By the time my this blog is pressed, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu would be addressing, or would have addressed the US Congress – a joint sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate. This would be the third time he addresses the Congress. The only other foreign Prime Minister who had thus addressed the Congress three times was Winston Churchill, the wartime Prime Minister of England.
Netanyahu is going, or has gone to the Congress Chamber, not as a gate crasher. He has been invited by Mr. John Boehner, the speaker of the House. The invitation, which most certainly was lobbied for by Israel, was extended by the Speaker without consulting the President, Vice President or Democrats, who are a minority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives (44 against 54 Senate, 188 against 247 in the House). So you now understand how and why Obama is almost becoming a lame duck President with great audacity of hope, but little shuffling room to realize his larger hopes during his second term. Interestingly, if a voting has to take place in the joint session, either the President or the Vice President has to be present.
The provocation for this extra-ordinary address which National Security Adviser Susan Rice termed “destructive” and the President himself moderated it as “Not permanently destructive” is this. The President wants to come to terms with Iran with which hostility existed ever since the Islamic Revolution set off by Ayatollah Khomeini of kill-Salman-Rushdie –fatwa fame. Trade with Iran was progressively discontinued, and a number of crippling sanctions were imposed by the US and its allies. Iran would most certainly renew its options to enrich Uranium to nuclear bomb purity if the talks fail, as Netanyahu wishes, and if the crippling sanctions against it are not lifted.
Israel, an artificially created Country by Britain and the rest of Europe to get rid Jews off their soil after assuring Palestinians freedom if they fought against Turkey in the war and cheated them, has disgruntled and violently furious Palestinians on both its wings and hostile Arab nations all around it. Its feeling of insecurity and the inherent enterprise and innovative bend of mind make it a deadly, suspicious, finger-on-the-trigger enemy. Iran, with its growing nuclear capability and arrogant stance in spite of all the sanctions piled on its economy by the powers that be frightens Israel, its ex-Commando and belligerent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular. It is a situation filled with perilous suspense.
Iran as the largest Shia-majority Country stands isolated from the rest of the Muslim World. Iraq has a relatively slender Shia majority which was suppressed during Saddam Hussein’s regime. After the disposition of Hussein, Al Malaki, a popularly elected Shia Prime Minister tried a reverse swing on Sunnis and eventually had to step down. The Islamic State, which supports the most violent faction of Sunni Islam, has been trying to eliminate Shias. In neighbouring Pakistan, Shia mosques are burnt down, and Shias are being killed routinely by mass bombing and shooting. In Saudi Arabia, Shias are a harried lot and live virtually in fearful isolation. The civil war in Syria is not what used to be called Arabian Spring (so named in the pious hope that Arab youths are fighting for democracy) but violent attempt by Sunni citizens to dislodge Assad, who belongs to a subsect of Shias. The newly emerged Islamic State is out to destroy the Shia version of Islam. Which is why Iran supports and sends assistance to Assad’s army. All said and done, Iran stands apart from the rest of the the Islamic world and hence, just as Israel is, defiant to all external pressures. Bahrain, Azerbaijan and, according to some estimates Yemen, have Shia majority with little influence in the affairs of their own respective country and are generally a suppressed lot. The picture shows a number of girls from among the Shia minority in Turkey (BBC)..
Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani, as opposed to the former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a genial man who prefers his country’s economic growth to suicidal confrontation with the West and the resultant political persecution. The initiative for peace talks and offer to regulate Iran’s nuclear regime came from him. Obama grabbed at the opportunity and the talks have been taking a roller-coaster ride kind of progress. US offers to progressively lift the sanctions if Iran would stop, or at least differ by a distant date (“double-digit years’), its attempt at enriching Uranium to bomb grade. When and if an agreement is reached, Iran would be bound for those many years by the conditions agreed upon.
Benjamin Netanyahu, an ex-commando, is a rude and a fiercely belligerent man in gentleman’s clothes. He would be facing elections back home in the next couple of weeks. He stands to score grade A with the electorate as the Prime Minister who addressed the US Congress a third time -a-la Churchill, the architect of Israel and its frequent panic attacks. (Churchill called Palestinians, the original majority-inhabitants who lived with relative peace with the minority Jews, ‘Dogs in the Manger‘ that have no right for the manger).
