Mr. Barbalat is a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago, Center for Middle Eastern Studies. This paper was supervised by Marvin Zonis, professor emeritus at the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago.
As this is being written, the United States and Israel are at a crossroads. The problems in Israeli-American relations have been dealt with most controversially by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in their recent work, The Israel Lobby, in which they assert that, were it not for the influence of this coalition of interests in American domestic politics, the United States could shed the excess baggage that Israel adds to its foreign policy in the “War on Terror.” But, given the state of American foreign policy both in the Middle East and beyond, there is equally a case for Israel to distance itself from the United States. Consider the consequences of the presidency of George W. Bush, which has resulted in a dramatically heightened sense of insecurity in Israel. Bush’s foreign policy has been uniquely shaped by “neoconservative” officials, whom Mearsheimer and Walt go to great lengths to portray as unabashedly pro-Israel. Yet the ramifications of American actions in the Middle East for Israel lead one to question what “pro-Israeli” really means. While Israel and the United States are in many respects closer bilaterally as Bush’s term in office comes to an end, this piece will focus on contemporary Israeli foreign policy, with emphasis on the problems Israel has faced under the presidency of George W. Bush, a combination of bilateral disputes and the ramifications of the failures and unintended consequences of American policy. Whether Bush and his team intended it or not, Bush’s foreign policy has contributed to, and is to a great degree responsible for, the radical deterioration of Israel’s external environment in the Middle East during the past eight years.
Consider the consequences of the current Iraq War, the centerpiece of Bush’s foreign policy, seen both by Bush officials and Mearsheimer-Walt as in the interest of Israel’s national security. Now, whether the United States withdraws from Iraq or stays put, the war will have been a strategic and political nightmare for Israeli foreign policy. If the United States withdraws in the short term, it will have left Iran far stronger than ever before, emboldened by American weakness to pursue nuclear weapons, to ascend to power in Iraqi politics and to back Syria and Hezbollah against Israel. Syrian power in Lebanon has grown, the regime having allegedly assassinated dozens of prominent anti-Syrian leaders, including Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In such a context, Hezbollah embarrassed Israel in war in 2006 and is on the verge of a de-facto “state” separate from the sovereignty of the Lebanese government. UN peacekeepers have failed to stop the flow of weapons from Syria to Hezbollah as it rearms.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The U.S. occupation has brought Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds to the brink of war. Having erupted on several occasions since the beginning of the American occupation, Turkish-Kurdish hostilities have contributed to a souring of Turkish-Israeli relations, given reports of Israeli-Kurdish collaboration. The situation could deteriorate even more if a Turkish clash with the Kurds leads to protracted asymmetrical conflict.1 Already, Kurdish terrorist activity has stimulated considerable strategic coordination and cooperation between Turkey and Iran against PJAK (Partiya Jiyana Azad a Kurdistanê, or the party of Free Life of Kurdistan).2
The American occupation has also emboldened al-Qaeda in Iraq. Should the United States withdraw, al-Qaeda will claim it drove U.S. forces out of the country, inspiring insurgents throughout the region in their own struggles and inciting dramatically more terrorism elsewhere in emulation. It is often asserted that al-Qaeda is more of a threat to Arab regimes than to Israel, but this is groundless.3 Al-Qaeda has attacked Israeli and Jewish targets at least as often as it has any other. In 2002, al-Qaeda bombed an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya and tried to shoot down an Israeli airliner.4 Israelis have been killed by al-Qaeda bombings in Sinai on multiple occasions.5 According to the The 9-11 Commission Report, al-Qaeda was planning to attack Eilat before the September 11 attacks.6 Furthermore, among the targets of al-Qaeda’s millennium bomb plot for New Year’s 2000 in Jordan was the Radisson Hotel in downtown Amman, fully booked by Israelis and Americans.7 As for Jewish targets, in October 2001, al-Qaeda bombed the El-Ghriba synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, killing 19,8 while in Istanbul in 2003, 23 were killed in the truck bombings of the Beth Israel and Neve Shalom synagogues.9 The bombing attacks in Casablanca, Morocco, in 2003 were similarly aimed at the Jewish quarter and a Jewish synagogue.10 In February 2008, Israel’s embassy in Mauritania was attacked by gunmen.11 In December 2007, Osama bin Laden himself threatened Israel directly: “I assure our kin in Palestine especially that we shall expand our jihad,” he warned. “We intend to liberate Palestine, the whole of Palestine from the [Jordan] river to the sea,” Bin Laden declared. “We will not recognize even one inch for Jews in the land of Palestine, as other Muslim leaders have.”12 In fact, in July 2008, Israel arrested six Israeli Arab members of an al-Qaedalinked cell, including a Hebrew University student suspected of plotting to attack President George W. Bush’s helicopter upon the visit of the U.S. president to Israel that month.13 That summer, Israel also arrested a number of Bedouin accused of contacting al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, gathering intelligence for attacks and helping al-Qaeda establish a presence for the first time among Israeli Arabs.14
In addition, within al-Qaeda there are many elements that seek to focus attacks squarely on Israel and the Jews. Before the September 11 attacks, Taliban leader Mullah Omar urged al-Qaeda to target Jews specifically and ignore the United States.15 Moreover, according to Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, Bin Laden had urged him in 2000 to launch the attacks amid the uproar over Ariel Sharon’s inflammatory visit to the Temple Mount, arguing that it would be sufficient merely to down the planes rather than crash them into standing targets. Mohammed resisted the plan.16 Then Bin Laden sought to have the attacks carried out in June or July 2001, when Ariel Sharon would be visiting the White House. Mohammed again demurred, this time on the grounds that plans were not ready.17 An obsession with Israel and the Jews was even more prevalent among members of the so-called “Hamburg contingent” of hijackers who would play prominent roles in the 9/11 attacks. Mohammed Atta, while a student in Hamburg, had voiced “virulently anti-Semitic and anti-American opinions, ranging from condemnations of what he described as a global Jewish movement centered in New York City that supposedly controlled the financial world and the media.”18 When planning began for the 9/11 operation in late 1998-99, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed sent operative Issa al Britani to Kuala Lumpur and then to the United States to scout economic and “Jewish” targets in New York City.19
The Iraq War might have harmed Israel regardless of the intimacy of its ties to Washington, but neither has the “special relationship” offered much protection from its fallout. Indeed, al-Qaeda’s threat to regional Arab states, exacerbated by their close ties to Washington, is no less a threat to Israel itself, specifically in the case of Jordan. The destabilization of the regime of King Abdullah II, on Israel’s doorstep, has immediate ramifications for Israel’s security, given that Palestinians make up half the population.20 In March 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told AIPAC precisely this, claiming that U.S. withdrawal from Iraq at that time could topple King Abdullah. Olmert unsuccessfully requested that a visiting delegation from the American Reform Movement reconsider its position demanding an American withdrawal.21 Olmert, on a visit to the White House in November 2006, had caused a stir in U.S. politics when he said publicly that he preferred U.S. troops to remain in Iraq.22
But if the United States stays in Iraq for the longer term, the consequences are just as stark, if not more so. Staying only postpones all of the above, allowing them to snowball and exacerbate the peril for Israel, as for the rest of the region. Despite the heavy American military presence in the Gulf, its manpower, recruitment and troop-level problems cast doubt on the U.S. ability to coerce Iran or defend threatened allies, Israel included.23 The credibility of America’s extended deterrence guarantees is a problem for the Gulf Arab powers, as well as for Israel.24 For the last quarter of 2006, in fact, U.S. Army bases in the continental United States faced a funding shortage of $530 million, promised replacement levels for Iraq and Afghanistan did not come through, and the payroll for active-duty troops was short $1.4 billion.25 Nor has the military met its recruiting goals.26
Just as important, the longer the United States remains stuck in Iraq, the more resistant the public will become to further military intervention. Some 57 percent of Americans now oppose the Iraq War, and 59 percent consider the intervention “more failure than success” or “complete failure,” according to a September 2007 Associated Press-Ipsos poll. According to a New York Times-CBS News poll, also in September 2007, 59 percent felt the Iraq War was not worth it, and 62 percent considered the war a mistake.27 At the same time, according to a 2006 CNN poll, 77 percent of respondents thought Iran would use nuclear weapons against Israel, and 81 percent expected Iran to give the weapons to terrorists to use against Israel; only a small minority, 9 percent, supported military action.28
