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Saturday, July 7

America's copyrighted Shoot Yourself in the Foot school of defense policy.

"Therefore Israel ought to wish Assad sweeping success and a long life. And when Israeli ministers threaten his continued rule if he lets Iranian forces set up shop near Israel’s border, they should know they’re also threatening Russia — as well as Israel’s new strategic partner in the presidential palace in Damascus."

I told you: Soon all of them will be kissing and making up.

The quote is from a columnist and Middle East correspondent for Israel's Haaretz newspaper. I hope every American reader here will study what he has to say in the following report. But first I want my say:

Three guesses, the first two don't count, which government will be left holding the bag for the Syrian War. You betcha; only they won't say the American 'government.' It will be 'the Americans' forced us -- forced, mind you -- to make war on Assad. 

No, they won't be exactly lying; it's the way they'll remember it. Memory does play tricks when it has to live in the same neighborhood with former enemies. It's human nature to blame the outsider -- especially when the outsider is conveniently on the other side of the world.  

Americans need to weigh this aspect of human nature against the desire to be helpful.  Whatever goes seriously wrong, and no matter who started it or why, Americans will end up being blamed for the whole thing. 

As to Americans who say they don't care if they take the blame, as long as they're doing the right thing -- first, unfolding events often reveal that what is the' right' can be many-layered.

Second, when the mistakes pile up in country after country where the U.S. has intervened for alleged humanitarian reasons, people in those countries quite intelligently decide that with saviors like Americans, they don't need oppressors.

Third, you only get so many chances to present yourself as competent; once people get the idea that you're incompetent, it's really hard to move your policies forward regarding a specific country and even an entire region.

This doesn't mean Americans should never intervene. It does mean stepping back after a string of disasters that can easily be blamed solely on the United States. 

And consider this: we've caused so much havoc in so many countries since 9/11 that we've made the Russians and Chinese regimes look good in the eyes of a great many people. American blundering has even made Assad look like a saint to many Syrians. 

So that's one area where American policymakers have consistently excelled since the end of the Cold War -- in the Shoot Yourself in the Foot school of defense policy.   
       
Now watch this Israeli analyst twist his computer keyboard into the shape of a pretzel to convey that actually Jerusalem was never really for Assad's overthrow. lol.

Analysis 
Syria’s Assad Has Become Israel’s Ally
By Zvi Bar'el
June 5, 2018
Haaretz

Early in 2012, the year after the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the Foreign Ministry drafted recommendations on Israel’s positionregarding Syrian President Bashar Assad.

As Haaretz reported at the time, the ministry said Israel should denounce the slaughter in Syria and call for Assad’s ouster. It argued that Israel shouldn’t be the only Western country not to condemn Assad, since that would feed conspiracy theories that Israel preferred the mass murderer to remain in power.

The Israeli foreign minister at the time, Avigdor Lieberman, accepted this recommendation, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed it. Netanyahu denounced the slaughter and the Syrian army and charged that “various leaders have no moral qualms about killing their neighbors and their own people as well.” But he never mentioned Assad as the person responsible or demanded his ouster. Israel’s UN ambassador during that period, Ron Prosor, said Assad has “no moral right to lead his people,” but that was it.

These diplomatic acrobatics and the Lieberman-Netanyahu dispute only fed the conspiracy theories, and Syrian rebel leaders were convinced that Israel wanted Assad to remain in power. They were right.

Now that Assad has regained control of most of Syria and is waging a final battle against rebels in the south, Israel is acting as if it is now reformulating its policy and becoming “reconciled” to Assad’s continued rule. Several weeks ago, Israel reportedly told Russia it wouldn’t oppose that, as if the decision were in its hands or as if Israel even had any leverage over what kind of government is in power in Syria after the war ends.

But Israel isn’t merely “reconciled” to rule by Assad. It also feared the prospect that the various rebel militias might succeed in ousting him, sparking a new civil war among the rebels themselves.

Position papers drafted by the Israeli army and the Foreign Ministry over the past two years didn’t actually voice support for the Syrian president, but their assessments show that they viewed his continued rule as preferable or even vital for Israel’s security. Israel’s close cooperation with Russia, which gave Israeli forces a free hand to attack Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria, added the Israelis to the unofficial coalition of Arab states that support Assad’s continued rule.

yptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, who met with the head of Syrian intelligence in 2015, said that same year that “Egypt and Syria are in the same boat.” Egyptian delegations visited Damascus despite Syria’s ouster from the Arab League, and in a 2017 interview, Al-Sissi even said that “Egypt supports the armies of states like Iraq, Libya and Syria.”

King Abdullah of Jordan was one of the first leaders to denounce Assad and demand his ouster. But he later reversed himself, thereby angering Saudi Arabia. And following conversations between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian officials, even Riyadh is no longer publicly opposing Assad’s continued tenure.

Russia’s military intervention in Syria, which began in 2015, was initially viewed by Israel as ineffective and doomed to fail. But in reality, it bolstered Assad’s status domestically, created a coalition with Iran and Turkey and neutralized the intervention of Arab states such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. And since the United States had withdrawn from the arena even before that, Israel ostensibly had to make do with the lesser evil.

But the Russian coalition is no love affair. Tehran and Moscow are at odds over control of the de-escalation zones. Turkey, which invaded Kurdish areas of northern Syria, threatens Russia’s desire for a united Syrian state.

Therefore if Israel’s goal is to oust Iran from Syria, Russia — rather than the United States or the Arab states — is the only power capable of limiting Iran’s operations there and perhaps even getting it to leave.

Assad is deeply dependent on Russia, even more than on Iran. And that’s convenient for Israel, because it means Syria’s foreign policy, including its future policy toward Israel, will be vetted by the Kremlin, thereby at least ensuring coordination with Israel and a reduction in the threat from Syria. In exchange, Israel has committed not to undermine Assad’s rule.

Moreover, Israel has insisted that the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement that followed the Yom Kippur War remains in effect, meaning Israel won’t accept Syrian forces in parts of the Golan Heights demilitarized under that agreement. Officially, UN observers oversee the agreement’s implementation. But in practice, it was the Assad regime that ensured that Syria upheld the agreement and that kept the border quiet for decades. Israel, which has a low opinion of UN observers, also used its military deterrence to persuade Assad that upholding the agreement served his interests.

Now Russia is effectively joining this supervisory force, and it sees eye to eye with Israel about the need to keep the border quiet. Therefore Israel ought to wish Assad sweeping success and a long life. And when Israeli ministers threaten his continued rule if he lets Iranian forces set up shop near Israel’s border, they should know they’re also threatening Russia — as well as Israel’s new strategic partner in the presidential palace in Damascus.


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