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  November 28, 2017

The Israel-Saudi Arabia Alliance

Paul Jay talks with Larry Wilkerson, part 10
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Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy Lawrence Wilkerson's last positions in government were as Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff (2002-05), Associate Director of the State Department's Policy Planning staff under the directorship of Ambassador Richard N. Haass, and member of that staff responsible for East Asia and the Pacific, political-military and legislative affairs (2001-02). Before serving at the State Department, Wilkerson served 31 years in the U.S. Army. During that time, he was a member of the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College (1987 to 1989), Special Assistant to General Powell when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-93), and Director and Deputy Director of the U.S. Marine Corps War College at Quantico, Virginia (1993-97). Wilkerson retired from active service in 1997 as a colonel, and began work as an advisor to General Powell. He has also taught national security affairs in the Honors Program at the George Washington University. He is currently working on a book about the first George W. Bush administration.


PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay, now joining us is Larry Wilkerson. Thanks for joining us again, Larry.

LARRY WILKERSON: Good to be here, Paul.

PAUL JAY: Okay. Here's a question back to Saudi Arabia. This is Loudon 1780 again. Colonel Wilkerson, do you think that Saudi Arabia's alliance with Israel will destabilize their own countries with regard to what the people of the Gulf states are told about Israel and Jews in general?

LARRY WILKERSON: This is probably one of the strangest alliances for a person like me, even though I study how alliances change like the winds, in my lifetime, because what I remember was Ronald Reagan trying to sell F-15s and AWACS to the Saudis, for example, and the Israelis just going apoplectic. They were ready to throttle Ronald Reagan because he wanted to do that, or other presidents too who took a more balanced attitude toward Israel and at the same time tried to maintain relations with Saudi Arabia, basically with arms sales, which always irritated Israel.

Now to see these two powers in an alliance of convenience is quite interesting, particularly when I remember too that the Israelis were in a sort of tacit alliance with Iran when they were the third party, if you will, during Iran-Contra affair. When we were sealing Hawk missiles and TOW missiles to Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, Israel was playing our middleman. Israel goes wherever it thinks at the moment its interests rest. Israel right now has an extremely right-wing, I would call it alt right-wing government, led by Bibi Netanyahu who's not quite that way, but some of the people in his coalition are, and he is increasingly obeying them.

What we have is any enemy of my enemy is temporarily my friend. Right now, Bibi Netanyahu is maintaining political power to a certain extent by keeping people frightened about Iran, particularly about its possibility of getting a nuclear weapon. That's all domestic politics too, if you will. Saudi Arabia and Israel might be getting ready to do a twofer, Mohammad bin Salman and Saudi Arabia doing something with respect to Iran in terms of hard power at the same time that Israel is doing something to Hezbollah, maybe in Lebanon, maybe in Syria, maybe in both.

Two of the largest exercises they've ever conducted ... We've just established our first military base in Israel. Since 1948, we have never had a real military base in Israel, for a lot of reasons. One was because it would be, we thought, so destabilizing amongst 400 million Arabs, and it wouldn't be very useful. Now we've built an air defense base inside of an Israeli air force base, but we announced publicly that it was the first U.S. military base in Israel. Things are changing fast, and in my view, not changing why any strategic purpose that I can detect. They're changing with enormous danger for this country.

PAUL JAY: The purpose seems to be ... I read Haaretz, and from the sense I get from the Israeli press, Israel's war with Hezbollah is just a question of timing. There seems to be no question that Israel wants Hezbollah to suffer a massive defeat, and what I clean from what I'm reading is that the Americans will support even further anti-missile defense on Israel's part.

LARRY WILKERSON: That's what this base is. This base is an air defense base.

PAUL JAY: Then Israel can then take on Hezbollah with less concern about Hezbollah rockets, and the Saudis are cheering this on. This seems to be rather imminent.

LARRY WILKERSON: I'm going to conduct my simulation on Monday with this very scenario in mind. It's a three-hour simulation, a mock National Security Council meeting for my students. I told my students yesterday in seminar, "I don't even have to prepare the media or the intelligence input for this exercise, which is usually a pretty big task, because it's all there in the New York Times, in Politico, in Salon, in Haaretz. It's all there." You should see my first day early bird for this exercise. It's all real press.

PAUL JAY: If you want to see who articulates all of this most openly, and I guess clearly, go back to Steve Bannon, who has called for and with President Trump called for in his inaugural address, and Bannon elaborated it, a bloody affair, a bloody war that would target Iran. You could see this breaking out with Israel attacking Hezbollah, some kind of American incursion into Iraq, the Saudis with Iran. There's such a dangerous situation unfolding, and it boggles the mind that the American media is talking about some Russian supposed interference in the U.S. elections that may have happened, but if it was, didn't matter very much.

LARRY WILKERSON: I'm hoping that we're both wrong, Paul. I'm hoping that either the incompetence of this administration keeps us out of it, or the lack of swift movement of this administration keeps us out of it, or that we're just wrong about what's happening with Mohammad bin Salman, the GCC in general, Tehran, Beirut, Tel Aviv, and so forth. I don't think we are, but I'm hoping that one of these things, all of them negatives, but that might turn out to be positives, keep us out of this. I don't count on it.


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