Meanwhile, Israel, emboldened by the fall of the Soviet Union, the crippling of Saddam Hussein (an arch nemesis of Israel) and having an ally in the Clinton White House, began to depict Iran as a threat to advance its “New Middle East” ambitions. Israeli Prime Minister’s Yitzhak Rabin’s proposal whereby Israel would play a central role in the Middle East required Israel to demonize the only remaining regional power in the Middle East: Iran. That Rabin’s vilification of Iran flew in the face of Israel supplying Iran with weaponry and lobbying the United States to do so throughout the Iran-Iraq war apparently was of no importance.
Utilizing the often repeated but poorly supported myth of Israeli military invincibility, Israel and its lobby in the United States was able to convince the Clinton administration that Israel could replace Saddam as the regional pro-American powerhouse to thwart Iranian influence.
Israeli-AIPAC efforts in the United States quickly bore fruit in the anti-Iran campaign. AIPAC successfully lobbied the Clinton administration and subsequently Congress to halt all U.S. trade with Iran despite Israel continuing trade with Iran. This included cancellation of a $1 billion Iranian oil contract with an American company, Conoco. Although the Conoco deal found support in the State Department and CIA, pro-Israeli forces in the United States ended the deal by way of the Iran Libya Sanctions Act. This also served as the third failed attempt by then Iranian Akbar Hashemi President to normalize relations with the United States and therefore emboldened Iranian hardliners. Simultaneously, then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich publicly secured $18 million for covert operations against Iran while arguing for regime change.
9/11 would considerably raise the stakes. With the rise of neo-conservatism in the United States, the Israeli lobby found a welcoming ear in their quest for regional expansion. The Israel lobby’s role in pushing the United States to invading Iraq is well documented.
Iran saw the writing on the wall. Indeed, neo-conservatives were not ambiguous about their ambitions for regime change in Iran. Such voices manifested themselves via official means by way of President Bush’s Axis of Evil speech in 2002 vilifying Iran despite Iran providing the Americans with crucial support in defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan. This resulted in Iran converting its cooperation with the United States in Afghanistan into subversion.
Oddly, the United States did not have a concrete plan in place to invade Iran after toppling Saddam. The Bush administration did not conduct war games or simulations on this topic.
Nevertheless, Iran offered the United States and Israel the 2003 grand bargain (which has received little attention in American mainstream media) whereby the two countries would normalize relations, Iran would offer full access to its nuclear, chemical and biological tech programs, cooperation on fighting terrorism, assistance in stabilizing post-Saddam Iraq and pressuring Palestinian opposition groups to stop violence against Israel. The proposal even offered to disarm the Lebanese Hezbollah. The Bush administration and Israel instead decided to pursue regime change and rejected the grand bargain.
Coupled with American incompetence in stabilizing post-Saddam Iraq (e.g. Paul Bremer’s de-Baathification policy), U.S. and Israeli announcements for regime change convinced the Iranian regime to not only subvert American efforts in Iraq, but to take advantage of the power vacuum that the American invasion created and expand Iranian influence in Iraq. Rather than becoming a launching pad for an American invasion of Iran, post-Saddam Iraq turned into an Iranian ally.
Iran’s increased strength and expansion throughout the Middle East pushed Saudi Arabia and Israel closer together. The two countries had always had an unusual alliance. The Saudi Kingdom’s rise to power in the country significantly owes a debt to the British favoring the Ibn Saud family (the current ruling family in Saudi Arabia) over the Hashemites (the would be ruling family in Saudi Arabia). Part of the British preference was due to the Ibn Saud family’s approval of the creation of the state of Israel as per Britain’s Balfour Declaration. Recently, Saudi Royalists and Zionist hardliners have found a common enemy in Iran and decided that it would be convenient to reinforce their alliance.
However, the United States, Israel nor Saudi Arabia has the ability to overthrow the Iranian regime by way of overt military force. American military plans in the late 1990s asserted that toppling the Islamic Republic by force would require three years of fighting and at least half a million troops. Such plans and the estimates upon which they were premised were based on circumstances that predated the Iranian regime’s entrenchment in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Currently, therefore, it is logical to conclude that the current cost to topple the clerical regime in Iran is much higher. As such, the three countries have resorted to a propaganda war in hopes of weakening Iran and creating the conditions necessary for regime change.