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Ignore Saudi and Israeli Goading for a More Muscular U.S. Mideast Policy

Written by Subject: Israel

One of the most influential Saudi Arabian princes, Turki al-Faisal--the former Saudi intelligence chief who clearly reflects the Saudi royal government's view--recently criticized President Barack Obama for weakness in the Middle East. Although not friendly with Saudi Arabia, the Israeli government is similarly disenchanted with Obama's regional performance. Prince Turki's comments are just the most recent installment of these governments trying to goad the United States into dubious actions in the region that would not be in U.S. interests.

According to Prince Turki, "We've seen several red lines put forward by the president, which went along and became pinkish as time grew, and eventually ended up completely white. When that kind of assurance comes from a leader of a country like the United States, we expect him to stand by it. There is an issue of confidence." He added that when a country has strong allies, "you should be able to give them the assurance that what you say is going to be what you do."

The Saudis have been unnerved by Obama's understandable and wise decision to avoid deep U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war. The Saudis were angry that Obama didn't strike the al-Assad regime militarily after it was accused of using chemical weapons on its own people. Yet military strikes on Syrian chemical weapons facilities could very well have released chemicals on the Syrian civilians the attacks were ostensibly designed to protect. In fact, the Saudis, who have a horrendous human rights record, likely don't care, one way or the other, about harming Syrian civilians. In fact, despite their outsized reputation, chemical weapons usually account for only one percent of the people who die in the wars in which they have been used.

The Saudis, leaders of the Sunni Islamic bloc in the Middle East, want the United States to attack Syria to weaken the Shi'ite Syrian-Iranian axis--their arch rivals. That is why they also want the United States to bomb Iran over its nuclear program. Such a strike is less about the Iranian nuclear program and more about weakening a Shi'ite country that is more powerful than Syria. Any U.S. air strike on Iranian nuclear facilities likely would not take out all of them, some of which are deeply buried and maybe even unknown to U.S. intelligence, and would probably motivate Iran to make the decision to rapidly obtain a nuclear weapon--a choice U.S. intelligence believes that Iran has not made.

Although the Sunni Arab bloc and Israel are unfriendly to each other, they both share an interest in weakening the Shi'ite Syria-Iran axis. And they both want the United States to do their dirty work for them. Pointless bombing, merely to weaken Syria or Iran for Saudi Arabia and Israel, would not serve U.S. national interests--let alone that the American people are exhausted with terrorism-inducing U.S. military entanglements in a Middle East that is in perpetual conflict.

So Obama has rightly avoided getting sucked deeper than he already is into the potential Syrian quagmire--the U.S. has provided some limited lethal and non-lethal assistance to the Syrian rebels--by cooperating with Russia to compel Assad to get rid of his chemical weapons stockpiles. What is amazing is that essentially Prince Turki is criticizing Obama for not bombing Assad anyway, even after the Syrian dictator capitulated in this unlikely manner.

Reflecting the Israeli view, the New York Times, quoted former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Itamar Rabinovich, as saying that because Obama had refrained from attacking Syria, neither Israel nor Iran believed any longer that he might strike Iran over its nuclear program. However, even if this is true, Iran has nevertheless come to the negotiating table and reached an interim agreement to freeze its nuclear program and even roll back at least one part of it.

Even military theorists know that if you can get your opponent to do what you want, or most thereof, without the use of force, then you should avoid using it. In the cases of both Syria and Iran, the Saudis and Israelis don't really like the progress Obama has made by negotiation, because it ruins their not-so-hidden agenda of inciting the United States to attack, and thus weaken, their regional rivals. Thus, U.S. military action against either Syria or Iran may be in the interest of Saudi Arabia and Israel, but it is not the interest of the United States or its people, who may be subjected to further blowback retaliatory acts of terrorism.


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Comment by J E Andreasen
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American Price Tag

By Moshe Feiglin

Translated from the article in Makor Rishon

It was a very exclusive line. In front of me stood a very senior official in the defense establishment; In back of me, senior politicians. We were all patiently waiting for our Knesset Member cards to be issued.

I decided to take advantage of the opportunity. The defense official has secret information that I lack to complete one of the evaluations that I have been making over the years. “Let’s make a bet,” I said to the surprised senior official. The man turned to me suspiciously. “Let us make a bet that in another four years, in the first major speech of the elected Prime Minister, he will announce that he sees the removal of the Iranian nuclear threat as the central challenge for his new government.”

The senior official’s reaction surprised even me. His serious countenance melted at once into rolling laughter. “I can’t make that bet with you,” he laughed. “You are completely right.”

For those who have forgotten, the above words were precisely what Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the outset of his previous term over four years ago.

For a number of years, I have been saying that the PM’s strategy for dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat is nothing less than a colossal collapse and an accident about to happen. I have written articles on the subject, met with the Minister for Strategic Affairs in the previous government and with other senior officials. Not one of the people praising the Emperor’s new clothes wished to actually listen. The strategy that aimed to turn the Iranian nuclear issue into an international problem – particularly, an American problem – enchanted the deadly mix of left-leaning media and rightist politicians evading the challenge at their doorstep. This cocktail ensures that no other opinion will ever be debated between the decision makers or in public.

