VIDEO Debate: Rashid Khalidi VS Jonathan Tobin: Attacking Iran, AIPAC, Israel-Palestine & Obama
Yesterday, President Barack Obama addressed the annual policy conference of the powerful pro-Israel lobby group, AIPAC.
In his speech, he attempted to walk a fine line between reassuring the group of his ‘sacrosanct’ commitment to both Israel’s security and ethnic identity as a ‘Jewish state,’ and yet tamp down on its insistence that the United States bomb Iran.
In making the case that he has been one of the most pro-Israel Presidents to date, he outlined the many ways he has bolstered the country’s security apparatus over the last three years, and then boasted about some of the more controversial diplomatic efforts he has made on Israel’s behalf:
And just as we’ve been there with our security assistance, we’ve been there through our diplomacy. When the Goldstone report unfairly singled out Israel for criticism, we challenged it. (Applause.) When Israel was isolated in the aftermath of the flotilla incident, we supported them. (Applause.) When the Durban conference was commemorated, we boycotted it, and we will always reject the notion that Zionism is racism. (Applause.)
When one-sided resolutions are brought up at the Human Rights Council, we oppose them. When Israeli diplomats feared for their lives in Cairo, we intervened to save them. (Applause.) When there are efforts to boycott or divest from Israel, we will stand against them. (Applause.) And whenever an effort is made to de-legitimize the state of Israel, my administration has opposed them. (Applause.) So there should not be a shred of doubt by now — when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back. (Applause.)
This morning, President Obama received Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, and it is being reported that much of their discussion was focused on Iran, and that the two continued to buck heads on the ‘red lines’ necessary for war:
Even though Obama has offered assurances of stiffened U.S. resolve against Iran before the White House meeting, the two allies are still far apart on explicit nuclear “red lines” that Tehran must not be allowed to cross, and they have yet to agree on a time frame for when military action may be necessary.
While the two leaders hashed it out at the Oval Office, Amy Goodman moderated an excellent debate between Rashid Khalidi of Columbia University and Commentary Magazine’s Senior Online Editor, Jonathan Tobin.
Tobin’s latest article, entitled, “What’s Missing From Obama’s AIPAC Speech? Red Lines on Iran and Palestinians,” offers a right-leaning critique of Obama’s AIPAC speech, in which he accuses Obama of refusing to make the necessary move from mere rhetoric to military action:
But even more significant was the fact that despite his repeated vows to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, there was little indication that Obama is prepared to make the leap from talking about the danger to actually doing something.
Khalidi does a fine job, here, of injecting some reality into the now-all-too-familiar AIPAC-propagandized discourse on the Iranian “threat,” propagated here by Tobin.
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New IAEA Report To Be Harsh On Iran, But WikiLeaks Doc Exposes IAEA Dir. General Subservience To U.S. On Iran Nuclear Program
On March 5, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will release a follow-up report on Iran’s nuclear program, and it is expected to be even harsher than its November 2011 report — which ultimately led to the current international sanctions and oil embargo against Iran.
The upcoming follow-up report from the IAEA will apparently include new details about the effort by Tehran to develop a nuclear warhead for a ground-to-ground missile. Last week an IAEA delegation visited Tehran for another round of talks with Iranian authorities. Western diplomats told news agency reporters in Vienna, where the organization is based, that the Iranian visit was a total failure.
The diplomats told the Reuters news agency that the delegation again asked the Iranians to give inspectors access to visit the military facility at Parchin, southeast of Tehran, but the Iranians refrained from responding to the request. Parchin is thought to be a main site of the weapons program. According to the same sources, after two days in which there appeared to be some progress in the talks, the Iranians began deliberately stalling – under the guise of changing the rules for the discussions – and he visit accomplished nothing.
IAEA chairman Yukiya Amano said in an official statement that the agency is “committed to intensifying dialogue” with Iran over its nuclear program.
But in December 2010, the Guardian published a WikiLeaks document which exposed the IAEA Director General-designate Yukiya Amano thanking the United States for their efforts in pushing for his candidacy. It revealed how Amano “took pains” to assure the U.S. Ambassador that “he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision,” including the “handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program”:
In a meeting with Ambassador on the eve of the two-week Board of Governors (BoG) and General Conference (GC) marathon of mid-September, IAEA Director General-designate Yukiya Amano thanked the U.S. for having supported his candidacy and took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded Ambassador on several occasions that he would need to make concessions to the G-77, which correctly required him to be fair-minded and independent, but that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.
In other words, under the direction of IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, that agency’s entire credibility, especially with regards to Iran’s nuclear program, should be called into question.
Ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern also reminds us that despite the ramped-up accusations, and ever-growing calls for bombing Iran — so reminiscent of the same case made by the very same people who mislead us into Iraq — the actual facts paint a startlingly different picture.
He brings up the January 31, 2012 “Worldwide Threat Assessment” that the top U.S. intelligence officials presented to the Senate Intelligence Committee:
Watching top U.S. intelligence officials present the annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” before the Senate Intelligence Committee, I found myself wondering if they would depart from the key (if politically delicate) consensus judgment that Iran is NOT working on a nuclear weapon.
In last year’s briefing, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had stood firm on this key point, despite severe pressure to paint Iran in more pernicious terms. On Tuesday [January 31, 2012], I was relieved to see in Clapper’s testimony a reiteration of the conclusions of a formal National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of November 2007, issued unanimously by all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, including judgments like this:
“We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; … Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005.”
In stark contrast to what Israeli officials claim about Iran’s nuclear intentions, Clapper stated in his unclassified testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee nine days ago, “We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.“
Meanwhile, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has scheduled his speech at the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC’s annual policy conference in Washington, DC on March 5, to coincide with the IAEA report’s release. The event will be attended by “more than half of the U.S. Senate, a third of the House of Representatives and countless Israeli and American policymakers and thought leaders.”