Porter Report -- After Dempsey Warning, Israel May Curb War Threat

Uploaded by TheRealNews on 07.09.2012

PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. Welcome to this
week's version of the Porter Report with investigative journalist and historian Gareth Porter, who
now joins us from our studio in Washington. How are you doing, Gareth?
GARETH PORTER: I'm fine, thanks. Hi, Paul.
JAY: So what have you got for us this week?
PORTER: Well, this week I think is really--the headline story is about the way in which Benjamin
Netanyahu's campaign to threaten war against Iran has run up against a big obstacle, and
more than an obstacle, which is that the Obama administration has now had the chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, in Britain make a statement that
has really shaken up the political system in Israel and I think undoubtably will cause
the government of Benjamin Netanyahu to have to reconsider its strategy here. What Dempsey
said was in the context of talking about the fact that Israel--an attack by Israel on Iran
would not be successful, it would not be able to destroy the Iranian nuclear program, it
would set it back. And, of course, as the Israeli national security officials themselves
have been pointing out ad nauseum in recent months, it would actually have the effect
of almost certainly causing Iran to rush to get a nuclear weapon as fast as possible.
But then the real punchline in Martin Dempsey's statement to the press was: if they were to
attack Iran, I wouldn't want to be complicit. And, of course, by that he really meant that
the Obama administration does not want to be complicit. And that has been, I think,
quite correctly read in Israel as a firm no from President Obama to Netanyahu about all
this talk of war against Iran. And so, you know, the feeling there, as expressed by a
former national security adviser to the Israeli government, Giora Eiland, is that Netanyahu
really doesn't have much choice but to back down, to step back from this campaign, which
seems like it's been going on for years, to convince the world that he and Defense Minister
Ehud Barak are really serious about attacking--or seriously considering about attacking Iran,
bringing it to a close, trying to find a face-saving withdrawal from that--.
JAY: Right. Now, you would have expected Romney to jump all over this. But how much has he
been jumping all over it? It seems to me it's been--it's somewhat muted.
PORTER: Well, this is another factor that I think plays into the political calculus,
the shifting political calculus in Jerusalem, which is that no question about it, Netanyahu
really hoped and anticipated that the Republican nominee and the GOP would make the alleged
flaccid policy of the Obama administration toward Iran a major campaign issue and basically
attack Obama for not taking the Israeli red line, which is that if Iran doesn't cease
and desist its uranium enrichment completely, that the United States would then threaten
to attack Iran next year sometime.
And so now you have--the reality has been that the GOP and Romney did not really make
much of an issue of Iran at all during the convention. Comparatively speaking, it was
really a very small part of the convention, and there was no threat by Romney--or promise,
I perhaps should say, to take on the Israeli red line. There was no bombastic statement
that, you know, if I'm elected president, I will give an ultimatum to the Iranians,
such as the Israelis [crosstalk]
JAY: And what do you make of that? Why do you think that is? Given the money Sheldon
Adelson and other people are throwing--.
PORTER: Well, my coauthor on this piece at IPS, Jim Lobe, has analyzed the GOP convention
pretty carefully, and also the politics within the Romney camp, and he points out that there's
some evidence that the neoconservatives, who seem to be in the saddle, in terms of foreign-policy
advisers, to Romney, may have suffered a big setback during the Romney trip, the foreign
trip where he went to Israel, Poland, and the U.K., all countries which fit into the
neoconservative and Israeli agenda of trying to basically drum up support for war against
Iran. And during that trip, Romney stumbled, didn't make a very good--give a very good
account of himself. And in general the neocons, I think, were blamed for a trip that really
didn't do him much good at all and probably hurt him, and that as a result of that, the
so-called realists within that camp, who are still pretty conservative but by no means
share the kind of John Bolton enthusiasm for an attack on Iran, have gained a good deal
of ground within the Romney camp, and indeed may now have been in a position to call the
shots in terms of how Romney handled this issue at the convention.
JAY: And do you think this has something to do with how much the military leadership is
against this attack on Iran? I remember when Cheney was pushing this and there was--it
looked like something was going to happen. Seymour Hersh was writing about the imminent
possibilities of an attack on Iran. There was a whole group of retired generals that
came out publicly. They wrote in The New York Times and The Washington Post against an attack
on Iran. I mean, it seems like the Pentagon, mostly its leadership, has been against this
for quite some time. Has Romney got some sense of this and perhaps doesn't want to come out
against them as well?
PORTER: Well, I think we're actually talking about two different militaries who have equally
been opposed to the idea of an attack on Iran by either Israel or--well, certainly in the
case of the United States, Israel or the United States, but of the Israeli military also.
I think both of these militaries have been a huge factor in what I think is the debacle
of the Netanyahu strategy here.
On one hand, there's no doubt about it: the U.S. military, as I've been saying for a long
time, has made it extremely clear to both Bush administration and the Obama administration
that they are absolutely adamantly opposed to any thought of an attack on Iran under
any circumstances because of the extreme danger to U.S. military assets in the Gulf region.
They're extremely vulnerable, both within the waters of the Arabian Gulf or the Persian
Gulf, and on the land, the U.S. military installations, essentially [inaud.] installations in Qatar,
in the U.A.E., and elsewhere in the Middle East. So no doubt that the U.S. military has
played a big role in influencing the U.S. government, and in influencing, I think, the
Israeli military as well, to take a much more cautionary approach to the whole idea of Iran
policy and really putting a lot of pressure on Netanyahu. And I think this is another
factor in the necessity for Netanyahu to really step back from what has been--.
JAY: And one of the things I think you pointed out in your article was that some of the advisers
to Romney who are in fact, you know, neocons of one sort, certainly very pro-Israel, and--but
they've been saying that if Israel precipitates an attack on Iran that leads to the deaths
of American soldiers, it could be a sea change in American public opinion in terms of America's
whole relationship with Israel, and they're afraid of that becoming a discussion on the
PORTER: That's right, Paul. That's a very, very big factor in Israeli politics, the whole
question of whether Israeli policy, as formulated by Benjamin Netanyahu, really endangers Israel's
relationship with the United States. It's not just with the Obama administration, but
more generally with the U.S. public. I think the fear there in Israel is very palpable
that Netanyahu is leading Israel into a situation where it could very easily lose the credibility,
the good-faith, you know, relationship with the United States, with the U.S. public, that
the U.S. public would draw back from support for Israel, and then Israel would be in very,
very serious trouble. And that is an issue that the opposition party, Kadima, has publicly
raised quite explicitly. They're attacking Netanyahu on that ground. And the military
as well has been raising that problem.
JAY: I don't think we should ever have this discussion without reminding everybody and
ourselves that--but there is warfare against Iran going on right now, and it's economic
warfare. And you and I have talked about this before, that the threat of war may or may
not be real, but it's certainly kind of diverting everyone's attention from the real economic
warfare, the sanctions that are going on against Iran, at a time when there's still no evidence
that there is a weapons program.
PORTER: Well, as you know, I agree with you on that, Paul. I mean, I do think that in
the short run those sanctions, as damaging as they are to the Iranian economy, and causing
already a good deal of pain to the Iranian consumer, are not going to have an impact
on the policy of Iran towards its nuclear program. There is certainly a possibility
that over the next three or four years that could play a role. But certainly for the time
being, the sanctions are harming the Iranian people but not having an effect on policy.
And it is the case that the Iranian government may decide at some point to respond in some
fashion that could be dangerous.
JAY: Alright. Thanks very much for joining us, Gareth.
PORTER: Thank you, Paul.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network. And if you'd like to see more
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