War and the Israel Lobby

On March 4, President Obama warned thousands of members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that excessive talk of war would only benefit Iran and hurt Israel and America. However, he assured AIPAC that he would take a strong stance against Iran, even resorting to military action as a last resort. Obama is right to take a firm but even-handed stance against Iran, a country which has consistently destabilized regional peace. However, Iran does not pose a legitimate threat to Israel, a country with the military might to handle a hypothetical Iranian attack without the help of the U.S. The growing sound of drumbeats on Capitol Hill over Iran is a symptom of the influence of the Israel lobby rather than the demands of the situation at hand, and the U.S. should avoid getting involved in a potential war with Iran at all costs.

Iran’s bark is surely louder than its bite. For one, the country has failed to prove itself militarily. Its apparent assassination attempts on Israeli agents failed catastrophically, with every participant in the affair apprehended before a single Israeli was harmed. Furthermore, although it may not be immediately apparent, sanctions on Iran have been effective. The Iranian rial has plummeted, losing half its value since December 2011, the same month that President Ahmadinejad admitted to Iran’s parliament that the country was segregated from the international banking system. Rising food and gasoline prices have been a problem since early 2010, when the Iranian government cut food and gasoline subsidies substantially due to economic difficulties.  The recent sanctions enacted by America and the European Union in light of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s troubling report, which are estimated to cut Iran’s oil exports—themselves accounting for an estimated 65 percentof the Iranian government’s revenues—by 60 percent. These economic difficulties are being felt by Iran’s general public: 65 percent of Iranians worried about the current sanctions affecting their lives a “great deal” or “somewhat.” Iran’s inflation also remains high at 21 percent. Clearly Iran is in no military or economic position to attack Israel. Allowing war rhetoric to dominate diplomatic strategy in the Middle East will only drive the Iranian people to favor their government even more in the face of foreign adversity and increase the likelihood of an Iranian pre-emptive strike.

On the other hand, Israel has demonstrated its military might countless times since its inception, crushing opposition in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Lebanon in the past decade alone. Not only does this demonstrate Israel’s obvious resilience against a weaker opponent, it also raises another question: Is Iran the only country in the Middle East whose belligerent militarism should be worrying the United States right now? Although Iran is belligerent and weak, Israel is belligerent and terrifyingly strong.

But if the threat of Iran is indeed so minimal and Israel is more than capable of handling the situation, where is all this war talk coming from in the U.S.? The Israel lobby has maintained a prominent presence in Washington D.C., with lobbying groups such as the aforementioned AIPAC responsible for providing significant funding to the campaigns of countless congressmen, governors, and even presidents. The addition or subtraction of support from this powerful lobby can literally mean the birth or death of a political career. A number of powerful members of the Israel lobby have come out wholeheartedly in favor of U.S. intervention in the situation. It comes with no surprise that Mitt Romney, who has also been invited to speak at AIPAC conference, has stated “If Barack Obama gets re-elected, Iran will have a nuclear weapon, and the world will change if that’s the case.” Republican candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have also been invited to speak at the conference. The pressure for the U.S. to intervene in an issue in which it has very little, if any, involvement stems almost solely from political pressures rather than from U.S. interests in the conflict. Surely we should pay more attention to the situation at hand rather than the war mongering of lobbying groups.

Iran poses little threat to Israel and it is highly unlikely that its nuclear program will turn into a full-fledged attack against Israel. Israel is more than capable to launch a pre-emptive attack and does not need America’s help should it decide to do so. Ultimately, the U.S. should resist the influence of the Israel lobby and try to stay out of this sticky situation. If anything, there are more pressing matters in the Middle East than the overhyped tensions between Israel and Iran.

Heather L. Pickerell ’15, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Wigglesworth Hall.