Tag Archives: Syrian Civil War

Israel-Palestine — enough already!


By Sol Sanders

It must have been a shock to its “allright-nick” listeners. But even government-subsidized National Public Radio [NPR] had a commentator last week declaring that the so-called Israel-Palestine “Peace Process” isn’t going anywhere. And, more importantly, he noted, the rest of the Middle East at the moment doesn’t care all that much about the issue. That’s quite an admission for the increasing anti-Israel lobby which now counts The New York Times and NPR among its brightest stars.

Nor was Pres. Barack Obama likely to have heard much about the Israel-Palestine schmoozle in his peripatetic travels including trying to put a band aid on worsening Washington-Riyadh relations. True, the Arab League – which has more differences among its members than the United Nations Security Council –recently did come out against “a Jewish state”. But the Arab League has become less and less a spokesman for the Arabs. Its anti-Israel screeds are all that’s left of what broke away from British tutelage with Gama Nasser’s overthrow the British protected Egyptian monarchy in the early 50s.

Indeed, the list of issues is long facing the Arab world, and Muslim majority nations in general, and the Western powers ostensibly led by the U.S. in the Middle East. It is fraught with so many other threats that the problem of Israel’s relations with the Arabs pales in comparison. Nor does anyone believe the myth held among Pres. Obama’s Arabist coterie that “solution” of the Israel-Palestine problem would be an open sesame to solving all the Middle East myriad difficulties.

Foremost now, for the Sunni Arab regimes – and even those nominally secular such as Egypt’s new military rule – is the specter of the growing regional power of the mullahs in Tehran. That’s exemplified for the Saudis by the growing evidence that the bloody Syrian Dictator Basher Assad relies on Iran for life support. The Saudis publicly keep reminding Obama and the Europeans they had promised to eliminate him. Instead, there is even the prospect that Assad may negotiate his way into some sort of permanence through, ironically, Washington-sponsored peace talks.

The Saudis, who continue to call for an American commitment in Syria – which Pres. Barack Obama originally promised and then welshed on — see it as an extension of Tehran’s increasingly successful reach for regional hegemony. That’s not only by its support of Assad [along with Moscow] with both boots on the ground and armaments, but its encouragement of the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah. Hezbollah, the terrorist organization which before 9/11 had taken most American lives, has now become the dominant force in always sectarian strife-torn Lebanon. Furthermore, its troops blooded in the Syrian civil war are armed by Iran with increasingly state of the art missiles for any new engagement with Israel. Hanging over all this is the threat of the Tehran mullahs acquiring nuclear weapons and delivery systems which U.S. allies in the region increasingly see Washington’s efforts to halt faint-hearted.

Yet Obama puts an Israel-Arab settlement at the top of his public agenda most of the time, and Kerry frenetically hops from one side to another with professions of “progress”. They both ignore the reality, clear to all to see but Washington and Obama’s advisors – including CIA Director John O. Brennan, who continues to view the notorious Moslem Brotherhood as the Islamic equivalent of European Christian Democrats.

As this is written, there appears to be a considerable chance “the peace process” will break down completely. That could be the best thing all around, at least for the time being. In fact, there is in reality no negotiating process because there is no Arab partner and no policy but stonewalling from the Palestinian self-appointed leadership. No Israeli government facing these conditions can do more than stall, too. So anti-Israel forces in Europe and America use the failure as a weapon to beat the Israelis.

As this is written, a further “dispute” has paralyzed continuing talks: Israel refuses to release unilaterally another 30 Palestinian prisoners – some terrorist killers – unless the Palestinians agree to further “talks” before they are released. And the Palestinians say no talks resumption until the prisoners are released. This is just one more piece of the inanity of the whole “process”.

In the first place, Washington’s efforts are with an Arab leadership –only installed on the so-called West Bank. No one is prepared to negotiate, were it possible, with Hamas in Gaza. There terrorists, officially labeled by both the U.S. and the Europeans. publicly boast of their refusal to recognize Israel or give up claims to the whole of the old British League of Nations Palestinian Mandate.