Nor is the American public’s favorable opinion of Israel to be taken for granted. According to the 2007 survey “Opportunities for Bipartisan Consensus 2007” — under the auspices of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, which surveyed foreign-policy attitudes of identified Republicans and Democrats — fully 58 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Democrats said the United States “should not take either side” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.29
Furthermore, the deeper and longer the United States involves itself in Iraq, the more responsibility Israel will have to police the area. According to Newsweek, Dick Cheney considered sending Israel, in place of the United States, to attack Iran to disrupt its nuclear program.30 In January 2008, following the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program, former U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, remarked as follows to the Herzliya Conference on Israeli security policy:
It’s close to zero percent chance that the Bush administration will authorize military action against Iran before leaving office. At the same time in Teheran, they took careful notice of how Israel got into Syria and began preparing for such an action against Iran. Without American policy backing anti-Iran action, Israel should be willing to see itself as a possible last resort.31
Indeed, Israeli attempts to mitigate the Iranian threat by launching Turkish-mediated peace negotiations with Syria in 2008 were met with American apprehension on the grounds that such talks would break Syria’s isolation and strengthen its position in Lebanon.32 Yet, divergent American and Israeli positions on Lebanon after Hezbollah’s takeover of Beirut in May 2008 notwithstanding, the strengthening of Syrian and Iranian influence in Lebanon would hardly be such a problem were it not for the weakness the United States now manifests in the Middle East, most clearly seen in the impotence it demonstrated in defending Lebanon’s government from Hezbollah activity in the 2008 clashes. As Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea put it,
The great, powerful America, which attached huge importance to Lebanon’s independence and boasted of Syria’s removal from there as its only Mideastern achievement stood silent on the sidelines. [In a different era] the Americans would send the Sixth Fleet to dock in the Beirut port or bomb Hizbullah strongholds from the sea. But not now. America is tired, emasculated, and torn on the inside. It can only provide its protectorates in the Middle East with words….If we [Israelis] run away from taking responsibility, we will discover that the Americans, not to mention the Europeans, are running away much faster than us.33
Moreover, according to several reports, during the Lebanon War in 2006, Israel was pressured by Dick Cheney and others in the Bush administration to expand the war into Syria, but rejected the idea.34 Since the war, as Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff reveal, the Pentagon has been extremely disappointed with, and Bush officials embarrassed by, their investment in their Israeli ally.35 Given that U.S.Israeli strategic ties are based to a large degree on weapons sales to Israel, the Lebanon War also proves the ineffectiveness of these weapons in asymmetrical warfare against terrorists, the primary threat Israel faces in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon.36 As Zbigniew Brzezinski notes, the current state of the American-Israeli alliance has weakened the Israeli military by enmeshing it in a series of unwinnable guerilla wars. Because of misguided U.S. policy, the United States may soon be “politically expelled from the Middle East,” and “Israel will become involved in prolonged asymmetrical warfare, negating its technological military advantage, with the consequence that Israel will eventually be at mortal risk.”37
Besides, the longer and more protracted American involvement in Iraq becomes, the more the idea of Israeli collusion will continue to spread. Indeed, if Israeli conduct in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon have caused anti-Americanism to flourish, American behavior in Iraq has equally brought anti-Israeli sentiment to new highs. For one thing, the concurrence of the Al-Aqsa Intifada and the run-up to the Iraq War in 2002-03 provoked the widespread assumption that Israel was somehow “behind” the war. The protests across European and American capitals and university campuses consistently displayed anti-Israeli placards and featured numerous anti-Zionist speakers. Fringe anti-Israeli groups have made their opinions popular and mainstream. Five years later, the association of Israel with the American war and occupation persists. This connection is at the heart of Mearsheimer and Walt’s essay arguing that without the Israel Lobby’s efforts, the Iraq War would probably not have happened. Without the Iraq War, it is difficult to imagine the publication and popularity of their thesis in elite American circles.
The sum of all the above consequences of the Iraq War leads to doubt about the future of the American-Israeli relationship. American guarantees may be better than none, but the value and quality of such commitments have been seriously undermined by U.S. entrenchment in the Iraq imbroglio. Decreased appetite and capability for involvement in foreign conflicts at a time of unprecedented threats to Israel call into question the value and status of the myriad security guarantees the United States has provided to Israel since the beginning of the peace process. As conflict between Israel and Iran could enmesh the United States in a nuclear conflict endangering Gulf energy exports as well as U.S. bases there, it is questionable how much support Israel would truly have in such a scenario. Israel’s adversary would possess a nuclear deterrent that, even if incapable of reaching the United States, could embolden retaliation against the constellation of American bases and targets in the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan and, increasingly, Central Asia. And most of all, as the primary threat to Israel is terrorism, more so than conventional warfare, the United States has demonstrated convincingly, from Somalia to Afghanistan to Iraq, that it is incapable of effectively fighting asymmetrical warfare. Hence, American security guarantees, even if faithfully observed, would be of little value.
Other serious dilemmas come into play concerning Iran and the threats by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was not Israel, but the American military presence in the Gulf early in the Iran-Iraq War, that triggered the Iranian nuclear project, when Washington supported.Saddam Hussein’s invasion deep into Iranian territory to cripple the revolutionary regime. Iranian UN Ambassador Muhammad Javad Zarif communicated as much in his address to the Security Council on July 31, 2006, citing U.S. backing of Saddam Hussein’s invasion and occupation of Iran in 1980-82, the unwillingness of the United Nations then to call for Hussein’s withdrawal, and American support of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran during that war. He stressed American attempts to undermine Iranian negotiations with Russia, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the EU-3 as proof of the American intention to attack. Where Israel is mentioned, it is to charge the United States and UN with hypocrisy for not condemning Israel’s war in Lebanon while condemning Iran’s nuclear-energy development. He also criticized as unfair the fact that Israel’s nuclear development is not mentioned while Iran’s is condemned: “Today we are witness to an extremely dangerous trend; while members of the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty], are denied their rights and are punished, those who defy the NPT, particularly the current carnage in Lebanon and Palestine, are rewarded by generous cooperation agreements.”38 Nowhere does he cite any Israeli threat to Iranian national security. In fact, if Tehran perceived such a threat, by virtue of the “doctrine of pre-emption” that Bush has legitimized, Iran would have the right to strike Israel first.
Zarif explains Iran’s rationale in detail in a 2007 piece in the Journal of International Affairs, making the same points about the lessons from the American backing of Iraq’s invasion in the early 1980s, including not only the provision of military hardware but also of material for biological and chemical weapons to be used on the Iranian front.39 Citing additional examples of American hostile intent through the sabotage of multilateral efforts,40 he now includes both the turmoil in Iraq and Afghanistan and the American presence on both borders as two new security problems threatening Iranian security.41 Zarif contrasts the U.S.-Iranian nuclear cooperation in the time of Henry Kissinger and the shah42 with subsequent
U.S. policy culminating in Bush’s belligerency: “U.S. vision has been so blurred by the prevalence of [the enemy paradigm], that American policymakers alienate and threaten Iran, while seeking help from those who had magnified — and instigated for their own motives — the sectarian divide in Iraq long before sectarian clashes started. This policy clearly illustrates that no lessons have been learned from the devastation caused by many decades of the implementation of that policy in the Persian Gulf region.”43 Again, Israel is mentioned nowhere.
