Congress Seeks Netanyahu’s Direction

Exclusive: Conservative Pat Buchanan once got in trouble by calling Capitol Hill “Israeli occupied territory,” but even he might not imagine what’s happening now with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu invited to address a joint session of Congress to decry President Obama’s foreign policy, Robert Parry notes.

By Robert Parry (Updated on Jan. 24, 2015, with additional comment by Oren.)

Showing who some in Congress believe is the real master of U.S. foreign policy, House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session and offer a rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s comments on world affairs in his State of the Union speech.

Boehner made clear that Netanyahu’s third speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress scheduled for Feb. 11 was meant to counter Obama’s assessments. “There is a serious threat in the world, and the President last night kind of papered over it,” Boehner said on Wednesday. “And the fact is that there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about how serious the threat is from radical Islamic jihadists and the threat posed by Iran.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The scheduling of Netanyahu’s speech caught the White House off-guard, since the Israeli prime minister had apparently not bothered to clear his trip with the administration. The Boehner-Netanyahu arrangement demonstrates a mutual contempt for this President’s authority to conduct American foreign policy as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.

In the past when Netanyahu has spoken to Congress, Republicans and Democrats have competed to show their devotion by quickly and frequently leaping to their feet to applaud almost every word out of the Israeli prime minister’s mouth. By addressing a joint session for a third time, Netanyahu would become only the second foreign leader to do so, joining British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who never used the platform to demean the policies of a sitting U.S. president.

Besides this extraordinary recognition of another country’s leader as the true definer of U.S. foreign policy, Boehner’s move reflects an ignorance of what is actually occurring on the ground in the Middle East. Boehner doesn’t seem to realize that Netanyahu has developed what amounts to a de facto alliance with extremist Sunni forces in the region.

Not only is Israel now collaborating behind the scenes with Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist leadership but Israel has begun taking sides militarily in support of the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Syrian civil war. A source familiar with U.S. intelligence information on Syria said Israel has a “non-aggression pact” with Nusra forces that control territory adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The quiet cooperation between Israel and al-Qaeda’s affiliate was further underscored on Sunday when Israeli helicopters attacked and killed advisers to the Syrian military from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran. In other words, Israel has dispatched its forces into Syria to kill military personnel helping to fight al-Nusra. Iran later confirmed that one of its generals had died in the Israeli strike.

Israel’s tangled alliances with Sunni forces have been taking shape over the past several years, as Israel and Saudi Arabia emerged as strange bedfellows in the geopolitical struggle against Shiite-ruled Iran and its allies in Iraq, Syria and southern Lebanon. Both Saudi and Israeli leaders have talked with growing alarm about this “Shiite crescent” stretching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon.

Favoring Sunni Extremists

Senior Israelis have made clear they would prefer Sunni extremists to prevail in the Syrian civil war rather than President Bashar al-Assad, who is an Alawite, a branch of Shiite Islam. Assad’s relatively secular government is seen as the protector of Shiites, Christians and other minorities who fear the vengeful brutality of the Sunni jihadists who now dominate the anti-Assad rebels.

In one of the most explicit expressions of Israel’s views, its Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, a close adviser to Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post in September 2013 that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

And, if you might have thought that Oren had misspoken, he reiterated his position in June 2014 at an Aspen Institute conference. Then, speaking as a former ambassador, Oren said Israel would even prefer a victory by the Islamic State, which was then massacring captured Iraqi soldiers and beheading Westerners, than the continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria.

“From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” Oren said.

Saudi Arabia shares Israeli’s strategic view that “the Shiite crescent” must be broken and has thus developed a rapport with Netanyahu’s government in a kind of “enemy of my enemy is my friend” relationship. But some rank-and-file Jewish supporters of Israel have voiced concerns about Israel’s newfound alliance with the Saudi monarchy, especially given its adherence to ultraconservative Wahhabi Islam and its embrace of a fanatical hatred of Shiite Islam, a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites that dates back 1,400 years.

