Will US Election Be Determined by Israel Iran Standoff?
Other than Mitt Romney, the only man who can plausibly derail President Barack Obama’s re-election is Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose policy of “pre-emption” makes an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities only a matter of time.
And, when that occurs, a disruption of Middle East oil production and shipments, a spiking of domestic U.S. gas prices, and a renewal of Islamic terrorist attacks will also be just a matter of time.
Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a late September address to the United Nations, said that his country would hold the United States responsible for any Israeli military assault. Netanyahu, in a subsequent U.N. speech, said an atom bomb in the hands of Tehran’s virulently anti-Zionist Shia fundamentalists, which he claims will be a reality by mid-2013, would trigger military strikes. Netanyahu drew a “red line”: When Iran has 90 percent of the enriched uranium needed to manufacture a weapon of mass destruction, Israel “pre-empts.”
Luckily for Obama, whose “two-state solution” foreign policy emphatically opposes any Israeli pre-emption, it will not occur before the Nov. 6 election. The economic impact of a Mid-East “crisis” would have been – and will be – severe. Interestingly, Romney supports Israel’s stance. By attacking now, Israel could insure Obama’s defeat; by waiting until next year, it insures his re-election.
Any analysis of the geographical and geo-political Middle East begins with the 3-H’s: history, hate and histronics. There is no macro Middle-East; there are a bunch of micro Middle-Easts – Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Libya, and, farther east, Afghanistan. The situation in Pakistan, and India, where Muslims despise Hindus, and vice versa, is also combustible. Each has their own economic agenda. Each has a huge Muslim population. Each has a historical and religious animus toward Israel, Zionism and a Jewish homeland. Each has an Islamic fundamentalist movement which preaches hate towards Israel and the United States. Each has a massive underclass of jobless, whom the governments appease by blaming their plights on the Jews.
But, ironically, there is as much Muslim hatred of each other as there is of Israel. The Sunnis, which comprise 90 percent of all Muslims, hate the Shi’ites,. Al-Qaeda, which is Sunni, despises Hezbollah, headquartered in Lebanon, which is Shia, and supported by Iran. Pakistan’s LET (Lashkar-e-Taiba) is a rival of ISI, a faction of Pakistan’s army, which is allied with the Taliban, which operates in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Hamas, the Sunni Muslim Palestinian extremist group, has long been a bitter political rival of Fatah, the PLO-affiliated party; Hamas, the guerilla “Army of God,” until recently attacked Israeli outposts in the Gaza Strip area, refuses to co-ordinate with Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based guerillas who are funded by Iran, who attack Israel’s north border.
The distinction between Sunni and Shia is this: The Sunnis want to create a caliphate, which is a mystical Muslim worldwide state, where the teachings of the Quran are inviolate. The Shi’ites believe that Mohammed’s voice on earth emanates from various Imams, who interpret the Quran, and that these clerics – like the Ayatollahs in Iran – must be obeyed.
It is estimated that 42 percent of the world’s Jews, roughly 4.4 million, live in Israel, on a fertile strip of land comprising 7,800 square miles. Israel’s total population is about 6.9 million, of which 20 percent are Arabs, mostly Sunni Muslims. The Zionists’ claim of a “Jewish Homeland” is, at least to Arabs, highly questionable. The founding kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and the last Davidian ruler, passed in the 1st Century, A.D. Thereafter, a succession of Roman, Arab, Mamluk and Ottoman invaders ruled the territory. After World War I, the British seized the area, which was then known as Palestine and Trans-Jordan, thereafter creating Jordan and Syria. Under the 1917 Balfour Doctrine, the British decided that they would “establish in Palestine a natural home for Jewish people,” which was a political concession to their country’s Zionist movement.
But nation-making is a glacial process. Jewish emigration to the British colony was meager until after World War II, when the State of Israel was finally created through a partition of Palestine, with only Gaza and the West Bank remaining under Arab control. Jerusalem, the Biblical city revered by both Muslims and Jews, was ceded to Israel. Immediately, almost 100,000 Arabs flocked across the northern border into Lebanon. After 1967’s Six-Day War, Israel absorbed Gaza and the West Bank – and about three million Arabs – into their zone of control, but not their country.
Israel us surrounded by implacable enemies.