Hardly the view of Iranian government spokespeople alone, leading Iranian for-eign-relations scholar Shahram Chubin confirms this. As he writes: “Iran depicts Israel as illegitimate, venomously directing its rhetoric at it. But absent Iranian hostility, Israel poses no threat to the Islamic Republic.”44 The United States, in addition to surrounding Iran on the borders with Iraq and Afghanistan, encircles Iran in the south through bases in Qatar, Bahrain and elsewhere, and is expanding its constellation of bases to Iran’s north, in the Caucasus and Central Asia. He points out that, as the United States has transformed since these wars into both a regional state in the Middle East and a revolutionary state spreading democratization through military action, the threat of regime change to Iran is acute, hence stimulating its sense of need for a nuclear deterrent.45 Yet, U.S. overstretch and preoccupation with the Iraq and Afghan Wars have provided Iran with the opportunity to frustrate U.S. aims and weaken American influence in the region. Iran’s threatening rhetoric toward Israel is part and parcel, therefore, of its anti-U.S. strategy. Iran outdoes every Arab government in the region in its anti-Israel rhetoric and rejectionism, putting Arab states on the defensive, discrediting pro-U.S. regimes and diverting criticism from its own ambitions.46 Iran cultivates ties with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Moqtada al-Sadr and al-Qaeda and other terrorist movements because of their hostility to the United States in the Middle East, thereby providing Iran with leverage against the U.S. regional presence.47 For if the United States succeeds in regional peacemaking, Tehran fears it will have achieved full hegemony over the Middle East and its national resources. Thus, supporting Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad is, Chubin explains, “a spoiler strategy, undermining cease-fires and sabotaging peace processes by aggravating tensions and preventing peacemaking.”48
The Bush administration had the opportunity to come to terms with Iran over both its nuclear program and its hostility to Israel, but dropped the ball. In spring 2003, Iran faxed a conciliatory memo to Washington, which was drafted by the Iranian ambassador to France, Sadegh Karrazi, nephew of then-Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, and approved by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and then-President Muhammad Khatami, along with officials of the highest levels of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. The memo was sent on the occasion of a meeting between Zalmay Khalilzad, Bush’s special envoy to Afghanistan at the time, and Iranian UN Ambassador Zarif, and was relayed using the Swiss ambassador to Iran as an intermediary. In it, Tehran promised full cooperation against al-Qaeda, acceptance of tighter IAEA controls including full transparency over Iranian endeavors and full cooperation with IAEA access to any facility declared or undeclared, and help in stabilizing Iraq in exchange for ending sanctions against Tehran, providing access to nuclear technology, pursuing the Mujahedeen-e Khalq terrorist movement in Iraq, recognizing Iranian links to Shia holy places in Najaf and Karbala and supporting Iraqi reparations to Iran for the Iran-Iraq War. Iran pledged, moreover, that it would reorient Hezbollah into a merely political organization in Lebanon, accept a two-state solution vis-à-vis Israel, and end support for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and similar anti-Israel organizations. But administration officials, riding high after the “victory” in Iraq, neglected the memo. When the May 2003 bombing in Riyadh occurred, killing eight Americans and 26 Saudis, they blamed Iran for the attack, citing its neglect of al-Qaeda inside its borders, and called off any contact with Iranian officials.49
Instead, in combating Tehran, the Bush administration has encouraged and mobilized a variety of Sunni guerrilla and terrorist organizations including the PKK-allied PJAK50 and, since 2005, the Baluchi movement Jundullah in Iran’s east for anti-Iranian and anti-Shia activity. In February 2007, Jundullah claimed responsibility for a deadly car-bomb attack on a bus full of Iranian Revolutionary Guards, killing 18.51 The United States has similarly refrained from cracking down on the Mujahedeen-e Khalq in Iraq, the anti-Iranian terrorist organization based in Iraq since the Iranian Revolution, hoping to use it as leverage against Iran. A U.S.-Iran deal to exchange MEK for al-Qaeda suspects fell through with the Bush administration’s rebuff of talks with Iran.52 The policy of mobilizing Sunni radicals also resulted, as Seymour Hersh has reported, in the indirect funding of the Lebanese Fatah al-Islam movement, which was meant to function as an anti-Hezbollah element within Lebanon.53 The United States has also refrained from cracking down on the PKK and other Kurdish organizations in Iraq, infuriating Turkey and provoking Iranian attacks in northern Iraqi Kurdistan.54 While Israel’s record is not unblemished as regards ties to guerrilla movements, having collaborated with the Phalangist militia in Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s and having cooperated with Kurds in Iraq both during the Cold War and since the American occupation of Iraq, Israel has nowhere near the precedent-setting clout that the United States does. By collaborating, funding and tolerating terrorist and guerrilla organizations, the United States provokes the Iranian government into even greater regional belligerency. It also legitimizes the same tactics that harm Israel and risks inspiring terrorism that Israel will have to endure in the future.
Yet the most dangerous trend in the contemporary Middle East, far more threatening to Israel in the medium and long term, is nuclear proliferation, the core of the Bush anti-Iran strategy, under which Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council have been allowed to develop “peaceful” nuclear energy,55 as have Jordan and Egypt.56 The line between peaceful and weapons-related nuclear development is blurry. Though they have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, so too had North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Libya when they sought their nuclear weapons.57 Though Bush may or may not have had the power to stop them, renewed Arab interest in nuclear development reflects distrust of U.S. security assurances in the face of the Iranian threat, given recent policies.58 At the same time, the growing perception of Arab regimes as complicit “American puppets” in the eyes of their own people increases their interest in acquiring a nuclear weapon for the sake of domestic popularity, legitimacy and prestige.59 According to one estimate, 13 Middle Eastern states have initiated nuclear programs.60
The stability of these regimes — particularly Jordan and a post-Mubarak Egypt — though, remains a question. Israeli Major General Yair Naveh sparked controversy in 2006 for predicting: “Given that Jordan is 80 percent Palestinian, we might — heaven forbid — reach a situation in which Abdullah is the last Hashemite king.”61 During the earliest months of the Second Intifada, on June 3, 2001 — three months before September 11, two years before the Iraq War, and long before the Intifada hit its peak of violence — the Saudi kingdom was already stricken with instability. Saudi Prince Bandar warned Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that the deterioration “even threatened the internal situation in Jordan and therefore King Abdullah’s position internally is shaken. President Mubarak is also having a difficult situation.” In Saudi Arabia, “for the first time in 30 years we are facing a very questionable internal situation.”62 But even as it stands, nuclear programs are now at Israel’s doorstep. Turkey, too, is starting nuclear development.63 It is therefore not surprising that Israel felt threatened by a possible nuclear program in Syria and, in September 2007, bombed an apparent nuclear facility in eastern Syria.64 Even if we accept the Syrian government’s claim that the site was something other than a nuclear facility,65 given the prospect of nuclear proliferation, regional circumstances dictate that Syria should have a clear interest in starting a nuclear program, too. In fact, one can argue persuasively that Syria would be reckless not to. While there is a long distance between starting such programs and actually producing a weapon, regional trends carry with them the prospect that Israel could at some point in the medium term be surrounded by multiple nuclear powers on multiple borders, its nuclear superiority on the verge of erosion.
As for Iran specifically, Jerusalem and Washington appeared to be on the same page until the winter of 2007, when the publication of a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) signified an apparent reversal of course. Estimating that Iran’s nuclear program was “halted” in 2003, the NIE pushed back the time frame for the completion of an Iranian bomb and has made the likelihood of American military action against Iran considerably less likely. The report was met with anger and dismay in Israel, sensing its position undermined. As one Israeli journalist summarized:
The NIE was a wake-up call for all Israelis who believed that America and Israel saw the Iranian threat through the same lens. How easy it was to forget that the “strategic threat” perceived by Washington is not the same as the “existential threat” Israel’s policymakers see in Iran. According to the report, by 2009 an Iranian nuclear device is a “very unlikely possibility,” but the question remains, how unlikely? For an American calculating the level of risk and the consequent need for action, some risk might be acceptable. The calculation is different for Israelis. The smaller the country, the smaller the margin of error it can afford. What is for an American an “unlikely” scenario feels like an unacceptable risk to an Israeli.66
Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter warned in the aftermath of the NIE that “U.S. misconceptions regarding Iran could bring about another Yom Kippur War in the region.” In his words, the “U.S. assessment of the Iranian nuclear threat is seriously flawed, and we can only hope that the United States can address these errors.”67 Israeli disillusionment went even further, to the top of the strategic echelon. Major-General Aharon Zeevi Farkash, former Director of IDF (Israeli Defense Force) Military Intelligence, protested,
