Iran’s American protector

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US Defense Secretary Robert Gates is the darling of Bush administration foes. Gushing about Gates in a recent column, Washington Post writer David Ignatius crooned, "Gates is an anomaly in this lame-duck administration. He is still firing on all cylinders, working to repair the damage done at the Pentagon by his arrogant and aloof predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld." Ignatius called on the next administration to give Gates a major role leading its foreign and defense policy.

It can only be hoped that Ignatius's advice will be ignored.

Today the US strategic posture lies in tatters in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of US ally Georgia. The fact that aside from issuing strong reprimands the administration has no policy for contending with Russia's aggression shows clearly that the move caught Washington completely by surprise.

That Russia was apparently able to invade Georgia without US foreknowledge is a stinging indictment of all US intelligence agencies. As was the case before the September 11, 2001 attacks, again US intelligence agencies have failed their country.

But America's intelligence agencies' failure to comprehend the significance of Russia's intentions was not theirs alone. It was shared as well by Gates and by his State Department counterpart Condoleezza Rice. Both senior cabinet secretaries simply failed to notice what Russia was doing, or how its actions would influence US interests.

GATES'S DENIAL of Moscow's strategic hostility to the US was made clear as late as last month. As Russia built up its forces along Georgia's borders, Gates released his new National Defense Strategy which he presented as "a blueprint for success" for the next administration.

Gates's strategy paper, which foresees asymmetric campaigns against non-state actors comprising the bulk of US military operations in the coming decades, raised the hackles of US military commanders when he turned his attention to Russia and China. In Gates's view, the best way to confront these authoritarian rising powers is to deny that they constitute a threat to US interests. Rather than building US forces to confront them, Gates advocates building "collaborative and cooperative relationships" with them.

Gates's penchant for collaborating and cooperating with US rivals and enemies is no doubt the reason that the Left supports him so enthusiastically. Since he assumed office after the November 2006 elections, betraying allies as part of a strategy of appeasing US enemies and rivals has been the focus of his efforts.

Ahead of his appointment to the Pentagon, Gates was a member of the Iraq Study Group led by James Baker and Lee Hamilton. The thrust of the ISG report, issued on December 6, 2006 – the day he was sworn into office – was that for the US to maintain its credibility in the Middle East and generally, it was necessary to appease its enemies by betraying its allies.

While the ISG report was ostensibly focused on Iraq, its real focus was Israel. Although the report advocated removing all US combat brigades from Iraq by the beginning of 2008, it wasn't wedded to the notion. It allowed the possibility of a temporary surge of US forces to secure Baghdad and so enable the Iraqi government to assert control over the country and build its military.

But while ambivalent on Iraq, the Baker-Hamilton report was unyielding in its insistence that the US distance itself from Israel. The report argued that to gain regional – and indeed international – support for the project of stabilizing Iraq, it was necessary for the US to appease the Syrians, the Iranians, the Saudis, the Egyptians and the Jordanians. And the best way to do that, they claimed, was to disembowel Israel. The report recommended that Israel be forced to give Syria the Golan Heights and coerced into accepting a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Jerusalem which would be run by a Hamas-Fatah "national unity government."

Like Baker and Hamilton, Gates was also not wed to the idea of a speedy withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq. Instead he supported the surge and for that he has gained great acclaim in Washington. But also like Baker and Hamilton, Gates has been unyielding in his push to distance the US from Israel. Indeed, in his National Defense Strategy, Israel is not listed as a US ally.

GATES'S PUSH to abandon the US's alliance with Israel in favor of embracing Iraq's Iranian and Arab neighbors is nowhere more apparent than in his actions regarding Iran's nuclear weapons program. And those actions are simply a continuation of his efforts before entering office. In 2004, Gates co-authored a study for the Council on Foreign Relations with Israel foe Zbigniew Brzezinski calling for the US to draw closer to Iran at Israel's expense.

Over the past nine months, largely due to Gates's advocacy, this has been the essential thrust of US policy toward Iran and Israel. The policy involves downplaying the urgency of the threat of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, understating the progress Iran has made toward nuclear capabilities and openly working to appease Iran through US support and involvement with EU negotiations with Teheran.

