Friday, July 08, 2011

US oil companies versus AIPAC: We're not gonna beat those guys in Congress

PBS has published an inside account of the US pro-Israeli lobbying apparatus. The story is told by Keith Weissman, a former senior AIPAC lobbyist:
"So we get ILSA. It passes overwhelmingly. That same year I brought some Conoco guys to AIPAC's policy conference, where half the House and half the Senate usually attend, and they knew that night that they would never win anything against us. So they began to cooperate. A lot of the oil companies realized, 'We're not gonna beat these guys in Congress, so we might as well try to tailor their activities, where we at least have some room to work.' And I was the go-between. I was the guy. I mean, BP still credits me with being the guy who greased the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, because of my work with them. That was originally designed as an anti-Iran project.
Out of nowhere, Saudi Arabia makes an appearance.
Even Prince Bandar ibn Sultan, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, and Adel al-Jubeir -- then the Saudi embassy spokesman and currently the ambassador -- welcomed AIPAC's work in helping to support the BTC pipeline and isolating Iran, its Persian Gulf rival, economically. Remembers Weissman:

"Prince Bandar used to send us messages. I used to meet with Adel al-Jubeir a couple times a year. Adel used to joke that if we could force an American embargo on Iranian oil, he'd buy us all Mercedes! Because Saudi [Arabia] would have had the excess capacity to make up for Iran at that time."
AIPAC discussions on US calls for regime change.
"[Support for regime change] was the personal opinion of many people in AIPAC, but it never uttered the words 'regime change.' And I think my efforts were part of the reason why they never did," he says, adding: "How would it look anyway? This is what makes it so stupid! The American Jewish community choosing the next government of Iran? Helping to change the next government of Iran? How can that government have any legitimacy? It's completely ridiculous. And I think the arguments that I raised against it convinced AIPAC, no matter what they personally thought, they realized that what I was saying was right."
This is mostly not new information, but interesting to see it in one place and spoken from the inside.
Chalabi and AIPAC did have relations before the invasion of Iraq, of course. But Weissman was highly skeptical of Chalabi. "Chalabi came to AIPAC in the late 1990s," he recalls. "I'll never forget sitting across the table from him, and he said, 'If I ever become president of Iraq, one of the first things I'll do is to recognize Israel.' And I think to myself, 'The second thing you'll do is, you'll get a bullet in the back of your head.' And I walked out of the room. I knew he was a complete idiot. Or a liar."

But he adds: "There were a lot of contacts between the Jewish community and the INC. In 2000, 2001, the INC spoke at the AIPAC policy conference. So there were links between the Jewish community groups and the Iraqi exiles, and also between the neocons and the Iraqi exiles." But Weissman insists that even so, the FBI and the Justice Department erred in believing that the contacts amounted to anything like espionage or a national security threat that required an FBI inquiry. Instead, he says, the FBI launched an investigation to go after what they saw as a conspiracy to support war in Iraq and, after that, regime change in Iran. Personally, Weissman believes that both the war in Iraq and regime change in Iran were wrongheaded. "I think that they were all bad policies, policies that a lot of people in the U.S. government badly wanted to discredit," he says.
And an explanation of why a liberal Jewish US citizen who personally opposes AIPAC's positions would have worked for the primary Jewish lobbying organization:
And Weissman? Why didn't he just quit, and do something else? It turns out that sometimes the simplest explanation is the one that rings most true. It was a job. "Well," he says. "Two kids in college. I finally got up to over a hundred thousand dollars. I got to work on issues that I liked, and I was able to have some influence. I was listened to. I was able to keep AIPAC away from the Iraqi opposition in the 1990s, and to keep AIPAC away from regime change later on. Those were the things I liked, and those were the things I thought I did good on."

Finally, he says, "And I was looking for another job when all this happened."

A couple of things about this article that I recommend.

1) We see a direct conflict between the Israel lobby and the oil lobby, and we see not only that the Israel lobby won, but that it did so decisively and to the degree that the oil learned the lesson to refrain from trying to oppose the Israel lobby in the future.

2) Possibly even more than I had realized, hostility between Iran and the United States is the product of lobbying in the US on behalf of Israel. While "moderates" such as Weisman have ensured that AIPAC itself does not officially call for regime change, it is clear that refraining for regime change calls goes against the instincts of AIPAC members and funders themselves as well as against the impulses of proponents of Israel in the Bush and Obama administrations, including Dennis Ross, Hillary Clinton and most of the US Middle East diplomatic corps.

3) Saudi Arabia. I'm going to make the obvious point that this supposed rivalry with Iran was not an issue when Iran was ruled by a US-imposed dictator, the Shah. When the Shah was overthrown, suddenly the US-oriented dictator of what we call 'Saudi' Arabia realized that Iran was some eternal rival. One way or another, Saudi Arabia also managed to be in a rivalry with Egypt after Nasser freed his people of a British oriented dictator.

Yet somehow, neither Egypt under Nasser or Iran ever offered to buy gifts for the US Israel lobby in return for anti-Saudi policies. In fact, no mention of any complaints at all with the Saudis on the part of AIPAC.

The article overall is a relatively rare moment of confirmation of how and why the US operates its US/Zionist colonial structure in the Middle East, which contains Egypt (as of now), Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Kuwait and others - and which works to prevent the development of countries in the region that are outside that structure such as Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, Syria and others.


Anonymous said...

"The reason why I want to tell this story now is, we may be going down a path, helped along by the American Jewish community, and maybe even Israel, that is going to be worse even than the one we're on now - some sort of military confrontation with Iran. That worries me. Because they will be able to blame [it] on the Jews, to a great extent," says Weissman

Notice his lack of concern for the direct parties involved: the United States and Iran. He is not worried about the death and maiming of US soldiers and Iranian civilians.
His primary concern is that the implementation of this policy would hurt the Jewish community's image. Only a morally bankrupt individual with no ethics would think this way. How could someone think about their image, while other people's lives are on the line?

Anonymous said...

I spend a lot of time in the pro-nuclear blogosphere, and one of its major players (Rod Adams of Atomic Insights) has the view that nuclear energy has been prevented from reaching its true potential primarily by the activities of fossil fuel interests (either by direct and overt lobbying, or by using their various front organizations to fund environmentalist anti-nuclear campaigners).

I wonder what implications this article has for this hypothesis, as it suggests that Big Oil isn't so mighty compared with the Zionist lobby.