Why Does the U.S. Government Support & Fund Israel?

W.A.T.E.R. Leadership team

Middle East oil shipping lanes: U.S.-Israeli guarantee of “stability” fuels the empire.

ENVIRONMENTALISTS HAVE LEARNED a key investigative rule: “follow the money.” At the core of important environmental issues, it is NOT good vs bad guys, nor cultural wokeness vs anti-wokeness, nor smart vs stupid, nor Republican vs Democrat. Rather, at the core, somebody or something (a group, a corporation, an individual) is making money or acquiring power by supporting environmental destruction. The capitalist economic system allows for that, even encourages it.

The same rule applies to foreign relations. This is no surprise, since foreign relations and environmental destruction are often intimately connected. “Follow the money” is a guide to understanding some of today’s most awful events, such as the ongoing massacre of Gaza. Who gains? Who loses? In particular, why does the U.S. government support and fund Israel? Most Democrat and Republican politicians say the bond between the United States and Israel is “ironclad,” “unbreakable,” with “no daylight” between them. Why?

At the core, the motivation is NOT concern over which side hit back against the other side’s retaliation first, nor a “clash of civilizations,” nor a dispute over supposed property rights granted in the Bible.(1) It is NOT important that (as Trump’s Middle East envoy and son-in-law Jared Kushner said), “Gaza’s waterfront property could be very valuable.”(2) It is even NOT the desire to claim control of a pocket of underwater natural gas recently discovered off the coast of Gaza. Rather, for the U.S. government and the wealthy corporate and financial elite circles that populate its policymaking bodies, the core issue is a source of far greater private wealth: Middle Eastern oil.

At first this conclusion seems all wrong because Israel itself has no oil, so what is the evidence? One clue comes from a 1995 statement by past right-wing senator from North Carolina and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms: “If Israel did not exist, what would U.S. defense costs in the Middle East be? Israel is at least the equivalent of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Middle East.”(3) Helms was referring specifically to costs, but the meaning can be generalized: Israel is essentially a major U.S. military outpost, a forward base, an “aircraft carrier” for power projection.

Iran Is the Target

The main target of this power projection has long been Iran, which is oil rich. Iran has been a major target of world powers since 1946, when the United States and the Soviet Union made competing oil concession claims, which devolved into one of the very first nuclear bombing threats. The Soviets had tried to enforce, with tanks, a WWII agreement between the United States, Britain, and the USSR to split Iran’s oil. Backtracking on the prior agreement, the United States delivered an ultimatum in March, 1946: either remove your Soviet troops from northern Iran in 48 hours or “we” (the US) will nuke “you” (the USSR). The USSR withdrew in 24 hours.(4) (Some historians believe, with good evidence, that the earlier nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was done mainly to impress the Soviets in anticipated situations such as this.)

Then years of hypocrisy and eventually savagery ensued. On September 11, 1947, U.S. ambassador George V. Allen publicly decried intimidation and coercion used by foreign governments to secure commercial concessions in Iran, and he even promised full U.S. support for Iran to freely decide about its own natural resources. All that sounds good and fair. But then in 1952, a progressive nationalist non-secular government was elected by the Iranian people, headed by Mohammed Mosaddegh. His administration instituted social security, land reforms, and women’s rights. His government’s most significant policy was the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry. Evidently, the United States saw this “freely decided” decision about natural resources as going way too far. The U.S. CIA thereby was deployed to overthrow the progressive Mosaddegh government and institute a harsh, basically fascist dictatorship under a previous royal family member (the Shah Pahlavi). The Shah then provided Western oil companies with 50% ownership of Iranian oil production. The Iranian Revolution in 1979 re-nationalized Iran’s own oil, much to the chagrin of the United States.

Ever since 1979, the United States has tried to overthrow the Iranian government and seize back control of Iranian oil, including CIA subversion, kidnappings, and attempted invasions through proxy armies.(5) One proxy army was that of neighboring Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, who the United States supported at the time although he was known as a dictator. In 1982, the United States supplied Iraq with arms, money, and materials to make chemical weapons with which to attack Iran in the Iraq-Iran War that began in 1980. The direct U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq from 2001 to 2021 had direct motivations (in part, control of Iraq’s oil and control of Afghanistan’s rich lodes of lithium and rare earth minerals). Neither nation was defeated. But if they had been defeated, that would have enabled the United States to militarily surround Iran, with Iraq on the long western border and Afghanistan on the long eastern border. The United States also imposed a long series of severe economic and banking sanctions on Iran ever since 1979, in an effort to foment a counter-revolution.

Prior to 1979, Israel was friendly with the dictator Shah regime in Iran. But since then, Israel (like the US), has viewed Iran as an enemy with both Israel and Iran accusing the other of terrorist attacks, including multiple covert assassinations and bombing operations by Israel on Iranian soil. Back in 1986, then Senator Joseph Biden announced how Israel provided the United States with an essential military foothold in the Middle East. He said that supporting Israel “is the best three billion dollar investment we make. Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her (U.S.) interests in the region. The United States would have to go out and invent an Israel.”(6) The United States and Israel share an extensive and deep overlap in military, intelligence, military secrets, surveillance, and high tech weaponry industries.

An Ironclad Ally

The United States now views Israel as a committed (“ironclad”) ally, should they decide upon a military attack against Iran. Behind the scenes, the two nations’ war planners may or may not have different views on when and how to initiate such an attack. Israel clearly wants to attack now and presumes the United States will join, a case of the tail wagging the dog. The United States is somewhat more cautious, perhaps waiting for the opportunity to establish public acquiescence with a phony pretext, much as it did in the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin “incident” (to escalate in Vietnam), or the 2003 allegation of weapons of mass destruction (to invade Iraq), or even the Sept. 11, 2001 commercial airliner attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (which were real but falsely blamed on Afghanistan, which had little to do with the attacks). Or perhaps the U.S. government is waiting for an opportunity to promote a subversion and assassination program in Iran (typical of its attempts at regime change around the world) in coordination with Israel, all with plausible deniability.

