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Marjorie Cohn: Israel, al Qaeda and Iran

Israel, al Qaeda and Iran

By Marjorie Cohn
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Thursday 23 March 2006

Since George W. Bush gave his "axis of evil" speech, he invaded Iraq, changed its regime, and created a quagmire reminiscent of Vietnam. His administration is now sending clear signals that Iran is next in line for regime change. The raison d'être: Iran's nuclear program, an al Qaeda connection, and protecting Israel.

First, for months, Bush has been pressuring the Security Council to sanction Iran for its nuclear development, but the council is moving slowly. According to Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nobel Peace Prize winner, we must "stop thinking that it's morally unacceptable for certain countries to want nuclear weapons and morally acceptable for others to lean on them for their defense."

Second, Bush's men are now floating an Iran-al Qaeda linkage, much the way they tried to connect Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks. As journalist Jeremy Scahill testified at the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in January, "There is a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. It's called Washington."

An article in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times quoted several administration officials, who laid out the case for the link between Iran and al Qaeda. Under Secretary R. Nicholas Burns, the third-ranking official in the State Department, said "some al Qaeda members and those from like-minded extremist groups continue to use Iran as a safe haven and as a hub to facilitate their operations."

Problem is, Shiites run the Iranian government. Al Qaeda's Sunni leadership has denounced the Shiites as infidels.

Finally, Israel's "stranglehold" on US foreign policy is detailed by two of America's leading scholars in a new article in the London Review of Books. Professor John Mearsheimer, of the University of Chicago, and Professor Stephen Walt, of Harvard's Kennedy School, maintain that Washington's pro-Israel lobby played a "decisive" role in fomenting the war in Iraq, and it is now being repeated with the threat of war on Iran.

The article focuses largely on the role of the neo-conservatives in the Bush administration, who were determined to topple Saddam even before Bush became president.

"Saying that Israel and the US are united by a shared terrorist threat has the causal relationship backwards," they write. "The US has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around." The scholars add, "Support for Israel is not the only source of the anti-American terrorism, but it is an important one, and it makes winning the war on terror more difficult. There is no question that many al-Qaida leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are motivated by Israel's presence in Jerusalem and the plight of the Palestinians. Unconditional support for Israel makes it easier for extremists to rally popular support and to attract recruits."

Bush himself corroborated the central role Israel plays in US policy. Speaking in Cleveland Monday, Bush linked Israel and Iran. "The threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally of Israel," he said. "I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel."

On Tuesday, Bush revealed the lock the neocons have on him. Admitting that the Iraq war is a political liability, Bush nevertheless stated he would never leave Iraq. He left it to future administrations to decide when to pull out. That is consistent with the permanent military bases the US is building in Iraq.

Impervious to his low poll rankings due to his failed Iraq war, Bush is leading the charge into Iran. Such a course spells certain disaster - for the Iranians, for the American people, and for the entire world.


Marjorie Cohn, is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, President-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and the US representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists. She writes a weekly column for t r u t h o u t.

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