The first US assault on what had until then been a more or less united public front with Israel on the issue of Iran's nuclear program came with the publication of the US's National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear weapons program last November. In the face of Iran's open calls to destroy Israel and the US, its rapid progress in its uranium enrichment activities, its command of the insurgency in Iraq, of Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian Authority, and its ballistic missile buildup, the NIE claimed that Iran had ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

The publication of the NIE was a body blow not only to Israel's efforts to isolate Iran and forge an international consensus about the need to confront Teheran. It was also a precision strike against the US's own stated objective of building a consensus for sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council. Gates was responsible for the report's public dissemination.

IN RECENT months, as Iran has ratcheted up its genocidal rhetoric, taken over the Lebanese government, strengthened its alliance with Syria, built up its offensive forces, doubled the scale of its uranium enrichment, and strengthened its attachment to Russia, Gates has moved out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Assisted by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen and Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, Gates has made defending Iran's nuclear installations against the prospect of any Israeli or US attack his primary concern.

Gates has been a constant proponent of "engaging" Iran. In May for instance, he told a group of retired US diplomats, "We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage… and then sit down and talk with them. If there is going to be a discussion, then they need something, too. We can't go to a discussion and be completely the demander, with them not feeling that they need anything from us."

Following Gates's clear lead, the US not only stopped being "the demander," it has become Iran's supplicant. And it has been repaid with increased Iranian extremism. Iran met the US's decision to openly join the Europeans in offering it everything from nuclear reactors to World Trade Organization membership last month with intensified military action directed most recently against the US's allies in the Persian Gulf. Iran has threatened international oil shipments through the Straits of Hormuz, has launched a satellite and tested still more missiles and again and again called for Israel's destruction.

BUT THIS hasn't thwarted Gates. Since Iran itself demonstrated the falsity of the National Intelligence Estimate, Gates moved from subtle to open opposition t
o US military strikes against its nuclear installations. Together with Mullen, in recent months he has stated repeatedly that attacking Iran would be a disaster for the US. And he has not stopped there. Gates has used his authority as defense secretary to also block any possibility that Israel will attack Iran.

In June the Pentagon leaked information about the IAF's massive exercise in the Mediterranean which it claimed was a rehearsal of an attack against Iran. The same month, McConnell and Mullen visited Israel and rejected requests for military equipment and other support that would improve its ability to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

Asserting that as far as the obviously infallible US intelligence estimates are concerned, Iran's nuclear program is not nearing completion, Mullen and McConnell also told their interlocutors that the US opposes an Israeli strike against Iran. As a consequence the US will deny the IDF the right to fly over Iraqi airspace.

Alarmed by the administration's swift slide toward Iran in recent months, senior IDF commanders and cabinet ministers have streamed into Washington. Last month Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi spent a week in Washington trying to convince the US to change course. After Ashkenazi failed to deliver the goods, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz all converged on Washington. They too failed.

To hide the US's now openly pro-Iranian position from the public, Mullen gave Ashkenazi an unrequested Legion of Merit decoration. Gates agreed to supply Israel with advanced anti-missile defense systems that could be deployed as early as 2011 if funding is steady. If deployed successfully, these anti-missile systems should be able to intercept up to 90 percent of incoming Iranian nuclear warheads.

SPEAKING OF Russia's invasion of Georgia over the weekend, Gates claimed that Russia's actions would harm its relations with the US and the West "for years to come." But at the same time, he demurred from mentioning even one concrete step that the administration is considering adopting against Russia, arguing that "there is no need to rush into everything."

The administration has been accused by its critics of ignoring the strategic alliance among Russia, Iran and Syria. That alliance has been made most apparent by Russia's assistance to Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and its provision of sophisticated air-defense systems to both countries. Yet it is more likely that the administration is acutely aware of that alliance. Bush has simply decided to follow Gates's recommendation of appeasing all three.

