Who Will Take the Blame for the Next ‘Inevitable’ War?


President Bush's decision earlier this month to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a "global terrorist" group is raising fears that he is ratcheting up pressure as a prelude to military action, and Jewish leaders, who have been urging a tougher approach to Tehran, should brace for a new round of accusations that they are pushing this nation to war.

Adding fuel to the accusations will be the publication by professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt of a book-length version of their screed lamenting the power of the pro-Israel lobby (read: Jews), insisting that it's too powerful and runs American foreign policy to the detriment of the nation.

Their previous publications have been short on original research and long on inaccuracies, particularly their contention that Israel's supporters drove this nation to war in Iraq — a perception fed by repeated efforts by the administration to portray the invasion of Iraq as essential to protecting Israel.

In fact, Israeli leaders privately told the administration that they did not consider Saddam Hussein's regime a mortal threat, and that the majority of American Jews opposed the war from the outset.

But the case of Iran is very different, and friends of Israel have been the loudest voices pressing the past two administrations to get tougher with the ayatollahs and prevent them from building nuclear weapons. While not explicitly calling for war, their increasingly strident claims about Iran and their efforts to prevent Congress from limiting the Bush-administration's authority to start another war lend credence to the view that in the end, they believe that military action is the only solution to the crisis.

But long before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began threatening to wipe Israel off the map, Iran was the top target of the major pro-Israel groups, particularly the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

AIPAC was the driving force behind the enactment of the Iran Libya Sanctions Act during the Clinton administration, lobbying vigorously and successfully this summer to block legislation that would require the president to get congressional approval before attacking Iran.

Publicly, the group eschews any desire to see war, and stresses the need for diplomacy and sanctions. Privately, like many Jewish groups, its leaders don't believe that those will work with Iran any more than they did with Iraq.

So far, there does not appear to be a consensus inside the administration, in part because its options are limited by the fiasco in Iraq. Republicans are so scared of the votes in support of the bankrupt policy in Iraq that the administration realizes it won't even get support for action against Iran in the House GOP cloakroom.

Israeli and American Jewish leaders are right to speak out about the threat posed by Iran's sponsorship of terrorism and its nuclear ambitions, and to be worried about the ineptitude of American diplomacy in dealing with these problems, as well as its failure to muster the vital international support to confront the regime and its nuclear ambitions.

Many of the most strident voices about the Iranian threat — from the White House to Capitol Hill — frame the argument in terms of the threats against the Jewish state. Once again, protecting Israel is being used to justify the ideology-driven push to war. And this time, Jewish leaders, who continue to ratchet up the rhetoric about Iran as the new Nazis preparing a new Holocaust, are their indirect partners. They do Israel no favors; they only give fodder to the professional Israel-bashers like Walt and Mearsheimer.

The reality is that Iran is a greater threat to its Arab neighbors, Europe and to America than it is to Israel. This is not only because it's spreading terrorism and radical Islam, but also because of the use of its oil weapon. But Jewish leaders have been ineffective in broadening their argument — a task made even more difficult by an administration that once again wants to use Israel as an excuse.

Douglas M. Bloomfield is a Washington, D.C.-based columnist.


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