Philip Giraldi is a former counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Now, he chairs the Council for the National Interest as the Executive Director. CNI is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the transformation of United States' Middle East policy.
As a CIA officer, Giraldi served in different countries including Turkey, Italy, Germany and Spain. He is now a Francis Walsingham Fellow at The American Conservative Defense Alliance. He has appeared on several radio and TV programs including Good Morning America, MSNBC, NPR, Fox News, BBC, Al-Jazeera and 60 Minutes.
Giraldi works with the American Conservative magazine as a contributing editor and writes a regular column for the Antiwar website. He is an outspoken critic of the hawkish policies of the United States and has publicly decried Washington's unconditional support for the state of Israel.
Philip Giraldi joined me in an exclusive interview to discuss the latest developments of the Middle East, the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the possibility of a peaceful compromise between Iran and the United States and the impact of Israeli lobby on the long-term policies of the White House.
Kourosh Ziabari: Why is the Israeli lobby so powerful, influential and authoritative? Almost all of the major media conglomerates in the United States own to well-off Jews who are committed to maintaining the interests of the state of Israel in the U.S. Some experts say that Israel is the representative of the United States in the Middle East region, but some others suggest that it's Israel which determines the future of political developments in the United States. What's your take on that?
Philip Giraldi: The Israel Lobby is so powerful because it deliberately set out to establish control over key elements in the United States. It has demonstrated a number of times that politicians who are perceived as being unfriendly to Israel will face serious problems in being reelected because the Lobby mobilizes to provide money and media support to opponents. This means that congress is afraid to oppose anything that Israel and its Lobby wants. The same holds true for the presidency. Every presidential candidate must be seen as friendly to Israel or he will be attacked in the media and denied millions of dollars in political contributions, making it a safer option to support Israel. Finally, pro-Israeli interests control much of the media and, more important, dominate the opinion and editorial pages, making the only narrative that most Americans hear about the Middle East highly favorable to Israel and highly critical of all Israel's enemies. As a result, Israel is able to control U.S. foreign policy as it relates to the Middle East and also much of the Muslim world.
Ziabari: The recent call by the Iranian President on framing a fact-finding group to probe into the 9/11 attacks sparked intense controversy around the United States. Is it because the United States considers 9/11 a red line which should not be crossed?
Giraldi: Many Americans believe that 9/11 was never properly investigated. Some believe that the U.S. and, or Israeli governments were actually involved. The Federal government does not want the case to be reopened because a truly open investigation might reveal things that it would like to keep hidden. I do not know what exactly those things might be, but, at a minimum, there was a high level of incompetence within the government in the lead up to the attacks, both by Democrats and Republicans.
Ziabari: The former Italian President had once said that Mossad had played a role in the 9/11 attacks. Is there any convincing evidence that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks? Can we rely on some implications including the five dancing Israelis who were seen cheering while the Twin Towers collapsed, or the closure of Zim Shipping Company's headquarters at the World Trade Center two week before the 9/11 attacks?
Giraldi: Most intelligence officers believe that Israel, which was conducting a massive and illegal spy operation inside the U.S. aimed at Arabs living here, knew at least parts of the 9/11 conspiracy. It did not share that information and it is also clear that leading Israeli politicians welcomed the attacks because they made Washington a totally committed ally in full agreement with the Israeli view of Islamic terrorism. The Israel view, i.e. that anyone hostile to Israel is a terrorist, has done great damage to the United States because it has created enemies where no enemies previously existed.
Ziabari: What's your take on the exercise of double standards by the U.S. over Israel's nuclear issue?
Giraldi: There is no justification for Washington's hypocrisy over Israel's nuclear weapons program. Israel should be held to the same standard as everyone else, but the action of the Israeli Lobby means that it will never be accountable for anything as long as Washington is in a position to protect it.
Ziabari: As someone who has closely worked with one of the most sensitive parts of the U.S. government, do you like the continuation of belligerence and hostility between Iran and the United States? Are these two nations fated to be at odds forever? Can you foresee promising horizons of reconciliation and friendship?
Giraldi: I do not believe that Washington and Tehran are natural enemies. I believe that they have been turned into enemies by the media and the activity of the Israel Lobby. Unfortunately, that situation will not change until Washington completely overturns its policies in the Middle East, something that might not happen in our lifetimes. Many young Iranians, the bulk of the population, do not harbor any real hostility towards the United States and if the policies were to change I believe the two countries could again become friendly.
Ziabari: Is it plausible to be a former CIA officer at the same time as being an outspoken critic of the U.S. administration? You've been quite forthright in your criticism of the U.S. foreign policy, especially with regards to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Haven't been any pressure on you to soften your tone or retreat from your stance?
Giraldi: I have never been pressured to soften my criticism of the US government's foreign and security policies. There are many former intelligence officers who have also been highly critical of developments since 9/11. It is because intelligence officers quickly recognize lies when they hear them and are not very tolerant of a government that lies its way to war.
Ziabari: Iran marked the 20th anniversary of the conclusion of 8-year war with Iraq last month. Iranians well remember that it was the United States and its European allies, who persuaded, equipped, funded and aided Saddam Hussein in invading Iran. 20 years later, they came together to topple the very Saddam they had supported in war with Iran. Saddam killed more than 400,000 Iranians. My uncle was one of them. Can you put yourself in the place of an Iranian citizen who witnessed the war? What would be your feeling then?
Giraldi: For the United States, the support of Saddam Hussein against Iran was a quid pro quo that goes back to the holding of the U.S. Embassy hostages in Tehran after the Islamic revolution. It was revenge pure and simple in hopes that Iraq would prove victorious and bring down the Iranian government. As an Iranian, you have a right to be outraged by what happened but the Embassy seizure was also outrageous. The U.S. response was, as it often is, disproportional and I am ashamed of my government's support of wars to fix political disputes.
Ziabari: and for the final question, how do you estimate the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Giraldi: There is no hope for resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict as long as the United States continues to permit the Israelis to expand and commit crimes against humanity directed towards the Palestinian people. Evil is evil no matter how you try to dress it up and the Israeli policies are manifestly evil. The Palestinians cannot ever accept a peace settlement that requires being held in a large outdoor prison camp by the Israelis supported by the United States.
Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian media correspondent, freelance journalist and interviewer. He is a contributing writer of Finland’s Award-winning Ovi Magazine and the the Foreign Policy Journal. He is a member of Tlaxcala Translators Network for Linguistic Diversity (Spain). He is also a member of World Student Community for Sustainable Development (WSC-SD). Kourosh Ziabari's articles have appeared in a number of Canadian, Belgian, Italian, French and German websites. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Ziabari's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
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