Archive for August 11th, 2012
Romney is noted for his “flip-flops” on issues depending on the audience. He is currently surrounding himself with neocon foreign policy advisors. But would he follow such a policy as president?
In the following essay, I try to deal with this issue.
Would Romney Pursue a Neocon War Agenda?
by Stephen J. Sniegoski
Mitt Romney, who in the past was considered a moderate Republican, has surrounded himself with neoconservative foreign policy advisors. Romney’s chameleon approach to politics is to simply say, and sometimes do, whatever would appeal to his current audience. To win the governorship of Massachusetts, Romney had to be something of a liberal. To win the Republican presidential primaries, it was essential for Romney to place himself on the Right. In foreign policy this meant an appeal to the Christian Zionists and hard-line American nationalists who identify with the aggressive foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration, which especially focused on the Middle East, with Iran now being the major target. And all the major Republican presidential candidates took this position with the exception of Ron Paul.
Romney has gone as far as to threaten military action to stop Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. This naturally appealed to supporters of Israel, Iran being Israel’s foremost enemy, and it paid off bountifully for Romney in June, when multi-billionaire Zionist Sheldon Adelson, who had single-handedly kept Newt Gingrich in the Republican presidential primary race, pledged to spend $100 million or more to help Romney defeat President Obama.
Romney’s foreign policy advisors include such neocon luminaries as Robert Kagan, a contributing editor of the neocon “Weekly Standard” and scholar at the Brookings Institution; Eliot Cohen, a Johns Hopkins University professor of strategic studies, who coined the term “World War IV” for the war against Islamic “terrorists” (i.e., essentially against Israel’s Middle East enemies); Dan Senor, former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer in Iraq and a former intern for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC); Eric Edelman, an advisor to Vice President Cheney in George W. Bush’s first term and undersecretary of defense for policy in the second; and John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security and UN ambassador during the younger Bush’s administration.
Kagan, Edelman, and Senor have served as directors of the Foreign Policy Initiative (with “Weekly Standard” editor, Bill Kristol), which is considered a successor to the now-defunct Project for a New American Century (PNAC) that promoted the war on Iraq. Among its hawkish policies, the Foreign Policy Initiative has advocated a US military strike on Iran’s nuclear program along with support for regime change, and military intervention in Syria.
John Bolton especially stands out since his name has been mentioned for the position of Secretary of State. In a recent piece, “The Negotiation Delusion” in the “Weekly Standard,” Bolton asserts that neither negotiations, sanctions, computer virus attacks, targeted killings, nor anything short of an actual military attack will stop Iran from continuing its alleged “decades-long effort to build deliverable nuclear weapons.” Moreover, he goes so far as to state that Iran because of its alleged cheating does not have the right “even to ‘peaceful’ nuclear activities without fundamental regime change.” In short, the only option for the US to take is war. And he does not sugarcoat the ramifications of such a war as was done by the neocons in the build-up for the war on Iraq. For he holds that “Russia and China have a strategic national interest in preventing us from succeeding” because they see it as a “test case in limiting American power.” If Russian and Chinese strategic national interests are involved, it would seem unlikely that these countries would sit on the sidelines while the US bombarded Iran in order to achieve “regime change.”
As an aside, let me add that there are also old-line Republican realists/pragmatists (of the Brent Scowcroft-James Baker variety) listed among Romney’s advisors who reportedly are at loggerheads with the neocons. But official campaign pronouncements and Romney’s speeches indicate that the neocons are clearly dominant. In fact, Republican foreign policy stalwarts such as Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft have yet to endorse Romney. “I don’t think I’ve changed my views at all,” Scowcroft stated. “I think the party has moved.”
Given that Romney’s identification with the neocons and their hardline policies is likely motivated by opportunism rather than conviction, shouldn’t he now be expected to change to a more moderate position for the general election, which he would continue as President? Furthermore, should he become President, would he really want to harm his own popularity at home and abroad by launching a war that would be apt to devastate the economy just to placate the neoconservatives and other segments of the Israel lobby?