Gates's position presents a daunting challenge to Israel and indeed to the US. If Iran is to be prevented from carrying out genocide, and if Bush hopes to leave office with even a shred of international credibility, Gates must be shunted firmly to the side.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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15 Comments

  • Marcel Cousineau 08/19/2008 at 11:22

    ‘Rather than building US forces to confront them, Gates advocates building “collaborative and cooperative relationships” with them’.
    Caroline ,we don’t have a draft and our empire has been breaking down and falling apart with greater speed since President Bush’s misadventure in Iraq. All he has accomplished is unite the Iranian and Iraqi Shiites which Saddam managed to keep apart.
    After close to a trillion dollars invested in this debacle I’d say Israel is insane,mad to listen to anything the president asks of them.
    The most insane being surrendering your land to his nightmare Road Map to Hell which has already proven to be an utter failure after Gaza and yet the criminal’s Olmert,Barak and Livini do not hide in fear for their lives but openly and without restraint continue on with this evil as Israel gets on her knees and prays for the stupid President to save them from Iran.
    The Bear smells blood and Gates and even the idot Bush can’t stop the bleeding and know they are unprepared with WWIII on the table.
    Israel, smitten by their idol George can’t see all the blood draining from the corpse that was once the great U.S.A.but it’s there for everyone to see.
    Of course you have to ask ,Why didn’t the tough guy Bush do nothing but flap his jaws after Russia’s ongoing agression against Georgia.
    The answer’s are ,we have no draft ,we’re broke economically and our military is worn down and worn out. The National Guard won’t fight Russia as it has been used up already for Bush’s vain adventure in Iraq.
    you wrote :
    ‘if Bush hopes to leave office with even a shred of international credibility, Gates must be shunted firmly to the side’
    The odd thing is after all he has done to reward Israel’s unwavering Palestinian enemies that he still maintains such great credibility with the average deer in the headlights Israeli ?
    I wonder when Israel will finally get it ,snap out of their stupor and idol worship of the empty and broke and crumbling empire and come to realize that all the effort Israel put into pleasing their masters in Washington ,surrendering your land,appeasing your enemies to gain favor with your false gods on the Potomac was a waste .a dead end and a tragic error of the greatest magnitude ?
    This dream written in 1997 is happening now .The men with stick are George and our Nato allies.
    The Bear Awakes
    The last of 3 final messages given to Dumitru in April of 1997.
    I knelt beside my bed to pray, as I do every night before I go to sleep. After finishing my prayer, I opened my eyes but I was no longer in my room. Instead, I found myself in a forest. I looked around and to my right I saw a man, dressed in white, who pointed his finger and said, “See and remember.” It took me a while to find out what he was pointing at. It was a small bear who seemed half dead lying on the ground. As I continued to watch this bear, it began to breathe deeper. With every passing minute it seemed to revive itself, and as I watched, it also became angrier. It then began to grow. Soon it was larger than the forest floor and as it grew larger it continued to become angrier. It then began to paw the ground, so that when its paw would hit the ground, the earth would shudder. The bear continued to devastate all that stood in its path until it came upon some men with sticks trying to fend it off. By this the bear had grown so large that it simply crushed the men underfoot and continued to rampage. I was stunned by what I saw and asked the man standing beside me, “What does this mean?” “At first, they thought the great bear was dead,” the man said. “As it will begin to stir once again, they will consider it harmless. Suddenly it will grow strong once more with purpose and violence. God will blind the eyes of those that continue to trample on the sacrifice of Christ’s blood, until the day the bear will strike swiftly. This day will catch them unprepared and it will be just as you saw.” The man then said, “Tell my people the days are numbered and the sentence has been passed. It they will seek My face and walk in righteousness before Me, I will open their eyes that they may see the danger approach. If they only look to the approaching danger, they too will be caught up and trampled underfoot. Only in righteousness will they find safety.” Suddenly, I was once again by myself in my room, on my knees, with sweat covering my face.
    Excerpted from:
    Dreams and Visions From God
    Copyright © 1994, 1996, 2000
    This dream written in 1997 is now in the process of coming to pass.
    http://averyheavystone.blogspot.com/

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  • Marc Handelsman, USA 08/19/2008 at 12:02

    If Iran is to be prevented from carrying out genocide against Israel, the IAF must preemptively attack Iranian nuclear sites. Iran and Russia have been emboldened, as they know NATO won’t defend allies like Georgia. Now Eastern Europe is imperiled by a resurgent Russia, and Poland could be the next domino to fall. NATO needs to take Russian threats seriously, and should send reinforcements to Poland. And if the West ever turns its back on Israel, the consequences would be dire because Israel is the apple of G-d’s eye.