[t]he NIE has clearly weakened international support for tougher sanctions against Iran, and it closes off any military option for the Bush administration. The NIE has sent a signal to Tehran that the danger of external sanctions has ended. Furthermore, the NIE has weakened Turkey and the moderate Sunni countries in the region that were seeking to build a coalition against Iran. So, ironically, the NIE opens the way for Iran to achieve its military nuclear ambitions without any interference.68
Brigadier-General Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of research and assessment for IDF Military Intelligence, lamented the “harsh repercussions of the very poor work that the American intelligence agencies have done.”69 As Gerald Steinberg explained, the NIE “disrupted 15 years of Israeli policy based on working with the international coalition to pressure Iran to drop its nuclear-weapons program through sanctions and the threat of military action, and has reminded Israelis of the limits of American security guarantees and strategic cooperation.”70 The discordant positions on the Iranian nuclear question manifest in the NIE highlights the wider discordance of Israeli and American priorities in the Middle East. Moreover, it highlights the foresightedness of the unheeded warnings Israeli officials conveyed to Washington prior to the Iraq War to focus, not on Iraq, but on the greater threat, Iran.71
This being as it may, while Israel may depend on the United States to disarm a potentially nuclear Iran militarily, it can, according to Anthony Cordesman, survive a nuclear exchange with Iran in a horror scenario.72 Between 200,000 and 800,000 Israelis would die, but 16 to 28 million Iranians would die. Iran would target Haifa and Tel Aviv, but Israel would attack the population centers of Tabriz, Qazvin, Isfahan, Shiraz, Yazd, Kerman, Qom, Ahwaz and Kermanshah, not to mention the possible nuclear development sites in Tehran, Natanz, Ardekan, Saghand, Gashin, Bushehr, Aral, Isfahan and Lashkar Abad. Israeli nuclear warheads would be more accurate than Iran’s and pack higher yields. Moreover, Israel possesses enough of a reserve-strike capability to ensure that no Arab neighbors enter the war at Iran’s side. In the end, in Cordesman’s words, “Israeli recovery [is] theoretically possible in population and economic terms.”73 But “Iranian recovery [is] not possible in the normal sense of [the] term.”74
It should never come to such a tragedy. Hence, it is to be stressed that, while Israel probably cannot stop Iran’s nuclear project, Israel is also capable of cooling tensions with Tehran without Washington. When relations between Benjamin Netanyahu and Bill Clinton were chilliest, Netanyahu made considerable progress in Israeli-Iranian relations. Only so much could be achieved in two years, but, as Trita Parsi relates, Netanyahu tried to use Iranian Jews as intermediaries to come to an understanding with Tehran, arranged for meetings between Iranian and Israeli representatives at European think tanks, and tried to use Russian and Kazakh mediation. Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon attempted to repay Israeli financial debt to Iran via Russia through the Israel-Arab Friendship Association, hoping to ease tensions and improve ties with the Khatami government. Netanyahu calculated such gestures to Tehran could prevent the incitement of terrorist attacks that could topple him domestically, that progress with Iran was more achievable than with the Palestinians and that, if U.S.-Iran relations were to improve, the only way Israel could avoid being shut out of a “grand bargain” was to improve Israeli-Iranian relations himself.75 There is also the possibility, though remote, of Israeli-Iranian communication through secret channels.76
Nowadays, as former Mossad head Ephraim Halevy told an audience at the Lander Institute in Jerusalem, “We cannot say that the Iranian threat is an existential threat on the State of Israel. I believe that the State of Israel cannot be eliminated. It cannot be destroyed because of things you know and because of things you can imagine.”77 Had Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in his words, “not existed, we would have had to create him. He is doing great things for us.”78 As the Daily Star quoted him, “Iranians, including those in government, know that acceptance of Israel is not just something they have to accept, but something that might bring their deliverance.”79 Thus, he observed, Iranian leaders “don’t know how to extricate themselves. We have to find creative ways to help them escape from their rhetoric.”80 And as Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Yaakov Katz of the Jerusalem Post in December 2007, the gravest threat of all is not Iran, but Pakistan, should Pervez Musharraf fall: “We need to have seven eyes on Pakistan.”81
BUSH AND SHARON
The relationship between Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush was not the “honeymoon” that Mearsheimer and Walt depict. In addition to Iraq, Iran and issues pertaining the wider Middle East, Israeli and U.S. interests clashed when and where Israel was most sensitive and most acutely threatened: in the confrontation with the Palestinians throughout the Second Intifada. The clashes between them, indeed, highlight the divergence of their priorities in fighting terrorism and capture the limits of American support for Israel at the height of the “War on Terror.”
Indeed, if Bush took a harder line on Arafat than on Sharon, this had less to do with domestic elements in American politics or any personal preference for Sharon than with the fact that Sharon was only comparatively more cooperative than Arafat was. U.S. Middle East envoy General Anthony Zinni describes the Palestinian response to his bridging proposals for a ceasefire in March 2002 as “a whole mish-mash;…not an answer that we could use.” His deputy, Aaron David Miller, recalled: Saeb Erekat’s answer was another “‘yes but’…in a way that highlighted the clean Israeli ‘yes’ by comparison.”82 Resistant as Sharon was to the United States, Arafat was merely more so, failing to accede to American demands to crack down on suicide bombings. On April 15, three days after a suicide bomber in West Jerusalem killed six and injured 50 and a previous bomb in Haifa killed eight on April 10, Powell met with Arafat to plead for an end to the bombings. Arafat failed to release the six men wanted by Israel who were holed up with him in the compound, or to meet any other of the demands relayed by Israel through Powell. Powell left empty-handed.83 He recalls: “It was clear at that time to let the world know that we couldn’t deal with Arafat, to let the world know that the Palestinian people needed reformed leadership,...somebody that we could work with and the Israelis could work with, because we found it impossible to work with Arafat. There was no disagreement about that aspect. Arafat is not a partner we can work with.”84 Even the Saudis themselves concurred, differing with Bush only on approach. When Bandar implored Bush to stop Israel’s killing of the Palestinians on June 3, 2001, Bush replied: “Arafat is a liar,” and impossible to deal with. Bandar agreed with Bush’s assessment, differing only in approach: “Fine…he’s a liar. We know that. You know that. He’s a schmuck. But he’s the only schmuck we have to deal with.”85
Whatever the U.S. position on Arafat, Bush’s stance on Sharon was hardly close or even friendly. Indeed, from the beginning, Bush had personal antipathy for Sharon. In Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack, Bush is quoted as calling Sharon “a bull” out of contempt.86 And, he added, “the alternatives are worse than him.”87 The early Bush-Israel relationship during the Second Intifada was anything but harmonious, marked by episode after episode of discord. From the beginning of Bush’s first term, his administration was adamant against Israel’s targeted killings of Palestinian leaders. After the killing of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader Abu Ali Mustafa in August 2001, U.S. Ambassador Dan Kurtzer warned Sharon about the risks of collateral damage, and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher condemned the assassination publicly, warning: “Israel needs to understand that targeted killings of Palestinians don’t end the violence but are only inflaming an already volatile situation and making it much harder to restore calm.”88 Bush’s attempts to quell Israeli-Palestinian fighting just after September 11 provoked more friction with Sharon, as was apparent when Sharon refused Bush’s push for Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to meet Yasser Arafat.89
One illuminating event occurred on August 27, 2001. Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar came to see Bush and stated, “Mr. President,...this is the most difficult message…that I have ever conveyed between the two governments since I started working here in Washington in 1982. …[L]eadership in Saudi Arabia always has to feel the pulse of the people and then reflect the feeling of its people in its policies.” After invoking the memory of Bush’s father during the Gulf War, when President George H.W. Bush threatened to hold back loan guarantees to Israel over Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories, he came to the heart of the message:
The crown prince has tried to find many excuses for this administration, and we couldn’t. [Bush had allowed Sharon to] determine everything in the Middle East.…What pained the crown prince more is the continuance of American ignorance of Israel upholding policies as if a drop of Jewish blood is equal to thousands of Palestinians’ lives.…Therefore the Crown Prince will not communicate in any form, type or shape with you, and Saudi Arabia will take all its political, economic and security decisions based on how it sees its own interest in the region without taking into account American interests anymore because it is obvious that the United States has taken a strategic decision adopting Sharon’s policy.
Bush was shocked. He shot back: “I want to assure you that the United States did not make any strategic decision.”
Powell afterward cornered Bandar: “What the fuck are you doing?” “You’re putting the fear of God in everybody here. You scared the shit out of everybody.”
