence…

Again, as Sen. Dianne Feinstein argued last week, “…we cannot let Israel determine when and where the U.S. goes to war. By stating that the U.S. should provide military support to Israel should it attack Iran, I fear that is exactly what this bill will do.”

Again, Netanyahu’s rejection of the assessment of his own national security apparatus in order to further his efforts to mount up the charges against Iran and derail its negotiations with the P5+1 should give Congress — and Democrats, in particular — pause about moving this legislation.

In the Washington Post two weeks ago, Sen. Robert Menendez described his bill as an “insurance policy” designed to strengthen the administration’s hand in the negotiations, despite the fact that the administration has said the bill’s enactment is likely to either destroy the international sanctions regime or sabotage the negotiations. Indeed, I see the bill as akin to a fire insurance policy for the benefit of arsonists of whom Netanyahu may be the most important, although he is not alone. Others include Saudi Arabia and its intelligence chief, Prince Bandar; Al Qaeda or any of its regional affiliates, such as the one which presumably fired the missiles from Lebanon which Netanyahu blamed on Hezbollah; and the MEK. A lot of potential spoilers are out there, and you can bet they’re all hoping that the now-stalled Kirk-Menendez bill can regain momentum when Congress reconvenes next week.

Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at Lobelog.com.

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