Reprinted from Mondoweiss
Co-written by James North
The press is reporting criticisms of President Obama for wiretapping Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But Obama did the right and necessary thing.
Let's do a thought experiment. Let's say Netanyahu and his allies in the Congress (including many Democrats) had succeeded in sabotaging the Iran Deal this year. What are the possible outcomes? These Israel-loving US politicians claimed they wanted a better deal, but it was plainly impossible. The Russians, for instance, were on board with this deal; they are Iran's ally, so they would not come back to Vienna to drive a harder bargain.
So there would be no deal. And no doubt: there are rightwing elements within Iran, pushing to go nuclear. In another five or ten years, Iran gets small nuclear weapons -- which completely destabilizes the Middle East. Israel, by now with an even more far-right-wing government, bombs Iran like the Iraq/Osirak strike of 1981. And the far rightists in power in Iran demand retaliation, and we get what is euphemistically called "a limited nuclear exchange."
Can you imagine how much death destruction and unrest a "limited nuclear exchange" would unleash?
And the US is dragged in with who can say what hellish consequences because, like it or not, America is still the policeman of the world. Washington tries to hold Israel back, but can't.
So if you think things are bad now, look at how the Middle East would look in a few years with no Iran Deal. A nuclear exchange. In a volatile nuclearized Middle East, that would drag the U.S. into a spreading regional conflict, which makes the current crisis look like a tea party.
President Obama wasn't just trying to score political points against a bitter rival in authorizing the wiretap. He was addressing the major threat in the near-to-medium future to not just stability in the Middle East but to overall world peace. The president was very clear about this goal. He did not at any stage say, we're trying to strengthen the moderates in Iran and bring Iran back to the community of nations. It wasn't about the Israeli occupation (though it has surely increased world pressure on the occupation). It wasn't about the American hostages either. It was straightforward: We're trying to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons in the only way possible, because an Iran with nuclear weapons would destabilize the Middle East.
Obama was trying to do a principled thing, a courageous undertaking that he struggled to get through the Congress, spending considerable political capital to do so. And he did so in the interests first and foremost of the people of the United States.
In trying to stave off this threat to world peace, he used serious tactics, yes -- which included wiretaps on the Israeli prime minister. He needed to know what this man was capable of doing.
Remember, Benjamin Netanyahu had come to this country without the invitation of the president, in fact defying the president, and addressed both houses of Congress to oppose the president. This was an unprecedented step by an unprincipled, politically cunning, desperate man, who would, as he demonstrated in March (with racist appeals to Israeli voters), do anything to hold on to his office. Netanyahu sought to compromise US sovereignty, but this is really not about sovereignty in the end; it is about world peace.
For world peace, President Obama had to know what this wily, dishonest man was doing to sink the deal.
P.S. The press and the politicians are missing this story. The Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, says he'll have a hearing on the spying.