Though President Obama has repeatedly declared his support for Israel, he has developed a contrary view from Netanyahu’s regarding what is the gravest danger in the Middle East. Obama considers the radical Sunni jihadists, associated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, to be the biggest threat to Western interests and U.S. national security.

That has put him in a different de facto alliance with Iran and the Syrian government since they represent the strongest bulwarks against Sunni jihadists who have targeted Americans and other Westerners for death.

What Boehner doesn’t seem to understand is that Israel and Saudi Arabia have placed themselves on the side of the Sunni jihadists who now represent the frontline fight against the “Shiite crescent.” If Netanyahu succeeds in enlisting the United States in violently forcing Syrian “regime change,” the U.S. government likely would be facilitating the growth in power of the Sunni extremists, not containing them.

But the influential American neoconservatives want to synch U.S. foreign policy with Israel’s and thus have pressed for a U.S. bombing campaign against Assad’s forces (even if that would open the gates of Damascus to the Nusra Front or the Islamic State). The neocons also want an escalation of tensions with Iran by sabotaging an agreement to ensure that its nuclear program is not used for military purposes.

The neocons have long wanted to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran as part of their “regime change” strategy for the Middle East. That is why Obama’s openness to a permanent agreement for tight constraints on Iran’s nuclear program is seen as a threat by Netanyahu, the neocons and their congressional allies because it would derail hopes for militarily attacking Iran.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama made clear that he perceives the brutal Islamic State, which he calls “ISIL” for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as the principal current threat to Western interests in the Middle East and the clearest terror threat to the United States and Europe. Obama proposed “a smarter kind of American leadership” that would cooperate with allies in “stopping ISIL’s advance” without “getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East.”

Working with Putin

Thus, Obama, who might be called a “closet realist,” is coming to the realization that the best hope for blocking the advances of Sunni jihadi terror and minimizing U.S. military involvement is through cooperation with Iran and its regional allies. That also puts Obama on the same side with Russian President Vladimir Putin who has faced Sunni terrorism in Chechnya and is supporting both Iran’s leaders and Syria’s Assad in their resistance to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

Obama’s “realist” alliance, in turn, presents a direct threat to Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran represents an “existential threat” to Israel and that the “Shiite crescent” must be destroyed. There is also fear among Israeli right-wingers that an effective Obama-Putin collaboration could ultimately force Israel into accepting a Palestinian state.

So, Netanyahu and the U.S. neocons believe they must do whatever is necessary to shatter this tandem of Obama, Putin and Iran. That is one reason why the neocons were at the forefront of fomenting “regime change” against Ukraine’s elected pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last year. By splintering Ukraine on Russia’s border, the neocons drove a wedge between Obama and Putin. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit.”]

Even the slow-witted mainstream U.S. media has begun to pick up on the story of the emerging Israeli-Saudi alliance. In the Jan. 19 issue of Time magazine, correspondent Joe Klein noted the new coziness between top Israeli and Saudi officials.

He wrote: “On May 26, 2014, an unprecedented public conversation took place in Brussels. Two former high-ranking spymasters of Israel and Saudi Arabia Amos Yadlin and Prince Turki al-Faisal sat together for more than an hour, talking regional politics in a conversation moderated by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.

“They disagreed on some things, like the exact nature of an Israel-Palestine peace settlement, and agreed on others: the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat, the need to support the new military government in Egypt, the demand for concerted international action in Syria. The most striking statement came from Prince Turki. He said the Arabs had ‘crossed the Rubicon’ and ‘don’t want to fight Israel anymore.’”

Not only did Prince Turki offer an olive branch to Israel, he indicated agreement on what the two countries consider their most pressing strategic interests: Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s civil war. In other words, in noting this extraordinary meeting, Klein had stumbled upon the odd-couple alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia though he didn’t fully understand what he was seeing.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Obama had shifted his position on Syria as the West made a “quiet retreat from its demand” that Assad “step down immediately.” The article by Anne Barnard and Somini Sengupta noted that the Obama administration still wanted Assad to exit eventually “but facing military stalemate, well-armed jihadists and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the United States is going along with international diplomatic efforts that could lead to more gradual change in Syria.”

