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Shimon Shiffer
Obama’s dilemma
Op-ed: US still bleeding from long war in Iraq; cautious approach to Syria crisis understandable

The Syrian civil war, the use of chemical weapons against civilians and the live fire used by Egyptian security forces to repress the Muslim Brotherhood protests give our analysts, our experts on US affairs and retired generals their day in the sun in the newspapers and mainly on the television news programs. It turns out there is nothing easier than offering free advice to all sides: It sounds decisive, one-directional and understood by all, and the analyst or advisor does not have to bear the consequences of the moves he recommends.

 

“Obama,” one military analyst said, “has been exposed as an apathetic, hesitant leader who is diminishing the power of his country.”

 

We can only hope that the American Embassy in Tel Aviv is not reporting the drivel spewed by some of the talking heads in the electronic media and the essays critical of President Obama that are written by people who received their degrees in American universities and are therefore considered “experts.” Who knows what the White House will think of the assessments it receives from Israeli intelligence, since some of the analysts base their opinions on information obtained from the heads of our intelligence community.

 

The truth is that the dilemma facing the decision makers in the White House is much more complicated than the Israeli spokespeople suggest. We must remember that America is still bleeding after a long war in Iraq in which tens of thousands of soldiers were killed and which cost the American taxpayers a trillion dollars. American is about to withdraw from another war – in Afghanistan – where it was also proven that there are no happy wars or indisputable results.

 

This brings us to the “Arab Spring,” which - in contrast to the early predictions of those who hoped the region was on the brink of a dramatic change – is not showing any signs that it will replace the old order with a democratic regime. All the sides involved in our region’s civil wars praise God. “Allahu Akbar” they yell while slaughtering each other. It is unclear who is fighting alongside who or who the good guys and bad guys are in this story. So what do you want from the US?

 

Against this background, President Obama’s cautious approach is understandable. He is aware of America’s power and the effects of every move it makes not only on our region, but also with regards to Russia and China. The frightening aspect of the civil war in Syria relates to us, to the Israelis. For decades our decision makers have tried, unsuccessfully, to reach a peace agreement with Syria – normalization in exchange for the Golan Heights.

 

'Back to the Middle Ages'

The attempt to reach such a deal stemmed from the fact that Rabin, Peres, Barak and Netanyahu understood that every effort must be made to move Syria out of Iran’s influence, as well as from the fear that the Syrian regime is in possession of chemical and biological weapons that can be launched as warheads on surface-to-air missiles towards Israel.

 

The opposers of an agreement with Syria say: Look what could have happened had Israel signed a deal with the Assad family. But I dare to assume that had an agreement with Syria been reached, today we would not be witnessing with trepidation a civil war in the neighboring Arab state.

 

Moreover, Bashar Assad, who is using chemical weapons against his own people, will not hesitate to launch these deadly weapons – in certain situations – toward population centers in Israel. I also suggest we do not believe the arrogant statements made by the heads of the security establishment who claim that if Syria dares to attack us we will send it back to the Middle Ages. Such threats should be viewed with suspicion, because while we may send Syria hundreds of years back, it will cause thousands of Israeli casualties.

 

 


פרסום ראשון: 08.25.13, 20:20
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