Bandar retorted: “I don’t give a damn what you feel.…We are scared ourselves.”90
Two days later, Bush sent Riyadh a two-page letter: “Let me make one thing clear up front: nothing should ever break the relationship between us. There has been no change in the strategic equation.” He added: “I firmly believe the Palestinian people have a right to self-determination and to live peacefully and securely in their own state, in their own homeland, just as the Israelis have the right to live securely in their own state.” This was the first time a U.S. president ever directly supported a Palestinian state, going beyond even Clinton. On September 6, Crown Prince Abdullah replied: “Mr. President, it was a great relief to me to find in your letter a clear commitment in which the peace process was established. I was particularly pleased with your commitment to the right of the Palestinians to self-determination as well as the right to peace without humiliation, within their own independent state.” In addition, he iterated, “First, it is very essential that you declare your position publicly, which was stated in your letter. Such a declaration at this level will eliminate the common impression prevailing in the region of the U.S. bias toward Israel.” Bush thereafter agreed to do just that. He planned to roll out the public declaration of Palestinian statehood the week of September 10, 2001.91
Discordant U.S. and Israeli priorities thereafter clashed publicly when, less than a month after September 11, on October 5, 2001, Sharon delivered his famous “Czechoslovakia” speech, further resisting American pressure for concessions to the Palestinians. “I call on the Western democracies and particularly the leader of the free world, the United States. Do not repeat the dreadful mistake of 1938, when enlightened European democracies decided to sacrifice Czechoslovakia for a convenient temporary solution. Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense. This is unacceptable to us. Israel will not be Czechoslovakia. Israel will fight.” Bush and company were livid. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer called the remarks “unacceptable.” Angry phone calls were made by Colin Powell, the U.S. embassy in Israel and the National Security Council.92 Under American pressure, Sharon issued a statement apologizing.93
Bush administration officials continually opposed Israeli actions in Operation Defensive Shield to reoccupy Gaza and the West Bank. Colin Powell urged the administration to intervene in the fighting and pressure Arafat to denounce terrorism and Sharon to withdraw from newly occupied territory. Before Powell departed, Bush told him: “Do you understand what you’re saying to the Israelis? You’re going to have to look Sharon in the eye and say, ‘Get Out.’”94 When Powell arrived in Israel, he and Sharon had a vehement argument, Powell demanding to visit Arafat and Sharon refusing. Sharon said to Powell: “Their world is an empire of lies — Arafat’s like Osama bin Laden. Why do you apply different standards to Arafat than to Bin Laden?” Powell replied: “No, it’s a different situation.” Finally. Sharon relented.95 There followed an emotionally fraught meeting with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at Bush’s Crawford ranch on April 25, 2002. Abdullah threatened to walk out on the spot if Bush did not pledge to rein in Sharon by making him end the siege of Arafat’s compound and of the Palestinian militants who seized the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Bush acceded to his demand.96 Sharon thereafter acquiesced to Powell and Rice’s pressure to lift the siege on Arafat’s compound.97
A further crisis emerged when Israeli commandos razed and stormed the muqata in September 2002 after a serious of suicide bombings. Bush and Powell were again furious. As Powell later explained, “Every time we put Arafat in his place and started to move him to the sidelines, [Sharon would do something and] suddenly Arafat is right back in the centre of everything,…and rather than isolating him, [Sharon would] just bring him right into the game.”98 Furthermore, this came just days after George W. Bush had addressed the UN General Assembly, making the case for both war against Saddam Hussein and in favor of a Palestinian state: “America stands committed to an independent and democratic Palestine, living side by side with Israel in peace and security. Like all other people, Palestinians deserve a government that serves their interests and listens to their voices.” A Palestinian state was central, he enunciated, to his plans for Iraq:
If we meet our responsibilities, if we overcome this danger, we can arrive at a very different future. The people of Iraq can shake off their captivity. They can one day join a democratic Afghanistan and a democratic Palestine inspiring reforms throughout the Muslim world. These nations can show by their example that honest government and respect for women and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the Middle East and beyond. And we will show that the promise of the United Nations can be fulfilled in our time.99
Israel’s behavior, thus, was obstructing Bush’s war planning.100 Flynt Leverett, senior director of the National Security Council at the time, relates that in a Situation Room meeting, Bush said the raid “really calls into question Sharon’s commitment to a peaceful resolution of this conflict.”101 A furious Condoleezza Rice summoned Israeli Ambassador Danny Ayalon and Sharon’s chief of staff, Dov Weisglass, and rebuked them:
…I am telling you, if you do not end this siege [of Yasser Arafat’s compound] in Ramallah, if you don’t withdraw your forces from the compound, you are going to have a public rift with this president. This needs to end now. If you and I are having this same conversation a week from now, you are going to have a serious problem in this building, and you’re going to have a serious problem with me.102
As time passed, indeed, Arafat failed to stop the attacks. This, not the backing of Sharon, motivated Bush’s decision to cut off ties with the Palestinian Authority. The decision by administration officials to “drop Arafat” and cease dealings with him was made in a meeting in the Situation Room a week before Bush’s June 24 speech, when Bush stated this publicly. The meeting was convened in the aftermath of the June 5 suicide bombing at the Megiddo junction that killed 16 Israelis, the twenty-first such bombing since the beginning of the Intifada two years before. Two more bombings occurred in Jerusalem in the meantime before Bush’s address on June 18 and 19.103
Yet, with Arafat sidelined, the Bush-Sharon relationship persisted with the same friction as before. At the Sharm el-Sheikh summit of 2004, when Bush met with Israeli leaders and Palestinian leadership minus Arafat, Bush argued angrily with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. When Mohammad Dahlan called for Israeli help for the Palestinian security forces, Mofaz balked, at which point Bush shot him down: “Their own security service? But you have destroyed their security service.” Bush looked at Sharon and asked: “Who are these?” Sharon replied, “My ministers.” Bush retorted: “No, I mean what do they represent?” Sharon answered, “These are my doves,” to which Bush shot back: “Your doves! My God, if these are your doves, God preserve us from your hawks!”104 After that meeting, Bush turned to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and said, “We have a problem with Sharon, I can see, but I like that young man [Dahlan], and I think their prime minister [Mahmoud Abbas] is incapable of lying. I hope that they will be successful. We can work with them.”105
It is in this context that Israeli policy toward the Iraq War of 2003 must be evaluated. Mearsheimer and Walt continually make the point that Israel is a strategic liability to U.S. policy in the Gulf and wider Middle East, arguing that Israeli participation threatened to break up the “Coalition of the Willing.”106 In this circumstance, Israeli policy on Iraq was caught between a rock and a hard place. The more Israel came out in favor of the war, the more this indeed could have threatened American coalition-building, frustrating a fundamental foreign-policy objective of the Bush administration. Yet Israel was hardly in a position to oppose the war, given the frosty relationship between Sharon and Bush. To oppose the war, as did Germany and France, at the climax of the Intifada could have done irreparable damage to U.S.Israeli relations. Israel’s policy on the war, therefore, should best be compared with that of three of the majority of the members the Coalition of the Willing — Georgia, Azerbaijan, Poland, Romania, Armenia, Albania, South Korea, Singapore, etc. These small states supported and contributed to the war, despite domestic opposition, because of their political dependence on the United States and their hope that support for the war would bring rewards in an improvement of relations.107
Whatever went on in Washington is another story. The extent of the influence of pro-Israel supporters in the United States on the U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq is far outside the scope of this paper. Even if the so-called “Israel Lobby” pushed hard for the war, the lobby is not the Israeli government. Yet, however small or large the influence of the Israel Lobby on Bush’s Middle East policies, and to whatever degree Bush intended to be a friend to Israel in his Middle East policy, that policy has made Israel less secure. Whether Bush and his supporters intended it or not, this is the “Bush legacy” with which Israel must live.
There are many problems in U.S.Israeli relations. The American-led Iraq War, whether the United States stays or withdraws, has been a highly worrisome debacle for Israeli geopolitics. Israel’s nuclear advantage is eroding, not only because of the American failure to end Iran’s nuclear program, but even more so because of American acquiescence to nuclear proliferation in the region. The Bush-Sharon friction during the Al-Aqsa Intifada exemplifies the divergence of Israeli and American priorities. But the Bush years are only the tip of the iceberg of a highly flawed relationship for Israel, no less than for the United States. Growing calls in Washington to reassess policy toward Israel, coupled with American weakness in pursuing other international and regional objectives, should stimulate among Israelis, Israeli foreign-policy scholars, Middle East watchers, international-relations observers and those who call themselves “pro-Israel,” the same kind of debate on Israeli policy toward the United States and the costs and benefits of the “special relationship,” that Mearsheimer and Walt call for regarding U.S. policy toward Israel. Even if Bush intended for his policies to make Israel more secure and strengthen it against the enemies it shares with the United States, this has not been their effect.
There is considerable worry within the pro-Israeli community that a President Obama might not be as “friendly” as presidents past and could cause considerable damage to Israeli interests. Groundless as such accusations may or may not be, if this were in fact so, then Obama would constitute continuity — and not a “change” — from the legacy of George W. Bush.
2 James Brandon, “PJAK Faces Turkish-Iranian Storm,” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation. Vol. 5, No. 21, November 8, 2007, http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2373776; Kenneth Tillerman, “Turkey Forms Alliance with Iran against Kurds,” NewsMax.com, October 15, 2007; “Iran, Turkey Cooperate against Kurds,” Associated Press, June 5, 2008.
3 For an excellent discussion of al-Qaeda’s threat to Israel, see Asaf Maliach, “Bin Laden, Palestine and alQa’ida’s Operational Strategy,” Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 44, No. 3, 2008, pp. 353-75.
4 “Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Kenya Attacks,” CNN, December 3, 2002; Paul Reynolds, “Al-Qaeda Suspected in Kenya Attacks,” BBC News Online, November 28, 2002.
5 On al-Qaeda’s attack on Israelis in Taba in 2004, see Scott MacLoed, “Is Al-Qaeda in Sinai?” Time, October 12, 2004; “‘Al Qaeda Signs’ in Egypt Blast,” CNN, October 8, 2004; “Sinai Attackers Failed to Enter Israel,” Associated Press, April 2, 2005; “Death Toll Rises in Egypt Blasts,” BBC News, October 9, 2004. On the attack at Dahab in 2006, see “Egypt Resort Blasts Kill at Least 23,” Al Jazeera, April 25, 2006; Roee Nahmias, “Dahab Bombers Were Sinai Bedouins,” Yediot Aharonot, April 26, 2006; Mohammed Al Shafey, “Dahab Bombers Inspired by Al-Qaeda,” Asharq Alawsat, April 29, 2006; “Egypt Ties Dahab Blasts to Other Attacks,” CNN, April 26, 2006; Hanan Greenberg, “Is al-Qaeda Behind Attack?” Yediot Aharonot, April 24, 2006.
