The GOP Is Promoting War With Iran as a Campaign Strategy
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory in the Israeli elections may encourage hawkish American Republicans and others who, not having learned the lessons of Iraq, are willing to contemplate war with Iran.
Netanyahu was facing a difficult fight for re-election when a lifeline was extended him by the Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner. Without telling President Barack Obama, he invited the prime minister to speak to a joint congressional session. Crucial in putting it together was the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, an American-born former Republican political operative.
The whole thing smelled like campaign politics. Netanyahu was in increasing danger of losing his prime minister job. Boehner was being beaten up by Republican House members who are even more right-wing than he. Along comes Dermer, with the momentum-changing idea of having Netanyahu speak to a joint congressional session.
Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, and how he exploited it when he returned home, could well have been a turning point in his election campaign.
After the speech, Netanyahu launched a final burst of inflammatory anti-Israeli-Arab, anti-Palestinian campaigning credited with winning him the election. For Boehner, the political stunt of the Netanyahu speech—and that’s all it was—gave him a respite from attacks from the Republican right, which opposes any hint of compromise with Democrats or Republican moderates. Boehner, unable to control his divided Republicans on domestic issues, seized on attacking the negotiations with Iran as a career saver. After the election, Netanyahu, in interviews with American media, tried to pull back from his pre-election rhetoric, but he wasn’t convincing.
Netanyahu’s speech to Congress wasn’t the end of the collaboration between the Israeli prime minister and the Republicans. The speech was followed by a letter written by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and signed by 46 of his Republican colleagues to the “Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” It purported to give an elementary school civics lesson to the Iranian leaders. But actually it was a warning to Iran that the Republican Congress and a future Republican president could tear up any agreement that Obama and the five other nations involved in the negotiations might reach with Iran: “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
The letter sought to sabotage negotiations by dismissing the talks as useless. The headline and sub-head for a story posted by the libertarian Reason Foundation’s Reason.com put it well. The headline said, “Senate Republicans Push for War With Iran,” and the subheading added, “If anything can persuade Iran’s rulers to go for a nuke, it’s these hardliners’ lust for war.”
Sheldon Richman, writing on Reason.com, dismissed the claim, made by Netanyahu and supported by American hawks, that a tougher negotiating stance on the part of the U.S. and the other negotiating countries would result in a “better deal.”
The Reason.com analyst wrote, “… they [the Republican senators] don’t really want a ‘better deal’ with Iran. What they, like Netanyahu and other Israeli hawks, want is war and nothing less than regime change … thus they’d be delighted if Iran stormed out of the negotiations and added centrifuges to its nuclear program. The hawks would have their casus belli [a war-provoking act] at last.”
The Republicans want to frighten the voters into believing that the Democrats will sell out Israel and the United States.
Selling this phony message is tremendously important to them as they get ready for the 2016 election. Domestically, their arguments against the Democrats are vanishing. Obamacare is increasingly popular as signups become more efficient. The deficit—the Holy Grail for Republicans—is shrinking. Unemployment is declining. All they can do is complain that Obama and the Democrats are surrendering to Islam.An important part of selling this message is an appeal to American Jews. The Republicans assume American Jews are blindly loyal to Netanyahu. And they know that, while a minority, Jews vote in large numbers and are crucial in important congressional districts across the country and in tightly contested states such as Florida in the presidential election. They also contribute abundantly to political campaigns.
But it’s a false assumption, proved wrong in every national election when Jews, generally liberal, reliably vote Democratic, unchanged even by the millions of dollars that right-wingers such as gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson pour into Republican campaigns. There’s no Jewish bloc vote that will follow conservatives such as Adelson. The Israelis who believe this are dead wrong.
“Just because they have Sheldon Adelson and an active conservative base locked up, doesn’t mean they have American Jewry,” wrote Rob Eshman, publisher and editor-in-chief of Jewish Journal, in this week’s issue of the Los Angeles publication. “In fact, the more Israel aligns itself with the values of the religious right and oligarchs like Adelson, the more it alienates the mass of American Jewry.
“…Bibi [Netanyahu] tacked hard right to win the Israeli election. If he keeps sailing in that direction, he’ll leave American Jewry on a distant shore, waving goodbye.”
He’ll also leave much of the rest of America on that distant shore.
Netanyahu’s conservative American backers support economic policies damaging to most people, a market-based philosophy based on such Republican planks as repealing Obamacare, dismantling Medicare and eliminating the social programs—as limited as they are—that helped us stagger through the Great Recession.
Only by turning the debate toward Iran can the Republicans survive. Americans should be smart enough to ignore those who took the country into the Iraq war and now advocate destructive economic and social policies.Wait, before you go…
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