For months now, we have been led to believe that the United States, along with a bunch of allies, considered war with Iran inevitable.

Now, all of a sudden, the narrative has shifted.

Now, we are told that the West wishes to avoid war, but that a belligerent, reckless Israel is intent on taking Tehran out. We are also told that the US has warned Israel to do no such thing.

What is going on here? Can these reports be trusted?

In a word, No. When one considers all of the available information in context, it looks more like this: Netanyahu may have come under intense pressure to threaten or launch a unilateral attack on Iran—by Western forces who care more about oil and other strategic issues than they do about  the welfare of Israelis.


Since the fall, we’ve seen a calculated effort by the US and its allies to vilify and isolate Iran—as if that country’s mullahs didn’t do a good enough job of that on their own. Gradually, this campaign has evolved into a message that there may be no choice but to take preemptive action against Tehran.

In the past we’ve described the propaganda campaign, which has included strong declarations that Iran will soon have WMDs—despite a widely acknowledged lack of certitude among independent experts. (Shades of Iraq.)

It has included attempts to tie Iran to terrorism on American soil—with a purported plot, so laughable that almost no one believed it, to hire a Mexican drug cartel to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington. (Remember the false allegations about Saddam’s involvement with 9/11?)

It has involved endless provocations against the regime in Tehran, including economic sanctions that make life very, very difficult for Iranians of every political persuasion. (Remember the similar measures against Iraq?) The US has long had anti-Iran sanctions in place, and recently persuaded the EU, a crucial customer for Iran, to launch a boycott of its oil and other products. On Monday Obama added new sanctions.

But it’s not just talk and paper. In late January, the US, Britain and France sent six warships and an aircraft carrier through the Strait of Hormuz, and some units are still there. We’re told that this show of force is necessary because Iran threatens the Strait’s strategically crucial shipping lanes. No mention is made of the fact that Iran is deliberately being put in an increasingly desperate situation and virtually invited to lash out.

This fast train to war was sidetracked, however, as Russia and China succeeded in blocking concerted United Nations action against both Iran and its ally, Syria (itself facing a massive propaganda campaign alleging atrocities that cannot be independently or fully verified). This is a big problem for Obama, since his core supporters would never sanction his taking aggressive military action unless he (a) had what appeared to be a really good excuse—for reference, see Libya, and (b) could claim that the United States, ever responsible, was going to war reluctantly, as part of a consensus of allies. Even George W. Bush knew he needed a “coalition of the willing.”

As the UN option fizzled, a new narrative emerged: a frustrated Israel, famous for rejecting UN guidance anyway, was threatening to go it alone. And Obama was sending a top general to lecture the Israelis that this was unacceptable.


It’s always interesting when the military-industrial complex finds a creative new way to get its message out. In building support for war with Iraq, Fox News was indispensable with its trademark jingoistic/alarmist/patriot thing. But now, a “liberal” Democrat is in the White House. So what does he do? He feints to the Left.

It was in a report from the liberal/left-oriented Inter Press Service, that I and many others first learned that the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff had warned the Israelis privately against unilateral action:

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told Israeli leaders Jan. 20 that the United States would not participate in a war against Iran begun by Israel without prior agreement from Washington, according to accounts from well-placed senior military officers.

Dempsey’s warning, conveyed to both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, represents the strongest move yet by President Barack Obama to deter an Israeli attack and ensure that the United States is not caught up in a regional conflagration with Iran.

But the Israeli government remains defiant about maintaining its freedom of action to make war on Iran, and it is counting on the influence of right-wing extremist views in U.S. politics to bring pressure to bear on Obama to fall into line with a possible Israeli attack during the election campaign this fall….

Okay, now let’s look at this with a little healthy skepticism.  First of all, “well-placed senior military officers” do not go around leaking information on their own. They only do it with the express consent of their superiors (unless of course the “senior officers” are the superiors, e.g. if they are Dempsey himself or one of his professional leakers).

Furthermore, the Pentagon leaks two ways: (1) in accord with the White House, or (2) in attempts to influence the White House. We have written about the latter, particularly with regard to cooperation with Bob Woodward and other reliable members of the press, in pressuring Obama over Afghanistan policy.