6 The 9/11 Commission Report (WW Norton & Co., 2004), p. 150.
7 “60 Minutes II: The Millennium Plot,” CBS News, December 26, 2001.
8 “Al-Qaeda Claims Tunisia Attack,” BBC News, June 23, 2002; “Al-Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Suicide Attack in Tunisia: Al-Jazeera,” CNN, June 23, 2002.
9 “Film Clue to Turkey Jewish Attack,” BBC News, November 17, 2003; Karl Vick, “Al-Qaeda’s Hand in Istanbul Plot: Turks Met with Bin Laden,” The Washington Post, February 13, 2007; “Istanbul: The Enemy Within,” Asia Times, November 22, 2003.
10 “Terror Blasts Rock Casablanca,” BBC News, May 17, 2003; B. Raman, “A Gruesome Warning for Morocco,” Asia Times, May 20, 2003; Martin Bright, Paul Harris, Ali Bouzerda and Emma Daly, “Horror in Casablanca as al-Qaeda Toll Hits 41,” The Guardian Observer, May 18, 2003.
11 “Israel’s Mauritania Embassy Attacked,” Associated Press, February 1, 2008.
12 James Gordon Meek and Elizabeth Hays, “Osama Bin Laden Urges Jihad on Israel,” December 30, 2007; “Bin Laden Warns against U.S. ‘Plots,’” Al Jazeera.net, December 29, 2007.
13 “Israel: Al-Qaeda-Linked Suspect May Have Targeted Bush,” CNN.com, July 18, 2008.
14 Yonat Atlas, “Bedouin Accused of Contacting al-Qaeda,” Yediot Aharonot, August 22, 2008; Amos Harel and Yuval Azoulay, “2 Bedouin from Negev Admit Links to al-Qaida,” Haaretz, July 10, 2008.
15 Ibid., p. 251.
16 Ibid., p. 250. Al-Qaeda kingpin Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, rather, had a different vision in mind, having always envisioned a grandiose plan of attack of his own. Ten aircraft were to be hijacked, nine of which would crash into targets on both American coasts, including the 9/11 targets, FBI and CIA headquarters, nuclear power plants and the tallest buildings in California and Washington state. He would then land the tenth plane at a U.S. airport, kill all the male passengers, alert the media and deliver a speech excoriating U.S. support for Israel, the Philippines and governments in the Arab world. See The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 154.
17 Ibid., p. 250.
18 Ibid., pp. 160-1. Ramzi Binalshibh, like Atta, was by the late 1990s “decrying what he perceived to be a ‘Jewish world conspiracy,’” The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 161. When in Hamburg as a student, Marwan al-Shehhi, the pilot aboard United Airlines Flight 175, which crashed into the second tower of the World Trade Center, was once asked why he and Atta never laughed, and retorted, “How can you laugh when people are dying in Palestine?” The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 162.
19 Ibid., p. 150.
20 The hotel bombing of 2003, which killed hundreds, was carried out by Iraqis connected to al-Qaeda in Iraq. “Jordan Confirms Al-Qaeda Behind Hotel Blasts,” CNN, November 12, 2005; “‘Al-Qaeda’ Claims Jordan Attacks,” November 10, 2005. See also, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 174-5. According to Foreign Policy magazine’s “Terrorism Index” survey, 47 percent of foreign-policy experts considered the Jordanian monarchy having the most experience in violence as a result of the chaos in Iraq. “The Terrorism Index,” Foreign Policy, September/October 2007, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3924&page=4. For the complete survey, see http://www.foreignpolicy.com/images/TI3_Final_Results.doc.
21 Shmuel Rosner and Aluf Benn, “Israel Fears U.S. Iraq Exit Could Topple Jordanian Regime,” Haaretz, March 17, 2007. This threat to Jordan jeopardizes any Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, since Jordan’s problems can easily spill over the border to Israel and Palestine.
22 Aluf Benn and Shmuel Rosner, “Fury in U.S. over Olmert’s Comments on Iraq War,” Haaretz, November 14, 2006; Shmuel Rosner, “What Was Olmert Thinking When He Talked about Iraq?” November 14, 2006; Nathan Guttman, “Dems Warn Olmert about Playing Politics,” Forward, April 20, 2007; Shmuel Rosner, “Is the Democratic-Israeli Disagreement Getting Out of Hand?” Haaretz, April 20, 2007.
23 Fred Kaplan, “The Army, Faced with Its Limits,” The New York Times, January 1, 2006; “Report: U.S. Military Readiness Worsens: Quick Response to Possible Third Crisis Unlikely because of Strains from Iraq and Afghanistan Wars,” Associated Press, February 27, 2007; Mark Benjamin, “Military Readiness Lowest since Vietnam War,” Salon News, December 8, 2006, http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2006/12/08/ troop_levels/; Jonathan Marcus, “Analysis: U.S. Military Overstretch,” BBC News, January 6, 2004.
24 For a discussion of the problem of American extended deterrence in the region, see Kathleen McInnis, “Extended Deterrence: The U.S. Credibility Gap in the Middle East,” Washington Quarterly Vol. 28, No. 3, 2005, pp. 169-186.
25 Diane Grassi, “U.S. Suffers Equipment & Base Shortfalls,” Army.com, July 11, 2006, http://www.army.com/news/item/2139.
26 Jim Miklaszewski, “Army, Marines Miss Recruiting Goals Again,” NBC News, May 10, 2005; “U.S. Military ‘at Breaking Point,’” BBC News, January 26, 2006.
27 For these polls and others, see: http://www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm.
28 “Poll: Americans Nervous about Iran,” CNN, February 14, 2006. See also, “A Majority of Americans Reject Military Threats in Favor of Diplomacy with Iran,” WorldPublicOpinion.org, September 12, 2007, http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brunitedstatescanadara/….
29 “Opportunities for Bipartisan Consensus — 2007: What Both Republicans and Democrats Want in U.S. Foreign Policy,” Program on International Policy Attitudes for WorldPublicOpinion.org, p. 30, http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/jan07/Bipartisan_Jan07_rpt.p….
30 “Cheney Mulled Israeli Strike on Iran: Newsweek.” Reuters, September 23, 2007.
31 “Israel will have to stop Iran,” Jerusalem Post, January 22, 2008. My italics.
32 Ahmadinejad and Iranian leadership circles were, apparently, furious at what appeared to be Syria’s “betrayal.” Barak Ravid and Amos Harel, “Hamas: Olmert Too Weak to Negotiate Peace Agreement with Syria,” Haaretz, May 24, 2008; Roee Nahmias, “Ahmadinejad Furious over Israel-Syria Talks,” May 23, 2008; Yoav Stern, “Syria Sends Minister to Iran after Shock Revelation of Israel Talks,” May 25, 2008. See also: Jay Solomon, “Divisions Surface Between U.S., Israel on Strategy: Jerusalem’s Talks with Damascus Highlight Tensions,” Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2008; Zvi Barel, “Olmert Heckled by Anti-Golan Withdrawal Protesters in Latrun,” Haaretz, May 23, 2008; Amos Harel, Barak Ravid, “Olmert to Haaretz: Syria Contacts are ‘Historic Breakthrough,’” Haaretz, May 5, 2008; “Olmert: Israel Pursuing Syrian, Palestinian Peace Tracks Simultaneously,” May 22, 2008; Sharon Roffe-Ofir, “MK Naffa Claims Political Persecution over Syria Visits,” May 22, 2008; Herb Keinon, “Israel-Syria: Now the Arguing Begins,” May 22, 2008; Yaakov Lappin, “Dichter Hails Talks with Damascus,” May 29, 2008; Roee Namias, “Israel, Syria Agree on 85% of Issues,” May 28, 2008.
33 Nahum Barnea, “America is Tired: U.S. Silence on Lebanon Coup Shows We Can Only Count on Ourselves,” Yediot Aharonot, May 20, 2008, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3545490,00.html.
34 Yaakov Katz, “IDF Prepared for Attack by Syria,” Jerusalem Post, July 30, 2006; Tom Regan, “U.S. Neocons Hoped Israel Would Attack Syria: Israel Considered Expansion of Conflict in Lebanon ‘Nuts,’” Christian Science Monitor, August 9, 2006. France reportedly urged Israel to do the same. “Report: France Urged Israel to Hit Syria,” Jerusalem Post, March 18, 2007.
