Difference of Perspectives


-------   A friend of mine wrote me a message asking about the relations between Israel and the USA in the context of the Middle East and the Iranian threat. It is followed by my response.

What's the comfort level in Israel with President Obama's so-called strategy vis a vis Iran? We don't know what to make of it over here. A few months back we were smacking the hell out of the Libyans for humanitarian reasons. Now we're posturing while Syrians are being massacred by their leaders. I think our message is "we'll take care of the little bullies, but when it comes to the big ones who push back you're on your own." Your thoughts?

------   My response

Well ****, President Obama is obviously doing what he believes is best for the United States of America. Having said that, albeit the long standing friendship between the two nations, what's best for the US is not always best for Israel. Obama says he's not practicing containment, but he is, though it is as much as every democrat administration in the US has done in the past, so little surprise there.

On the Israeli side of the map, things look very different from here. Here Israel is facing a autocratic regime with a record of 30 years of hostility, bluntly declaring it's desire to 'wipe the Zionists off the face of the earth'. This regime is currently lacking the ability to do so but is steadily working at it. Israel's experience with these type of threats thus far has been very positive: In 1981 a nuclear facility in Iraq was blasted from the air and in 2007 a Syrian similar facility was destroyed in the same manner. On both occasion Israel operated on its own, regardless of American objections, and succeeded in preserving a balance in the weapons race of the middle east, so claimed by foreign press.

Though the Iranian enterprise is much different from the ones mentioned above in its complexity and the right approach to destroying it, it still presents the same threat for Israel - annihilation. Therefor you can understand the reluctance of Israel to wait till the last second before attempting to resolve the issue. Notwithstanding the risk of opening a full scale war in the region, Israel prefers a preemptive strike on its own terms.

That being said, it is not necessarily the right course of action in order to rid Israel and the world of the Iranian threat. A skillful eye would notice that efforts to delay nuclear accomplishments in Iran are side by side with efforts to support a regime change in the country. The intent behind such maneuvers are not just to have Ahmadinejad step down, something that may happen in any case in the near future, but to facilitate any alternative, hopefully a sound and rational movement, to take the place of the Ayatollah regime. This perception allows for nuclear development but in the hands of a responsible government.

As far as the difference between Libya and Syria, the answer is simple and sad: oil, or the lack of for the latter. But this might not be a bad thing. Learning mistakes from past affairs - Iraq, Afghanistan - is crucial in the paradigm of western involvement in Arab/Muslim/Middle Eastern problems. In the Libyan case this was demonstrated in a sense: western involvement was kept to exterior parameters, and to preserving proper conduct of war. In a way it was basically leveling the playing field. This allowed for a leadership to rise from the ashes, and for some sort of accountability in post revolution times. The situation in Syria is much different.

Syria is marked by a non unified society that its only cohesive factor was the government. There is no real leadership to take the wheel against Assad, thus there is no one figure for the west to support. Whether such a leadership will develop, perhaps a coalescence of FSA and the SNC, time will tell. Until then the west' best move is to steer clear of direct involvement. Having said that, there is much to be done under the guise of humanitarian relief.

I think the main tones of my answer are these: The US has to understand that this region needs to consider its own interests first with local matters, especially when it comes to security, and that things which are apparent here, are not always obvious from over there.