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  • lawrence kohn 08/19/2008 at 16:05

    Gates reflects the original mistake of Bush I to treat the Soviet provocation, the August coup, as a genuine event rather than a stage managed method to mask a strategic retreat to enable Russia to get into Western economic institutions such as the G-8. As I showed repeatedly in Midstream from 1993 to 2000 Russia remained the head of the Syrian-Iranian alliance (and was also sustaining Iraq and the PLO). But Peres said in 1994 that all the strategies we used in the past had been outmoded due to the Soviet collapse-hence, Oslo’s justification and we’ve seen the result. Gates’s leader Bush I eliminated the COCOM restrictions to Russia and China on military related technology; a disaster as Yeltsin went forth with a new NUKE Topol I and now Putin with its mobile version. Clinton diminished US forces so it was not mobilized to fight 2 and a half wars simultaneously; hence our troop difficulties despite our finally gaining success in Iraq. Israel needs to pay attention to Article 4 of the Jordan peace treaty which calls for the establishment of a cooperative security system in the Middle East along the lines of the European model which brought Russia as peacekeeper! Glick is so good because she understands the geopolitical strategies a work and the interaction of Europe, Asia, Middle East and the Western Hemisphere and recognizes globally and locally who are enemies are. BTW Primakov (see Feb 98 Midstream) still a force in Russia who goes back to Brezhnev and was key liason to Arafat and Sadaam said years ago the Muslim forces could serve as a means of liberation (a Soviet term not an Islamic one). Russia is not our ally in war on terror but big state supporter of the key states (Iraq is gone for them but Iran Syria and North Korea remain and Venezuela is joining in ) that are responsible for most of the terror. And don’t think Sadaam was not in bed with Al Qaeda. It gave money and passports and its intelligence agent Shakir met in Malaysia with two of the 9/11 highjackers just before they entered the US and were lost by our intell agencies. But don’t bother to tell Gates.

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  • Grumpy Old Man 08/19/2008 at 16:16

    Thank God we have Gates at Defense and the maniacal neocons have been driven out. It may be in Israel’s interest for her to attack Iran, although I doubt she has the military resources or the leadership to do it effectively. It is definitely not in the interest of the U.S.–in fact, it would be sheer madness.
    The U.S. military is overstretched, the population won’t support another war, the Treasury is burdened by debt, an attack would strengthen support for the mullahs, and it would also be a war crime from a legal point of view.

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  • Marcel Cousineau 08/19/2008 at 17:47

    Israel grows dumber by the day
    http://www.debka.com/headline.php?hid=5518

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  • Dan 08/19/2008 at 20:06

    Caroline,
    Are you acquainted with the writings of T.P. Barnett, he of “The Blueprint?”
    And MARCEL, Tehran’s Manhattan Project needs to be ended not just to save Israel, but to save New York City and Washington.
    If the Iranians go nuke and decide to obliterate Israel, they’re choose then to simultaneously detonate devices in the United States.
    If Tehran embraces “martyrdom,” then they will strike both “the little Satan” and “the great Satan.”

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  • Will48 08/19/2008 at 22:02

    The only viable military option for Israel to end Iranian nuclear program with certainty is the pre-emptive nuclear missiles strike against the Iranian nuke sites.
    That is, if Israel has any nukes after all.

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  • charles soper 08/19/2008 at 23:32

    Very revealing article. Defence minister? Looks like an oxymoron for Gates. Incidentally Debka (not always reliable) reports that unlike Poland, Israel will have no control over the x-band radar, nor even direct output links with the system – all is mediated by the US, plus it will allow monitoring of IAF’s first strike capability. If even half true sounds like a distinctly poorly negotiated deal.
    Caroline, if posting is to take off on your blog you MUST cut down on the size of the posts allowed, or exercise some pruning of the crazies.

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  • charles soper 08/19/2008 at 23:34

    Plus the system apparently won’t allow more than one comment at a time!

