Let Syria stew and take care of Iran

Israel is behind you T-shirt

It appears that Israel’s Prime Minister is supporting President Obama’s attempt to get congressional approval for an attack on Syria.

If nothing else, this explains the surprising decision of AIPAC to lobby for the President on this issue.

I have to admit that I don’t get it.

It is impossible for me to believe that an attack as carefully calibrated as this one is to not actually affect the situation on the ground, which has been publicly detailed weeks in advance, and which has already made the US and its leadership the butt of jokes the world over, will have a positive outcome.

There is no doubt that if the attack does occur, there will be severe consequences for US interests in the Middle East and other places, even terrorism in the US carried out by the worldwide terror network of Hizballah. Why not? They’ve had weeks to prepare. And the US and its leadership are perceived as weak, without the will to follow through if pushed.

A former Iranian official has threatened as much, including a direct threat to Obama’s family in the most vulgar terms (hint to Obama: you have drones. Use them. Take it from me, everyone in the Middle East will understand completely).

Obama probably knows this, and this is why he decided to offload the responsibility to Congress (although it presently is anything but certain that Congress will go along).

Obama has apparently exploited whatever hold he has over Israel’s PM — the same hold that enabled him to force Israel to release more than a hundred terrorists, including convicted mass murderers, for absolutely nothing in return from the Palestinians, or to veto a planned raid on Iranian nuclear facilities in 2012 — to get Israeli support, and therefore the support of pro-Israel American Jewish organizations like AIPAC.

We can assume that the quid pro quo has something to do with Iran, although I certainly hope that Israeli officials are not depending on Obama to take action before it’s too late.

In any event, Obama’s usual sources of support like his own “Organizing for Action” group are remaining quiet on this issue. You would think that the Arab-American community, most of whom are anything but fans of Assad might be behind him, but no. Nor are left-leaning MoveOn.org or J Street.

No, the stage is being set to blame Israel, whatever the outcome. As Richard Baehr explains,

… if he wins the vote, he will get credit and leftist anti-war advocates can blame AIPAC and the Israel lobby for once again sending the U.S. to war. On the other hand, if the resolution does not pass, AIPAC looks weak, and its ability to achieve results on issues that actually matter to the community, and to both countries, such as Iran’s nuclear program, will be diminished.

Of course if the worst happens — if Obama actually makes his gesture and it does not turn out as uncomplicated as hoped — then there is a perfect scapegoat available: he did it for Israel, urged on by the Israel Lobby.

Former AIPAC employee Steven Rosen — who has the distinction of having been set up by the FBI and indicted for espionage in 2005 and then cleared — understands all of the above, but thinks that AIPAC (and Israel) had no choice:

[If] the red lines that have been declared by President Obama were to be wiped out by an isolationist Congress (much as British Prime Minister David Cameron was repudiated by Parliament), it could begin a wider U.S. retreat in the Middle East. It would certainly undermine the campaign to prevent Iran from completing its nuclear weapons program. Already, the Syrian regime and Hezbollah are boasting about a “historic American retreat,” and extremist elements from al Qaeda to North Korea must be rubbing their hands in glee.

Without a strong United States, the world of our children will descend into a very dark void, because after America there is no one else waiting in line to assume leadership except these forces of evil and chaos.If AIPAC sits on its hands, Obama might well lose this historic vote on Capitol Hill. If so, the Rand Paul/isolationist right and the antiwar left may celebrate, and conservative critics can blame it on Obama’s feckless leadership. But it will be a disaster for the Middle East and the world, and it may be impossible to contain the damage.

This argument gets the problem exactly backwards. The Assad regime and its enemies are presently stalemated. A decisive victory for either side would probably be bad, from both a strategic and a humanitarian point of view, but that appears unlikely now. Obama Administration credibility and respect has already been shredded, and any action now will not restore it. Keep in mind that the planned operation has no clear and attainable military objective, a recipe for disaster. Resources — including diplomatic and political energy as well as Tomahawk missiles — should not be wasted on an action which can only make a bad situation worse.

The real danger comes from Iran, which is on the verge of being in position to assemble deliverable nuclear weapons in a period of time too short to allow interdiction. There is simply no greater threat to both US interests in the Middle East, and to Israel, than a nuclear Iran. Either from sheer geopolitical considerations or from the standpoint of US credibility — how many times has the President promised that it will not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon? — Iran is of overriding importance.

I doubt that Russia would practically oppose a decision to take action on Iran. Even Putin does not want to see a radical Islamic nuclear power next door.

What the US should do now is let Syria stew and in the meantime present a non-negotiable ultimatum to Iran: either dismantle your nuclear program or force will be used to dismantle it for you.

Go ahead, Obama, for once do the right and courageous thing. As the T-Shirt says, Israel will stand behind you.

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