At the center of that diplomatic initiative was Russia, again reflecting Obama’s recognition of the need to cooperate with Putin on resolving some of these complex problems (although Obama did include in his speech some tough-guy rhetoric against Russia over Ukraine, taking some pleasure in how Russia’s economy is now “in tatters”).

But the underlying reality is that the United States and Assad’s regime have become de facto allies, fighting on the same side in the Syrian civil war, much as Israel had, in effect, sided with al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front by killing Hezbollah and Iranian advisers to the Syrian military.

The Times article noted that the shift in Obama’s position on Syrian peace talks “comes along with other American actions that Mr. Assad’s supporters and opponents take as proof Washington now believes that if Mr. Assad is ousted, there will be nothing to check the spreading chaos and extremism.

“American planes now bomb the Islamic State group’s militants in Syria, sharing skies with Syrian jets. American officials assure Mr. Assad, through Iraqi intermediaries, that Syria’s military is not their target. The United States still trains and equips Syrian insurgents, but now mainly to fight the Islamic State, not the government.”

Yet, as Obama adjusts U.S. foreign policy to take into account the complex realities in the Middle East, he now faces another front in this conflict from the U.S. Congress, which has long been held in thrall by the Israel lobby.

Not only has Speaker Boehner appealed to Netanyahu to deliver what amounts to a challenge to President Obama’s foreign policy but congressional neocons are even accusing Obama’s team of becoming Iranian stooges. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a Democratic neocon, said, “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.”

If indeed Netanyahu does end up addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress, its members would face a stark choice of either embracing Israel’s foreign policy as America’s or backing the decisions made by the elected President of the United States.

[For more on Obama and the neocons, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons: The Anti-Realists.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

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17 comments for “Congress Seeks Netanyahu’s Direction

  1. Craig Jones
    January 22, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    It’s a good thing the Shiites and Sunnis hate each other, think what the middle east would be like if they all got along.

  2. Brendan
    January 22, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    Because of their common enemies in Iran and Hezbollah, Israel is now an ally of an Al Qaeda militant group, Al Nusra. It’s also an ally of Saudi Arabia, the country that bankrolls that Al Qaeda group and which produced fifteen of the nineteen September 11 hijackers, as well the Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden who had close family and business ties to the Saudi royal family.

    That makes Capitol Hill not just Israeli occupied territory, as Pat Buchanan put it, but also Saudi and Al Qaeda occupied territory.

    That won’t stop Netanyahu from lecturing the US Congress on how Hezbollah and their ally Hamas are fanatics just like the Islamic State/ ISIL. Never mind that ISIL is another Al Qaeda offshoot who have benefited from western attempts to destabilise the secular Syrian government.

    • Peter Loeb
      January 24, 2015 at 7:47 am

      Thanks of Parry and commenter Brendan.
      The US, both Congressional and Executive,
      praise Saudi Arabia while organizing for
      more warlike attacks on the primary
      source of ISIS income. Saudia Arabia has also apparently acted in concert with Israel (undocumented) to frighten Jews in other nations such as France, the UK of “anti-Semitism”, fabricated hate from which Israel intends to benefit.

      This seems like a variation on the attacks
      on Jews in Iraq orchestrated by Ben Gurion. The Jewish c ommunity there fearing “anti-Semitism” fled to Israel which had orchestrated the attacks in the first place. The use of Saudi Arabria is more complicated but achieves the identical effect for Israel.