These factors must be considered, but Romney has gone so far in his involvement with the neocons that it would be very difficult for him to extricate himself from their war agenda without serious negative repercussions for himself. The neocons and their wealthy supporters expect him to pursue a policy in line with their thinking, at least in key areas such as Iran, Syria, and Israel. It must be remembered that the neocons are very influential in the conservative media, best represented by Fox News. Should they turn on him for deserting their Middle East agenda, their criticism of him would likely resonate with the Republican base, which was never too keen about him in the first place, and thus undermine his administration. Since it is doubtful that Romney would be able to attract substantial support from independents and Democrats by a more moderate foreign policy stance, his alienation of the neocons, with their power over the Republican base, could leave him with virtually no significant support. It would thus seem that Romney, out of personal self-interest, would need to keep his wagon tied to the neocons, trying to ameliorate some of their most extreme positions. This approach definitely would mean that much stronger measures would be taken against Iran than have been implemented so far, and if the United States did not actually initiate war over Iran’s nuclear program, it would engage in belligerent tactics that would inevitably lead to war.
Romney’s identification with the neoconservatives also helps to reveal something about Obama’s likely future Iran policy. It is an ominous sign that the Obama camp refrains from criticizing Romney’s choice of pro-war advisors who had pushed for the unpopular war on Iraq, while it is quite willing to make all kinds of extreme charges against him, including the inflammatory claim that he is a felon. Furthermore, Obama’s campaign website does not tout any effort on his part to resist the war hawks’ demand for war. Rather, it features more militant positions. For example: “President Obama has been clear that he is determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States gained the support of China, Russia, and other nations to pass the most comprehensive international sanctions regime that Iran has ever faced.” Moreover it claims that “The President is working to address Israel’s security needs and ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people.” Added to this is Obama’s continuing mantra that “all options are on the table,” which implies that if the sanctions and other short-of-war measures that have been used so far don’t stop Iran’s alleged program to develop nuclear weapons, the United States would initiate a military attack. Since there is no valid evidence that such a program to build nuclear weapons exists, there can be no valid evidence that it has actually ceased. So sometime in his second administration the neocons and other war hawks, using Obama’s very words, could pressure him into launching an attack on the grounds that the alleged nuclear weapons program continues to operate despite the sanctions and all the other short-of-war measures that have been taken. And, of course, there is a good chance that his short-of-war measures could lead to an incident to bring about a full scale war.
Neocons Slither Back (under neocon puppet master and AIPAC Israel firster Dan Senor):
Romney pushing neocon war for Israel agenda vs Syria & Iran at VMI!:
The Bombs-Away Election (by Philip Giraldi)
A Truly Credible Military Threat to Iran (AIPAC associated Israel first Jewish neocon Dan Senor mentioned):
Trotskyites for Romney
Senior advisor to Romney inspired by Trotsky’s right-hand man:
Romney pushed Israel lobby line vs Syria (to weaken Iran) at Virginia Military Institute (VMI):
DEBORCHGRAVE Commentary: Romney’s war cry:
Romney embraces the Neocons:
AIPAC man Dan Senor appointed as Paul Ryan senior advisor
Press TV talks to James Morris on ‘CNN GOP Debate’
Only Ron Paul is not owned by AIPAC / Interview with James Morris / editor of america-hijacked.com
Additional at following URL:
Press TV Talks to James Morris on Republican CNN debate about Ron Paul on Iran
Israel lobby (AIPAC, Neocons) pushing Syrian regime change to weaken Iran:
The following is my essay on the close relationship between the Straussians and the neocons. To some it may seem a bit arcane, but it underscores the Jewish, pro-Zionist motivation of both groups, which is often denied in regard to the neocons when discussing their Middle East war agenda. I derived most of my information on this subject from Paul Gottfried’s excellent new book, “Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America.”