In the case of Iran, though, these leaks are being presented in such a way as to convey an Obama in control, making the decisions, rather than one at battle with his own military. The reality is that the military is probably taking the lead on this— so either they really do not want a war with Iran, which is unlikely (when was the last time professional warriors ached to beat swords into plowshares?), or they want one with Israelis on the leading edge, i.e., the ones to take the rap.

History, and current pressures on the Pentagon to justify its budget in a time of austerity, suggest that the Pentagon is not really opposed to an attack on Iran, only very shrewdly letting someone else get the music started.

Make Israel the villain. If there’s one thing that the Left relates to even more than suspicion of the Pentagon: it’s default vilification of Israel as the world’s leading lone wolf miscreant.


Today, Israel has three possible courses of action. (1) It doesn’t take action against Iran, and nobody else does. (2) It takes unilateral action against Iran, and weathers universal condemnation. (3) It pretends to go it alone, or does go it alone initially as a means of applying pressure for a “coalition” response to the alleged Iranian threat.

I’d wager on option #3.

Here’s why: Israel has no real reason to want to go it alone. It’s not really Israel’s fight. Don’t take my word for this: The former heads of Israel’s top intelligence agencies have stated that going to war with Iran is a “stupid idea” and characterized Netanyahu’s apparent preparations for an attack as both unnecessary and risky for Israel itself.

The battle between the Prime Minister and the former spymasters got so intense that Netanyahu ordered an investigation into leaks about an impending Israeli attack on Iran, which he believed had been perpetrated by the retired spooks. How do we know about this secret leak investigation? The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz picked up a report from a Kuwaiti newspaper which cited an unnamed Israeli source. Such arcane telegraphs reek of covert struggle. The public is the last to know what’s really going on, or why.

But one thing is certain. If Israel takes the brunt of the criticism for getting things started with Iran, it is not Israel that will gain. In country after country, we’ve seen that it is the West, principally the key Western European powers, working with the United States, that operates through surrogates, and fosters indigenous uprisings to create strategic gains. We saw that with Iraq, then Libya, now Syria, and….next Iran Each time, there’s an offensive move trumpeted to secure a resource like oil or regional stability, and fueled by the perception of a unique window of opportunity.

Israel’s Motives

It probably is true that some members of the American military rightly fear what would happen if the situation was pushed to the point of war. The US literally cannot afford to keep spreading itself so thin. Add to that, financial pressure to slim down the military, and an Iranian adventure becomes even more problematical.

But note that the most likely scenario here doesn’t have to involve an organized conspiracy. Rather, loosely aligned forces, each with its own unique objectives, appear to be coalescing to seize the moment and unseat the Iranian regime.

Advocates of human and women’s rights and of religious freedom, among others, would understandably love to see the brutal and primitive Ayatollahs carted away. Iranian exiles, who in many cases emigrated with great wealth (and in others acquired it abroad along with considerable political influence) would love to be able to return home. Other countries in the region don’t want such a powerful and volatile neighbor. Oil companies, seeing dwindling reserves around the world, look enviously at Iran’s petroleum deposits. European nations, in particular, rely on unpredictable and difficult suppliers for their oil and urgently need to stabilize that supply situation. The Saudi royal family sees its very survival threatened by Shiite elements in its oil-rich Eastern Province who have close ties to Iran; change the government in Tehran and that particular threat recedes. The American military and US defense contractors are facing severe cuts in their budgets, and need to constantly re-justify themselves. The media makes good money covering wars. On and on…name your preferred reason to take on, or take out, the Iranian regime.

But Israel? The Iranian leadership has its own internal life-and-death skirmishes, with the Iranian president Ahmadinejad in a nasty ongoing power struggle with others, most notably religious conservatives and his own military. Neither he nor his internal opponents have an incentive to launch a nuclear attack on Israel. Probably never did, but certainly not now. While some countries have used offensive military actions as a distraction, to do so against Israel or any Western nation would be to invite a calamitous response.

Nevertheless, we see constant evidence of Israel covertly moving against Iran, including the assassinations of key Iranian scientists. US government sources were quick to point out to journalists that Israel must have been behind the hits. And there have been leaks that Israel told the Obama administration it would not give it more than 12 hours advance notice before launching an attack on Iran. Why leak such incredibly sensitive information? Well, perhaps because it was supposed to be leaked, in order to shield Obama from blame.


