Netanyahu, Other Iraq Hawks, Try to Push U.S. Into War With Iran

03/02/2015 09:37 am ET | Updated May 02, 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will speak before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, will try to convince lawmakers to scuttle a potential agreement being negotiated between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers.

The agreement is intended is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb.

It would gradually eliminate worldwide economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for actions that would prevent the country from using its civilian nuclear program to build a nuclear bomb.

In an unprecedented move, House Speaker John Boehner has invited Netanyahu to address Congress without consulting the president -- or the Democratic leadership in Congress. The plan for the speech was hatched by Boehner and the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer -- a former Republican political operative.

Boehner apparently hoped to score partisan political points by undercutting support for President Obama and Democrats among pro-Israeli Americans. If he is successful, he will shatter a decades-old tradition of bipartisan support for Israel. That, of course, would be terrible for Israel.

But Boehner, Dermer and Netanyahu also have another, even more destructive goal. They hope to tube the negotiations and prevent the potential agreement with Iran -- and with it, the hope that Iran can be prevented from obtaining a nuclear weapon without a war.

In fact, precisely the same crowd of neocon foreign policy hawks that led America into the tragic War in Iraq is behind the current attempt to launch a war with Iran.

The fact is that if America and the rest of the world cannot negotiate an agreement with Iran that prevents that country from obtaining a nuclear weapon, it will be left with two bad options: either accept a nuclear Iran, or launch another war in the Middle East.

The neocon crowd -- including Netanyahu -- claims that they want us to impose even tougher sanctions. And they insist that Iran agree to terms that they know would never be accepted by the Tehran government. That's because they don't want a negotiated deal; they want the U.S. to launch a military strike against Iran that would effect "regime change." This is exactly the same line of argument that led the U.S. into the Iraq quagmire.

The Iraq War kicked over the sectarian hornet's nest in the Middle East and created the conditions that ultimately spawned al-Qaeda in Iraq -- which didn't exist before the U.S. invasion. And al-Qaeda in Iraq subsequently morphed into the Islamic State, which is now terrorizing millions of Iraqis and Syrians.

The War in Iraq killed and maimed thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. It created millions of refugees, cost American taxpayers trillions of dollars, and sullied America's reputation around the world.

Finally, the War in Iraq massively strengthened the strategic position of Iran.


The War in Iraq was the worst foreign policy disaster in half a century. Yet unbelievably, the neocons who promoted it are back -- attacking the judgment of the president, who had the wisdom to oppose the Iraq War from the start -- and holding themselves out as hard-nosed foreign policy "realists."

In fact, of course, they were not only dead wrong about the policy, and dead wrong when they argued that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and an ongoing nuclear program.

When Americans listen to Netanyahu on Tuesday, they should remember another round of testimony that he made to a congressional committee in 2002. The testimony took place in between his stints as Israeli Prime Minister. He was billed to the committee as a "foreign policy expert."

Netanyahu testified that "there is no question whatsoever that Saddam is seeking and is working and is advancing toward the development of nuclear weapons -- no question whatsoever."

He went on to say, "Saddam is hell-bent on achieving nuclear capabilities as soon as he can."

He advocated a preemptive strike against Iraq, arguing that the only way to prevent Iraq from developing a nuclear weapon -- and other weapons of mass destruction -- was regime change.

His position mirrored Bush's National Security Advisor Condi Rice's famous statement that if we wait for a "smoking gun," it may be a mushroom cloud.

Of course, Netanyahu and Rice -- as well as Bush and Cheney and the whole neocon chorus -- were wrong. After the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. never found weapons of mass destruction of any sort, nor did we find an active nuclear weapons program.

American troops were not welcomed as "liberators" as Cheney had predicted. The war did not, as Bush advisor Paul Wolfowitz claimed it would, end in months. And reconstruction was not, as they argued, paid for entirely by oil revenues from Iraq.

The Bush administration was irate when its own treasury secretary testified that the war would cost as much as $200 billion. Oh, no, much, much less, they said. In fact, according to a 2013 study released by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, the total cost as of that date was $1.7 trillion. The study also found that counting an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades, counting interest. Astounding.

Everything about their predictions and the policy they supported were proven empirically wrong -- and now they have the audacity to propose doing it all over again.

Sitting behind Netanyahu at his 2002 testimony to Congress was the young Ron Dermer, now the Israeli ambassador.

And it is worth noting that one of the top foreign policy staff for the House Republican leadership is Robert Story Karem, who worked for Dick Cheney when he was Vice President and the chief architect of the War in Iraq.

Netanyahu has always opposed a nuclear deal with Iran. In November 2013, when the U.S. and other powers signed the interim deal freezing Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the elimination of a few selected sanctions, Netanyahu said the deal was the "deal of the century for Iran" -- and would not stop Iran's nuclear program.

In fact, the agreement has led to massive increases in transparency about the Iran civilian nuclear program, and its terms appear to have been strictly adhered to.

Under Bush and Cheney Iran increased the number of its centrifuges for the purification of uranium from 164 to over 19,000. Since the interim deal there has been no increase whatsoever.

In 2012 Netanyahu made a speech claiming that Tehran was less than a year away from obtaining a nuclear weapon. According to The Guardian, weeks after his speech the Israeli intelligence service -- the Mossad -- shared a report with South African intelligence concluding that Iran was "not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons."

Of course, there are many hawks in the Iranian political elite -- just as there are in the United States. If Congress takes action that collapses the nuclear negotiations, it will massively strengthen the political position of Iranian hard-liners who do indeed want Iran to violate their obligations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and build a nuclear weapon. They will argue that the congressional action proves that the West is not interested in a peaceful agreement.

Worse, such action could also cause the collapse of the worldwide sanctions regime that was successful in bringing Iran to the table in the first place. Remember that sanctions are only effective if they involve many countries -- not simply the United States. The U.S. economic embargo on Cuba lasted over 50 years. For most of that time, it only involved the U.S. It never changed the policy of the Cuban government. It only strengthened their political support and their unwillingness to open Cuban society.

If other powers in the world believe the U.S. caused the collapse of the talks, they are very likely to abandon sanctions. That would mean that the Iran hawks who say they want tougher sanctions would get just the opposite of what they say they seek.

On the other hand, it might give them what many of them really want -- a choice between a nuclear Iran and war.

Last week a new YouGov poll found that Americans support the interim agreement with Iran 63 percent to 21 percent. And in answer to the question "Do you think the United States should or should not go to war with Iran if that country refuses to negotiate an end to its nuclear weapons development program?" Americans oppose war by more than 2 to 1 -- 53 percent to 23 percent.

But that is not stopping the pro-war neocon crowd -- including Benjamin Netanyahu -- from trying to stampede the country to war the same way they did in in Iraq.

What's the old saying that Bush famously mangled? "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

Robert Creamer is a longtime political organizer and strategist and the author of the book Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a senior strategist for Americans United for Change.