Straussians and Neoconservatives: The Intimate Relationship
By Stephen Sniegoski
For some time there has been a spirited debate on the connection between neoconservatism and political scientist Leo Strauss (1899-1973) and his disciples. Leading neoconservatives have studied under Straussians: Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense in George W. Bush’s first administration and “architect of the Iraq War”; Abram Shulsky, the Director of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, which was notorious for its war propaganda on Iraq; Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, the major neocon weekly; Laurie Mylroie, chief propagandist of the idea that Saddam Hussein was masterminding terrorism against the US; Gary Schmitt, former executive director of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC); and John Podhoretz, the son of neocon godfather Norman Podhoretz and current editor of Commentary, the noted neoconservative monthly.
Some commentators have gone so far as to claim that significant tenets of neoconservative thinking were actually derived from Straussian teachings, sometimes referring to the neocons as “Strausscons” or “Leocons”; but others, often Straussian academics themselves, deny the two movements are related. Noted paleoconservative scholar, Paul Gottfried, in his new book (“Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America,” Cambridge University Press, 2012) provides a detailed account of the relationship between the two groups and gives considerable attention to the taboo subjects of Jewish ethnic identity and loyalty to Israel.
Gottfried shows that there is a distinct overlap between the two groups in terms of ethnicity, political views, and social and professional relationships. While all neocons are not Straussians, nor all Straussians neocons, Gottfried notes that “the nexus between neoconservatives and Straussians is so tight that it may be impossible to dissociate the two groups in any significant way.” (Gottfried, “Strauss,” pp. 8-9) He maintains that there is a “continuing symbiotic relation” between the two groups. “Neo-conservatives draw their rhetoric and heroic models from Straussian discourse. They also have never hidden their debt to Strauss and the Straussians, even when neoconservative journalists have garbled or vulgarized the message. The Straussians have benefited from the neoconservative ascendancy by gaining access to neoconservative-controlled government resources and foundation money and by obtaining positions as government advisors. It is also hard to think of any critical political issue that has divided the two groups.” (Gottfried, “Strauss,” p. 9)
While the German-born Strauss, who came to the United States in 1937, focused on scholarly endeavors, he did aspire to have an impact in the political realm, and the attention devoted to politics has grown exponentially among his followers. Gottfried contends that “the vital center of the Straussian movement has shifted toward direct political involvement and that those who count in that movement are increasingly political players.” (Gottfried, “Strauss,” p. 171) In moving into the political arena, they have joined the neoconservatives.
It might be helpful to touch on a few other aspects of the Straussian approach that loom large in other commentators’ views of the movement. For example, Strauss and his acolytes are strong foes of modern positivism, relativism, and historicism, and claim to adhere to the idea of the objectivity of values, as taught by Plato, Aristotle, Cicero and other luminaries of classical civilization. Some critics interpret the Straussian view as indicating support for anti-democratic authoritarian rule, reflecting the type of polity ancient thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle favored. Some of their critics on the Left charge the Straussians with harboring fascist sentiments. Although hardly a Straussian, Gottfried does not hesitate to defend them from these extreme charges. (Gottfried, “Strauss,” pp. 122-123)
In Gottfried’s interpretation, and he is not alone here, Strauss and his supporters realize the need for objective values in order to provide a normative basis for the modern liberal democratic state. Moreover, Gottfried points out that Straussians ahistorically present classical thinkers as friendly to the Straussian concept of American liberal democracy. It should be noted, however, that Gottfried sees modern liberal democracy as essentially a managerial state—a state run by a managerial elite promoting the modern shibboleths of freedom and equality, but not necessarily allowing for either majority rule, traditional individual rights, or the rule of law when these would conflict with neoconservative interests and concerns.