In recent weeks, the U.S. government has issued statements urging Israel to cut back on the intensity of the attack against the people of Gaza, and also has indicated it does not want a wider war that might involve Iran. Don’t these official statements contradict the idea that the U.S. supports Israel so it can be a battering ram against Iran? Putting aside the obvious U.S. hypocrisy in urging an end to a massacre while financially and militarily supporting it, we can note a real deeper dilemma in U.S. military policy.

For decades, U.S. “force structure” was built around the “two-war” concept: that the U.S. military primarily should be able to simultaneously fight two wars, both against much weaker “adversaries.” Examples are the concurrent U.S. invasions of the Dominican Republic and Vietnam in the 1960s, or the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s. But with the economic and military rise of China and Russia in the 2010s, the military policy was explicitly changed to a “one-war” concept, this time against a powerful nuclear adversary.

The one vs two war policy is being hotly debated within the Department of Defense and among its external advisors.(7),(8) But it is clear that the United States is not yet ready — at this time — to engage Iran in a full scale war when its primary concern is China.(9) With an eventual switch back to a force structure compatible with a partial two-war policy, an attack on Iran will be back on the table.

Israel and the United States are likely to act as one in an attack upon Iran, making sure each has the other’s back. Indeed, such an attack has now been tested in slo-mo, with a lethal Israeli attack against the Iranian consulate in Damascus, and the United States providing defense against the fully expected retaliation. Fortunately, the Iranian retaliation, with several days’ warning against purely military targets, has been restrained and designed to “make a statement” without killing anyone and without (they hope) escalating the situation.

Given the history, it is no surprise that Iran feels threatened by both the United States and Israel and especially by the combination of the two. As a defense, Iran has established close ties with foreign political parties and resident armed militant groups in the Middle East including Hezbollah (in Lebanon), Houthis (in Yemen) and Hamas (in Palestine).

In all of this, it has become clear that a major purpose of U.S. support for Israel has been to use it as the tip of the spear in a long-desired invasion of Iran. Needless to say, being used in this manner by the United States does not increase Israel’s actual security at all, no more than a hired hit man achieves a secure life.

One could argue that the United State’s “ironclad” loyalty to Israel is all about the election contributions from the billionaire “Israel Lobby” in the United States, or about biblical support for Zionism or opposition to Islamic fundamentalism, or about Department of Defense contracts to U.S. weapons manufacturers, or about blame for who committed which terrorist act first. But at the core, U.S. involvement is really about control of oil. The United States itself already has a lot of oil (because of environmentally destructive fracking), but to control the international supply provides the controller the power to turn on or off the spigot and affect prices at will to both “adversaries” and competitors. Without the United States seeking that control, conflicts in the Middle East more likely would remain local and not involve horrendous massacres funded by outside interests, such as the Gaza massacre, which has been bankrolled and supplied mainly by the United States.

It is indeed unfortunate that the people of Israel, of Gaza, Iraq, and Afghanistan and (perhaps soon) of Iran have been caught in the middle of natural resource extraction and military target zones. U.S. support of Israel is not “ironclad”; it is “oilclad.” And if the war escalates to nuclear (which is likely, if Israel uses any of its nuclear weapons in the attack on Iran with U.S. support and if Russia then gets involved in Iran’s defense), then the registry of unfortunate populations may well expand to everyone in the world. And all this for corporate control of a resource that, in the interest of environmental protection, we should not be using anymore.

June 22, 2024


  1. “Israel ambassador’s ‘Bible speech’ at UN goes viral,” The Jerusalem Post. May 18, 2019, https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/israeli-ambassadors-bible-speech-at-un-goes-viral-589986
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  2. Wintour, P. “Jared Kushner says Gaza’s ‘waterfront property could be very valuable,'” The Guardian, March 19, 2024. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2024/mar/19/jared-kushner-gaza-waterfront-property-israel-negev
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  3. “Jesse Helms: Setting the record straight”, Middle East Quarterly. March, 1995, https://www.meforum.org/244/jesse-helms-setting-the-record-straight
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  4. Kaku, M and Axelrod, D. “To Win a Nuclear War,” South End Press, 1987, pg. 32; Ellsberg, D. “Call to Mutiny” in Protest and Survive, Thompson and Smith, p. ii; Time magazine, Jan 1980; Lens, S. “The Bomb,” p. 48.
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  5. Beyond the well-publicized Western and Israeli-sponsored assassinations of Iranian scientists, military, and political leaders, see also citations concerning multiple covert actions that are less well-known, discussed in the Wikipedia article on former NYT reporter Seymour Hersh.
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  6. “US President Joe Biden: ‘If there were not an Israel, we’d have to invent one.'” CSPAN, June, 1986, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HZs-v0PR44
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  7. Brands, H. and Montgomery, E.B. “One war is not enough: strategy and force planning for great-power competition,” Texas National Security Review, Spring 2020, https://tnsr.org/2020/03/one-war-is-not-enough-strategy-and-force-planning-for-great-power-competition/
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  8. Trachtenberg, D.J. “How the Lack of a “Two-War Strategy” Erodes Extended Deterrence and Assurance” National Institute for Public Policy Information Series, issue 590, June 18, 2024. https://www.realcleardefense.com/2024/06/18/how_the_lack_of_a_two-war_strategy_erodes_extended_deterrence_1038716.html
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  9. National Security Strategy October 2022, The White House, Washington DC. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Biden-Harris-Administrations-National-Security-Strategy-10.2022.pdf
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