Everybody lauded the Prime Minister’s success in turning the Iranian threat into the world’s problem. It reminded me of the Yesha Council’s “successful” campaign that turned the color orange into the settler’s trademark. Even after the destruction of Gush Katif, they still boasted of their wonderful “success.”

The significance of the PM’s strategy was, and still is – a return to the ‘pre-Zionist’ mentality; returning the responsibility for securing the lives of the Jews to the nations of the world. The principle that we must defend ourselves by ourselves was the guiding light of all of Israel’s governments from the Sinai Campaign and until the First Gulf War. This principle was first violated by the late Yitzchak Shamir, who sent Israelis into sealed rooms and left the war against Sadaam Hussein to an international coalition. This opened the gate to the premature end to his own rule, orchestrated by America – and to the first moves toward Oslo.

There is a price to depositing one’s security in the hands of others – a very steep price. The explicit Iranian threat to destroy Israel created worldwide anticipation of immediate Israeli retaliation. After all, the State of Israel was established with the “Never Again” motto. The visit to Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem has become a mandatory stop for every V.I.P. who lands here. When the world understood that Israel was not about to react and instead, was passing along the responsibility, a question mark began to hover over the State’s very right to exist. There is a clear connection between Ahmadinijad’s threats, Israel’s lack of response and the loss of our legitimacy. A state that established its existence on ‘existence’ itself and made Yad Vashem the essence of its existence, lost its legitimacy when this principle began to disintegrate.

I explained that America would not attack Iran. I explained that the legitimacy for an attack would steadily disintegrate, both in the world and in Israel. I explained in an article in this newspaper that Israel must attack Iran – not only to remove the nuclear threat, but even more – to restore its legitimacy to exist and with that, to prevent the terrible price tag that the world will demand of us if we leave our security in its hands.

Loss of legitimacy, I explained, is more dangerous than the nuclear threat. The Holocaust did not begin in 1939, with the outbreak of World War II. It began in 1933, when the leader of a nation began threatening to destroy us, made our existence contingent on the kindness of the world and created the “Jewish question.” That is the question mark that Netanyahu must erase today. It is much more dangerous than the bomb.

All of my forecasts are coming true in these very days.

The reliable and widely read British Economist announced this week to its readers that Iran crossed the red line that Netanyahu drew in the UN long ago. According to the paper, Obama does not intend to attack Iran, and the Israelis won’t do it either. They have a long history of going past red lines that they, themselves, determined, the paper explains.

As I had forecast, Netanyahu finds himself facing a disintegration of the strategy that he had employed against the threat that he defined as the most serious that Israel has known since the War of Independence. As opposed to the naked king who thought that he was dressed due to the public that cheered his nakedness, our situation is just the opposite. The king already understands that he is naked, but the public is not there yet. That is apparently the secret behind the despondency and withdrawal that the PM has been displaying. The election of a “moderate” president in Iran was the death blow to the hopes for American intervention.

Israel’s Left is already “working.” MK Mickey Rosental of Labor initiated a Knesset deliberation titled, “Israel’s refusal to recognize the new positive reality. Dov Hanin (Chadash) and Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) even invited an American doctor to explain to the Knesset that Israel must divest itself of its nuclear weapons. “Have you already pressured your president to destroy the Iranian nuclear weapon before you call upon Israel to divest itself of its nuclear weapons?” I asked the American “expert.” “Of course not!” the “expert” decisively answered.

The strategy of making our security dependent on the non-Jews is collapsing before the PM’s eyes. The emperor’s new clothes are turning out to be an illusion. What will he wear now?

The answer is, once again, the renewal of the diplomatic process. The emperor’s new clothes will be “peace” garments. The garments of retreat and destruction of settlements always give a rightist PM the opportunity to smooth over a strategic failure. The Left will always provide legitimacy, as will the cheers of the foolish masses.

It is possible that the US promised the PM that they would act in Iran in exchange for a new “Disengagement”. They will not keep their promise – and that is all for the better. Because the loss of legitimacy and the pressure that would come on the heels of such action are much more dangerous than the Iranian atom. The results of an American attack on Iran will be even more dangerous to Israel than Oslo, which was the result of the foreign attacks on the scuds sent our way by Sadaam.

The PM must get back to himself and attack Iran immediately. That is the only solution. If he does not do so, he will find himself signed on the worst of all Israeli collapses: worse than Camp David, worse than Oslo, worse than the “Disengagement.”

Just like all his predecessors who led the Right, the diplomatic process into which Netanyahu is being dragged now will not stabilize his government. Besides the loss of the Land, Netanyahu will also lose his ruling position and the Likud will find itself in a place similar to that of Kadimah.


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