No Palestinian leader – speaking in Arabic rather than English or French – has given a clear-cut statement of acceptance of the existence or the right to exist of an Israeli state. More recently, that has been reinforced with Washington’s chief Arab interlocutor, Mahmoud Abas now rejecting the concept of “a Jewish state”.

Obama and Kerry have reinforced the Palestinian objections to Jewish “settlements” on the West Bank, although, obviously, any agreement would have to include some 1.7 million Arabs living within Israel’s 1967 armistice lines. A two-state solution would have to include large minorities of each group or call for an enormous population swap – which Israeli Arabs have already forcefully rejected.

Demilitarization of any future Palestinian state would have to be a basic issue for the Israelis given the pattern in Gaza, where a withdrawal [including the Israeli destruction of Jewish “settlements”] has resulted in a base for constant missile harassment. Yet Abbas has already rejected the Israeli insistence that its security [concurred on by Jordan] requires it hold on to bases in the JordanValley, its first line of defense on the east.

Abandonment of the traditional Hebrew centers in Judea and Samaria [the time-honored names for the West Bank] would further the outrageous radical Muslim campaign to deny Jewish/Hebrew history despite their own religious texts reliance on it. In fact, it was there for the most part where the ancient Hebrew kingdoms which the Zionists seek to restore in their modern state were located – not in the plains around Tel Aviv, now its largest center of Jewish population. Abandoning them would further the whole campaign to delegitimate Israel.

Increasingly, so-called “pro-Palestinian” sentiment in the West has either merged with traditional anti-Semitism or the remnants of the Communist and their fellow travelers.. Whatever excesses exist – in an embittered Israeli Occupation of predominantly Arab areas — have followed six unsuccessful attempts of the Arab coalitions to wipe out the Jewish state.

Hamas and its rival Islamic Jihad in Gaza are gaining strength for Muslim jihadists in the West Bank [as witness recent rioting in Jenin, a flashp[oint going back to 1936 Arab attacks on British Mandate authorities and the then small Jewish community.]. There is every reason to believe that were elections held, Abbas and his “moderate” following in the non-Gaza areas would be decimated by Hamas [which may partially explain his tortured extension of his current office]

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees [UNRRA], the only organization created for a single refugee group, has well over a billion dollar basic annual funding. It perpetuates the refugee problem by including all descendants of those who either voluntarily left or were pushed beyond the 1948 armistice lines, its schools are a hot bed of racist propaganda against Jews and its summer camps sponsor training for terrorists according to its former counsel. The Palestinians’ negotiating demand for a return of all Arab “refugees” to Israel is not only unrealistic but is just one more stumbling block to real negotiations.

And the list goes on and on.

So what are Obama and Kerry talking about when they sponsor a continued “peace process”?

It appears more than anything else an extension of Obama’s highly trumpeted outreach to the Muslim world announced early in his first Administration [with the rather shaky historical review of his Istanbul and Cairo speeches]. Since then, we have seen The Arab Spring turn to The Arab Winter, a brutal massacre of his own people by Assad in Syria with an answering radicalization of the opposition, the fall of an Egyptian autocrat to the Muslim Brotherhood’s “one man, one vote – one election” to the reinstitution of a military authoritarian Cairo regime which Obama has spurned and therefore with whom Washington has little influence, and a frightened and disaffected group of Persian Gulf American allies.

There are times when “just stand there” is the proper advice.

Minus the encouragement – and financing of some of the most corrupt politicians in the world – by the U.S. and the Europeans of the so-called Palestinian cause, the current Israel-Palestinian stalemate continues intractable. Statesmanship dictates that it be put on the back burner, at least for a while, and a turn to other far higher priority problems from the Black Sea to the Baltic as well as the continuing threat of the Iranian bomb and East Asia where the results of the ballyhooed “pivot” are still awaited.

 

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Hold your horses!


