Friday, May 30, 2008

Freedom to Wear Multiple Hats (or Yalmulkes)

A strong wind is garnering powerful forces in Washington, D.C. I fear it may be the perfect storm. Seemingly unrelated stories flutter around in the ill breeze. Consider a few:

1. Israel's defense industry exported $10 billion worth of products the last two years. They're now number 4 in the world in defense related trade. Israel, as did the U.S., boycotted the meeting where 111 nations agreed to ban the use of cluster munitions.

2. The rhetoric regarding the Iranian threat escalated the last few months in the Israeli media. On the Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post websites, I've noticed harsher statements and more Bush like "evidence" regarding the looming threat of an Iran with nuclear weapons.

3. American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, also known as AIPAC, meeting runs next week in our nation's capital. Last year saw the Democratic controlled House of Representatives wilt on any requirement that President Bush get Congressional approval before attacking Iran. House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi capitulated, almost on stage at the event. All the Presidential hopefuls will be in tow, Obama, McCain, and Clinton. In addition Condi Rice will speak, as will Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a leader equally unpopular as his counterpart, President George W. Bush.

4. While 7,000 people will attend the big event, more than 400 investment bankers, hedge fund managers and financial professionals attended AIPAC's third annual Wall Street event in Manhattan. They heard neo-conservative hawk, Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey stress "the myriad threats to the United States and Israel from radical Islamic terrorists and the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr also offered his take on recent developments in the Middle East and emphasized the importance of strong ties between the United States and Israel."

5. The former Chief Financial Officer of the Pentagon, Dov S. Zakheim, is a strong supporter of American-Israeli relations. Dov serves as Chair of the Office of Government and International Affairs for the American Jewish Committee. He had this to say about the organization while serving as the CFO for the Defense Department:

"More than any other organization, the American Jewish Committee represents the very best of America and the best of Jews."—Dov Zakheim, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense

In 2004, he joined the huge government consulting division of Booz, Allen & Hamilton as their Vice President for Global Defense clients. Recall Israel's rapid growth in exporting weapon systems and defense products? Early this month, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke at the annual meeting of Dov's American Jewish Committee. America's top military leader said, "We will stand by you (Israel) always." The next morning Dov, who serves on Mike's Defense Business Board, appeared in an AJC press release on the looming Iranian threat. It stated:

Dov Zakheim, Chair of the AJC’s International Relations Commission, lauded the efforts of Levey and his colleagues as absolutely essential in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Here's what the AJC said two days ago regarding the escalating Iranian threat:

In view of Iran’s intransigence, and the threat it poses to peace and security, AJC calls upon the international community, in particular IAEA’s Board of Directors and the UN Security Council, to show vigilance and determination with regard to Iran.

Iran's repeated calls to wipe Israel off the map; its pursuit of long range missiles; its meddling in the internal affairs of other states; and its support of terror organizations are glaring examples of the regime's intent to undermine regional and international attempts at reconciliation. Such threats would be profoundly elevated were Iran to acquire nuclear weapons capability.

Guess what will be topic #1 next week in Washington, D.C. Wall Street already has its chips in play on how to profit from any moves. Over 7,000 cheerleaders could be screaming for another preventive war. I bet the two lame ducks of Bush and Olmert give it to them. We may see soon the impact of bombs over Tehran. Who will lead and who will follow?