Another often noted aspect of the Straussian school is their distinction between esoteric and exoteric writings. They claim that what noted political thinkers wrote for the public, that is, their exoteric writing, did not always reflect their actual (esoteric) beliefs. They took this approach to avoid punishment by the authorities while trying to convey the esoteric beliefs to the enlightened few. Straussians believe they are able to divine these esoteric beliefs. Gottfried dismisses this idea, contending that Strauss and “his disciples typically find the esoteric meaning of texts to entail beliefs they themselves consider rational and even beneficent.” (Gottfried, “Strauss,” p. 99)
Gottfried does not delve far into whether the Strauss and the Straussians themselves write with something like exoteric-esoteric meaning. Do they personally believe what they profess—e.g., the existence of objective truths—or do their professed ideas simply represent what, in their minds, the citizenry should believe for the good of the polity, as a modern equivalent of the “noble lies” of Plato’s “Republic”? With this in mind, it would seem that the Straussian approach could have been used to justify the reliance on spurious propaganda to generate support for the neocon war agenda in the Middle East—as alleged by the Straussians’ harsher critics. It does not appear, however, that Straussian views are actually necessary for the use of spurious war propaganda.
Gottfried stresses that Strauss and most of his followers have been liberals, not conservatives, but grants that they have been on the Right on two significant issues. They have supported the Cold War and Israel. Gottfried opines that “in discussions of Israel or Jewish nationalism, Straussians often sound like members of the Israeli Right or far Right, and this has been taken as evidence that they lean right on everything else. However, the Straussian defense of Israel is pursued within the context of defending Anglo-American liberal democracy. Israel is presented as an outpost of democratic enlightenment, and its defenses by Straussians are no different from those that emanate from such Jewish liberal Democrats as Alan Dershowitz, Abe Foxman, and Rahm Emanuel.” (Gottfried, “Strauss,” pp. 69-70)
The Jewish identity that characterizes neoconservatism seems to have appeared earlier in the Straussians. Whereas members of the first generation of neoconservatives such as Norman Podhoretz do not seem to have championed specifically Jewish ethnic issues, especially Israel, until the late 1960s, Gottfried notes that “A profound preoccupation with his Jewishness runs through Strauss’s life” and that “Strauss’s concerns were more Jewish-centered than were the politics of other German Jewish thinkers.” (Gottfried, “Strauss,” p. 19)
As a young man Strauss associated with the Zionist Right, and “revered” Zeev Jabotinsky, who as Gottfried points out was the leader of “a wing of the Zionist movement [“Revisionist Zionism”] that wished to occupy both sides of the Jordan, even at the cost of subjugating or expelling the Arabs.” (Gottfried, “Strauss,” p. 20)
Although Gottfried does not dwell at length on Jabotinsky’s position, it should be noted that Jabotinsky emphasized the primacy of military force in foreign policy. Jabotinsky’s most remembered phrase was the “iron wall,” from the title of an essay he wrote in 1923. Jabotinsky’s essay holds that the Arabs would never voluntarily accept a Jewish state and would naturally oppose it. To survive, the Jewish state would have to establish an “iron wall” of military force that would crush all opposition and force its Arab enemies into total surrender. From this position of unassailable strength, the Jewish state could make, or dictate, peace. It was the “iron wall” strategy that would characterize the thinking of the Israeli Right, and its reliance on military force is reflected in the neocons’ Middle East war agenda.
Gottfried writes that Strauss continued to exhibit “Zionist loyalties” after immigrating to the United States and establishing himself as an “academic celebrity” at the University of Chicago in the 1950s. Gottfried points out that “Many of Strauss’s most intimate students, such as Allan Bloom, Harry V. Jaffa, Ralph Lerner, Stanley Rosen, Harry Clor, William Galston, Abram Shulsky, Werner Dannhauser, Seth Benardete, Steven Salkever, Hadley Arkes, and his frequent collaborator, Joseph Cropsey, have been Jewish—and strong supporters of Israel and usually of the Israeli Right.” (Gottfried, “Strauss,” p. 22)
While Gottfried contends that Straussians defend Israel as a paragon of enlightened liberal democratic values, he shows that Strauss himself identified with aspects of Israel that were clearly illiberal, at least by modern standards. For example, in a letter to the conservative “National Review” (Jan. 5, 1956), responding to previously published criticism of Israel for showing “racist hostility” to the Palestinians, Strauss praised Zionism and Israel for helping “to stem the tide of progressive leveling of ancestral differences.” Gottfried notes here that “Strauss was arguing not so much for Israel’s Western character as insisting that it be considered ‘conservative’ because it is authentically Jewish.” (Gottfried, “Strauss,” p. 23)
The Straussian position on Jewishness and Israel serves to provide greater documentation for the Jewish and Zionist nature of neoconservatism. And it seems that this feature accounts for the strongest similarities between the two groups.