Palestine, created in 1988, is the autonomous governing body in Gaza, east Jarusalem and the West Bank, with a population of 4.4 million, of which over 40 percent are under age 15. Once the breeding ground of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), it is now the staging area for Hamas, a political and military faction which controls the Gaza Strip (with a population of 1.7 million), while Fatah dominates the West Bank (with a population of 2.5 million).
From a demographic standpoint, assimilation of the occupied Arab areas by Israel is impossibility. Arabs already outnumber Jews. By 2025, Israel would be a Muslim-majority nation. So, too, is a Palestinian nation. The Obama Administration wants a “two-state solution,” with reversion to the1967 borders, and a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. It will never happen. Israel wants the occupied areas for a buffer zone, and could never tolerate a Hamas-governed and armed Palestine.
For some, Israel’s preoccupation with Iran is simply a diversion, taking focus away from military suppression of the Palestinians.
Lebanon, to the north, beyond the Golan Heights, has a population of 3.8 million, and is riddled with religious division between Maronite Christians (30 percent) and Muslims, of which Sunni are 60 percent. However, Iran, since the days of Ayatollah Khomeini, has been funding the Shi’ite Hezbollah, a military force dedicated to the destruction of Israel. The Sunni Palestinians, who flocked to Lebanon in 1948, are still confined to settlement camps at Sabra, Shatilah and Ayn Al-Hilweh. They cannot be citizens, vote, own property, attend schools, or work in the professions. Al-Qaeda uses the camps to recruit terrorists.
Egypt, population 70 million, was a secular, military-run dictatorship, and quiet ally of Israel and the U.S., is now a fundamentalist Sunni Islamic state dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to cleanse the country of all Western influence, such as nightclubs, discos, casino and pornography, and restore the Islamic status of women. Not good for Israel. If Israel attacks Iran, Egypt will attack Israel.
Syria, population 17 million, just northwest of Israel, is a fragile dictatorship with a 74 percent Sunni majority, and the socialist Baath Party, with military support, has governed since 1983, after Israel’s invasion.
Iran, population 68 million, is a Muslim democracy, with Shi’ites comprising 89 percent of the population, and Sunnis ten percent. The current president leaves office late this year, but the capacity to build a nuclear bomb is imminent. There are well over a dozen “hardened” refining sites throughout the country, so Israeli air strike eradication is problematical. An Iranian strike would unleash immediate retaliation by Hezbollah and Hamas.
However, it should be noted that Israel’s 1982 surgical strikes in Syria in 1982 and Lebanon in 1996 did not produce a conflagration.
Jordan, to Israel’s west, population 5.5 million, is a monarchy with a 96 percent Sunni Muslim majority.
Iraq, population 25 million, is 65 percent Shia and 35 percent Sunni. The late dictator Saddam Hussein maintained sectarian peace. “We took out the wrong guy,” is the current refrain. The U.S. props up a “democratic” leader in a country where there can be no unity.
Saudi Arabia, population 24 million, is a monarchy, called a “kingdom.” Oil exports generate over $50 billion in tax revenue. The Royal Family, to blunt any insurrection, funds various terrorist groups, who direct their ire elsewhere.
Israel is, quite obviously, a country besieged. It is surrounded by over 200 million Muslims; every government is hostile; and an Iranian atomic bomb, if delivered on Tel Aviv, could wipe out a third of the nation’s population, and render the country a radioactive wasteland.
Without sophisticated U.S. weaponry, congressional subsidies, and American Jewish donations, Israel could not survive. Israel is America’s most reliable ally in the Middle-East. But how will the Obama Administration react when Iran has nuclear weapons? Netanyahu has doubts.
But getting back to U.S. politics. Of America’s population of roughly 300 million, Jews comprise about two percent – six million. Of that number, almost half are Orthodox, for which the propagation of Israel is paramount. In the 2008 election, almost 80 percent of Jewish voters supported Obama.
Now it’s crunch time. Romney and the Republicans are the pro-Zionist, anti-Palestine independence, take-out-Iran’s-nukes party, while Obama and his Democrats are equivocators and vacillators. The Democrats’ national party platform, initially, excised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The question is this: When Israel attacks Iran in 2013, who do Jews want as U.S. president?
Russ Stewart is a political analyst for the Chicago Daily Observer
E-mail Russ@russstewart.com or visit his website at www.russstewart.com.