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Turkish tank crosses into Syria
Photo: AP
Alex Fishman
How the Turks deceived the Americans on Syria
Op-ed: The US simply joined the Russian-Turkish party in Syria, essentially allowing Assad's rule to continue—at least for now—and Iran and Hezbollah to establish their hold on the war-battered country. This is the worst possible outcome for Israel.
The Americans are now selling out the Syrian Kurds to the Turks—but we've already gotten used to their cynical foreign policy. What Israel is having a hard time getting used to, however, is the fact its biggest ally is completely disregarding Israeli interests in the Middle East.

 

 

Over the past two years, since the international intervention in Syria began, Western diplomacy has been trying to convince allies in the world to cooperate with the minorities in Syria. Alongside the Kurds and Druze, who are the two larger minority groups, there are other ethnic-religious groups in Syria who are demanding autonomy.

 

Israel has a "minority strategy" of its own that is based on the assumption that if Syria breaks into autonomous minorities, it would stop the Iranian/Shi'ite takeover of the country, and eventually thwart the main threat to Israel: an Iranian hold on the Golan Heights, on top of its hold on Lebanon.

 

Turkish tank crossing into Syria (Photo: AP)
Turkish tank crossing into Syria (Photo: AP)

 

Israel has tried coordinating positions with the Russians and Americans on different issues relating to Syria—at the highest ranks.

 

There were no expectations from the Russians—the very fact they were willing to even listen was an achievement in and of itself.

 

As far as the Americans are concerned, it appears the nuclear deal with Iran was not a one-off—the administration in Washington pays no mind to Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, or the defense minister, Lieberman.

 

We have to admit it: Israel has no access to the White House. The Americans have been ignoring Israeli interests the entire time, starting with their betrayal of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak through pretending there are no more chemical weapons in Syria, despite the fact they are being openly used.

 

Israel takes pride in its strategic dialogue with the United States, but it appears it's more of a monologue—each side is talking to itself. The only issue the two nations have come together on during the Obama era is the hush money the US pays Israel to not get in the way.

 

Yes, the Americans do share information with Israel on their operations in Syria, and consult with the IDF. Israeli officials get excited every time an American general comes to talk about some operation. But these are merely sedatives—like the medals being handed out to our IDF chiefs when they visit the United States, an incentive for good behavior.

 

Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan (Photo: EPA) (Photo: EPA)
Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan (Photo: EPA)

  

The Obama administration is buying Israeli obedience with weapons, while neglecting to mention that its arms sales to the Middle East are first and foremost meant to serve American interests. These gifts are actually tools the US uses to control the policies of its allies in the region.

 

The Americans view the Syrian Kurds as cannon fodder—an alternative to putting American boots on the ground—and it took Obama a year to realize that he also has to give them weapons so they could continue serving American interests in the fight against ISIS.

 

Israel, meanwhile, welcomed the possibility of Kurdish autonomy in Syria with American support. But then the tides turned: the Turks and Russians reached an understanding according to which the Turks will accept the fact Assad remains in power for an interim period and join the fight against ISIS and in return, the Russians will allow them to fly through Syrian airspace, bomb, destroy the Kurdish autonomous contiguity in Syria, and create a buffer zone that would keep both ISIS and the Kurds away from the Turkish border.

 

The Americans simply joined this Russian-Turkish party. What this means for Israel is that the Americans are essentially giving their consent to the continuation of the Assad regime, for now, and allowing Iran and Hezbollah to establish their hold on Syria ahead of a future political agreement in the country.

 

This change in direction came about in the White House the moment the American generals realized that after the "Curbing" and "Attrition" stages, they have now reaching the "Collapse" stage in their fight against ISIS: First in Iraq, and then in Syria. On paper, the Americans have already captured Mosul back from ISIS, and they're already fantasizing about how they're going to instate a civil administration there.

 

The American-Turkish cooperation in Syria has been instrumental in the effort to bringing down ISIS. But it only took a few days from the moment the Turks invaded Syria—with the United States' blessing—until the Americans realized they've been deceived. The Turks, it turns out, are also shooting at America's allies, the Syrian Kurds—the ones who are supposed to take over Al-Raqqah, the ISIS capital in Syria, for them.

 

And so, Israel watches with apprehension how the Americans are leading Syria to the worst possible solution for Israel: Assad in power, and Iranians in the Golan Heights.

 

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