Although Strauss had been popular with some American conservatives in the 1950s for his defense of Western values and his hawkish position toward the Soviet Union, he and most of his followers remained within the orbit of American political liberalism, essentially being Cold War liberals and loyal supporters of the Democratic Party. Like those individuals who became the neoconservatives (See: “The Transparent Cabal,” pp. 25-43), the Straussians began their move to the American Right in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and they did so for similar reasons. “When the Straussians broke from the leftward-drifting Democrats,” Gottfried contends, “they were still politically different from what could be described as the traditionalist American Right. They were not looking to return to an older America. They in fact generally liked the way things were going, until the New Left came on the scene. And while like Strauss, they called for resisting Soviet pressures in international affairs, they had no serious complaints about the direction taken by the welfare or the nonviolent civil rights movement.” (Gottfried, “Strauss,” p. 169) Gottfried’s description here is quite like the description of those who formed the incipient neoconservative movement and who identified with the Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and with much of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.
It is worthy of note that in discussions of the Straussians, their Jewish and pro-Israel orientation is readily mentioned in books produced by mainstream publishers. While Gottfried certainly relies on primary sources, he also references other works that also make this case. This information on the Straussian motivation should serve to reinforce the idea that these factors have been the motivation behind neoconservatism. It is thus highly ironic that this information becomes taboo when one connects the dots as I did in “The Transparent Cabal” to show that people with an ethnic loyalty to Israel have played a significant role in determining America’s war-oriented Middle East policy, which led to the US attack on Iraq and threatens to bring about a major conflagration with Iran.
Barak: Israel may Invade Syria, Seize Advanced Weapons
Israel is preparing for a possible military intervention in Syria.
Is above the way war with Iran will start (in accordance with rest of the neocon ‘Clean Break’ via http://tinyurl.com/cleanbreak which the Iraq invasion was based on as mentioned on ‘Russia Today’ as well via youtube near beginning of http://tinyurl.com/jamesmorrisoncrosstalk)?
The following is my new article on the fragmentation of Syria and its broader impact on the Middle East. I indicate how this reflects the view of Oded Yinon, which, as I point out in my book “The Transparent Cabal,” has been picked up by the neocons. In this article, I indicate that the neocons might have picked up this view from Bernard Lewis, one of their scholarly gurus. It seeks the destabilization and fragmentation of Israel’s enemies.
The Yinon Thesis Vindicated: Neocons, Israel, and the Fragmentation of Syria
Stephen J. Sniegoski
It is widely realized now that the fall of President Bashar Assad’s regime would leave Syria riven by bitter ethnic, religious, and ideological conflict that could splinter the country into smaller enclaves. Already there has been a demographic shift in this direction, as both Sunnis and Alawites flee the most dangerous parts of the county, seeking refuge within their own particular communities. Furthermore, it is widely believed in Syria that, as the entire country becomes too difficult to secure, the Assad regime will retreat to an Alawaite redoubt in the northern coastal region as a fallback position. http://www.heraldextra.com/news/world/breakaway-alawite-state-may-be-assad-s-last-resort/article_ec3c91da-6d38-59e4-9730-22b578f0ae7d.html
Syrian Kurds, about ten percent of the country’s population, are also interested in gaining autonomy or joining with a larger Kurdistan. The Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD)—linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has engaged in a separatist insurgency in Turkey’s Kurdish southeast region for nearly three decades—has gained control of key areas in northeast Syria. While Turkey has supported the Syrian opposition, it is terrified of a Kurdish autonomous zone in Syria, believing that it could provide a safe haven for staging attacks into Turkey. Moreover, Kurdish autonomy would encourage separatist sentiment within the Turkish Kurdish minority. Turkey has threatened to invade the border areas of Syria to counter such a development and Turkish armed forces with armor have been sent to Turkey’s border with the Syrian Kurdish region. A Turkish invasion would add further complexities to the fracturing of Syria.
