Saturday, September 14, 2013

Matt 24 watch, 223: Ben Birnbaum -- Flip-flopping by the Obama administration on Syria makes an Israeli strike against Iran far more likely (and it is US pressue that has stopped such a strike from having already happened)

From The New Republic, over Ben Birnbaum's by-line, we read:

[T]he White House’s indecisiveness of the last few weeks will cast a long shadow. Israel has kept a low profile in the Syrian civil war, launching anonymous strikes periodically to prevent the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah, but otherwise keeping mum—and with good reason. A collapse of the Syrian state and the rise of jihadist groups would threaten the long-standing calm along the Golan Heights and is no less distasteful to Israel than Assad’s continuation in power. Israel certainly has a vital stake in the destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal (Assad has missiles that can reach Tel Aviv; so does Hezbollah), but Benjamin Netanyahu still sees the issue through the same prism he sees all issues these days: As he said Wednesday, “the message Syria receives will resonate very strongly in Iran.” It will resonate very strongly in Israel as well.
The Obama administration (and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) has argued to Congress that a failure to enforce the president’s red line on chemical weapons would embolden the Iranian leadership to test his red line on nuclear weapons. And, indeed, a no vote on the Syria resolution would devastate American credibility in Tehran. But Iran has shown few signs of being deterred even in the face of crippling sanctions and an American threat of military action, so the more salient question is how the handwringing in Washington will affect the calculus in Jerusalem as Israel continues to debate military action.
Birnbaum notes:

conversations over the past two years with individuals who have been directly involved in the decision-making process have convinced me that Netanyahu is quite serious about striking Iran and would have done so by now had it not been for intense American pressure . . . . 

Netanyahu draws the Red Line at the UN
Iran is now dangerously close
Virtually all top Israeli officials agree that given the choice between “bomb or bombing,” bombing is the lesser of two evils. The debate instead has been over whether Israel has more time to wait for other measures to take their toll or whether, by waiting too long, it risks allowing Iran to enter what former defense minister Ehud Barak called the “zone of immunity,” when the Iranian nuclear program would be beyond Israel’s military reach [--> i.e. with conventional weapons] . . . the major question before Israel has always been whether it could trust the U.S.—with its superior military capabilities—to strike in the event that its own window of military opportunity closes.

Until now, a number of senior Israelis have believed it could. “I heard very carefully what President Obama said,” former Mossad chief Meir Dagan told "60 Minutes" last year. “And he said openly that the military option is on the table, and he is not going to let Iran become a nuclear state.” Current president Shimon Peres was even more emphatic in an interview with The New York Times Magazine, arguing that Israel should give the U.S. more time to pursue sanctions and diplomacy. “If none of this works, then President Obama will use military power against Iran,” he said. “I am sure of it.”
 He then chillingly notes: "Netanyahu is, well, less sure."

He explains:

Netanyahu had a fellow skeptic in Barak, who with him lobbied fellow members of Israel’s security cabinet in support of a strike before last year’s U.S. presidential election. While the details remain murky, all indications are that Barak changed his mind in the final weeks after receiving American assurances. The question in the wake of the great Syria zig-zag is what an American assurance is worth. If Syria is a test case for American reliability, it hasn’t been an encouraging one for Israelis.
This of course chillingly corroborates my thoughts in an earlier post of Sept 1st,  here at KF blog.

There is a lot more at stake in the Middle East's ever boiling pot than we may want to think.

And, we in the Caribbean need to be prepared for predictable implications of such a strike, destabilisation of the global energy markets leading to surging fuel prices and massive economic dislocation.

We need to be thinking survival mode in a time when import prices would surge (including FOOD) -- if we can get them at all. Sobering. END