Obama’s Syria debacle, and what this means for Israel during the remainder of Obama’s term in office
Many in Israel, the U.S., and throughout the world, have been confounded by the unprecedented apparent confusion and lack of resolve demonstrated by President Obama over the recent use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war. What can explain the Leader of the Free World’s vacillating, indecisive behavior in this instance? What does this portend for American policy for the region going forward, during the remainder of Obama’s term in office? Here, your humble correspondent will attempt to answer such questions.
To begin with, where Syria is concerned, the problem was that Obama’s main navigational “tool”, if you will, for determining what to do in any situation involving the Middle East, did not help him here. This reference point for him was whether or not any given action would increase his coercive leverage over Israel vis-à-vis the Palestinian Arabs.
Why has this issue been of such singular importance to Obama? Some background on this matter is in order.
This writer would contend that Obama was installed in office, to a great extent, due to the behind the scenes influence of Gulf Arab interests. This was not the only factor, but absent the influence of such interests over U.S. media, universities, plus the ability to impact the U.S. economy directly and indirectly via oil prices, as well as their efforts to enlist the aid of elements of the U.S. establishment willing to sell out to them, he probably never would have made it.
He was installed at the behest of such interests for a remarkably similar purpose to what the WW1 Germans had in mind, 94 years ago, when they sent Vladimir Lenin in a sealed train back to Russia, from exile in Switzerland. The intention of Germany then was to foment revolution in Russia that would take her out of the war on terms favorable to the Germans, and thus free up resources to throw at Britain and France on the Western front. This was the novel solution arrived at by German leaders after several years of inconclusive fighting in which their forces, able to win individual battles with regularity against the Russians, were unable to defeat them decisively. Their gambit worked in an immediate sense, though it did not ultimately win the war for them.
Similarly, the Gulf Arabs had been frustrated in their attempts to remove the hated “Zionist entity” from their midst. By 1982, with the first Lebanon war, it became clear that conventional military means would not work. They also tried regional political and economic isolation; this did not work either, as Israel was able to thrive off of trade with markets outside of the region. So, what was left was demonization/delegitimization aimed at branding Israel a pariah state in the same manner as Apartheid S. Africa had been, and Rhodesia before that. But what stood in the way of this was the backing Israel had from the U.S.; no matter what, it seemed, when push came to shove, the U.S. would ultimately back Israel in crucial venues like the UN, which made this strategy problematic.
So, the central need of the Gulf Arabs, as leaders of the Moslem world generally, was to disrupt the U.S.-Israeli alliance, and thus leave Israel completely isolated. They needed a U.S. president who would go where no other president dared go before in terms of being willing to put draconian pressure on Israel. They needed someone who did not hold with traditional Judeo-Christian or Western values, in the way that presidents of both parties had before Obama, which tended to get in the way of past presidents’ willingness to turn the screws on Israel beyond a certain point. And, in addition to the matter of Israel, they wanted someone who would be willing to largely withdraw the U.S. from the Middle East, or at least abandon the idea that Western values of secular liberalism, democracy, etc., should be promoted in the region. These values were anathema to the ruling elites of the region, and they wanted no part of this.
For this project, Barack Obama seemed ideal.
If one looks at the history of his foreign policy, one can see that the central focus was to increase pressure on Israel in particular, and to appease Islamist sensibilities in general in order to “buy” Islamist restraint in fomenting terror against the U.S., and allow the U.S. to withdraw from the “War on Terror” at minimal cost, and at the expense of Israel.
We saw this even before Obama was elected, when he publicly endorsed the Saudi “peace” plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, during the summer of ’08, and even after he was elected, when staffers told the British media that this would be the basis for Obama’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
We saw this in Obama’s Cairo speech of ’09.
We saw this in Obama’s bow to the Saudi king that same year, when the Saudi king admonished Obama to “impose a solution” to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
We saw this in Obama’s refusal to support anti-regime elements in the Iranian uprising of ’09; if we had overthrown the Iranian mullahs with more modern, democratic secular elements, this would have greatly reduced pressure on Israel.
We saw this in Libya, when Obama helped overthrow a relatively reformed, Western-aligned Qaddafi, in order to install a radical MB-affiliated regime there, and free up weapons to send to similar elements in Syria.
We saw this in Egypt, where a staunch U.S. ally, and guarantor of the Camp David Accords, Mubarak, was overthrown with Obama’s support so as to pave the way for radical, rabidly anti-Israel, MB rule.
We saw this in the early stages of the Syrian civil war, when Western-oriented democratic secular opposition groups were ignored, and MB-affiliated opposition groups were the only ones that the Obama administration would meet with and consider actively supporting.
We saw this in Obama’s staunch support of the Islamist, rabidly anti-Israel regime of Erdogan in Turkey.
The intention all along has been to surround Israel with rabidly hostile neighbors, who would, at least to some extent, “owe” something to Obama, and could thus be held on a leash by him so as to blackmail Israel to respond to his pressure.
We saw this dynamic on display in August of 2011, when Egyptian terrorists, aided by Egyptian border police, carried out an attack on Eilat, and were shot by Israeli security forces. In response, a mob put the Israeli embassy in Cairo under siege. When Israel asked the U.S. to intervene, Obama refused to do so until the Israelis apologized for shooting the Egyptian border police who had apparently aided and abetted this attack. Israel complied, and the siege was lifted. This, in microcosm, was the dynamic Obama was busy forging, that was the centerpiece of his entire foreign policy.
