Israel Lobby Pushes for US Action Against the Syrian Government
In Russia Today’s recent Crosstalk program on Syria, guest James Morris was brave enough to incisively point out the taboo fact that the Israel lobby has been in the forefront in pushing a hardline interventionist approach for the US toward that divided country. The host and the two other guests on the show pooh-poohed the idea on the grounds that (in their minds) it would not be in Israel’s national interest to topple the secular Assad regime and possibly bring about an Islamist state that could be even more hostile to Israel. But when one moves from speculation to an analysis of the actual position of members of the Israel lobby, one can see that Morris was completely correct. Moreover, Morris was completely correct in pointing out that the Israel lobby’s position has nothing to do with ending oppression, and everything to do with Israeli security, as members of the Israel lobby have perceived Israel’s interest (which might not be the same as the Crosstalk threesome.)
The neoconservatives, the vanguard of the Israel lobby, have especially been ardent in their advocacy of a hardline, interventionist position toward Syria. Evidence abounds for this finding, but it is best encapsulated by an August 2011 open letter from the neoconservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (an organization which claims to address any “threat facing America, Israel and the West”) to President Obama, urging him to take stronger measures against Syria. Among the signatories of the letter are such neocon luminaries as: Elliott Abrams (son-in-law of neocon “godfather” Norman Podhoretz and a former National Security adviser to President George W. Bush); the Council on Foreign Relations’ Max Boot; “Weekly Standard” editor Bill Kristol; Douglas Feith (Under Secretary of Defense for Policy under George W. Bush and an author of the “Clean Break” policy paper); Joshua Muravchik (affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute [AEI], the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and “Commentary”); Frederick W. Kagan (AEI, co-author of the “surge” in Iraq); Robert Kagan (co-founder of the Project for the New American Century PNAC); James Woolsey (head of the CIA under Clinton and chair of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies); Randy Scheunemann (former President of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and foreign affairs adviser to John McCain in his 2008 presidential campaign); Reuel Marc Gerecht (former Director of the Project for the New American Century’s Middle East Initiative and a former resident fellow at AEI); Michael Makovsky (advisor to the propagandistic Office of Special Plans, which was under Douglas Feith); John Hannah (senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy [WINEP] and a former national security adviser to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney); and Gary Schmitt (AEI and former President for the Project for a New American Century).
As Morris notes in his presentation, elimination of the Assad regime in Syria was not an idea conceived by either the neocons or the broader Israel lobby; rather it can be traced back to the Israeli Likudniks, being articulated by Oded Yinon in his 1982 piece, “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties.” In this article, Yinon called for Israel to use military means to bring about the dissolution of Israel’s neighboring states and their fragmentation into a mosaic of ethnic and sectarian groupings. Yinon believed that this would not be a difficult undertaking because nearly all the Arab states were afflicted with internal ethnic and religious divisions. In essence, the end result would be a Middle East of powerless mini-statelets that could in no way confront Israeli power. Lebanon, then facing divisive chaos, was Yinon’s model for the entire Middle East. Yinon wrote: “Lebanon’s total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precedent for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian peninsula and is already following that track. The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target.” (Quoted in “The Transparent Cabal,” p. 51)
What stands out in the stark contrast to the debate taking place today is that Yinon’s rationale for eliminating the dictatorial regimes in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East had absolutely nothing to do with their oppressive practices and lack of democracy, but rather was based solely on Israel’s geostrategic interests-the aim being to permanently weaken Israel’s enemies. The neoconservatives took up the gist of the Yinon’s position in their 1996 Clean Break policy paper, whose authors included neocons Richard Perle, David Wurmser, Douglas Feith, which was presented to then incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It urged him to use military force against a number of Israel’s enemies, which beginning with Iraq would include “weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria.” Once again the fundamental concern was Israeli security, not liberty and democracy for the people of those countries. (“The Transparent Cabal,” p. 90)
Numerous neocons before and after 9/11 expressed the need to confront Syria in order to protect the security of both the United States and Israel, whose interests they claimed coincided. And this position on Syria was concurred in by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who, one month before the US invasion of Iraq, identified it, along with Libya and Iran, as an ideal target for future US action. Sharon stated: “These are irresponsible states, which must be disarmed of weapons [of] mass destruction, and a successful American move in Iraq as a model will make that easier to achieve.” (Quoted in “The Transparent Cabal,” p. 172)
A month after Bush’s 2004 re-election, Bill Kristol would emphasize the key position of Syria in the “war on terrorism.” He wrote in the “Weekly Standard” that because Syria was allegedly interfering with America’s efforts to put down the insurgency in Iraq, it was thus essential for the United States “to get serious about dealing with Syria as part of winning in Iraq, and in the broader Middle East.” (Quoted in “The Transparent Cabal,” pp. 253-254)
The close ties between Syria and Iran would begin to provide a fundamental reason for the neocons’ desire to take action against Syria. It was this factor that shaped neocon thinking on the Israel’s July 2006 incursion into Lebanon. Some months after the Israeli invasion, neocon Meyrav Wurmser would affirm that it was neocon influence in the Bush administration that was setting US policy on Lebanon, with the aim being a direct Israeli confrontation with Syria. “The neocons are responsible for the fact that Israel got a lot of time and space,” Wurmser stated. “They believed that Israel should be allowed to win. A great part of it was the thought that Israel should fight against the real enemy, the one backing Hizbullah. It was obvious that it is impossible to fight directly against Iran, but the thought was that its strategic and important ally should be hit.” Furthermore, “If Israel had hit Syria, it would have been such a harsh blow for Iran that it would have weakened it and [changed] the strategic map in the Middle East.” (Quoted in “The Transparent Cabal,” p. 278)
And any action by Iran to protect its Syrian ally would provide a casus belli for the United States to attack Iran, which is what the neocons sought. Michael Ledeen opined, “The only way we are going to win this war is to bring down those regimes in Tehran and Damascus and they are not going to fall as a result of fighting between their terrorist proxies in Gaza and Lebanon on the one hand, and Israel on the other. Only the United States can accomplish it.” (Quoted in “The Transparent Cabal,” p. 279)
Bill Kristol argued the same point in his article, “It’s Our War,” underscoring the need for direct American involvement in the ongoing conflict. America “might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression [arms provided to Hezbollah] with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.” (Quoted in “The Transparent Cabal,” p. 279)
As can be seen, the goal of eliminating the Assad Baathist regime has existed among Israeli Likudniks and the neocons for some time. And it currently propels the demand for militant action against the Syrian government. Moreover, action taken against Syria has become viewed as a way of seriously weakening Iran (perceived as a much more dangerous enemy), or even leading to war with it. That Israel might not benefit from regime change in Syria, and that some in Israel might actually fear such a development, does not alter the obvious fact that the neocons and much of the overall Israel lobby support it. And it is they who affect the policy of the United States.
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- Sanctioning Syria (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Wars for Israel: a Reminder of Who Is Giving the Marching Orders (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- NGOs in Egypt: Promoting Democracy or Destabilization? (alethonews.wordpress.com)