Here’s the official spin, by the wired Washington Post military columnist David Ignatius (his father was once secretary of the Navy):

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has a lot on his mind these days, from cutting the defense budget to managing the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But his biggest worry is the growing possibility that Israel will attack Iran over the next few months.

Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June — before Iran enters what Israelis described as a “zone of immunity” to commence building a nuclear bomb. Very soon, the Israelis fear, the Iranians will have stored enough enriched uranium in deep underground facilities to make a weapon — and only the United States could then stop them militarily.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t want to leave the fate of Israel dependent on American action, which would be triggered by intelligence that Iran is building a bomb, which it hasn’t done yet.

And now we have, according to an “ABC News exclusive,” a leaked report that Israel is warning that Jewish-connected sites like schools and synagogues in the US and worldwide could be targets of Iranian reprisals because of Iran’s belief that Israel is behind those attacks. Yet there’s no real basis for believing that Iran would target American Jews. All this leak does is make Iran seem more threatening, and thereby build more political support in the US for intervention.

As for the claim that the US warned Israel, perhaps it did. But the very fact that the warning was leaked suggests it may have been more for public consumption than anything else. All pointing to the US and other allies preparing to create “plausible deniability,” that is, to let Netanyahu himself launch some kind of operation against Tehran.

The result would be that Israel alone would face the ire of the world. With so much of the world already furious at Israel, the last thing that country’s leadership should be doing is taking the heat for Western imperial adventures.

In a sense, getting Netanyahu to be the front guy for this dangerous gambit is yet another way that, in the end, the West really does find Israel and the Israelis expendable. Anyone who thinks that the $3 billion in military aid to Israel does not come with a price is very, very naïve. Those who extrapolate Israel’s heavy-handedness with the Palestinian issue into evidence of worldwide, unilateral skullduggery by Israel are headed down the wrong path—and a very dangerous one at that.

All you need to understand is that Netanyahu’s political success is largely dependent on support from  particular Americans. These Americans claim to “support Israel,” but the reality is that their own financial well-being is sometimes correlated with particular Israeli policies, like taking out the Iranian regime.  Those selfish motives, or even well-meaning but misguided understanding of what is “good for Israel,”  actually make life more, not less, difficult for ordinary Israelis. How much this factors into Netanyahu’s calculation, we can only guess. He’s not likely to share his most candid thoughts on the matter.

One thing, however, is certain: the victors in this deadly game. Elites—princes, oil executives, military chieftains, rich foreigners—win. And ordinary people—at least in Iran, in Israel, in the United States—lose.

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0 responses to “Is Israel Really Iran’s Main Adversary? The West Doth Protest Too Much”

  1. El Greco Handmade Natural Cosm says:

    I do not have any idea what you are tolking about!!

  2. iranian says:

    I’m an Iranian and I think Iran’s military is very very very weak in compare with US and its allies , and also Iranians are mostly protesters , it would be very easy to crush them but USA have other plans about Iran , I think they want a player like Iran in the world but I don’t know why !

  3. reza says:


  4. Moein says:

    Israel???? what is israel ??? oh that crazy baby… Dont dodge yourself! you are nothing against iran


    I am an Iranian.
    U.S . . . . . You are next.
    We will defend our country and our leader.
    We are not afraid of you. See you on the battlefield.

  6. silverGiga says:

    Iran is ready 30 years

  7. Fredio says:

    Israel is the prime mover in the push for an attack on Iran, the only country that is a threat to israel. We know  how they fed the WMD to destroy Saddam who was also a threat.
     Now we see civil war in Syria , to depose a dictator that could be troublesome ?. I predict israel will collapse from within for the trouble it causes with-out.

    • Russ Baker says:

       Typical comment from person who doesn’t even bother to read the article first, as the points in it directly refute his premise. Please, read the piece first, and at least address what it says.

  8. Bill Woollam says:

    Actually, 100% of all income tax collected goes to paying the ‘compounding interest’ charges which federal government owes to the privately-controlled Federal Reserve. 

    How the Bankers place a nation in ever increasing debt  with their ‘compounding interest’ charges.

    Regarding war in the Middle East:
    CIA-backed rebels and death squads behind Syria bloodbath

  9. Asfdds says:

    very well written and interesting perspective!

