Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

“We Will Attack It”

As Israel’s transportation minister, one might have expected that Shaul Mofaz would have given greater consideration to the impact his comments would have on the ...

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As Israel’s transportation minister, one might have expected that Shaul Mofaz would have given greater consideration to the impact his comments would have on the already galloping price of a barrel of crude oil. Maybe he did. But with the scent of elections in the air in Israel, the international ramifications of his comments were apparently not uppermost on his mind. Far more narrow political calculations clearly were.

In the shrillest comments yet by an Israeli leader on Iran’s nuclear program, Mofaz told the weekend edition of Israel’s top-selling Yediot Ahronoth newspaper that "if Iran continues its nuclear weapons program, we will attack it.

"The sanctions are not effective," he continued. "There will be no alternative but to attack Iran in order to stop the Iranian nuclear program."

The remarks by Mofaz, who is a former army chief, had an immediate impact on oil prices, sending the cost of a barrel soaring 9 percent to an all-time high of $139.

Mofaz’s remarks drew international criticism. Even the United States, Israel’s major ally, reacted with circumspection. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said that while the United States understood that Israel was "very concerned about their future and their safety when they have a neighbor in their region—Iran—that says they want to wipe them off the map," the Bush administration was "trying to solve this diplomatically."

In Israel, the criticism was far less muted. Political leaders and defense officials slammed Mofaz, accusing him of harming Israel’s strategic interests and of being motivated by personal political goals. "Turning one of the most strategic security issues into a political game, using it for the internal purposes of a would-be campaign in Kadima, is something that must not be done," Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Israel Radio.

With Prime Minister Ehud Olmert under intense pressure to stand down in the face of corruption charges, the ruling Kadima Party is considering holding primaries to choose a new leader, and Mofaz is considered one of the front runners. In Israel, his comments were seen in this context—as an attempt to paint himself as tough on security as he gears up for a leadership battle in Kadima ahead of a possible national election later this year.

Just days before his Iran outburst, Mofaz took a hardline view on peace with Syria, declaring that he opposed ceding the Golan Heights, which were captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, in exchange for a comprehensive peace treaty with Damascus. Syria could not be trusted, he said, and giving back the Golan would amount to having Iran, Syria’s strategic ally, on Israel’s border.

Just three weeks ago, Olmert announced that Israel and Syria were renewing peace talks after an eight-year hiatus. In recent months, the Israeli prime minister has also said that he believed Iran would not gain nuclear capability, and he has intimated that diplomatic efforts could ultimately prevent it from doing so.

While Israeli leaders have never dismissed the military option with regard to Iran, their references to the use of force have generally been oblique. The remarks by Mofaz, who was born in Iran and came to Israel as a young boy, sparked strong reaction not just because of their strident nature, but also because he is a former chief of staff and former defense minister and is currently a member of the security cabinet, which makes him privy to highly sensitive defense information. What’s more, he is in charge of Israel’s strategic dialogue with the United States, which means he has been at the center of discussions between the government and the Bush administration on Iran.

Government officials, speaking anonymously, said Mofaz’s threats did not reflect official Israeli policy. Angry defense officials said his remarks could make it even more difficult for Israel to convince more countries to ratchet up sanctions against Iran. Both Israel and the United States believe Iran is bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, while Tehran insists its nuclear program is aimed solely at producing civil nuclear power.

With the possibility of a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities having become increasingly remote, many believe this reduces the chances that Israel will go it alone and launch an attack. Iran’s nuclear facilities are well protected and spread out across the country, which raises questions about Israel’s ability to launch without the United States an effective strike that could severely damage Iran’s nuclear program.

But Israel has gone it alone in the past. In 1981, Israeli planes destroyed a nuclear reactor that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had built in Osirak. Just nine months ago, Israel bombed and destroyed a target in Syria that the United States said was a nuclear facility.

For Mofaz, the immediate target is the party leadership. But rather than portraying himself as Mr. Security, he might have ended up painting himself as an irresponsible leader who exploits sensitive strategic issues for narrow political gain.

Writing in the daily Haaretz newspaper, political analyst Yossi Verter said that Mofaz’s comments had "single-handedly caused the sharpest one-day increase in history in the price of a barrel of crude: 11 dollars. On one hand, that is impressive productivity; on the other, it is scary. What is he planning for us during the real campaign? A world war? A clash of Titans?"

Peter Hirschberg writes for the Inter Press Service.

Citations

Peter Hirschberg, “We Will Attack It”, Right Web, with permission from The Forward (Somerville, MA: PRA, 2008). Web location:
https://rightweb.irc-online.org/rw/4923.html Production Information:
Author(s): Right Web
Editor(s): Right Web
Production: Political Research Associates   Latest Comments & Conversation Area
Editor's Note: IRC editors read and approve eachcomment. Comments are checked for content and to a lesser degree forspelling and grammatical errors. Comments that include vulgar language andlibelous content are rejected, as are comments that do not directlyrespond to the published IRC article.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a leading framer of the “global war on terror” and a staunch supporter of aggressive U.S. military action around the world.


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Right Web readers will be familiar with Mr. Fleitz, the former CIA officer who once threatened to take “legal action” against Right Web for publicizing reports of controversies he was associated with in the George W. Bush administration. Fleitz recently left his job at the conspiracy-mongering Center for Security Policy to become chief of staff to John Bolton at the National Security Council.


Norm Coleman is chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition and a former senator from Minnesota known for his hawkish views on foreign policy.


Billionaire hedge fund mogul Paul Singer is known for his predatory business practices and support for neoconservative causes.


Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, is a passionate supporter of Trump’s foreign policy.


Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest “pro-Israel” advocacy group in the United States, is known for its zealous Christian Zionism and its growing influence in the Republican Party.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.


RightWeb
share