The old cliché has it that history is written by the victors. But the victors’ historians, too, are human. In an effort to write a narrative which the rest of us can follow, they pick up what we diginicks call a “thread”. Until someone identifies a major theme and writes [and rewrites] that narrative, much of the important peripheral events get lost in the shuffle. Or they may get exaggerated beyond their eventual importance. All of this to say that in our world just now of instantaneous communication, everyone and his brother is grasping at straws in an unfolding crisis and drawing conclusions that will not stand the test of the coming historical narrative.

If that sounds wordy and pretentious, dear reader, you are right. What I want to say is, simply, the old-fashioned, “Hold your horses!” Wait out developments because we do not know what is happening or what will happen next before making final or even partial judgments.

I am appalled that radio and TV talking heads – as well as friends – grab a piece of this infinitely complicated geopolitical and humanitarian puzzle and run with it.

At the risk of seeming glib myself, may I just throw out a few of what I hope are helpful if not saving interpolations:

No, I am not an “Arabist” nor have I done more than stick my foot across the Israeli-Syrian Golan Heights truce line toward Damascus only 40 [all downhill] miles away. But I have watched the Mideast for half a century out of the corner of my eye and if for no other reason, do think I have some semblance of historical perspective.

Yes, there is a general consensus that the U.S. should not intervene further in what began as a civil war in Syria unless “American national interest” is threatened. But like so many other political concepts, “national interest” is defined in many different ways: the fact that Basher al Assad is increasingly kept in power by the mullahs in Iran while developing their own weapons of mass destruction and a Russian UN Security Council veto camouflages Putin’s arms sales to Assad has changed the nature of the conflict.

No, Pres. Obama does not need a vote in the Congress in order for him to take military action in Syria in pursuit of American national interest and without a declaration of war. Almost every recent U.S. president has done just that. It irony that many of today’s opponents trace their opposition to foreign intervention as “progressives” to Pres. Woodrow Wilson who “unilaterally” used American military power repeatedly including intervention in the Mexican Revolution and, indeed, its civil war..

Yes, there isn’t much chance the U.S. or any one else can stabilize Syria, an artificial state created in the last gasp of British and French colonialism in the 1920s. Before the murdering al Assads arrived on the scene in the mid-1960s with their domination of its airforce by their Alawaite minority, there were some two dozen Syrian [mostly failed] coup d’etats. The Assads established whatever stability the country has had by brute force – including a 1982 month-long artillery shelling of a civilian population in Hamma that killed tens of thousands.

No, there is nothing new about the reluctance of America’s ostensible allies to join in what they generally say is a worthwhile military effort. After years of lobbying the British and the French whose citizens like those of the infant American Republic’s were being held for ransom, Pres. Thomas Jefferson [who had originally opposed any kind of permanent military] in 1802 went to the Congress for permission but no declaration of war to go for a military “strike” against the Barbary pirates.

Yes, there is no telling where Pres. Obama’s request to the Congress would lead were his “strike” against Syria with or without Congressional endorsement to be carried out.  [Please note all the essential subjunctives!]  I recall the old generals’ adage that all war plans and strategies go aglimmering with the firing of the first shot in any military engagement Assad, for example, has chosen not to respond to Israel’s three raids wiping out Russian munitions intended for Hezbollah, Assad’s ally in Beirut and southern Lebanon, who threaten the destruction of Israel, and he might try to ignore any American attack however effective.

No, Washington cannot back away from the Mideast whatever the decision Obama/Congress makes on this current issue. The U.S. has too many interests there including the region’s essential role in the world economy producing about two-thirds of the oil necessary to keep European and East Asian economies afloat even though the U,.S. is now approaching fossil fuel self-sufficiency [no thanks to Obama Administration policy but] because of the new shale technological revolution.

Yes, there is an overriding issue in Basher al Assad’s use of chemical warfare because for a hundred years the world has largely abided by an international agreement not to use this merciless of all weapons in combat, even with occasional violations by such monsters as Saddam Hussein and the Assads. That prohibition has been observe red in no small part because “poison gas” – used by both sides — turned out to be a dubious weapon in World War I for both its user and its victims. That evaluation could be hanging by a thread because of new delivery systems [i.e., medium and long-range missiles].