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  • dov 08/20/2008 at 1:56

    I’ll go Caroline one better – I heard that Gates actually has been guaranteed to become Obama’s Defense Sec’y – and thats the reason why he is actively opposing original Bush policies (which also were less than a gift of God)

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  • John Nosser 08/20/2008 at 4:12

    I think Caroline’s conclusion is exactly right, Gates must go! The entire Executive Branch of the U. S. Government should also be replaced Now! Unfortunately, we have to wait for a new President to be elected. If Obama wins, Israel should launch an immediate attack on Lebanon, the Palestinians, and Iran. Hit them with everything they have. Blitz them with a blistering attack that puts them all down for the count. Time is of the essence. Many civilians may die, but the survival of Israel is more important. God will protect Israel from any counter attacks. If McCain wins, Israel will once again have full U. S. support, and it can conduct limited but numerous surgical strikes and take more time in doing it. It will make me ashamed as an American if my country ever fails to support Israel 100% when its survival is at stake, and God will make my country suffer for not helping Israel survive and giving him no choice but to bring down his great hand to save Israel

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  • Bill K. 08/20/2008 at 7:31

    This article should be required reading at the highest levels of the Bush Administration. Gates is a symptom of the final stages of decay in the Bush Doctrine. When any crisis occurs, from Iran developing nuclear weapons, to the Taliban resurgent in Pakistan, to the invasion of Georgia by Russia the first thing out of Gates are appeasing words meant to soothe not the victims of oppression but the oppressors themselves.
    In what universe can Iran not be considered a threat to the United States or Israel? This sort of blindness can only come form a lifetime of pragmatic thinking. Pragmatism encourages extremely short range thinking, avoiding value judgments and never learning from your mistakes. This fits Gates to a “t”. Gates is hardly unique though. The State Department and increasingly the Department of Defense is filled with these sort of mentalities. Gates is just the latest proponent of a foreign policy that has been a spectacular failure for so long.
    As to the prohibition of the Israeli Air Force over flying Iraq, this is a transparent bluff by Gates. The IAF should announce ahead of time that if an attack on Iran’s nuclear installations is deemed necessary they will fly whatever route they determine is most advantageous to the mission, with the clear implication that flying over Iraq could be one of these routes. No U.S. President in his right mind would risk an entanglement with Israel, especially when the IAF would be doing the dirty work the USAF should have done.

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  • Marcel Cousineau 08/20/2008 at 14:04

    Caroline ,I see you have the resident censor hard at work here.
    I wonder if he is a government employee and if I should salute or heil him ?
    He offers you a carrot before the stick.
    I think our control freak might have worked for Stalin in the past and became one of our American imports ?
    He does not think you’re doing a good enough job and this is twice the command has come from him that you MUST !
    I know this is how the Bolsheviks in Israel keep the population controlled and in feasr.They start with a request to silence others they see as a threat to their failed agenda and if that does not work they use oppressive laws,state,federal police force, and prison and torture to keep the opposition in line.
    Seeing the Bolsheviks on horseback breaking heads at Amona was an eye opener with whom we’re dealing with.
    The U.S. has seen this works so well in Israel that fatherland security is copying their Stalinist model.
    Freedom,democracy ? It’s sure not in Israel and it sure is disappearing rapidly in America.

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  • epaminondas 08/20/2008 at 18:00

    Gates is a Jim Baker follower and believer. He is well suited to manage a nation in decline, and to make such management a self fulfilling prophecy.
    He has no business at Defense. However, he would do very well managing Habitats for Humanity as resources become scarce.

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  • Hartmut Pilch 08/22/2008 at 11:23

    Russia defended a de-facto independent region, for which it had an internationally recognised status as a protector, against an attack by georgian missiles on a sleeping town that killed about 1500 civilians in one night. The rhetoric of the US administration and of this blog, which ignores these facts just to reiterate outdated prejudices against Russia, is both “inhumane”, as Michail Gorbachov put it in the Washington Post and incredibly detrimental to the interesets of Israel. Which doesn’t mean that Russia, even now, will become the anti-israeli rogue state as which some braindead hawsk in Washington and Tel Aviv seem to be trying to paint it, but at least it will mean that Syria will find it more easy to buy Russian “defensive weapons”, as promised by Medvedyev to Assad, who took a more humane, common-sense position on Georgia this week when visiting Moscwo.

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