      —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA USA

  3. Greg Driscoll
    January 22, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    Just imagine what the Republicans would have said in late 2002 if the Democratic leadership had invited Jacques Chirac to address them about his opposition to Bush & Cheney’s war-drums and prep for the later illegal invasion of Iraq? We would have heard a whole bunch of rants about disrespect for the office and powers of the President, etc., etc. — but of course the Dems didn’t do that because most of them had (and still have) the same irrational and anti-factual mind-set of Bush/Cheney and now Barack Obama, Mr. “Bush-lite’. And Obama’s reaction now? – he said he won’t meet with Netanyahu when he comes (at least publicly, that is.) So the White House press corps should keep their eyes peeled for people entering the Executive Mansion in disguise…probably drag…or dressed as an Arab…

  4. MrK
    January 22, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    The neocons but really the Rothschild-Rockefellers like Madeleine Albright (google: rothschild albright helios), Zbigniew Brezinski (co-founder of the Trilateral Commission with David Rockefeller) like, need and want war with Iran. Also, they and their Saudis allies want to get rid of their Iranian and Russian oil rivals.

    Read Brzezinski’s 1998 The Grand Chessboard – American Primacy And It’s Geostrategic Imperatives (available at Amazon, or for free online in pdf format). It is a world with no place for any organized state on the Eurasian landmass east of the EU’s core countries. Therefore Russia, China, India have to go.

    Therefore, all peace with Iran is treason.

  5. Rose Day
    January 22, 2015 at 10:12 pm

    “No-No Netanyahu”
    The crass ‘in your face’ aspect of the ‘invitation’ is astonishing and as a US citizen I find John Boehner’s approach offensive. Netanyahu could benefit from ‘tending to the beam in his country’s eye before attending to the motes in the eyes of others’…advice that Boehner might also consider.

  6. Jay
    January 23, 2015 at 12:20 am

    I see the infamous Michael Gordon contributed reporting to that New York Times “reporting”.

    Meaning the reporting needs to be gone over with a fine tooth comb.

  7. spoonful
    January 23, 2015 at 1:16 am

    This article provides a nice metaphor for the entirety of the world’s current geopolitical situation. However, I still cannot understand why Israel takes the side of Sunni Islam over the Shia (Netanyahoo’s cartoon bomb, notwithstanding).

  8. Chet Roman
    January 23, 2015 at 2:35 am

    There is no way that it was Boehner’s original idea to invite Netanyahoo. With Israeli elections on the horizon Netanyahoo had his agents in Congress advise Boehner that as his Shabbat Goy he should invite him. And the other Israeli stooge, Menendez, spews a script written by the Likud.

    Remember Netanyahoo said. “America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction.”

    The arrogance of the Zionists is reaching a tipping point where their actions will “jump the shark” and the public will act against the treasonous conduct of our politicians and Israeli agents in our government. Hopefully, it’s before we get into another neocon/Zionist war.

    • JWalters
      January 23, 2015 at 9:02 pm

      I agree completely, and share your hope. This development is a direct continuation of its historical foundations, described in “War Profiteers and the Roots of the War on Terror” at
      http://warprofiteerstory.blogspot.com

  9. alexander horatio
    January 23, 2015 at 6:44 am

    Dear Mr Parry,
    I want to thank you for another intelligent , well wrought and well informed article.
    .I have enjoyed your articles in the past and this is by no means an exception.
    It may come as a surprise to many, but not all, that Israel is in affiliation with Al Nusra in Syria….
    But I am not sure the goal of “regime change” in Syria is the reason for it……because I do not believe ANY regime in Syria (even the kindest) is satisfactory to the current government in Israel……
    What is not satisfactory to Israel…is in fact…the nation state of Syria, itself ,in so far as it retains the UN Security Councils recognition of the “Golan Heights” as its legitimate and sovereign territory………
    It is impossible to “undo” the universal recognition of the “Golan Heights” as part of Syria within the Security Council ……Even the US is a signatory to the resolution…..but it may be possible, with the help of “Al Nusra”, the Free Syrian Army, ISIS, and whomever else…..to dis – integrate, balkanize, and shatter Syria into multiple tribal regions….and cleave off the “Golan” by proxy ,over time….
    Israel will certainly NOT have to return the “Golan” to Syria…..if there is NO “Syria”, left, to give it back to………
    The “rolling back” of Syria’s legitimate sovereign territory seems to be the end goal of the current civil war…and with a fully acquiescent congress in thrall to Mr. Netanyahu……one can expect the conflict to continue for a long….long time !

