Is Jeffrey Goldberg Trying to Rationalize Another Preemptive War In the Middle East?

The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg appears to have come through on his long-awaited cover story outlining the “red lines” for an Israeli military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Judging by Goldberg’s extensive experience with pushing the U.S. into invading Iraq, it’s worth taking a very hard look at his arguments and predictions.

After reading through the Haaretz summary of Goldberg’s article, it appears more likely that he is part of a campaign to push the Obama administration into authorizing a U.S. military strike rather than having any particularly believable scoops about an impending Israeli attack.

The article, which thus far has only been obtained by Haaretz‘s Natasha Mozgovaya, reportedly lays out the scenario in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would give the go-ahead for a massive air strike on suspected Iranian nuclear sites.

Goldberg comes to the conclusion that there is a greater than 50 percent chance that Israel will go forward with such a strike and might not even ask for a “green light” from the United States.

Mozgovaya quotes Goldberg as writing:

“…one day next spring, the Israeli national-security adviser, Uzi Arad, and the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, will simultaneously telephone their counterparts at the White House and the Pentagon, to inform them that their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has just ordered roughly one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran – possibly by crossing Saudi Arabia, possibly by threading the border between Syria and Turkey, and possibly by traveling directly through Iraq’s airspace, though it is crowded with American aircraft….”

Goldberg claims that Israeli officials are very clear that the end of December is Netanyahu’s deadline to evaluate the effectiveness of “non-military methods to stop Iran.”

Mozgovaya writes:

And while Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, reminded Goldberg that “the expression ‘All options are on the table’ means that all options are on the table,” – the Israeli interviewees repeatedly questioned Obama’s resolve to actually do it. Some even asked Goldberg if he thought the American president was actually an anti-Semite, forcing the reporter to explain that Obama is probably “the first Jewish President” – but not necessarily Likud’s idea of a Jew.

But the reply he got from one official was, “This is the problem. If he is a J Street Jew, we are in trouble.”


According to Goldberg, all the Arab officials he spoke to didn’t think that the U.S. administration truly understood Iran’s ambitions. “The best way to avoid striking Iran is to make Iran think that the U.S. is about to strike Iran. We have to know the president’s intentions on this matter. We are his allies,” one Arab minister told Goldberg.

If one takes a moment to look through all the blustering about the potential for a massive Israeli military strike against Iran, it seems fair to ask, “What exactly is being accomplished with these overblown threats?”

A consensus appears to be forming in neoconservative circles that the best way to force the Obama administration to launch a military attack on Iran’s alleged nuclear facilities is to convince the White House that Israel is prepared to attack with or without a green-light from Washington. Of course to make this threat work, hawks need to convince the White House and the U.S. public that the Israelis just might be foolhardy enough to attack unilaterally.

Mozgovaya writes:

The results might be dire: It’s likely that the Israeli air force won’t have much time to waste in Iran, as Hezbollah will probably retaliate against Israel in the North and the fighter jets will be needed there. The unilateral operation might throw relations between Jerusalem and Washington into an unprecedented crisis, and might even unleash full-scale regional war with possible economic repercussions for the whole world, not to mention the cost of human lives.

Jeffrey Goldberg, a Corporal in the Israeli Defense Forces during the first Intifada, would seem like a useful messenger for those seeking to put pressure on Obama to either ramp up sanctions or, ultimately, commit the United States to a potentially disastrous military attack.

Indeed this strategy has been employed in recent months by The Wall Street Journal‘s Bret Stephens who, in his most recent column on Israel’s willingness to go-it-alone on Iran, warns that an Israeli attack is such a disastrous scenario that Obama should reconsider his own military options towards Iran.

Judging from Mozgovaya’s reporting, it looks like Goldberg’s upcoming piece will be  spearheading a campaign to convince the White House, Congress and the U.S. public that Israeli determination to stop Iran’s alleged nuclear program is unstoppable. The likes of Stephens and Goldberg will claim that the only way around a unilateral Israeli military strike on Iran is if the United States and its allies act first.

While their campaign might seem transparent, Goldberg has an impressive track-record of pushing the United States toward wars of choice under false pretenses.

Investigative journalist Ken Silverstein wrote in 2006:

In urging war on Iraq, Goldberg took highly dubious assertions — for example, that Saddam was an irrational madman in control of vast quantities of WMDs and that Iraq and Al Qaeda were deeply in bed together — and essentially asserted them as fact. From these unproven allegations, he demonstrated that an invasion of Iraq was the only rational policy.

I look forward to reading Goldberg’s piece in full to see what further evidence he offers of the “greater than 50-percent chance” of an Israeli military strike in the new year.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.