Friday, January 11, 2008

Bush in the Middle East: Iran Over Palestine, Israel Over All

By Phyllis Bennis

"Bush's current visit to the Middle East, despite the official central message of supporting an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, has far more to do with Iran.

That is not a secret; the lead article in Israel's leading daily, Ha'aretz, describing the Bush meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, begins "Iran's nuclear program was at the center of the closed door meeting between Bush and Olmert." Israel rejects the findings of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate released last month that found that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program and does not necessarily even want one. In spite of that, Olmert told Bush, "our unequivocal conclusion is that they [the Iranians] are busy developing nuclear weapons." According to Ha'aretz, Bush agreed, saying the Iranians could resume their weapons program as easily as they froze it in 2003. It was understood before Bush even arrived in the region that a major part of his goal was to reassure Israel that the NIE would have no consequence - that it did not actually signal any change in U.S. posture towards Iran. His trip intended to "clear up any confusion in the region regarding Iran," Bush said. "The NIE report may have sent a signal to some that the U.S. doesn't think that Iran is a threat," he continued as he went on to disabuse that notion. "Iran continues to be a threat to world peace." And that means the U.S. would continue to provide support for Israel vis-à-vis Iran even if Tel Aviv's overtly aggressive threats towards Iran contradict the findings of Bush's own intelligence agencies.

Bush told Israel "you better take the Iranian threat seriously," and Israeli President Shimon Peres responded that Israel had taken Bush's advice "not to underestimate the Iranian threat." He used the opportunity to warn Tehran that "Iran should not underestimate Israel's resolve for self-defense."

Bush visits to Arab countries will also be about mobilizing against Iran......"

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