  10. January 24, 2015 at 4:41 am

    I think Obama and Kerry had a good ostensible reason for turning down a meeting with Netanyahu — the excuse was that such a meeting could be seen as a desire by the White House to influence the Israeli elections. IF Obama had agreed to the meeting, then he’d be seen as weak, submitting to Republican arm-twisting, so he is doing the right thing.

    Remember, Netanyahu’s arrival is right around the time of the annual AIPAC meeting, so it’s not like Netanyahu will be wasting a trip for nothing. The Republicans are trying to skewer (for lack of a better word) Obama and make him look bad, but they will make themselves look bad to everyone except Israel-firsters, Neocons, and other thoughtless Republicans. By extension, Israel will also look bad to their critics in the rest of the world. It was however, essentially a Republican act, not an Israeli one in my opinion.

  11. pdlane
    January 24, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    The real question is .. Did Boehner violate the Logan Act…??
    Re: The Logan Act (1 Stat., 30 January 1799, currently codified at 18 U.S.C.) is a United States federal law that forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.

  12. Dieter Heymann
    January 24, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    Many comments have focused on the issue whether the Speaker of the House had the authority to invite Mr. Netanyahu to address the Congress. Here is what I think would have been legal. Pass a binding resolution by Congress which demands that the President must invite Mr. Netanyahu to address Congress on a given date. Hence I hold that what Speaker Boehner did is illegal because he is not authorized to do this all on his own. Does he really believe that he has also the authority of his own to declare war on some country? It seems to me that what he did is no different from declaring war on, say, Iran.

  13. January 25, 2015 at 12:13 am

    Interesting article, but missing the much bigger picture: Obama, Netanyahu and Boehner are merely actors in some sinister dance to lead (mislead?) humanity into war, fear, poverty that is reminiscent of Plato’s cave.

    The power struggle between these sinister individuals is mostly apparent. In reality, as they showed in their common commitment to censoring the 9/11 false flag, they probably answer to the same Masters. Accordingly, people who worry about the consequences of Netanyahu’s next congressional speech would be more useful to humanity if they pondered how to neutralize his Masters. But this is another story.

    Love,

  14. Dav McLa
    January 25, 2015 at 11:44 pm

    very well crafted analysis, and several commensurate comments already. ..

    skilled controversy about American foreign affairs is appropriate for a healthy democracy striving to reach constructive conclusions and agreements, the basis for official policies and results that citizens deserve. a breach of traditional protocol is not necessarily a breaking of law. at least, it is a jolt to break up a logjam, at worse, it could make matters worse. most likely, most want to study Bibi’s address before fellow politicians. and certainly, back channels between his government and Obama’s remain very mostly secret and enduring. that so many are learning about several relationships the two are developing might surprise many–and such are more important than any quibbling about protocol. most stories about protocol are usually on a par with headlines that Her Highness personally poured tea for guests during some brunch somewhere in London, or vice versa, etc. let’s just see how many really resonate on that string when the string is plucked in all the right circles of authority coast to coast and beyond! and some likely will know what strings are truly pulled!

  15. January 28, 2015 at 4:22 am

    Dear Mr. Boehner.
    Did you request that Mr. Netenyaho change the date of His ‘Reply to the State of the/Our Union’ – to Your/our US Congress from Jan to Mar. or was that a simple directive from him to You/us/ all??
    Ah! If only Nevill had [you know who] speak to Parliament following “Peace in our Time” – in 39 – imagine what our world might be like today?
    Sincerely,
    ricknyc

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