Wartime Witch Hunt: Blaming Israel for the Iraq War

(Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) Dore Gold - An insidious but steady drumbeat can be discerned over the last several weeks charging that the primary interest of the Bush administration in going to war against Saddam Hussein was to defend Israeli security interests. This newest wave is often more subtle but also far more mainstream than what was voiced in this regard just last year. Yet from Israel's perspective, by 2003 the Iraqi Army had been severely degraded in both military manpower and equipment. Continuing UN sanctions had made Iraqi re-armament difficult and Iraq was clearly not Israel's primary concern. Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens concluded in August 2002 that in the immediate future, "the [missile] threat that Israel most likely will have to contend with" is that of Syria. He described the Iraqi capability as "relatively limited." During the same month, Israel's current chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, declared in Jerusalem that the threat posed by Iraq "doesn't make me lose sleep." If prior to the Iraq War the Israeli security establishment was somewhat ambivalent about the extent of the Iraqi threat, there was one state that threatened Israel about which Israeli statements were unmistakably clear: Iran. Israel used language with respect to Iran that it did not apply to Iraq. Thus, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would call Iran "the main existential threat to Israel." In other words, the American war against Iraq may have had an unintended side-effect of removing a secondary or tertiary threat to Israel, but not a primary threat. There is something persuasive about Richard Clarke's thesis that in the case of Iraq, the dominant consideration was concern over the long-term stability of the House of Saud and the need for the U.S. to replace a shaky Saudi Arabia with an alternative friendly source of oil for the industrial West. Considering the widespread presence of al-Qaeda cells across virtually all parts of Saudi Arabia that now has become evident after repeated terrorist attacks in that country, this American consideration has been proven to be prescient. But this has absolutely nothing to do with Israel.

2004-06-03 00:00:00

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