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Max Blumenthal: Netanyahu wants GOP to win; has Obama in a corner on

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington.

During the 2012 election campaign, one issue will be at the fore—that is, if Prime Minister of Israel Netanyahu has his way—and that’s the issue of Iran. There’s a great deal of speculation that Israel, or at least Netanyahu and the leaders of his government, are planning some kind of attack on Iran—they say because Iran has a nuclear weapon. There doesn’t seem to matter that the IAEA (the agency responsible for such things) and the American intelligence agencies and the secretary of defense have all said essentially that there is no evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear weapon. But that doesn’t seem to faze Prime Minister Netanyahu or many in the United States.

Now joining us to talk about all of this and the election campaign is Max Blumenthal. Max is a journalist and videographer who’s appeared in many major American publications, and he’s the author of the book Republican Gomorrah. Thanks for joining us, Max.


JAY: So we—in our previous interview we talked about some of this, and how this is emerging in the election campaign, and Gingrich’s role in all of this. Let’s focus a little bit more on Obama and Netanyahu. And it’s clear Netanyahu would like to see a Republican in office. Is this likely to—I mean, there’s more chance of some attack by Israel, or perhaps less, in the sense that they may wait to see if they can get a more fully supporting party in power in D.C.—not to say that Obama isn’t mostly supporting. What’s your take?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, to that question specifically, it seems conspiratorial to impute political motives to Israel for going rogue and attacking Iran, but I wouldn’t put anything past them, especially if you examine why they assassinated this Iranian scientist. It was to (apparently) stifle the P5+1 diplomatic initiative. And that’s extremely cynical. The assassination has no impact on Iran’s nuclear program, so there’s no other explanation for it.

The other explanation for why they did it was to draw the U.S. into a war with Iran. If Israel attacks Iran without U.S. backing, without the U.S. knowing—and Israel has said that it will give the U.S., the United States, 12 hours of advance notice, which is really not enough. And, by the way, I think it would be very difficult for Israel to do this. If they do so, they would probably do so in the spring. Everyone in Israel is saying it will be the springtime.

And the reason does relate to the American political campaign. For two months after the attack, there could be a rallying around the flag and rallying around the commander in chief, Obama, in the United States, and it will take about two months for the economic effects to set in. Nouriel Roubini, the award-winning renowned economist, said two days ago that an attack on Iran or a war with Iran would lead to global recession. Without a doubt, an Israeli attack on Iran would lead to Iranian countermeasures like closing the straits of Hormuz, mining the straits of Hormuz, something like that, which would eventually, within a matter of weeks, like, two weeks, impact the U.S. economy. And this whole election is about the economy. It’s not actually about Iran.

So Obama faces the prospect, if there’s an Israeli attack, of entering the Democratic convention in early September with the economy in a freefall, or at least with the economic recovery reversed, and he’s under attack by his Republican opponent, probably Mitt Romney, for showing weakness in the face of Iran for failing to support our ally in the great fight for Western civilization, Israel, and for the collapsing—allowing the economy to collapse. This would be a disastrous scenario, I think, for a Democratic—for Barack Obama, and it may be the only way I can see a very weak Republican like Mitt Romney getting in.

And we also have to remember, Romney has completely surrounded himself with neoconservatives. One of his chief foreign policy advisers, Eliot Cohen, was the inventor of the concept of a World War IV, a global war on terrorism. He has been calling for a U.S. strike on Iran since 2001, I think, or 2002. And so, certainly, Netanyahu would love to see a Republican get in to increase the tempo of a military action on Iran, because I think Barack Obama’s basically lost all control of where this situation goes and can only control the tempo, the pace.

JAY: Yeah, I mean, they seem to have sent some messages saying not to make this attack. They canceled these war games that were scheduled a couple of weeks ago. Leon Panetta was on television. When asked directly, what would you do if Israel did launch this attack, he quite specifically said, we would protect our forces. He didn’t say, we would protect Israel. But that’s still pretty weak, weak opposition to it. You would think if they really don’t want this, they would send some more clear, overt messages. I guess it is partly they’re intimidated by the American process here and what this might do to the funding, their funding, and electoral results.

BLUMENTHAL: Absolutely. Absolutely. When Barack Obama came into office, he did have a window to push diplomacy with Iran, and he didn’t do it, partly because of pressure from Congress, partly because of pressure from Israel, which kind of controls Congress on that issue, and partly because of pressure from Saudi Arabia. And so the window’s closed. Now he finds himself in an election campaign where Iran is the major foreign-policy issue. He’s going to have to talk tough on Iran and talk about biting sanctions and everything short of military action. And he’ll keep saying that all options are on the table, because he’s another Democrat who’s going to have to triangulate and fight this notion that he’s, you know, a limp-wristed latte liberal against the tough-talking Republicans. So that’s incredibly dangerous.

George W. Bush, when he was pushing the case for war with Iraq, made 16 major speeches trying to cultivate the American public in favor of this war. Barack Obama has not made one major speech about Iran informing Americans about all of the diplomatic efforts that could have been made and that should still be made. And so he’s left to advance sanctions, which will do nothing except disrupt the American economic recovery and actually have no impact whatsoever on its nuclear program.

JAY: During the Democratic primaries in 2008, I thought both Obama and Biden actually had some fairly reasonable things to say about Iran. Obama was saying, if you don’t want to have Iran as a regional power, you shouldn’t have invaded Iraq, which was, you know, fairly astute and correct. Biden says, if you don’t want them to have a nuclear bomb, don’t threaten regime change. But since they got elected, I haven’t heard any such words from them.

BLUMENTHAL: No, and that’s part of their election strategy. Obama despises Netanyahu personally, and Michelle Obama likes him even less. But the Obama campaign, through David Axelrod, Obama’s sort of consigliere, released this disgusting video touting Obama’s pro-Israel record, which featured Obama’s shaking hands and smiling with Netanyahu. It featured all sorts of Israeli figures, including Danny Ayalon, who is the spokesman for Avigdor Lieberman (who is an open advocate of transfer and ethnic cleansing), praising Obama for improving Israel’s qualitative military edge.

So Obama is in the process of overcompensating for everything reasonable he ever said. And the fact that—I mean, you only need to look at the spectacle of Netanyahu speaking before Congress, receiving more standing ovations than Barack Obama did in his State of the Union last year, to understand the situation that Obama finds himself in. I mean, any ally of Obama, any liberal Democrat who failed to stand for Netanyahu every time he made a ridiculous statement, including that the settlements are suburbs of Tel Aviv, would have been branded as an anti-Semite.

And if you listen to this year’s State of the Union address, Obama closed on what I thought was a very unilateralist, militaristic note, where he talked about how all Americans, including gays and blacks and immigrants, can unite just like the Navy Seals united to assassinate Osama bin Laden, and that they can unite in military uniform. This is, you know, kind of betraying the concept of civilian identity.

And so we’re just going to watch a campaign unfold where Barack Obama overcompensates, talks about shooting the bearded Muslim guy, and how tough he is on Iran, and how much he’s going to give away to Israel. And that will have massive, massive implications for America’s national deterrent strategy, national security, and its foreign policy interests.

JAY: Thanks for joining us, Max.

BLUMENTHAL: Thanks for having me.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author whose articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Independent Film Channel, The Huffington Post,, Al Jazeera English and many other publications. His book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party, is a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller.