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By Ray McGovern
You say you expected more rhetoric than reality from Senators Obama and McCain yesterday in their speeches on Iraq and Afghanistan? Well, that's certainly what you got.
What I find nonetheless amazing is how they, and the pundits, have taken such little notice of the dramatic change in the political landscape occasioned by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's bombshell on July 7th at his insistence on a timetable for withdrawal of US troops before any accord is reached on their staying past the turn of the year.
Responding to a question at his press conference yesterday, President George W. Bush showed that he was vaguely aware that the timetable is, as Robert Dreyfuss says (in Truthout, July 7), a "big deal" Bush even alluded haltingly to the possibility of extending the UN mandate still further.
Here's where it gets sticky. No one who knows about third rails in US politics would expect the candidates or the fawning corporate media (FCM) to address how those now running Israel are likely to be looking at the implications of a large US troop withdrawal from Iraq next year.
In answer, I used the acronym OIL. O for oil; I for Israel; and L for Logistics, meaning the military bases deemed by neoconservatives as necessary to protect both. Neither the House members present nor the media people seemed to have any problem with oil and military bases as factors and that in itself is an interesting commentary.
However, the suggestion that one main motive was an attempt to make that part of the Middle East safer for Israel (yes, folks, the neocons really thought that attacking Iraq would do that) well, that was anathema.
As it is anathema today to suggest that this is still one of the main reasons, besides oil, that Elliott Abrams, and other neocons not to mention Vice President Dick Cheney and his team insist we must stay, Maliki and his associates be damned. (See the cartoon in the Washington Times today showing Maliki and words telling him "We are NOT leaving.")
Here in Washington we can sit back and quibble over the implications of such remarks by Maliki and other Iraqi leaders. The Israelis have to take such statements seriously. No agreement on US forces staying into 2009 without a timetable for withdrawal? For Tel Aviv, this is getting very serious.
My guess is the Israeli leaders are apoplectic. The fiasco in Iraq clearly has made the region much more dangerous for Israel. There are actually real "terrorists" and "extremists" now in Iraq, and the prospect of US troops leaving has got to be a cause of acute concern in Tel Aviv.
This dramatic change or even just the specter of it greatly increases Israel's incentive to ensure the kind of US involvement in the area that would have to endure for several years. The Israelis need to create "facts on the ground" something to guarantee that Washington will stand by what U.S. candidates, including Sen. Obama, call "our ally." (Never mind that there is no mutual US-Israel defense treaty.) Israel is all too painfully aware that it has only six more months of Bush and Cheney.
The legislation drafted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) being so zealously promoted in Congress calls for the equivalent of a blockade of Iran. That would be one way to entangle; there are many others.