Scott Ritter: Israel lobby pushes Iran attack

Scott Ritter is the latest to join the fast-growing chorus that would exculpate the petro-elites by blaming the Iraq adventure—and now the looming Iran intervention—on the Israel lobby. Supposed progressives like Democracy Now! are lapping it up. We will point out, even if nobody else does, that if Ritter’s predictions were accurate, the US would have started bombing Iran in June 2005. A Dec. 29 book review by Nathan Guttman from New York’s Jewish weekly The Forward:

A former United Nations weapons inspector and leading Iraq War opponent has written a new book alleging that Jerusalem is pushing the Bush administration into war with Iran, and accusing the pro-Israel lobby of dual loyalty and “outright espionage.”

In the new book, called Target Iran, Scott Ritter, who served as a senior U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998 and later became one of the war’s staunchest critics, argues that the United States is readying for military action against Iran, using its nuclear program as a pretext for pursuing regime change in Tehran.

“The Bush administration, with the able help of the Israeli government and the pro-Israel Lobby, has succeeded,” Ritter writes, “in exploiting the ignorance of the American people about nuclear technology and nuclear weapons so as to engender enough fear that the American public has more or less been pre-programmed to accept the notion of the need to militarily confront a nuclear armed Iran.”

Later in the book, Ritter adds: “Let there be no doubt: If there is an American war with Iran, it is a war that was made in Israel and nowhere else.”

Ritter’s book echoes recent high-profile attacks on the pro-Israel lobby by former President Jimmy Carter and by scholars Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. Ritter, who recently returned from a weeklong speaking engagement on The Nation cruise, speaks of a “network of individuals” that pursues Israel’s interests in the United States. The former weapons inspector alleges that some of the pro-Israel lobby’s activities “can only be described as outright espionage and interference in domestic policies.” Ritter also accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee of having an inherent dual loyalty. He called for the organization to be registered as a foreign agent.

Representatives for both Aipac and the Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to comment on Ritter’s accusations.

In his book, Ritter also accuses the pro-Israel lobby of invoking the memory of the Holocaust and of crying antisemitism whenever Israel is accused of betraying America. “This is a sickening and deeply disturbing trend that must end,” Ritter writes.

According to Ritter, Iran is far from developing a nuclear weapons program and will not do so in the future if the world makes sure that stringent inspections are in place to verify that the Iranians live up to the requirements of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“If Iran does make a political decision to develop nuclear weapons, it will take them a decade and it won’t go undetected,” Ritter said. “But it will take the U.S. only five weeks to build up a force capable of destroying Iran by air strikes. It’s a timeline of five weeks compared to a decade, so I’m not worried about taking a risk.”

As for Israeli and American fears regarding Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president who vowed to “wipe Israel off the map,” Ritter dubbed the leader a “sick joke” and asserted that he does not make the decisions in Tehran.

Ritter argues that the Bush administration knows that inspections can solve the Iranian nuclear problem but, at the urging of Jerusalem and its American allies, is in reality pursuing a different goal: regime change in Tehran.

“Israel has, through a combination of ignorance, fear and paranoia, elevated Iran to a status that it finds unacceptable,” Ritter writes in his book. “Israel has engaged in policies that have further inflamed this situation. Israel displays arrogance and rigidity when it comes to developing any diplomatic solution to the Iranian issue.”

Ritter is no stranger to controversy.

As a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, he headed several surprise inspection missions that were denied access to suspicious sites, and led to the Saddam Hussein regime accusing Ritter of being an American spy. The frequent refusal of the Iraqis to provide Ritter and his team access to sites of interest led eventually to the abandonment of the inspection regime in Iraq. Ritter resigned his post in 1998, accusing the United States and the U.N. of caving in to the Iraqis.

But Ritter later became a leading voice warning against taking military action against Iraq, arguing that a resumption of inspections would be sufficient to contain Hussein. He accused the United States of trying to use the U.N. inspection force for spying purposes and claimed that Iraq was deliberately held to higher standards than other countries in order to justify a military invasion.

In early 2004, Ritter charged in an interview on the Web site Ynet, operated by the daily Yediot Aharonot, that Israeli intelligence had deliberately overstated what it knew to be a minimal threat from Iraq in an effort to push America and Britain to launch a war. Ritter’s accusations were roundly rejected across the Israeli political spectrum. Security officials interviewed by the Forward insisted that no branch of the military could or would deliberately skew the findings in that way, but they also said that Israeli intelligence tended to exaggerate threats because it was operating under flawed assumptions.

Now Ritter is arguing that a similar effort is under way to produce an attack against Iran.

Speaking to the Forward this week, Ritter stressed that he is not accusing all American Jews of having dual loyalty, saying that “at the end of the day, I would like to believe that most of American Jews will side with America.”

Ritter is already working on his next book, due for publication in March 2007. In this tome, he sets out to teach the anti-war movements that he supports how to wage an effective campaign to win over American public opinion.

Isn’t that “weeklong speaking engagement on The Nation cruise” a nice touch? How touching to see the supposed “left” abandon class analysis and political economy in favor ethnic scapegoating and America-first nationalism. Who will be their next hero, Zbigniew Brzezinski?

See our last posts on Iran, Jewish scapegoating and “The Lobby“.

  1. If by ‘petro-elite’ you mean
    If by ‘petro-elite’ you mean people like Bush Sr., James Baker et al, it is well known that they all opposed the war. I presume your insertion of Brzezinski’s name was to preempt mention of the rather inconvenient fact that Brzezinski, along with the rest of the Realist-right opposed the war. So did all traditional conservatives. But I presume dogma trumps all such facts.

