“Arabs, not Jews, driving Bush’s Iraq plans”

October 08, 2002

“THE PRODUCT OF IGNORANCE OR ANTI-ISRAEL PROPAGANDA”

[Notes below by Tom Gross]

I attach two articles from today relating to Israel and a possible U.S.-led military action against Iraq. (There is a summary first for those who don't have time to read the articles in full.)

SUMMARIES

1. "US attack on Iraq: Good for the Jews?" (By Barry Rubin, The Jerusalem Post, October 7, 2002).

Professor Rubin says: "The idea that Israel is in some way behind the Bush administration's determination to strike at Iraq has been more the product of ignorance or anti-Israel (sometimes anti-Semitic) propaganda than anything based on reality. Blaming a possible US-Iraq war on the Jews comes from the kind of thinking that blamed them for the 1991 war over Kuwait or, for that matter, World War II."

He adds: "What many people do not want to admit is that not for the first time it is Arab behavior that pushed American leaders onto the political course and analysis they now embrace. Yasser Arafat's involvement in terrorism and lack of involvement in keeping his promises of cease-fires, the September 11 attacks, virulent anti-Americanism in the Arab world, Saddam's own behavior and Saudi hostility are among the factors that made the US government rethink its Middle East policy."

Rubin lists three reasons why a U.S.-Iraq clash may not necessarily be in Israel's best interests. He adds that the danger of unilateralism for the U.S. does not spring from the need for French or Russian support but from the necessity of Saudi and Kuwait support. If U.S. forces can operate from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait they don't need the approval of Paris or Moscow; but without the local help an invasion is made very difficult indeed.

2. "Israel said unprepared against Iraqi weapons of mass destruction" (Middle East Newsline, Tel Aviv, October 7, 2002).

Israel is still up to 500,000 gas masks short. A report by the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, regarded as being close to the White House and U.S. Defense Department, asserted that if the population were unprotected an Iraqi sarin attack on Tel Aviv could kill up to 3,000 Israelis. An Iraqi missile filled with botulinum would kill 50,000 if it struck Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is located about 400 kilometers from the western Iraqi border and well within range of Baghdad's arsenal of Al Hussein missiles.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

GOOD FOR THE JEWS?

US attack on Iraq: Good for the Jews?
By Barry Rubin
The Jerusalem Post
October 7, 2002

If you had told Israeli leaders and analysts two years ago that the US would be on the verge of attacking Iraq today, they would have been astonished and confused. The dominant perception across the political spectrum was that Iraq was not a serious threat.

After all, international sanctions had, however imperfectly, weakened the Iraqi regime's power to be a menace in the region. As evil as Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's intentions might be, his armed forces were in bad shape, he was short of money, had great trouble importing new weapons or spare parts, and did not have a single ally.

If anyone was a danger from that part of the world, Israeli politicians and intelligence experts believed, it was Iran, a country facing none of Saddam's problems.

The idea, then, that Israel is in some way behind the Bush administration's determination to strike at Iraq has been more the product of ignorance or anti-Israel (sometimes anti-Semitic) propaganda than anything based on reality. Blaming a possible US-Iraq war on the Jews comes from the kind of thinking that blamed them for the 1991 war over Kuwait or, for that matter, World War II.

Moreover, the US administration that has chosen its current policy has not been led by people particularly devoted to Israel. Whatever secondary figures can be cited, the people who make the decisions George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld have had far more connections in the other direction.

What many people do not want to admit is that not for the first time it is Arab behavior that pushed American leaders onto the political course and analysis they now embrace. Yasser Arafat's involvement in terrorism and lack of involvement in keeping his promises of cease-fires, the September 11 attacks, virulent anti-Americanism in the Arab world, Saddam's own behavior and Saudi hostility are among the factors that made the US government rethink its Middle East policy.

With that government determined to confront Iraq, Israel is certainly going to support the administration. But even that does not mean a US-Iraq clash is necessarily in Israeli interests, for at least three reasons.

First, Israel could be the target of a direct Iraqi attack or indirect Iraq-backed terror crusade. This threat is reduced by the limited Iraqi capacity for launching such an offensive as well as by the fact that anti-Israel forces (including Iraq itself) have already been doing just about everything possible to promote terrorism for the last two years.

But the possibility of such an assault cannot be dismissed altogether.

Second and more immediately, Israel could be made to pay the price of the US's policy before as well as after a US attack on Iraq. When the US government pressed Israel to end the second siege of Arafat in Ramallah, for example, it had an eye on Arab attitudes toward the anti-Iraq campaign. Arab states could still condition helping the US against Iraq in exchange for risk-raising concessions from you-know-who.

Finally, Israel could suffer from an anti-Bush backlash in America and Europe. If Bush proves wrong on Iraq, many may conclude that the US should reverse its stand on other issues perhaps giving Arafat his 8,456th chance to prove he really wants peace.

Aside from these factors, of course, Israel could benefit from the removal of a very aggressive dictator in the neighborhood. Saddam's fall would intimidate others of his ilk and give the US added leverage for doing good in the region.