  10. Claude says:

    Terrific article Russ. I will reference it on my blog. And thank you for the good sentiments that you have shown.

    Claude at

  11. planckbrandt says:

    Israel is being used to get the oil assets and “tremendous” wealth back for the corporations and Family Offices who claim them, including Iranians as you say who “emigrated with tremendous wealth”. Fled is more like it. From social and economic conditions under the Shah they created themselves and profited from for decades. Do some due diligence on family sources of money to AIPAC over the years. It is very clear what is really going on here and how these stooge Pols set themselves up to be used!

  12. H.P. Loathecraft says:

    **First of all, “well-placed senior military officers” do not go around leaking information on their own. **
    With one exception: Stanley McChrystalnacht

  13. nomorewarsyouprats says:

    It’s not about oil per se, it’s about preserving the petrodollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency. Absent the peg to oil, the dollar would be just another fiat currency. Pegged to oil, dollar demand is universal, both as a global medium of exchange and as a security. As the global unit of account for oil, almost all international trade in commercial goods and other commodities is priced in dollars as well. This is a huge advantage to the U.S. We don’t have to go into the currency markets and pay a premium for foreign money in order to conduct commerce abroad. Much more importantly as history’s biggest borrower and debtor, we set the price of our astronomical borrowing by manipulating interest rates. The same rates apply to the mountains of money we create out of thin air. In turn, this inexhaustible supply of cheap cash pays for our insatiable demand for social programs, militarism, bailouts, etc. If not for the global demand for our debt, we would not be able to finance our economy. Already 40% of every dollar of revenue fedgov collects goes to pay the interest on our indebtedness. It is absolutely vital if America is to remain a going concern that the sanctity of the petrodollar be upheld.

    What Iraq, Libya, and Iran have in common is that they have all threatened to or have left the petrodollar regime by accepting payment for oil in other currencies, gold, or opening up their own bourses. This is the reason for our direct or proxy involvement in hot and cold wars across the whole Crescent Of Conflict arcing from the Middle East through Africa to the steppes of Asia. To be sure we mean to “secure” for ourselves the bulk of the Middle East’s dwindling stocks of easily accessible and easily refined sweet light crude, but we are just as interested in sequestering from development and capitalization by our rivals the untapped resources in other countries. By sowing chaos and confusion in these other areas we make it unprofitable for our enemies to develop the underlying resources. We are fighting to make oil MORE expensive, not less, as this is instrumental to propping up the petrodollar, the fount of our endless spending. A fraction of the four trillion we have spent fighting the past ten years could have bought the oil outright. Our aims are about oil, but incidentally. What we’re really about is prolonging the reign of King Abdollar. Otherwise, we’ll drown in a gusher of indebtedness.

    • gogetem1 says:

      Thank you.  I was curious myself as to how much the Petrodollar is a factor in the grand scheme of things re: Iran.

  14. dave says:

    Well done Russ.

  15. planckbrandt says:

    Can we be a little more specific about these “Western forces who care more about oil”?  The details therein are the real story here. Just which Family Offices? And, how did they get so much power over us and all our institutions? That is the story of the Century!

    • Russ Baker says:

       I’m afraid it isn’t about one or two families or companies. It is the real American Way. Always has been. But making people aware of this reality is a valid mission. Part of what we’re doing here. The only real road to transforming our society and ourselves is to begin to open our eyes.

    • Lowellg says:

      I’m going to donate to your cause, Mr. Baker — and I urge each of you to do the same.  This man must be able to continue/.

    • Russ Baker says:

      Thanks, Lowell. We’re a nonprofit, and trying to bring on more staff. Your support–and that of others who enjoy our work–will allow us to do much more breakthrough documentation. 

  16. Hatetoregister says:

    Like most US foreign policy propaganda, the Iran card is for domestic purposes.  And, also predictably, the issue is oil.  For those of us with long memories, the disasterous Alaskan pipeline was approved by Nixon within SECONDS of the announcement of the OPEC oil embargo.  For Obama, anything that he can pretend is blocking the Strait of  Hormuz with give him cover to APPROVE the even more disasterous Keystone Pipeline.  My prediction is that there will be a tense week of bluster by Iran during which the pipeline will be approved and then things will settle down in time for the US election.  The US, in it’s inimitable way, will probably kill a bunch of innocent Iranians to satisfy the appetites of the  Republican party, but the action will fall short of “war.”