No, the power vacuum created by Obama’s four year effort “to lead from behind” and his Administration’s flirtation with the terrorist Moslem Brotherhood cannot be used as an excuse now to quit and run. As the saying goes, we are where we are, and unfortunately for an American public tried of war, the U.S.’ overwhelming economic and  military power is as potent when it is not directed and applied as when it is engaged.

Yes, a victory in the civil war would embolden Assad’s principal backer, the mullahs in Tehran moving to dominate the area, and Russia’s Pres. Putin, trying desperately to reassert the Soviet Union’s gone-with-the-wind superpower status. Failure of American resolve to handle this crisis will likely lead to a new and more dangerous breakdown in world stability if and when the Iranians get their nuclear weapon for which “Syria” is their diversionary sideshow or Putin with his oil and gas revenues collapsing tries some new stunt to hang on to power.

No, the U.S. did not start it all when with the British the CIA toppled the government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953. It was, indeed, about the nationalization of Anglo-Persian Oil Co. [ancestor of BP]. But it was also about the opening salvos of the Cold War with Mossadegh’s off-and-on-support from Moscow and its Iranian Tudeh-Communist Party. [Read my Christian Science Monitor pieces in mid-summer 1951 from Tehran when, by the way, I was subbing for their Moscow staff correspondent who later turned out to be a Soviet agent!]

Yes, Syrian Christians are caught in the crossfire as almost unnoticed by the U.S. mainstream media and the American mainstream churches 15 million Egyptian Coptic Christians were about to be slaughtered by the former Egyptian Brotherhood regime. But leftwing Christians [e.g., one of the co-founders of the so-called Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party which installed Assad’s equally monstrous father] have been Assad’s collaborators. So much for a propaganda video of a female Syrian Christian spokesman haranguing cornered, hawkish Sen. John McCain at a town meeting.

No, Assad will not be able to write off the effects of any American “strike” although, obviously, it has lost its surprise element and permitted him to move possible targets. Many if not most of the “hard” targets cannot be moved, and while he might fly his aircraft to Iran as Sadaam Hussein did when America attacked, moving his third world command and control operations centered on a family dictatorship won’t be that easy. The mere threat of a “strike” – or its further escalation under pressure from Congressional hawks such as Sen. McCain and Congressman Pete King– is already shaking the regime to its secret police torturing roots.

Yes, it would be a lot better if Obama had an overall strategy in the Mideast before setting out on a rather idealistic rectification of world morality which in a more perfect world should be left tothe UN. But that is not where we are, and the issue is whether the U.S. is to try to reinforce some international standards of decency. It is a question this country cannot escape with impunity any more than it has in the past. It is a choice that the American Republic has had to make, often to its chagrin, many times in the past.

No, historical analogies are odious as some dead white European has said, but it does seem that we are moving from the Spanish Civil War aspects of this conflict to the Munich era. Two oceans and six and a half minutes for an Iranian or North Korean ICBM to reach us no more protect us today than they did in 1939 – nor in 9/11 when a ragtag terrorist band planned and executed the death of some 3,000 innocents at long distance from their hideouts in isolated, backward, primitive Afghanistan.

Yes, we are under fire from propaganda [and conspiracy theorists] from various interests with their own agendas. But rest assured that the confusion is so rampant that just as the issue has cut across nominal Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative lines, it is rearranging normally Mideast and international European and Asian players. Russia wants to protect its old Soviet satellite Syrian Mideast legacy but its nominal UN Security Council partner vetoing American action, China, is more interested in keeping Mideast peace so its growing oil and gas import bill doesn’t go through the roof [as its economy slows].which, in turn, would profit their pal {Ras} Putin.. Ditto various U.S. domestic conflicts.

No, there are no easy explanations nor answers. This is a messy affair.

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