35 See Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, 34 Days: Israel, Hezbollah and the War in Lebanon (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), pp. 81-2, 103-6,154, 160, 162-3, 165-70, 254-56.
36 As Max Boot explains: “The fallibility of American soldiers and the cunning of their enemies will surely continue to frustrate the best-laid plans. Moreover, America’s growing reliance on high-tech systems creates new vulnerabilities of its own: Future enemies have strong incentives to attack U.S. computer and communication nodes. Strikes on military information networks could blind or paralyze the armed forces, while strikes on civilian infrastructure, such as banking or air control systems, could cause chaos on the home front. Adversaries will almost certainly figure out ways to blunt the U.S. informational advantage. From Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan to numerous misadventures in Iraq, they already have. Whether fighting in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan or in the alleys of Ramadi and Fallujah, U.S. soldiers have been ambushed by insurgents who managed to elude their sensor networks through such simple expedients as communicating via messengers, not cell phones…. “Winning wars, as opposed to winning battles, will continue to require controlling territory, which in turn will require a substantial presence of ground troops, as the U.S. has learned in Afghanistan and Iraq. No wonder-weapon will alter this fundamental reality, which means even the most high-tech military force will always remain vulnerable to the less sophisticated but still deadly technology of its adversaries on the ground. See Max Boot, “The Paradox of Military Technology,” The New Atlantis, Vol. 14, 2006, pp. 27, 29, http://www.thenewatlantis.com/archive/14/boot.htm.
37 Zbigniew Brzezinski, Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower (Basic Books), 2007, p. 164.
38 “Statement by H.E. Dr. M. Javad Zarif, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran before the Security Council,” New York, July 31, 2006.
39 Mohammad Javad Zarif, “Tackling the Iran-U.S. Crisis: The Need for a Paradigm Shift,” Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 60, No. 2, 2007, p. 74.
40 Ibid. pp. 76-78, 81-82, 86-87.
41 Ibid. p. 74
42 Ibid. pp. 80-81.
43 Ibid. p. 77.
44 Shahram Chubin, Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2006), p. 16.
45 Ibid. p. 21.
46 Ibid. p. 119.
47 Ibid. p. 114.
48 Ibid. p. 119.
49 Gareth Porter, “Rove Said to Have Received 2003 Iranian Proposal,” Inter Press Service, February 16, 2006; Gareth Porter, “Burnt Offering,” American Prospect Online, June 6, 2006; Glenn Kessler, “2003 Memo Says Iranian Leader Backed Talks,” The Washington Post, February 14, 2007. To see the document in PDF, see “Roadmap,” http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/world/documents/us_iran_roadmap….
50 Nelson Rand, “U.S. Wages Covert War on Iraq-Iran Border,” Asia Times Online, November 28, 2007.
51 Arthur Bright, “Sunni Rebels Claim Deadly Terror Attack in Iran,” Christian Science Monitor, February 14, 2007; Eoin O’Carroll, “U.S. Backing ‘Secret War’Against Iran?” Christian Science Monitor, April 5, 2007; Brian Ross and Christopher Isham, “ABC News Exclusive: The Secret War against Iran,” April 3, 2007.
52 Michael Ware, “U.S. Protects Iranian Opposition Group in Iraq,” CNN, April 8, 2007; William Lowther and Colin Freeman, “U.S. Funds Terror Groups to Sow Chaos in Iran,” Sunday Telegraph, February 25, 2007; Gareth Porter, “Burnt Offering,” American Prospect Online, June 6, 2006.
53 Seymour Hersh, “The Redirection,” The New Yorker, March 5, 2007.
54 Damien McElroy, “Kurdish Guerillas Launch Clandestine War in Iran,” September 10, 2007; “Larijani: U.S. and PKK Officials Made Negotiations in Mosul and Kirkuk,” Journal of Turkish Weekly, May 9, 2006; “Iran Confirms Shelling Kurdish Militants in Iraq,” Agence France Presse, September 23, 2007; “Iran Attacks ‘Iraq Kurdish Area,’” BBC News, April 30, 2006; Michael Howard, “Kurds Flee Homes as Iran Shells Villages in Iraq,” The Guardian, August 20, 2007; Andrew Mcgregor, “PKK Arms Scandal Fuels Turkish Suspicions,” Terrorism Focus, Jamestown Foundation, Vol. 4, No. 27, 2007, August 14, 2007; “Reports: U.S. Raids PKK Camp in Iraq,” Turkish Daily News, January 18, 2007; Sumedha Senanayake, “Iraq: Turkey Ratchets Up Pressure for Action Against PKK,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, July 5, 2007; “Turkey Asks U.S. about Weapons ‘Given to PKK,’” Associated Press, July 14, 2007; “U.S. Embassy Denies Reports of Meeting with PKK,” Turkish Daily News, September 12, 2007.
55 On Saudi Arabia’s nascent nuclear program, see “Saudi Arabia Working on Secret Nuclear Program with Pakistan Help — Report,” Forbes.com, March 28, 2006, http://www.forbes.com/finance/feeds/afx/2006/03/28/afx2629000.html; “Saudi Nuclear Intentions and the IAEA Small Quantities Protocol,” Center for Defense Information, June 30, 2005; Simon Henderson, “Toward a Saudi Nuclear Option: The Saudi-Pakistani Summit,” PolicyWatch, No. 793, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, October 16, 2003, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC05.php?CID=1671; Michael Levy, “Royal Pain,” The New Republic, June 2, 2003; Raid Qusti, “Preliminary Report on GCC Nuclear Energy by Year-End,” Arab News, May 22, 2007; Simon Henderson, “The Elephant in the Gulf: Arab States and Iran’s Nuclear Program,” PolicyWatch, No.1065, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, December 21, 2005, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/print.php?template=C05&CID=2424.
56 On Jordan’s new nuclear program, see “U.S.: Jordan’s Nuclear Development Plan Acceptable,” Associated Press, January 19, 2007; Akiva Eldar, “King Abdullah to Haaretz: Jordan Aims to Develop Nuclear Power,” Haaretz, January 20, 2007; “Report: Jordan Says it Has Uranium for Nuclear Program,” Haaretz, May 5, 2007; “Jordan ‘Wants Nuclear Programme,’” Al Jazeera English, January 19, 2007; Yoav Stern, “U.S. Signs Accord with Jordan Backing Its Nuclear Development,” Haaretz, September 16, 2007. For Egypt’s nuclear program, see “Egypt to Start Building Nuclear Power Plants Soon, Minister Says,” Associated Press, September 24, 2006; “Egypt Nuclear Bombshell, New Era Or Marketing Ploy?” Agence France Press, October 2, 2006; “Egypt Unveils Nuclear Power Plan,” BBC News, September 25, 2006; Herb Keinon and Associated Press, “Olmert Unfazed by Egypt’s Plans to Build Nuclear Plants,” Jerusalem Post, September 25, 2006.
57 Etel Solingen repeats this point in her detailed comparative work on nuclear proliferation. See Etel Solingen, Nuclear Logics: Contrasting Paths in East Asia and the Middle East (Princeton University Press, 2007), pp. 4, 49-50, 122-25, 127-40, 143-54, 164-5, 167-9, 170-75, 214-19, 261-7, 291.
58 Kathleen McInnis dwells on this theme in McInnis, “Extended Deterrence,” pp. 169-79, 181-84.
59 Sammy Salama and Heidi Weber, “The Emerging Arab Response to Iran’s Unabated Nuclear Program,” Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute for International Studies, December 22, 2006, http:// www.nti.org/e_research/e3_83.html.
60 Joseph Cirincione and Uri Leventer, “The Middle East’s Nuclear Surge,” International Herald Tribune, August 13, 2007.
61 “Israeli General in Jordan Apology,” BBC News, February 23, 2006; Ronny Sofer, “Jordan: Officer Should be Disciplined,” Yediot Aharonot, February 22, 2006; Yaakov Katz, “Naveh Reprimanded for Jordan Doomsday Remarks,” Jerusalem Post, February 23, 2006.
62 Bob Woodward, State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III (Simon and Schuster, 2006), pp. 46-7.
63 On the progress of Turkish nuclear development, see Karl Vick, “Energy, Iran Spur Turkey’s Revival of Nuclear Plans,” The Washington Post, March 7, 2006; Allan Cove, “Turkey Launches Nuclear Energy Project,” Southeast European Times, April 14, 2006; “Turkey’s Nuclear Ambitions: More Nuclear Power at the Black Sea?” Qantara.de, December 12, 2006, http://www.qantara.de/webcom/show_article.php/_c-476/ _nr-576/i.html; “Turkey Calls Nuclear Power Its ‘Utmost Priority,’” EurActiv.com, March 8, 2006, http:// www.euractiv.com/en/energy/turkey-calls-nuclear-power-utmost-priority/a….
