Israel a liability for America?

Cherrie Heywood

The relationship between two of Iran’s strongest critics, the US and Israel, is once again under the spotlight as the international heat on Iran’s alleged nuclear programme increases following a warning from IAEA director-general Mohamed ElBaradei for the Islamic republic to show more transparency. With a US-backed Israeli strike on Iran now considered more probable, critics are questioning the coordinated beating of war drums in Israel and the US. They fear a new conflagration in a region already mired in a violent and bloody quagmire.

The US has deployed a sophisticated long-range radar system in Israel capable of providing crucial early warning in case of a missile attack. The US has also agreed, following several Israeli requests, to sell a thousand GBU-39 bunker-busting bombs capable of penetrating reinforced concrete. Some of Iran’s alleged nuclear programme is said to be buried in concrete bunkers below ground level.

Israel also sought upgraded refuelling jets, which would be necessary to refuel fighter jets returning from an attack on Iran, as well as a clear flight path over Iraq in order to reach Iran without being accidentally hit by US fighter jets. These requests have been turned down. Earlier in the year, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert held a secret meeting with Aviam Sela, the chief architect of Israel’s 1981 attack on Iraq’s Osiraq nuclear reactor. Following a leak of the meeting, Israeli media reported that the subject of discussion was a possible attack on Iran.

In June the Israeli Air Force (IAF) carried out a military exercise involving more than 100 F-15 and F-16 fighter jets over eastern Greece, in what was said to be a dummy attack on Iran. The distance covered was approximately 900 miles, the same distance to Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant from Israel. In their book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, US academics John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago’s Department of Political Science and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government point out that the centrepiece of US Middle East policy is its intimate relationship with Israel.

“One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides,” Mearsheimer and Walt say. Many key organisations such as the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations generally support the expansionist policies of Israel.

“In fact, Israel is a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states. Moreover the US has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around,” argue Mearsheimer and Walt. “The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world,” they say. Many of the architects of the invasion of Iraq include neo-conservatives who have dual Israeli-US citizenship. These are the same individuals who are currently heavily involved in planning a way to deal with Iran.