  17. Drbrea says:

    Rumor had it that the Bush administration expected to easily overrun Iraq, Syria and Iran in that order, but then ran into problems in Iraq and never progressed any further.  But the war drums were beating for Iran all through the Bush administration and up to the present day.  So, the war with Iran has been postponed for close to 8 years.  Thinking optimistically, could it be that it will be postponed for more years maybe even permanently?

    Thinking positiviely, if one feels he must be optimistic, one could observe that the Obama administration:
    1) was able to keep US ground troops out of Libya 2) was able to stick to the Iraqi withdrawal plan 3) left Iraq without a “residual force” as the military and right-wingers wanted 4) has now begun withdrawal of 1/2 of the huge 16000-person contingent in the Iraqi embassy 5) has admitted to the US public and the world that we have been sending drones into Iran 6) has continued peace talks with the Taliban suggested a possible negotiated peace and 7) has recently announced an intentions to turn over control of the Afghan “war” to the Karzai government in 2013, a year earlier than perviously expected. 
    Also, I noted in the newspapers that UN inspectors are currently in Iran and are not finding any evidence of nuclear bomb activity.  Does this give the Obama administration an opportunity to substitute inspections for war?

    Is it possible that the Israelies had expected the US to eventually invade Iran as it did Iraq and now questions US commitment to an invasion?  If so, could it be that the Israelis are really prepared to go it alone, knowing the US could never use force against Israel due to political opposition in the US?

    I agree that the pro-war sentiment in the US likely comes from the military and not President Obama.  And the President, although not completely independent, has some powers he can use.  Using my rose-colored glasses, I see this President staving off the Iran war for another year, perhaps five years.     

    • Morocco Bama says:

       Is there a link to that rumor? Didn’t think so. That’s the problem with rumors. However, we do have facts straight from the horses mouth. How do we explain Cheney’s obvious and explicit contradiction, and complete 180 from a decade earlier? His statements in ’92 pass the sniff test, meaning they make very logical sense, and his statements were based off of sound intelligence, analysis and strategy. What transpired in 2003, and the two years leading up to it, doesn’t survive any kind of sniff test, whatsoever. And please don’t insult this audience and say “911 changed everything.” Yes, 911 was the “keystone” for much of what came thereafter, but it is not the true rationale, but rather the cover for the real rationale. Still and all, though, what explains Cheney’s reversal on attacking Iraq? That’s the million dollar question….or should I say, trillion dollar question?

    • SoU says:

      Not remarking on anything else @moroccoblues I like the fact that somehow you feel the commenters rumor would have more credibility if it had a hyper link attached to it. ?!

    • Drbrea says:

      Don’t follow your comments.  What did Cheney say in 1992?  I didn’t mention 1992 or Cheney.  I also didn’t mention “911”.

  18. Augeaabye says:

    We are facing a New World that will come out of Secret contacts between the parties interested in the reshaping of the world. The 5 most powerful countries are right now talking of the way to dismember the Arab world and keep bits and pieces for themselves, that is integrate them in their area of influence. North Africa will be for Europe while parts of the Middle east will go to USA  and Russia,  I am afraid that Turkey will be abandoned by the West and  New State the Kurdish State will be created int he Middle of it with land from Turkey, Iran Irak. It will have even the pipeline going straight to the Mediterranean. No doubt Israel will win influence in the area Russia will be awarded Syria and influence over areas or Iran and the New Kurdish State. China will get huge mineral concessions in Afganistan. ….. Well as you can realize I really hope nothing of this happen.. But all the signs are there. One has just to look and find them.

    • Drbrea says:

      The Kurdish region of Iraq is already pretty independent; “semi-autonomous” they call it.  The Kurds were stuck into Iraq by the western powers decades ago and have always wanted to have their own state.   Complicating matters is the fact that sizable portions of Turkey and Iran would want to join an independent Kurdistan.  If Croats, Slovaks, Slovenes, Macedonians and other ethnic groups can have their own state, it seems reasonable for the Kurds to want the same thing. 

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