Matt Duss: The Alternate Reality of Linkage Deniers

The Center for American Progress’ Matt Duss has a piece up on Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel. He points to the ample evidence in the WikiLeaks cables that Arab leaders see the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a serious impediment to containing and deterring an increasingly powerful Iran.

Jim Lobe and I wrote an IPS article last week challenging the right-wing talking points that the WikiLeaks cables were a nail in the coffin for those in the Obama administration who believe, as does the military’s top leadership, that linkage is an important concept if the U.S. is going to contain Iran and withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Duss writes:

Basically, the “linkage” argument holds that continued irresolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hinders America’s ability to achieve its national security goals in the region, both by serving as a driver of extremism and a source of anti-American sentiment. Critics of the argument contend that the significance of the conflict has been vastly overblown, and that “the Palestinian issue” is simply an excuse used by violent extremists and lacking genuine salience among Arabs, despite what they may say in public.

Duss reviews the many WikiLeaks cables in which Arab diplomats endorse the concept of linkage and the countless op-eds from Iran hawks claiming that WikiLeaks shows that Arab leaders don’t care about Palestinians or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He writes:

All of this would seem to demonstrate the bankruptcy of the linkage argument. In reality, what it demonstrates is the willingness of some analysts to ignore evidence.

But, despite the overwhelming evidence in the cables, hawkish groups such as the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) have shown a shocking willingness to misrepresent and twist the words of Arab leaders and the Foreign Service Officers who wrote the cables.

Duss concludes:

It is of course true that hostility toward Israel and its U.S. patron will not simply dissipate upon the end of Israel’s occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state — the completeness of that de-occupation, and the contours of that state, matter greatly. There are also problems and pathologies in the Middle East that have nothing to do with Israelis or Palestinians. Securing a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will, however, make addressing some of those problems easier, by sealing up one well of resentment from which demagogues and extremists have for decades drawn freely and profitably.

Indeed, the WikiLeaks cables provide abundant evidence that Arab leaders collectively agree that containing Iran–and in the process weakening Hezbollah and Hamas–requires removing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the lightening rod for anti-West, anti-Israel and anti-U.S. sentiments in the Middle East.

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.