Iran has been the target of crippling economic sanctions, assassinations of nuclear scientists, bombings and sabotage of its nuclear program.
Since last fall the Israeli government has openly discussed the possibility of launching deadly airstrikes targeting Iran’s nuclear facilities, with or without Washington’s consent, while the Obama administration is focusing on garnering support for stiffer international sanctions to harm Iran’s economy and impose maximum hardship on its people.
Tel Aviv has not hesitated to act on its own in the past. In 1981 and 2007 unilateral Israeli bombing destroyed nuclear reactors in Iraq and Syria.
The Iranian government says its nuclear program is for much-needed energy production and medical research. Washington and its imperialist allies maintain that Tehran is trying to develop nuclear weapons capacity.
U.S. rulers need IsraelIn the months leading to Netanyahu’s recent visit, the White House pressed the Israeli government to drop its threat of airstrikes against Iran and let Washington’s sanctions run their course.
Obama reiterated this position during Netanyahu’s visit, while recognizing “Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs” in remarks he presented March 4 to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Action Committee.
This reflects how much the U.S. rulers value their longtime strategic alliance with Tel Aviv for maintaining the regional “stability” necessary for advancing their imperialist interests in the Middle East. The Israeli government’s stance indicates that its actions in relation to Iran will not depend on Washington’s wishes, that Washington needs Tel Aviv more than Tel Aviv needs Washington.
Netanyahu made no commitment not to attack Iran during his U.S. visit. But around that time Tel Aviv did ask Washington “for advanced ‘bunker-buster’ bombs and refueling planes that could improve its ability to attack Iran’s underground nuclear sites,” reported Reuters, citing an unnamed Israeli official.
At the same time, differences over when Washington should consider military options against Iran are growing within the U.S. ruling class, including within the Obama and Clinton wings of the Democratic Party.
Speaking before AIPAC March 6, Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich each presented themselves as unafraid of the consequences of military conflict with Iran. Obama responded, “Those who are suggesting or proposing or beating the drums of war should explain clearly to the American people what they think the costs and benefits would be.”
The New York Post noted March 5 that Obama told AIPAC, “I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary.”
“Note the word ‘obtaining,’” the Post pointed out. “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week told Congress that US policy is ‘to prevent Iran from having nuclear-weapons capability.’ [Emphasis added.] But White House officials quickly said she had misspoke—and, tellingly, Obama didn’t use the word ‘capability’ yesterday.”
As this debate is going on, U.S. and European sanctions are increasingly biting Iran’s economy and Tehran is more isolated than ever internationally.
Washington has rallied the support of the Arab League and Turkey against the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Tehran’s closest Mideast ally.
In a March 8 joint statement, what’s known as the 5+1—United Nations Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S., plus Germany—issued what the New York Times characterized as a ‘blunt request” that the Iranian government “allow international inspectors unfettered access” to its nuclear facilities. This represents a shift for Beijing and Moscow, who for their own reasons have opposed Washington’s aggression against Iran and defended Tehran’s right to develop nuclear power.
The 5+1 have agreed to Tehran’s request to resume negotiations on its nuclear program.
On March 5, Salah al-Bardawil, a leader of Hamas, said the Palestinian organization, which rules Gaza, would not fight against Tel Aviv if there is a war between Israel and Iran. Hamas has never given its “complete loyalty” to Tehran, he said, adding that their relationship “had been based on common interests.” Hamas used to be a staunch supporter of the Iranian government.
After Tehran threatened to cut off oil to European countries in retaliation for stiffer sanctions, the government of Saudi Arabia pledged to “pump more oil to compensate.” This minimized the effect of the threatened move, which would only further damage Iran’s economy.
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