But the situation that evolved in Syria complicated matters.
On the one hand, it seemed that Obama wanted to indulge his knee-jerk instincts and install another MB regime on Israel’s frontier. By now, the Western-oriented, democratic secular elements of the opposition had been successfully sidelined. So, if the rebels won, Obama would have another MB mad dog with which to threaten Israel, over which he would have some nominal influence that in turn would afford him coercive leverage over Israel. This agenda was given added urgency by the recent loss of Obama’s favored MB regime in Egypt this past July.
But threatening Assad’s hold on power could mean a major Syrian attack on Israel. This would increase public sympathy for Israel, virtually force Obama to treat Israel materially as an ally within the context of a serious shooting war, and distract greatly from the bogus peace talks with the PA that Obama had strong-armed Israel into re-starting.
Thus, Obama’s usual foreign policy “compass” no longer worked. He was now truly ‘lost at sea’.
Consequently, Obama, having set his “red lines”, had to come up with a “middle way”; a “limited strike” that would not threaten Assad’s rule. This made no sense to anyone, perhaps not even to Obama. He needed a way out. Russia provided it. He happily took it. The ultimate result being that for the first time in history, Russia successfully vetoed U.S. action in an area of vital interest. This chain of events showcased the most dramatic decline in U.S. international influence and standing since at least the fall of Saigon nearly 40 years ago, if not ever.
This is what happens, when instead of pursuing American interests in a coherent and consistent manner, we have a president whose entire foreign policy is warped out of shape by an objective that has nothing to do with American interests, and everything to do with foreign interests that are not aligned with America’s.
The Gulf Arab sponsors of Obama got what they paid for. There is no question but that today, Israelis have less reason to count on America for anything than at any time in the last 46 years, and perhaps ever. And, U.S. influence in the Middle East, under Obama, is now at an historic post-WW2 low.
Israel may yet confound Obama and his foreign sponsors. His foreign sponsors may yet confound themselves, with their own internecine fighting and squabbling, and their own inconsistencies (e.g., what to do about Iran, particularly if Israel is prevented by Obama from doing anything substantial to stop Iran from getting nuclear arms).
This is what happens when Americans forget what America is supposed to stand for, and her corrupt elites thus feel free to sell out to the highest bidder, and sell down the river anyone who becomes inconvenient to their own immediate pursuit of power and self-aggrandizement.
We are paying the price for this today, and we will be paying much more down the road. Unless he is impeached – and while one can’t entirely rule this out, one can hardly count on it – we are stuck with Obama for more than three years as of this writing. Looking at how much damage he has already done in not even a year since his re-election, one shudders to think at how much more he can do.
Yet, despite this grim situation, there are a couple of silver linings for Israel in this cloud…sort of.
First, the only reason Obama really wanted to go to war in Syria was to support the establishment of yet another MB regime, as described above. So, it is probably for the best that Obama did not go to war in Syria. After all, if the past five years have proven anything, it is that Israel’s welfare is Obama’s very last consideration. Or, it is his first consideration…in a negative sense.
Second, this makes matters crystal clear for Netanyahu regarding Iran. Up to now, perhaps he hoped against hope that Obama’s assurances on not allowing Iran to go nuclear held at least a kernel of truth. Netanyahu may have believed that if he could somehow convince Obama of the objective necessity for action, then Obama would support a strike on Iran at the 11th hour, when there could be no denying the urgency.
But as things stand today, Netanyahu has to know that, under Obama, considerations involving possible U.S. support for military action against Iran are moot. It is up to Israel or it doesn’t happen. This clarifies Netanyahu’s options and his planning.
Despite U.S. pressure otherwise, one would hope that if it comes down to it, Netanyahu will do what needs to be done concerning Iran. Yes, there will be some very negative reaction in the world community, but this will be dampened by the obvious fact of Obama’s poor leadership and his shoddy treatment of Israel. It will be relatively easy for Israeli leaders and her supporters to make the case that Obama left Israel with no choice, and however bad it may turn out in terms of collateral damage, etc., Obama will be seen as largely to blame among many segments of the public.
Another silver lining: Without the “carrot” held out in front of Israel of possible U.S. support in a strike on Iran – this is obviously meaningless now – Israel owes the U.S. nothing on the Palestinian issue, nothing. Diplomatic niceties notwithstanding, the path is now clear for Israeli leaders to end this charade, and certainly not release any more murderers. In this observer’s considered opinion, while unilateral Israeli action on Iran is the ‘great unknown’, a firm stand against U.S. pressure on the Palestinian issue is far more likely than not going forward.
The only other coercive tool in Obama’s inventory is the so-called “isolation campaign on steroids”…but even this, in many ways, is an empty threat. China, India, South Korea, Singapore, Canada, Australia, and perhaps even Russia, will trade with Israel, even if some of them pay lip service to sanctioning Israel. They benefit too much from trade with Israel to withhold the same over what they all must know is the fraudulent, overblown issue of the Palestinian Arabs. Ironically, if Israel plays her cards right, Obama may find that he would be surprisingly isolated in such an initiative … along with the Eurabians.
We are enduring a sad and frightening chapter in world history. It is not unlike the ‘low and dishonorable’ decade of the 1930s, when impending calamity could have been so easily avoided yet was so relentlessly encouraged by weak, corrupt, and short-sighted leaders of that time.
Hopefully, there is time yet for those with the means and will to do so, to prevent another such calamity in our lifetimes.