The atmosphere in the United States regarding possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is something like hysteria, with a real danger that bilateral relations might break down completely as a result. Indeed, a number of politicians and senior government officials have described the allegations that Moscow sought to influence the election results as an “act of war” with Congressman Jerold Nadler even declaring that it was similar to Pearl Harbor.
Assuming that the indictment against 13 Russians and 3 Russian companies filed last week by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is accurate, the reported activity of the Internet Research Agency could indeed have been part of an intelligence operation seeking to influence developments in the US, but the organization’s employees also displayed considerable amateur behavior, suggesting that they were not professional spies, supporting the stronger argument that it was not a Russian government-run operation at all.
And the United States is hardly innocent when it comes to interfering in the domestic politics of both friends and enemies. That is very often what intelligence agencies are designed to do, and no one is more active in interfering in foreign governments and elections than the United States of America. The Russian election featuring Boris Yeltsin in 1996 was arranged by Washington working with the International Monetary Fund, and more recently there was the $5 billion invested in bringing “democracy” to Ukraine in 2014. The US was also involved in many of the elections in post-war Europe, most particularly in countries whose own democratic systems were still evolving. The CIA worked to keep communists out of the government in Italy’s 1976 national election. Conservative parties received sacks of money and articles warning about communism appeared in all the major newspapers. The major covert action proceeded even though Italy was a NATO member and the corruption that the intervention brought with it has blighted Italian politics to this day.
And then, there are America’s friends who in similar fashion interfere in US politics to support their own national agendas. Most active recently have been Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which have an identical foreign policy goal, which is to end what they describe as the Iranian threat in their region. As neither has the resources to go it alone, both seek to involve the United States in what would likely be a catastrophic war for all involved, leaving Riyadh and Tel Aviv standing on the sidelines to pick up the pieces.
The Saudi lobby in the United States operates largely below the surface, working on individual congressmen and through the funding of think tanks. Israel’s manipulation of the US is, however, much more in the open. One can argue that what we are now calling Russiagate all started when Trump National Security Adviser designate Michael Flynn called Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, on December 22, 2016. The call was made at the direction of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who, in turn, had been approached by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to change a U.N. vote critical of Israel.
Kushner asked Flynn, the soon-to-be National Security Adviser, to help Israel by undermining what was being done by the still-in-power American government in Washington headed by President Barack Obama. In legal terms this most certainly could be construed as covered by the “conspiracy against the United States” statute that the Mueller investigation has exploited in the recent Russian indictments.
Mueller’s indictment specifically claimed that the Russians created false US personas while also stealing actual identities. But the Russians are being accused of involvement in activity that Israel engages in openly. It has interfered in US elections, to include promoting Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in 2012, and has a powerful and well-funded lobby in AIPAC that intervenes aggressively in American foreign and domestic policy. And the Israeli government’s propaganda arm uses its hasbara to use false internet identities to confuse and deflect critical stories. They do so routinely and do not even try to hide what they are doing. Part of their agenda is to smear critics and elect politicians favorable to them.
So, when will Mueller and the several congressional committees that are investigating the Russians move on to the topic of Israel and Saudi Arabia to find out what really effective foreign influencing operations looks like? Given the power of Israel and the Saudis over Congress, probably never.