Could the additional American political capital won by a military victory and political success in Iraq contribute to scaring regimes like Syria and Iran off sponsoring terrorism? Might it contribute to a real reform among Palestinians and a willingness to make peace? It would depend on the wisdom with which such opportunities were used.

One factor that should be dismissed is the notion fogging the mind of many in the West that any strong American action would be met by a revolt from the Arab "street." What counts in the Arab world, as elsewhere in non-democratic states, is not the street but the palace.

Rulers in the Arab world, as they constantly say themselves, are among the globe's truest believers in power politics.

A strong America is a country they do not want to challenge in practice. They will let their media, clerics, and people blow off steam by hating the US (a target far preferable to themselves) but will be very cautious and avoid confrontation.

Another issue that has arisen is the argument that American action must not be unilateral. Yet if a crisis or threat is grave enough, unilateral responses are quite necessary. If certain countries overlook Saddam's behavior because they hope he will give them lucrative contracts, their opinion of US policy loses some of its credibility.

Actually, the danger of unilateralism does not spring from the need for French or Russian support but from the necessity of Saudi and Kuwait support. If US forces can operate from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait they don't need the approval of Paris or Moscow; but without the local help an invasion is made very difficult indeed.

Of course it would be better to have UN support for the operation if such a thing were possible even if it is not absolutely necessary.

The real determinants of whether or not the US should go ahead and fight Iraq include:

Does the extent of the immediate threat really warrant such a serious move?

Is this really the best time, or would it be better to wait, mobilize more support and let Saddam do something that would make clear the need for such action?

Could a period of inspections reveal the extent of Iraq's weapons programs more clearly?

Wouldn't the continuation and tightening of sanctions greatly increase the length of time Iraq needs to develop nuclear weapons?

These are questions US leaders must answer, and they must be sure their answers are the right ones or perhaps more accurately, given the uncertainties of international affairs, the best possible ones.

(The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center. His latest books are The Tragedy of the Middle East and Anti-American Terrorism and the Middle East.)

 

ISRAEL SAID UNPREPARED AGAINST IRAQI WMD

Israel said unprepared against Iraqi WMD
Middle East Newsline
October 7, 2002

Israeli authorities are warning that they are unprepared against an Iraqi weapons of mass destruction attack.

Officials said exercises and simulations conducted over the last few weeks pointed to a lack of manpower and equipment. This included gear to protect firefighters and security forces against a biological and chemical weapons attack.

Israeli sources said the military's intelligence division has determined that the United States will launch its war against Iraq by the end of 2002. The sources said the U.S. war will be carried out in stages as Washington does not want to embark on a high-profile deployment in the Persian Gulf.

On Sunday, the Knesset's committee on the military budget approved an allotment of 250 million shekels [$55 million] to purchase additional gas masks and other equipment to protect against a WMD attack. Officials told the committee that Israel requires between 300,000 and 500,000 gas masks to protect civilians.

"This defense establishment's request is to be ready not 100 percent, but 200 percent," committee chairman Eitan Cable said. "It wants to be prepared for the prospect that the expiration date of some of the gas masks has already passed."

At the hearing, officials appeared divided over the degree of Israel's capability to respond to an Iraqi WMD attack. The military's Home Front Command said its readiness is far higher than that during the 1991 Gulf war. But other officials, including those from emergency services, expressed skepticism and said coordination between authorities was insufficient.

Last week, Israeli firefighters and security forces held an exercise to determine their response to a missile attack on a major energy facility outside Tel Aviv. Officials said the exercise at the Pi Glilot oil and natural gas storage facility demonstrated that authorities lacked the manpower and equipment to respond to a missile strike on a strategic site.

Still, military officials have expressed confidence. They said the scenes of panic seen in Tel Aviv during the Iraqi missile attacks in 1991 would not be repeated.

"The difference is we have a developed an integrated system that deals with both the conventional and unconventional," Col. Gilad Shenhar, planning and development chief of the military's Home Front Command, said. "In terms of preparedness for unconventional warfare, I think we are one of the most, if not the most prepared, in this area."

A report by the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, regarded as being close to the White House and U.S. Defense Department, asserted that an Iraqi sarin attack on Tel Aviv could kill up to 3,000 Israelis. The report based the assessment on an Iraqi attack that comprised 400 kilograms of sarin and an unprotected Tel Aviv population.

The report said an Iraqi missile filled with botulinum would kill 50,000 if it struck Tel Aviv. Such a missile would need 500 kilograms of the toxin.

Tel Aviv is located about 400 kilometers from the western Iraqi border and well within range of Baghdad's arsenal of Al Hussein missiles. The missile has a range of 650 kilometers and U.S. analysts believe the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could have up to 80 such missiles, which could be tipped with biological and chemical warheads.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sought to fulfill a U.S. request to halt discussions on any war against Iraq. "Prime Minister Sharon requested that ministers cease making remarks about Iraq and said that Israel will know how to defend itself if attacked," a Cabinet statement said.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.