By Richard Walker
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s hawkish prime minister who leads the most far-right government in his nation’s history, appears to have been given the green light by the Biden administration to attack Iran when he sees fit.
This is what Netanyahu has demanded of Washington for years and now that he has entered his sixth term as the chief Israeli leader, he may well act on what could be a defining moment in the history in the Middle East—and the world. But, if Netanyahu and his far-right cabinet believe that this is the same Iran of some years ago and it will be a pushover, they are in for a shock.
There are now other players in the mix, and they include Russia and China, which have become Iran’s closest allies. Russia, in particular, has a larger military imprint in the region than ever before and Iran’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine has drawn the two countries closer together. Another factor that may give Israel pause for thought is the fact that a war with Iran might not be well received in Congress or by the American people, especially at a time when there is growing conflict in Europe, and the real possibility of the U.S. being drawn into a confrontation with China in the Pacific.
Nonetheless, the Biden administration appears to have fallen into the trap that all previous U.S. presidencies have of allowing Zionist elements in Congress and its own advisors to bend to pressure from Tel Aviv. U.S. envoys to Israel are as a rule committed Zionists, so it is predictable that they will respond favorably to anything Israeli leaders like Netanyahu request. President Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner bowed to every demand from Netanyahu and still offered him more. Now, at a time when events are on a knife’s edge in Europe and Asia, Netanyahu has been told that he can do as he sees fit and America will have his back.
This reckless decision to support an Israeli leader whose reputation is that of a warmonger is made even more outrageous by the fact that this assurance has been stated without clarification. Tom Nides, the U.S. envoy to Israel, made this clear at an event in Jerusalem on Feb. 19. He said that Joe Biden will not let Iran have a nuclear weapon and that “all options are on the table.” It was what Nides said next that was especially shocking.
“Israel can and should do whatever it needs to deal with [Iran] and we’ve got their back,” Nides declared. “The cooperation between the U.S. and Israel vis-à-vis Iran is in lockstep.”
And to demonstrate how little Washington cared about the Palestinians, Nides, a professed Zionist, in a podcast with David Axelrod, a former Obama adviser, said that Palestinians “don’t need rights. They just need money.” He was not talking about massive sums of money like the $3.3 billion in American taxpayer dollars the Israeli military gets annually from Washington. He also complained that Israel was losing support on campuses across America.
The online Jewish publication “Mondoweiss” was appalled by Nides and Axelrod. This was the reaction by its chief writer, Philip Weiss: “I don’t think you can get a better demonstration of the narcissistic role of the Israel lobby than the Axelrod-Nides exchange. He really is just a pro-Israel hack, but so is Axelrod.”
The greenlight from Nides and Biden comes at a time when many Palestinians are being killed by the Israeli military, yet Netanyahu’s focus remains fixed on Iran. He has continued, much to Russia’s anger, to bomb targets in Syria and in Iran. The Iranians responded recently by using drones to attack an oil tanker owned by one of Israel’s richest men. It is also clear that Iran is no longer fixated on pleasing Washington and its allies in respect to the frozen nuclear deal. The Iranians believe that now Netanyahu is back in power the nuclear deal is dead.
An Eastern European diplomat familiar with Russian policy makers agreed to provide this writer with this off-the record analysis of the Kremlin’s thinking: “Relations with Israel are at their worst for some time. It has been made clear to Tel Aviv that it would be inadvisable to go to war with Iran. The Kremlin leadership believes that Biden is pretending to give Netanyahu what he wants in the hope he might get on board the NATO train to Kiev but it is a dangerous gamble. Netanyahu is unpredictable.”
Israel is, however, secretly concerned that, since the UN arms embargo on Iran expired in 2020, Iran has been upgrading its arsenal by buying modern weapons from Russia, China, and other nations. Now there is every possibility that Iran will purchase more advanced fighter jets and advanced air defense systems. In fact, there is nothing to stand in the way of countries selling to Iran. And, with the nuclear pact in deep freeze, the likelihood is that Tehran will proceed with its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development programs.
Iran has become so bullish that its leaders have already declared that they do not need anyone’s permission to further their ties with Russia. There is now a defense partnership developing between Tehran, Moscow, and Beijing that has also drawn concern from the CIA. It proves that the Iran Netanyahu dealt with when he was previously in office is now a better armed opponent with more powerful allies.