The Passionate Attachment

America's entanglement with Israel

Joseph Braude: The Persian Spring’s Pro-Israel Herald?

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By Maidhc Ó Cathail
The Passionate Attachment
November 13, 2012

In a November 12 article in Tablet Magazine entitled “Saudis’ Proxy War Against Iran,” Joseph Braude writes:

Extensive reporting from local sources in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states reveals that several countries surrounding Iran are beginning to back the country’s ethnic dissidents as a way of waging a proxy war against the mullahs. In Saudi Arabia, media and clerical elites recently mobilized to raise public awareness about the situation of Ahwazi Arabs, frame their cause as a national liberation struggle, and urge Arabs and Muslims to support them. Saudi donors are providing money and technological support to Ahwazi dissidents seeking to wage their own public information campaign, calling on Ahwazis to rise up against their rulers. The Saudi initiatives, in turn, join ongoing ventures by Azerbaijan and Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government to organize and train other dissident groups.

Hinting at his agenda in writing the piece, Braude adds:

“These players seem poised to escalate in the months to come, whether Americans or Israelis attempt to work with them or not.”

Then, in a rhetorical style reminiscent of think tank fellows affecting objectivity as they strive to influence U.S. Middle East policy in a pro-Israel direction, Braude concludes on an ostensibly cautious note, weaving both idealist and realist strands into his argument:

This regional proxy war, now escalating, is morally questionable: Should ethnic groups’ legitimate political aspirations be exploited for other purposes? Should attacks on civilian targets, such as mosques, ever be sanctioned? It is also strategically questionable: Will some of these dissidents go on to support a radical agenda and attack the West? Is the fragmenting of Iran into several states in the long-term interest of the region and the United States.? For all its tradeoffs, it belongs in both the public discussion and the quieter conversations about our next steps on Iran policy.

However, if the experience of Iraq, Libya and Syria is any guide, that “public discussion” and those “quieter conversations” will amount to little more than Israel partisans advising American policymakers that their next steps should be to “work with” the Saudi-backed Iranian dissidents as part of the broader Israeli-driven campaign of, what Braude describes as, “bleeding the regime.”

While the piece appears in “a daily online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture” which features some of America’s staunchest supporters of Israel, the author’s bio offers no definitive indication of a pro-Israel agenda:

Joseph Braude, a Middle East specialist, broadcasts a weekly commentary in Arabic on Morocco’s Radio MED network. He is the author, most recently, of The Honored Dead: A Story of Friendship, Murder, and the Search for Truth in the Arab World.

On closer inspection, however, the Middle East specialist’s “search for truth in the Arab world” would appear to be somewhat less than disinterested.

On his return from a summer 2003 trip to Iraq, Braude was questioned in New York’s JFK airport and later charged with smuggling three 4,000-year-old stone seals, part of a collection at the Iraqi National Museum that was looted in the predictable post-invasion chaos. The much-travelled author later claimed that his visit was “as much about reconnecting with his past, visiting the neighborhood where his mother was born, as it was about getting information to update a book he had written about rebuilding the country.” That past, he told the New York Times, included his great-great-grandfather who happened to be “the last chief rabbi of a once-thriving Jewish community in Baghdad.”

In that relatively friendly New York Times article, the Hebrew-speaking Braude had one particularly revealing defender:

Mr. Woolsey, the former C.I.A. director, said that he was ”extremely surprised” when he learned that Mr. Braude was being charged with smuggling artifacts. Mr. Braude had quietly assisted the United States in counterterrorism operations during his education at Yale and Princeton and later as a consultant.

”I’m aware that he has been helpful to the U.S. government on matters related to terrorism,” said Mr. Woolsey, adding that Mr. Braude had expressed a willingness in helping Iraqis to build a free press. ”He’s very interested in the cultural underpinnings of establishing a democracy and a free society,” he said. Mr. Woolsey said that, whatever the trial’s outcome, people should ”not run away from what I think is an excellent set of ideas about Iraq’s future.”

In order to assess the value of the counterterrorism assistance provided to the United States by the helpful young Jewish American advocate of Iraqi liberation, it’s worth noting that James Woolsey has long been associated with some of the most hawkish elements in the Israel lobby, not least of which includes his membership of the advisory board of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, founded to advocate on behalf of “a strong U.S. security relationship with Israel and other like-minded democracies.”

Such are the friends of “freedom” in the Middle East.

Maidhc Ó Cathail is an investigative journalist and Middle East analyst. He is also the creator and editor of The Passionate Attachment blog, which focuses primarily on the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

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Written by Maidhc Ó Cathail

November 13, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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