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Middle East

Kerry Reminds Congress Netanyahu Advised U.S. to Invade Iraq

FEB. 25, 2015

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    Video of Secretary of State John Kerry reminding Congress on Wednesday that Israel's current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, advised the United States to invade Iraq in 2003. Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story

    Open Source

    By ROBERT MACKEY

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    Secretary of State John Kerry reminded Americans on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who is expected to denounce a potential nuclear deal with Iran during an address to Congress next week, also visited Washington in late 2002 to lobby for the invasion of Iraq.

    Apparently referring to testimony on the Middle East that Mr. Netanyahu delivered to Congress on Sept. 12, 2002, when he was a private citizen, Mr. Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “The prime minister, as you will recall, was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush, and we all know what happened with that decision.”

    Video of Mr. Netanyahu’s 2002 remarks — in which he said “I think the choice of Iraq is a good choice, it’s the right choice” — reveals that he linked his strong support for a United States invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein with the possibility of inspiring the implosion of the ruling theocracy in neighboring Iran.

    “It’s not a question of whether Iraq’s regime should be taken out but when should it be taken out; it’s not a question of whether you’d like to see a regime change in Iran but how to achieve it,” Mr. Netanyahu said six months before the Bush administration began the “shock and awe” bombardment of Baghdad.

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    Video of Israel's current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, testifying to Congress in support of the Iraq war on Sept. 12, 2002, when he was between terms in office.

    ”If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region,” Mr. Netanyahu said then. “And I think that people sitting right next door in Iran, young people, and many others, will say the time of such regimes, of such despots is gone.”

    In the same testimony, the American-educated Israeli leader, who had already served a term as prime minister and would become foreign minister later that year, suggested that Iran was so ripe for revolt that just seeing American television shows could do the trick — even if he had some trouble recalling the name of one of the programs he proposed using as a weapon. Mr. Netanyahu recalled that he had once advised senior officials at the Central Intelligence Agency “that if you want to advance regime change in Iran, you don’t have to go through the C.I.A. cloak-and-dagger stuff — what you want to do is take very large, very strong transponders and just beam ‘Melrose Place’ and ‘Beverly Hills 2050’ and all that into Tehran and into Iran, because that is subversive stuff. They watch it — the young kids watch it, the young people. They want to have the same nice clothes and the same houses and swimming pools and so on.”

    Video of the testimony also shows that Mr. Netanyahu’s longtime adviser, Ron Dermer, sat directly behind him that day. Mr. Dermer, a former Republican political operative now serving as Israel’s ambassador in Washington, is blamed by some Democrats for injecting partisanship into the relations between the two countries by orchestrating the prime minister’s address to Congress without consulting either the White House or the State Department.

    As the campaigning before Israel’s general election on March 17 intensifies, Mr. Netanyahu has worked to keep the focus on Iran. On Wednesday, the Israeli blogger Edo Konrad noted, the prime minister even responded to a critical report on his government’s failure to create more moderately priced housing by writing on Twitter: “When we talk about housing prices, about the cost of living, I do not for a second forget about life itself. The biggest threat to our life at the moment is a nuclear-armed Iran.”

    Earlier this week, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, said that he was even reminded of what he called Iran’s duplicity while watching the Academy Awards. If there were awards for “maintenance of international peace and security,” Mr. Prosor joked on Monday, “in the best actor category — for acting like a peace-loving country while developing nuclear capabilities, denying the Holocaust and threatening the destruction of another member state — the Oscar goes to Iran.”

    Israel’s United Nations ambassador, Ron Prosor, mocking Iran on Monday. IsraelinUN, via YouTube

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