What has not been readily discussed in reference to this break-up of Syria is that the Israeli and global Zionist Right has long sought the fragmentation of Israel’s enemies so as to weaken them and thus enhance Israel’s primacy in the Middle East. While elements of this geostrategic view can be traced back to even before the creation of the modern state of Israel, the concept of destabilizing and fragmenting enemies seems to have been first articulated as an overall Israeli strategy by Oded Yinon in his 1982 piece, “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties.” Yinon had been attached to the Israeli Foreign Ministry and his article undoubtedly reflected high-level thinking in the Israeli military and intelligence establishment in the years of Likudnik Menachem Begin’s leadership. Israel Shahak’s translation of Yinon’s article was titled “The Zionist Plan for the Middle East.”
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 homogenous ethnic and sectarian groupings. Yinon believed that it would not be difficult to achieve this result because nearly all the Arab states were afflicted with internal ethnic and religious divisions, and held together only by force. In essence, the end result would be a Middle East of powerless mini-statelets unable to 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.”
Eminent Middle East historian, Bernard Lewis, who is a Zionist of a rightist hue and one of the foremost intellectual gurus for the neoconservatives, echoed Yinon with an article in the September 1992 issue of “Foreign Affairs” titled “Rethinking the Middle East.” In it, he wrote of a development he called “Lebanonization,” stating “[A] possibility, which could even be precipitated by [Islamic] fundamentalism, is what has of late been fashionable to call ‘Lebanonization.’ Most of the states of the Middle East—Egypt is an obvious exception—are of recent and artificial construction and are vulnerable to such a process. If the central power is sufficiently weakened, there is no real civil society to hold the polity together, no real sense of common identity. . . . The state then disintegrates—as happened in Lebanon—into a chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions, and parties.” Since Lewis— credited with coining the phrase “clash of civilizations”—has been a major advocate of a belligerent stance for the West against the Islamic states, it would appear that he realized that such fragmentation would be the result of his belligerent policy.
In 1996, the neoconservatives presented to incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu their study “A Clean Break” (produced under the auspices of an Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies), which described how Israel could enhance its regional security by toppling enemy regimes. Although this work did not explicitly focus on the fragmentation of states, such was implied in regard to Syria when it stated that “Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.” It added that “Damascus fears that the ‘natural axis’ with Israel on one side, central Iraq and Turkey on the other, and Jordan, in the center would squeeze and detach Syria from the Saudi Peninsula. For Syria, this could be the prelude to a redrawing of the map of the Middle East which would threaten Syria’s territorial integrity.”
David Wurmser authored a much longer follow-up document to “A Clean Break” for the same Israeli think tank, entitled “Coping with Crumbling States: A Western and Israeli Balance of Power Strategy for the Levant.” In this work, Wurmser emphasized the fragile nature of the Middle Eastern Baathist dictatorships in Iraq and Syria in line with Lewis’s thesis, and how the West and Israel should act in such an environment.
In contrast to some of the Western democracies as well as Arab states, Israel did not publicly call for Assad’s removal until a few months ago. This, however, does not mean that the Netanyahu government did not support this outcome. This tardiness has a number of likely reasons, one of which being the fear that an Islamist government would replace Assad that would be even more hostile to Israel and more prone than he to launch reckless attacks. Moreover, instability in a country on Israel’s border is of tremendous concern to its security establishment. It is feared that in such a chaotic condition, Assad’s massive chemical weapons arsenal and advanced surface-to-air missile systems could end up in the hands of terrorist groups like the Lebanese Hezbollah, which would not be hesitant to use them against Israel.