    Why don’t you tell everyone instead what is your interest in exculpating AIPAC and the neoconservatives? Too bad that M&W and Ritter ruined your game by making the task of crypto-Zionist gate-keeping less easy. Those of us, on the other hand, who have an interest in seeing the genocidal intervention in Iraq end can’t help but cheer courageous individuals like M&W and the Iraqi resistance for checking the predations of empire: the former braving character assassinations of the lobby’s shills (yourself included) and the latter the blunt instruments of empire itself.

    1. By petro-elites, I mean…
      …um, Dick Cheney? Halliburton? The people who wrote the “Iraqi” oil privatization law (who are not Iraqis, natch)? Did you bother to actually click on the link for my reference to “petro-elites“? I do painstaking work to back up my every claim. All you do is call me a “crypto-Zionist gate-keeper.” Right, I’m a “crypto-Zionist.” That’s why this website relentlessly calls out Israel’s illegal land grabs on the West Bank. Right, I’m a “gatekeeper.” That’s why I’m going broke and practically nobody will support my website. None are so blind as those who will not see.

      Gatekeepeer: n. Journalist or blogger who will not accept my wacky dogmas.

      1. Cheney is linked to
        Cheney is linked to Halliburton, yes, and neither is considered part of what constitutes petro-elite. Petro-elite, in its non-esoteric usage, refers to Big Oil. Privatization of Iraqi oil has been explicitly opposed by Big Oil (check out the policy papers produced by Baker Institute, the voice of Big Oil).

        The privatization plan was hatched by neoconservatives at the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute. Their aim has less to do with oil than with breaking the OPEC monopoly, and removing a putative challenger to Israel’s mythical ‘strategic asset’ status. And I notice that all the ‘war-for-oil’ camp has been working themselves up into a frenzy over the Iraqi hydro-carbons law. Maybe you should have asked what people with actual knowledge of the middle east think about it. Take for instance Patrick Cockburn, who thinks the it is all a storm in a teacup since the law is not worth the paper it is written on and will be anulled soon as the resistance drives out the occupation.

        Speaking of which, I just noticed your silly twaddle about a ‘civil resistance’. What is it they do exactly? Sign petition campaigns, or hold candle-light vigils? Or perhaps you suggesting that people should have the right views on abortion before they are given the right to resist occupation by George W.’s enlightened stormtroopers.

        I am touched by your qualified outrage at Israel’s land grabs ‘on the West Bank’. So you have no issue with colonization per se, only with colonization ‘on the West Bank’? Pretty odd and ethnocentric position for a self-avowed leftist. Even those who are willing to overlook Israel’s original sin, the ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians, are of the view that the only equitable solution is that immensely radical idea: equal rights for all its citizens, and right of return for all the original inhabitants of the land.

        Now going back to your original post. You criticize Ritter — a man of unimpeachable personal integrity — for stating the obvious (i.e., if facts matter). Now every legislation on Iran that has passed through congress (invariably unchallenged) has AIPAC stamped all over it (And I am sure that you wouldn’t argue that Barbara Boxer, or Barbara Lee are also parts of the ‘petro-elite’). Every prominent voice calling for the war is a neoconservative, and the only organized bodies lobbying for it are mainstream Jewish organizations. So why exactly is it that people should overlook all of that and look instead for an answer in the general postulates of a 19th century text?

        P.s I don’t really how investigating the lobby’s operations and class analysis are necessarily antithetical? As Philip Weiss puts it, ‘the strength of the Israel lobby is a reflection of class and economic power in American life’. Perhaps you can explain why Haim Saban’s $12.3m dollars to the Dems matter less than the sums given by oil giants (who together have given less over a 10 year period than Saban gave in 1 year).

        1. Fear of reading
          What you don’t seem to know can and does fill volumes. If you would take the time to read The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time by Antonia Juhasz, you would know that Iraq’s oil law was not written by “neocons” but by Exxon, Chevron, Conoco, Shell and BP. Or are you afraid of alien ideas? I waded through M&W’s disingenuous crap.

          Poppy and the Bakers represent a wing of the petro-elites who rightly feared that Dubya’s Iraq adventure would generally destabilize the Middle East and make it a less friendly and more dangerous place for Big Oil to do business. Nothing is seamless in this world. But your separation of Halliburton from Big Oil is purely Procrustean, and also overlooks that Cheney’s Energy Task Force was loaded with people from the oil majors, as was the Governing Authority’s bureaucracy for redevelopment of Iraq’s oil sector. Oh, and how about Condy Rice having a Chevron tanker named after her? To dismiss oil as a factor in the US occupation of the country with the world’s second largest oil reserves indicates a very deep level of denial.

          If you would bother to actually poke around on this website before you diss it, you would find that we have certainly addressed the legacy of the 1948 Nakba. And even if we didn’t, since when do “Zionists” (“crypto” or otherwise) oppose the colonization of the West Bank?

          If you would bother to read what I have written on them, you would find that Iraq’s civil resistance are leading strikes in the oil fields to oppose their privatization, and are often paying with their lives. They are also standing up to the murderous reactionaries you hail as the “resistance.” Your condescending dismissal of their heroism says everything about why the American left deserves its own marginalization.

          We have nothing more to say to each other, sir. Have a nice life.