Saturday, November 17, 2007

Israel was Against the Invasion of Iraq Before It Was For It

I've read the story that Israel secretly opposed the US invasion of Iraq on the grounds that it would be a distraction from containing Iran.

The most in detailed report I've come across is Gareth Porter's.

Israeli defense minister Fouad Ben-Eliezer, who was visiting Washington with Sharon, revealed the essence of the strategic differences between Jerusalem and Washington over military force. He was quoted by the Post as saying, "Today, everybody is busy with Iraq. Iraq is a problem ... But you should understand, if you ask me, today Iran is more dangerous than Iraq."

Sharon, who was incapacitated by a stroke last year, never revealed publicly what he said to Bush in the February 7 meeting. But Yossi Alpher, a former adviser to prime minister Ehud Barak, wrote in an article in The Forward last January that Sharon advised Bush not to occupy Iraq, according to a knowledgeable source. Alpher wrote that Sharon also assured Bush that Israel would not "push one way or another" regarding his plan to take down Saddam.

I'm not sure what Sharon's proposed alternative was at the time, according to this story. Did he really advocate that the US allow sanctions to erode with Hussein remaining in power and rebuild Iraq as a strategic threat to Israel?

That doesn't seem to me to make sense. My feeling is that this secret opposition would have remained secret if the US had successfully installed Chalabi as Iraq's Mubarak, Musharraf, Abdullah or Abdullah. In 2002 and 2003 I thought the US might well be able to do that. The cost would have been high, but it did not seem to me at the time to be impossible. I'm sure Washington shared that assessment and I can't see why Jerusalem would not have shared it.

Now, in hindsight, it seems that turning Iraq into another pro-US regional state was impossible all along. A huge, and probably primary factor in rendering it impossible is that Iran is willing and able to support the Iraqis in resisting a US attempt to install a Shah of Iraq.

At the time, not only was Sharon publicly a supporter of the war, every single public pro-Zionism political voice that I remember favored the war. The reason pro-Zionist commentators supported the war is because killing hundreds of thousands or millions or Iraqis to install an Iraqi Shah may be bad for Iraq, it may be costly for the United States, but it would be unarguably good for Israel.

Now that a Shah of Iraq is impossible, continuing the occupation and arming all sides of various civil wars until the country disintegrates to a state that cannot threaten Israel is bad for Iraqis, costly for the US but unarguably good for Israel. That seems to be the US effective policy today.

While I'm here, I'll also link to Olmert's post invasion support for the endeavor.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert raised eyebrows this week when he praised America’s war in Iraq as a “great operation” that brought stability to the Middle East.

... ... ...

"We are very much impressed and encouraged by the stability which the great operation of America in Iraq brought to the Middle East," Olmert said as he sat next to Bush in the Oval Office.

This is the elected prime minister of Israel speaking. He shouldn't have to say it. A smarter Israeli prime minister would not have said it, but of course the invasion, occupation and destruction of Iraq are good for Israel, especially compared to the alternative.


Arnold Evans said...

The White House Press conference transcript may be a better link for the stability quote.

PRIME MINISTER OLMERT: Thank you very much. President -- this is nothing to take an edge to the very accurate analysis that you made with regard to these big issues. We in the Middle East have followed the American policy in Iraq for a long time, and we are very much impressed and encouraged by the stability which the great operation of America in Iraq brought to the Middle East. We pray and hope that this policy will be fully successful so that this stability which was created for all the moderate countries in the Middle East will continue.

Arnold Evans said...

Larry Derfner, a Jerusalem post commentator's memory of the 2003 pre-invasion environment matches mine.

In the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, which Israelis viewed as a kind of proxy war, there was virtual unanimity of support. Aside from the non- or anti-Zionist Left, which, like Israeli Arab opinion, doesn't count in this country, the only prominent Israeli I recall coming out against the invasion was Amos Oz. Otherwise, Bush had far, far greater support for the war from Israelis than he had from people in any of the 50 states, including Texas.

Now, of course, Israelis are telling Bush, "I told you so." (Just not to his face.)