Unlike the armchair destabilization strategists and the neocons, the actual Israeli leaders, including hardline Likudniks such as Prime Minister Netanyahu, have to be concerned about facing the immediate negative political consequences of their decisions even if they believe that the long-term benefits would accrue to the country. This invariably leads to the exercise of caution in regard to dramatic change. Thus, the concern about the immediate security risks cited above likely had a significant effect on their decision-making.
Furthermore, it could have been counterproductive for Israel to express support for the Syrian opposition in its early stages. For Assad has repeatedly maintained that the opposition is orchestrated by foreign powers, using this argument to justify his brutal crackdown. Since Israel is hated by virtually all elements in the Middle East, its open support of the opposition could have turned many Syrians, and much of the overall Arab world, against the uprising. While Israel did not openly support the armed resistance, there have been claims from reliable sources that Israeli intelligence has been providing some degree of covert support along with other Western intelligence agencies, including that of the United States.
Since May of this year, however, the Israeli government has become open in its support for the overthrow of the Assad regime. In June, Netanyahu condemned the ongoing massacre of Syrian civilians by Assad, blaming the violence on an “Axis of Evil,” consisting of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. “Iran and Hezbollah are an inseparable part of the Syrian atrocities and the world needs to act against them,” he proclaimed. This inclusion of Iran and Hezbollah illustrates Israel’s goal of using the Syrian humanitarian issue to advance its own national interest.
If the Assad regime were to fall, Israel would certainly be more secure with a splintered congeries of small statelets than a unified Syria under an anti-Israel Islamist regime. Consequently, staunch neoconservative Harold Rhode presents the fragmentation scenario in a positive light in his article, “Will Syria Remain a Unified State?” (July 10, 2012). In contrast to what has been the conventional Western narrative of the uprising against the Assad regime, which presents a heroic Sunni resistance being brutally terrorized by government forces and pro-government Alawite militias, Rhode writes with sympathy for the pro-government non-Sunni Syrian minorities: “In short, what stands behind most of the violence in Syria is the rise of Arab Sunni fundamentalism in its various forms – whether Salafi, Wahhabi, or Muslim Brotherhood. All of those threaten the very existence of the Alawites, the Kurds, and other members of the non-Sunni ethnic and religious groups.
“It is therefore much easier to understand why the ruling Alawites feel they are fighting a life and death battle with the Sunnis, and why they believe they must spare no effort to survive. It also explains why most of Syria’s other minorities – such as the Druze, Ismailis, and Christians – still largely support the Assad regime.”
For a short aside, the neoconservative background of Harold Rhode is of considerable relevance, providing further evidence for the much denied neocon support for the fragmentation of Israel’s enemies. (The mainstream view is that the neocons are naïve idealists whose plans to transform dictatorships into model democracies invariably go awry.) Rhode, a longtime Pentagon official who was a specialist on the Middle East, was closely associated with neocon stalwarts Michael Ledeen, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle. He was also a protégé of Bernhard Lewis, with Lewis dedicating his 2003 book, “The Crisis of Islam,” to him. Rhode served as a Middle East specialist for Douglas Feith, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy during the administration of George W. Bush, where he was closely involved with the Office of Special Plans, which provided spurious propaganda to promote support for the war on Iraq. Rhode was a participant in the Larry Franklin affair, which involved dealings with Israeli agents, though Rhode was not charged with any crime. Alan Weisman, the author of the biography of Richard Perle, refers to Rhode as an “ardent Zionist” (“Prince of Darkness: Richard Perle,” p.146), more pro-Israel than Perle, which takes some doing since the latter has been accused of handing classified material to the Israelis. Rhode is currently a fellow with the ultra-Zionist Gatestone Institute, for which he wrote the above article.