64 “Report: Syrian Reactor Built in 2001,” Yediot Aharonot, October 27, 2007; “Pictures Suggest Construction of Syrian Nuclear Reactor Was Underway in 2001,” Haaretz, October 28, 2007; “High Level Debate Stalled Syria Air Strike,” ABC News, October 5, 2007; Uzi Mahnaimi, Sarah Baxter and Michael Sheridan, “Snatched: Israeli Commandos’ ‘Nuclear’ Raid,” Sunday Times, September 23, 2007; Uzi Mahnaimi and Sarah Baxter, “Israelis Seized Nuclear Material in Syrian Raid,” Sunday Times, September 23, 2007; “Report: IDF Seized Nuclear Material before Syrian Raid,” Haaretz, September 23, 2007; “Report: Israel Spots Nuclear Installations in Syria,” Yediot Aharonot, September 12, 2007; Barak Ravid, Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, “Syria: There Are No North Korean Nuclear Facilities Whatsoever,” Haaretz, September 15, 2007.
65 President Bashar al-Asad said the site was an “unused military building” and that the strike hit “nothing of consequence,” Agence France Presse, October 14, 2007.
66 Shmuel Rosner, “Rabin’s Long Memory and the NIE Report on Iran,” Haaretz, December 18, 2007.
67 Liron Sinai and Roni Sofer, “Dichter: U.S. Report on Iran Could Bring about Another Yom Kippur War,” Yediot Aharonot, December 15, 2007.
68 Aharon Zeevi Farkash, “Iran Now Free to Achieve Its Military Nuclear Ambitions: An Israeli Perspective on the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jerusalem Issue Brief Vol. 7, No. 28, January 9, 2008.
69 “The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran and Its Aftermath: A Roundtable of Experts,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jerusalem Viewpoints, No. 562, March 2008.
70 Gerald Steinberg, “The Bush Visit and Tensions in the U.S.-Israeli Relationship,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jerusalem Issue Briefs, Vol. 7, No.27, January 7, 2008.
71 For example, see Gareth Porter, “Israel Urged Bush to Attack Iran — Not Iraq,” Asia Times.
72 Anthony Cordesman, “Iran, Israel and Nuclear War: An Illustrative Scenario,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, November 19, 2007, http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/ 071119_iran.is&nuclearwar.pdf.
75 TritaParsi, The Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States (Yale University Press, 2007), pp. 193-8, 209-10. Netanyahu’s efforts were not unreciprocated. Iran pushed Hezbollah to a ceasefire after Israel’s “Operation Grapes of Wrath” bombings of April 1996 and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati launched a diplomatic drive to produce an Israeli-Hezbollah truce and the release of hostages. Parsi, Treacherous Alliance, pp. 200-1. Khatami, as part of his “Détente” with the West, also iterated support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Parsi, Treacherous Alliance, pp. 211-14. Suspicions persisted and the war of rhetoric continued, and when Barak came to power Israeli-Iranian tensions resumed while the Peace Process got back on track. Parsi, Treacherous Alliance, pp. 214-19.
76 Though he downplays and criticizes the idea, Reuven Pedatzur brings up the idea of talks in Reuven Pedatzur, “The Iranian Nuclear Threat and the Israeli Options,” Contemporary Security Policy, Vol. 28, No. 3, 2007, pp. 527-28.
77 Ronny Sofer, “Israel Cannot Be Destroyed, Says Former Mossad Chief,” Yediot Ahronot, October 18, 2007. The Iranians, he added, are a “bitter enemy, but this does not mean that they should be an enemy forever.” They must be dealt with “in two simultaneous ways: They must be pressured through the global economy, and they must be given an opportunity to talk once they change their ways.” See also Gidi Weitz and Na’ama Lanski, “Livni behind Closed Doors: Iran Nukes Pose Little Threat to Israel,” Haaretz, October 25, 2007.
79 David Ignatius, “A Former Mossad Chief’s Advice on Iran and Syria,” Daily Star, November 10, 2007.
81 Yaakov Katz revealed this during a lecture at the University of Chicago on October 16, 2007. He then confirmed this interview and Barak’s comments in telephone correspondence with me on October 17, 2007. The quotation is cited with Mr. Katz’s full and explicit permission.
82 Interview with Aaron Miller, in Ahron Bregman, Elusive Peace: How the Holy Land Defeated America (Penguin Books, 2005), p. 187.
83 Bregman, Elusive Peace, pp. 199-200.
84 Interview with Colin Powell, as quoted in Bregman, Elusive Peace, p. 224.
85 Woodward, State of Denial, p. 47.
86 Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack (Simon and Schuster, 2004), p. 231.
88 Jane Perlez, “U.S. Says Killings by Israel Inflame Middle East Conflict,” The New York Times, August 28, 2001.
89 Ahron Bregman, Elusive Peace, p. 161.
90 Woodward, State of Denial, pp. 75-6. My italics.
91 Ibid., p. 77.
92 Suzanne Goldenberg and Julian Borger, “Furious Bush Hits Back at Sharon,” The Guardian, October 6, 2001.
93 Bregman, Elusive Peace, pp. 163-4.
94 Interview with Colin Powell, as quoted in Bregman, pp. 191-2.
95 Bregman, Elusive Peace, p. 196.
96 Ibid., p. 209; see also, Karen DeYoung, Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), p. 386.
97 Bregman, Elusive Peace, pp. 211-2.
98 Interview with Colin Powell, as quoted in Bregman, Elusive Peace, p. 238.
99 President Bush’s address to the United Nations, September 12, 2002, http://archives.cnn.com/2002/US/09/ 12/bush.transcript/.
100 See also Douglas Feith, War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism (HarperCollins, 2008), pp. 207-8, 511.
101 George W. Bush, as quoted in Bregman, Elusive Peace, p. 239.
102 Interview with Flynt Leverett, in Bregman, Elusive Peace , p. 241.
103 Bregman, Elusive Peace, pp. 224-7.
104 Interview with Yasser Abed Rabbo, as quoted in Bregman, Elusive Peace, p. 258.
105 Akiva Eldar, “People and Politics: Bush Likes Dahlan, Believes Abbas, and Has ‘a Problem with Sharon,’” Haaretz, June 10, 2003.
106 Although Pentagon planners did greatly fear the ramifications of missile attacks on Israel for the unity of the coalition should Israel respond, there is reason to doubt the universality of this claim. According to Bernard Trainor and Michael Gordon, Jordan actually wanted Israel to join the war coalition and share the burden of supporting U.S. forces by allowing it the use of its bases. Michael Gordon and Gen. Bernard Trainor, Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq (Pantheon Books, 2006), p. 110. Seymour Hersh, furthermore, notes that Saudi Arabia has actually preferred an Israeli strike on Iran to an American mission, since an Israeli attack would bear less risk and Israel ‘would be easier to blame.’ Seymour Hersh, “The Redirection,” The New Yorker, March 5, 2007.
107 David Armstrong, “U.S. Pays Back Nations That Supported War,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 11, 2003. On the case of Azerbaijan, see for example: Gulnara Ismailova, “Will Azerbaijan Join the War on Iraq?” Central Asia-Caucasus-Institute Analyst, February 10, 2003; Fariz Ismailzade, “Azerbaijan’s Government Supports the U.S. Position on Iraq — Carefully,” Eurasianet.org, February 20, 2003. On Albania, see Craig S. Smith, “Pro-U.S. Albania Set to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Bush,” International Herald Tribune, June 8, 2007. As Albanian ambassador to the U.S. Fatos Tarifa pointed out: “The surprise is not in Albania’s decision to send more troops to fight for freedom in Iraq. The surprise would have been if Albania did not.” See Fatos Tarifa, “Albania Stands with U.S. in Iraq,” Washington Times, March 27, 2005. On Poland, see Bradley Graham, “Poland Links Bid for U.S. Aid to Presence in Iraq,” The Washington Post, December 10, 2005; Jan Repa, “Poland Seeks Iraq Reward,” BBC News, January 27, 2004. On South Korea, see Samuel Len, “Seoul Plans 3,000 Troops for Iraq,” International Herald Tribune, December 18, 2003; Balbina Y. Hwang, “South Korean Troops to Iraq: A Boost for U.S.-ROK Relations,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo, No. 427, February 13, 2004, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/AsiaandthePacific/wm427.cfm?renderforp….