Netanyahu’s argument would be that any agreement with Iran would not work because it leaves Iran the freedom to go nuclear at the end of the period of agreement (“double-digit-years”, Obama’s euphimism for ten years), that even before the end of that period if Iran goes back on its words and starts enriching Uranium to weapon grade level, the retracted sanctions would not be easy to re-impose and so on. The arguments may not sound solid, but with a captive audience of Republicans (not to forget some Democrats as well) in the Congress, he expects to find takers. A facile victory against Obama’s peace plans would work to the advantage of Netanyahu as well as to the Republicans. It doesn’t really cause concern in the minds of Netanyahu or the Congress that if the talks fail or are indefinitely stalled, Iran, with nothing further to lose, might go all the way in making the nuke the very next day.
US Politicians, particularly Republicans feed off the weapons industry. Former President George Bush, Vice President (a decade earlier Secretary of Defence) Dick Cheney, Bush’s Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were all fed and fattened by the weapons industry. One reason why Republican Rudy Giuliani lost his campaign for President at the primaries level could be his ambivalent stance on gun control. Speaker John Boehner owes his campaign victory to the massive donations he received from the arms industry. Inviting the most belligerent man in the non-Islamic world to present his case against a President who won Nobel Prize for Peace is Boehner’s tactical move to please the armament industry.
War Weapons are the most significant item of trade for the US. Nearly 75% of the arms traded in the world in recent times are by the US. When more weapons are produced than are sold, America gifts them to dictators and ‘friends’ like Pakistan. Keeps the industry going on borrowed money. Armament industry, never mind the huge national debt of 19 trillion, keeps US economy functional. Republicans, and quite a few Democrats need a war going on in more than one place in the world (but away from the shores of America) to keep dollars regenerating itself and lining their pockets. United States sold 66.3 Billion dollars worth war equipment in 2011 against the total global trading in arms that stood at 85.3 Bn. Putin’s Russia was a far distant runner-up at 4.8 Bn. To the US rich, war away from home is good business.
Bush and his Republican cronies never shed much tears over the body bags that came home. (Body bags, by the way, is another roaring business, and item of export). If you think Pakistani terrorists discovered the ease in bumping off school children, you are wrong . US arms dealers do not mind the reckless shooting of school children by school dropouts , policemen (‘officers’) shooting at unarmed pedestrians, burglars rushing into banks and shooting everybody in sight. Like cow boys shooting at Injuns, it’s all an economic necessity. US stands way ahead of other developed countries in gun-related killings in a given year, . If at least one murder is not reported in a day in New York, it becomes breaking news.
As long as arms are sold within the country, and arms are exported outside the country, the super-rich politicians, many of whom serve on the board of the weapon manufacturers, remain happy and voting. They would not let Obama’s audacious hopes come in their way. Netanyahu is reported to have said that he meant no disrespect to Obama. If you observe the videos of their earlier meetings, you would notice disdain in Netanyahu’s body language while meeting with the black President of the United States.
I bet Netanyahu will receive a huge welcome and resounding applause at the end of his speech in the Congress Hall. “Iran envelops the entire world with its tentacles of terror,” Netanyahu had said and presumably intends to say again in the Congressi Chamber. “This is what Iran is doing now, without a nuclear weapon. Imagine what Iran would do with a nuclear weapon.”
The audience would know that he is lying, but does that matter? The words would have electrifying effect : Terrorist Iran. Mustn’t touch with a forty-yard pole. Iran had been helping Hamas operating from Syria, for sure, as long it enjoyed the patronage of President Assad. Now that Hamas has turned against the Shiite government of Assad, Iran is actually fighting against the terrorists including Hamas – just as the US, Britain, France and others are doing. Once the Assad regime falls, which is a given and a mere matter of time, Iran will probably lose interest in the war. On the other hand, Israel is the most terrorist nation in the world – for every catapult fired from the Palestinian side of the border, Israel returns it by destroying a block of habitation. Israel has been threatening to attack Iran, not vice versa. In recent times, Iran has only threatened to “turn Saudi Araba’ into hell” if Shiite Cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr is executed.
The feeling of insecurity in Israel might give the belligerent ex-commando another shot at the Prime ministership. Little do they realise that it is people like Netanyahu and his counterparts in the US that would keep fires of war burning through the Middle East, ever attempting to consume their country, and that the brutal cowards who call themselves Islamic State and engaged in killing innocents to create a new Caliphate would provide a constant supply of firewood along with innocent men women and children.
POSTSCRIPT: Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the Congress, and, as expected, drew thunderous applause from the Republicans. The white House bluntly discredited his contentions. Isaac Herzog, the candidate opposing Netanyahu in the forthcoming (March 17) election in Israel, commented wistfully : “The painful truth is that after the applause, Netanyahu remains alone and Israel remains isolated and the negotiations with Iran will continue without Israel…….It won’t change the (U.S.) government’s position and will only widen the divide with our great friend and our only strategic ally.”
Next : JIHADIS – BRUTES OR COWARDS?