Obviously the very removal of the Assad regime would be a blow against Israel’s major enemy, Iran, since Syria is Iran’s major ally. Significantly, Assad’s Syria has provided a conduit for arms and assistance from Iran to Hezbollah and, to a lesser extent, Hamas, to use against Israel. If Israel and Iran had gone to war, these arms would have posed a significant threat to the Israeli populace. Moreover, a defanged Hezbollah would not be able to oppose Israeli military incursions into south Lebanon or even Syria.
A fragmented Syria removes the possible negative ramifications of Assad’s removal since it would mean that even if the Islamists should replace Assad in Damascus they would only have a rump Syrian state to control, leaving them too weak to do much damage to Israel and forcing them to focus their attention on the hostile statelets bordering them. Moreover, Israel is purportedly contemplating military action to prevent Assad’s chemical weapons from falling into the hands of anti-Israel terrorists. With such a divided country there is no powerful army capable of standing up to an Israeli military incursion.
The benefits accruing to Israel from the downfall of the Assad regime and the concomitant sectarian fragmentation and conflict in Syria go beyond the Levant to include the entire Middle East region. For sectarian violence in Syria is likely to cause an intensification of the warfare between Sunnis and Shiites throughout the entire Middle East region. Iran might retaliate against Saudi Arabia’s and Qatar’s support for the Syrian opposition by fanning the flames of Shiite Muslim revolution in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich and majority Shiite Eastern Province. Both areas have witnessed intermittent periods of violent protest and brutal government suppression since the Arab Spring of 2011. And Iraq remains a tinderbox ready to explode into ethno-sectarian war among the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds, with violence already on an uptick since the formal departure of American troops in December 2011.
In assessing the current regional situation, American-born Barry Rubin, professor at the Interdisciplinary Center (Herzliya, Israel) and director of its Global Research in International Affairs Center, writes in the Jerusalem Post (“The Region: Israel is in good shape,” July 15, 2012) : “The more I think about Israel’s security situation at this moment, the better it looks.” He goes on to state: “By reentering a period of instability and continuing conflict within each country, the Arabic-speaking world is committing a self-induced setback. Internal battles will disrupt Arab armies and economies, reducing their ability to fight against Israel. Indeed, nothing could be more likely to handicap development than Islamist policies.”
It should be noted that the “period of instability and continuing conflict” in the Middle East region has been the result of regime change and is in line with the thinking of Oded Yinon who, along with the other aforementioned geostrategic thinkers, pointed out that the major countries of the Middle East were inherently fissiparous and only held together by authoritarian regimes.
America’s removal of Saddam in a war spearheaded by the pro-Israel neoconservatives served to intensify Sunni-Shiite regional hostility and, in a sense, got the destabilization ball rolling. Iran is targeted now, and Israel and its neocon supporters seek to make use of dissatisfied internal elements, political and ethnic—the radical MEK, democratic secularists, monarchists, Kurds, Arabs, Baluchis, and Azeris— to bring down the Islamic regime. And while Saudi Arabia is currently serving Israeli interests by opposing Iran, should the Islamic Republic of Iran fall, Israel and their supporters would likely turn to Saudi Arabia’s dismemberment, seeking the severance of the predominantly Shiite, oil-rich Eastern Province, with some neocons already having made such a suggestion—e.g., Max Singer, Richard Perle, and David Frum (schemes which have been put on ice while Israel and its supporters have focused on Iran). If everything went according to plan, the end result would be a Middle East composed of disunited states, or mini-states, involved in intractable, internecine conflict, which would make it impossible for them to confront Israeli power and to provide any challenge to Israel’s control of Palestine. The essence of Yinon’s geostrategic vision of Israeli preeminence would be achieved.
Israeli Official Predicts Syria’s Fragmentation and for Lebanon to Suffer Same Fate
No to partitioning Syria:
Israel Lobby Pushes for US Action Against the Syrian Government (to weaken Iran)