by Joe Shea
September 13, 2012
CONNECTING THE DOTS IN MIDDLE EAST EVENTS
BRADENTON, Fla., Sept. 13, 2012 -- As a onetime foreign correspondent who wrote from places like Northern Ireland, Iran, Pakistan, India, Vietnam and the Philippines, I see the riots in Cairo, the assassination in Benghazi and the friction in U.S-Israeli relations as part of one picture: a portrait of the Middle Eastern world preparing for war between Iran and Israel.
There is no glue between the events in Libya and Egypt, and today's demonstrations in Yemen, Morocco, Sudan, Iraq, Iran and Tunisia, except a deluded Israeli-American's amateurish, offensive film about the Prophet Mohammad - in one scene the director has the Prophet put his head between a woman's legs to see for himself there is no "devil" there.
But its release by Bacile/Bassely on YouTube in Arabic at the height of friction between Israel and the United States, as Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to get America to adopt its own stance (he wants us to demand "deadlines" and red lines" that would trigger their attack), is at least suspicious timing.
Lacking the same protections we would offer a filmmaker, Israel probably would have stopped the release if it could have, but the filmmaker apparently thought the timing was perfect, and a fine U.S. Ambassador, former U.S. Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, and an Embassy staff member named Sean Smith are dead as a result. It all feels like those Super PACs that politicians say they have no connection with and don't talk to; it's a game of wink and nod in which voices are mute - but points get made.
But when you look at this as from the distant future, the intervening Iran-Israeli war will seem like the subtext of these events, like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo that kicked off World War I or the alleged attack on a U.S. patrol boat in the South China Sea that precipitated the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the start of the Vietnam war.
Israeli rightists would be delighted to have a pretext that was not merely harsh words to start a war with Iran, and they want an American public that is well-conditioned to hate Islam for its duration. They now have all those things except a sound pretext, and that is what we must wait for as the American elections loom. It would be impossible to "leverage" such a war if the elections were still years away.
When the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, "hinted" several days ago that the U.S. would join Israel in attacking Iran, he might have foreseen events like those in Egypt and Libya on Sept. 11, a day fraught with meaning for Americans and Islamist extremists. They did push American public opinion more firmly against Islamic radicals, but I think they failed to build new animosity toward Iran.
Much is being made of the possibility that Al Qaeda or some other stateless force organized the Libyan attack, and I would not be surprised to start seeing stories about Iran being behind it; I doubt those stories will manage to catch up with the memory of the events, though, so it will be difficult to link them in the eyes of American public opinion, which has a terrifically short attention span.
I do believe that all three are linked, perhaps if only by the upwelling of sentiment for war against Iran in Israel, which is growing like a pimple on the nose of Bibi Netanyahu. He is determined to squeeze the pus from before people start calling him ugly. From a political standpoint, he is ugly already, having awkwardly aligned himself with the loser in the presidential campaign and set himself against the will of the present and future President of the United States.
Mr. Netanyahu will not find it easy to play the political card against a U.S. President who has shown so little regard for foreign influence in U.S. elections and such unwillingness to admit an Israeli voice into his war cabinet as he awaits an Israeli decision to attack Iran. It's clear that if war does erupt that the United States will instantly commit Patriot and other antimissile defenses to Israel's protection, and that battalions of U.S. Marines on destroyers loaded with troops now headed back to the shores of Tripoli will be at the ready to help repel any semblance of a ground invasion Iran's allies can muster.
But the idea that our own jets will bomb Iranian cities and facilities is beyond the pale of the proofs of loyalty the Israelis delight in extracting from our leaders; at that point, we will part company with Netanyahu and attend to our own problems.
[Update, 8:45am Sept. 14): The 14-minute trailer was first posted in English on YouTube in June, and then dubbed into Arabic and posted again on YouTube last week, the New York Times said. In another development, Fox News reported today on Tampa's WFLA 790AM that the film was made by an Egyptian Copt, and that "the Israeli does not exist."
But the New York Times reported this morning that "Although there was initial confusion about who made the film, The Wall Street Journa>l reported that the drama, titled "Innocence of Muslims," was produced and directed by an Israeli-American, Sam Bacile, a California real-estate developer who called Islam "a cancer" in an interview. Mr. Bacile told The Journal that he raised $5 million from about 100 Jewish donors and shot the two-hour movie in California last year."
However, the Journal, which is owned by News Corp., the same organization that owns Fox News, didn't support that claim, saying it had learned of a man named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who may be Bacile, but added "The spark that elevated the video from the Internet's backwater appears to have been provided by Morris Sadek, an Egyptian-American Coptic activist living in the Washington, D.C., area. Mr. Sadek has been an outspoken anti-Islamic activist in the U.S., where he runs a small group called the National American Coptic Assembly."
As reporting progressed, CNN reported that the filmmaker used at least 18 different names, had "many" Social Security numbers, was convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine in 2007 and later of check-kiting.
Even though he spent 21 months on the latter charges in a U.S. federal prison, no publication has yet published a mug shot of Nakoula. The Bureau of Prisons does not provide post-arrest photographs. The American Reporter has made an FOIA request to the U.S, Marshals Service and is awaiting a reply.
Although he identified himself as an Israeli, he appears to actually have been an Egyptian Christian.
Much that has been learned about him also suggests he may have had ties ties to a national intelligence agency.
Later Thursday, the New York Times withdrew an earlier story and in a new account said the movie was "promoted" by right-wing Christians, led by a man named Steve Klein, with a long history of anti-Islamic activities.
Demonstrations have now spread to 20 countries, including India and Bangladesh. In other news, Libyan officials say they have arrested four persons on charges of "instigating" the rioting that led to the loss of American lives at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.]