-Contributing Writer-

(FinalCall.com) – Iran and Israel, allegedly over Iran achieving nuclear weapons capability, is fast becoming the 800-pound gorilla in the room that is the U.S. presidential race. U.S. officials like Maryland Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the house intelligence committee, was told while in Israel recently that the Obama administration won’t get a heads up if Israel decides to attack Iran means all bets are off the table.


And if you’re viewing these developments as President Obama, according to Paul Jay of Real News Network, your witnessing “the unraveling of Europe and perhaps triggering another global financial meltdown, if you were to add to that an attack on Iran and the closing of the Straits of Hormuz and the price of oil going through the roof, that would almost be a perfect storm…”


How to avoid the above is the $64,000 question.

Was Secretary of Defense David Panetta’s recent comment to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius suggesting Israel will attack Iran in the next few months a subtle request to forgo the attack, or was this Mr. Panetta, known for rivaling Vice President Biden in the gaffe-prone department, overstepping his bounds?

Politico is framing this as a possible deliberate leak to a columnist instead of in front of a press conference as a way of controlling how it’s reported. Similarities in strategy go to the 2003 Bush administration leak that ousted CIA agent Valarie Plame to Washington Post columnist Robert Novak.

Then add the heightened sense of urgency the media gives the growing crisis with Iran, and the presidential candidates, including Mr. Obama trying to outweigh the others in showing support for Israel. Mix in the growing influence of super PAC money that includes presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich commenting on his super PAC ‘sugar daddy,’ Sheldon Adelson, “(being) desperately worried about Iran.”

The icing on this multi-layered cake is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or “the scaremonger-in-chief, as he’s known in Israeli media and political circles,” who was expected to participate in the March 4-6 annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference. This wouldn’t be unusual if it wasn’t a presidential election year, if Israel wasn’t threatening to unilaterally attack and destroy Iranian nuclear capabilities, and if persons like, one of Mr. Netanyahu’s and AIPAC’s main American supporters, the billionaire Adelson, hadn’t injected himself into the race.

The casino magnate recently told Forbes Magazine that he might donate an additional $100 million to his Republican presidential candidate of choice. This major supporter of Netanyahu policies owns the widest circulated daily Israel Hayom in the Jewish state. Mr. Adelson’s relationship with Mr. Netanyahu is so “entwined” that when recent light was shown on one of his paper’s columnists Dror Eydar, who frequently pens attacks against anti-Netanyahu media sentiments, he was found doubling as a Netanyahu speechwriter and advisor.

All of this bluster about Iran developing a nuclear weapon includes pundits saying the presidential election season provides the best cover for a possible Israeli strike. On top of that is the tightening of sanctions against Iran, all occurring while the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey goes on record saying it’s unclear whether or not Iran is even developing a nuclear bomb.

The fact that the sanctions were at least initially “strongly” opposed by the Obama administration makes much election year political sense. Mr. Obama doesn’t want the blame for spiraling out of control oil prices, but he does want to show unequivocal support for Israel.

The mainstream media has failed to let us in on the well-known secret that it sounds like the president is between a rock and a hard place.

In a letter to the Senate from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner he warned that the “proposed sanctions would cause a spike in world oil prices, thus risking further deterioration of the global economy,” wrote investigative historian journalist on U.S. national security policy Dr. Gareth Porter, for Al Jazeera. According to Dr. Porter, Netanyahu supporters lobbied for the sanctions against Iran’s oil exports and against its Central Bank.

Israeli threats against Iran may have more to do with the election than one may imagine. As reported in Salon.com by Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons, “When articles invoking the Holocaust and urging ‘creative destruction’ in Iran appear on the same day (Feb. 7) in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Bloomberg News, a skeptical observer might be forgiven for suspecting a well-coordinated (election year) propaganda campaign.”

One may also be prone to suspect that the Israeli PM and his supporters are deliberately fueling this threat to unilaterally attack Iran to help determine the outcome of the election. “(Then) assuming that the Israeli prime minister’s motives for threatening a unilateral Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities are as reported–I suspect they are not, said Lyons, ‘To put it bluntly, it’s not so much the regime in Tehran that Netanyahu is keen to destabilize as the one in Washington. The question now is how far he’s willing to take it.’ ”

To buttress Lyons’ argument you have practically the entire Israeli military and security establishment apprehensive about a unilateral attack and the possible repercussions. In a February 2nd Independence article entitled “Israel’s military leaders warn against Iran attack,” General Lipkin-Shahak, a close confidant of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, though he stressed a nuclear armed Iran would destabilize the region, said, “It is quite clear that much if not all of the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) leadership do not support military action at this point.”

In addition Gen Lipkin-Shahak said the sanctions against Iran are working better than expected. “So one would think it would be worth seeing what impact the sanctions have before taking the next step,” he said.

The Iranian threat may be more political than military. According to Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Conn M. Hallinan’s blogg, Dispatches from the Edge, Iran is not a military threat to Israel, but is a political problem because Tel Aviv sees Teheran’s fierce nationalism and independence from the U.S. and Europe as a wild card. Iran is also allied with Israel’s major regional enemy, Syria, with whom Israel is still officially at war; Shiite-based Hezbollah in Lebanon; Hamas in Gaza and the Shiite-dominated government in Iraq.

But does isolating Iran and choking her economy, as is being done by sanctions, have consequences? And what makes these increasing threats against Iran “so dangerous,” said Reza Marashi of the National Iranian American Council on Democracy Now, is “there’s little to no communication going on between the parties. And when you don’t communicate, that increases the likelihood for misperceptions and miscalculations. And when you misperceive and you miscalculate and you’re not communicating, very, very bad things can happen.”

The stage for bad things is being set by the increasing vitriol aimed at Iran by Republican presidential candidates seeking favor with Israel, with the media acting as a willing participant. This is occurring while Mr. Obama maneuvers through the minefield of the election season and uses surrogates, including General Dempsey, to try and persuade Tel Aviv to rely on sanctions over a military strike.

Mr. Netanyahu, according to best selling author and senior writer at Al-Akhbar English Max Blumenthal, is “playing on the sustained historic trauma of Jewish people in Israel to indoctrinate them to support his policies.” So much so Israeli publications with the exception of Ha’aretz, by their silence on condemning his call for a military strike, appear to walk lock step with Israel’s PM.

And to make matters even worse, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman has advocated changing the line drawn in the sand from an actual Iranian nuclear weapons program to just achieving “capability.”

According to Mr. Blumenthal, while speaking on Real News Network, Sen. Lieberman is advocating “a strike.” He also said that persons advocating a strike from a group calling itself United Against Nuclear Iran are also “pushing sanctions.” During the interview a question raised by Mr. Blumenthal was why are sanctions being imposed on Iran if the top brass in the Israeli Defense Force and the Pentagon don’t see Iran’s nuclear program as a threat, unless the objective is “regime change?”

He and others, including the former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, paint a grim picture, suggesting Iran wouldn’t sit idly by while sanctions destroy its economy. He said the “strangulation” is designed “to produce a crisis and force Iran to do something crazy.” Mr. Blumenthal added, “This is their path to war.”

Mr. Brzezinski on Feb 26 edition of CNN’s GPS with Fareed Zakaria, said of an Israeli attack on Iran, “We don’t need to go to war.” He said President Obama has to make it “very clear to our Israeli friends.” The price we’ll all pay if they start a massive war, which the Iranians (will) interpret as being done with our (U.S.) connivance, will be disastrous for us in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in terms of oil, stability in the Middle East (and) more generally, he warned.

(Jehron Muhammad is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia and can be reached at [email protected])