President Obama is now saying his administration has decided to attack Syria but will seek Congressional approval before doing so. This sets up a really interesting situation if Congress doesn’t agree, as seems quite possible.
The idea of Obama ordering an act of war on Syria without significant international support and without a Congressional mandate always was a head scratcher. Here’s our far left president advocating yet another war in the Middle East after opposing the Iraq war when he was a senator. The same president who has a frosty relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu and has repeatedly fallen short of the demands of the Israel Lobby.
Of course the rationale is framed in moral terms—like all American wars, but there was more than a touch of that in the run-up to the Iraq war as well. Here the case for the hawks is made more difficult because the WMD story turned out to be false. Lest we forget, this story was manufactured by strongly identified ethnically Jewish, pro-Israel operatives linked to the Office of Special Plans in the Department of Defense, including Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Abraham Shulsky, Elliott Abrams, David Wurmser, Michael Ledeen, David Schencker, and Michael Rubin, with the close cooperation of Israeli intelligence (see here, p. 47ff).
The Weekly Standard’s usual neocon suspects — including many of the same people who promoted for the Iraq war — are pressing for a very large U.S. involvement in Syria. It’s mind-boggling to read in the statement of these so-called “experts” that the president must act “to ensure that Assad’s chemical weapons no longer threaten America.” Shades of how Iraq under Saddam Hussein was going to destroy the U.S. with his WMD’s. How Assad is going to unleash his chemical weapons on America is anybody’s guess.
Given the strong support of the neocons for action against Syria, we must assume that Israel is entirely on board with a U.S. campaign. So it’s not surprising that, as in the case of the run-up to the Iraq war, Israeli intelligence is front and center: “The bulk of evidence proving the Assad regime’s deployment of chemical weapons – which would provide legal grounds essential to justify any western military action – has been provided by Israeli military intelligence, the German magazine Focus has reported” (see here). This includes the much-discussed intercepted phone call between Syrian officers discussing the use of chemical weapons (Ibid.) and the claim that chemical weapons were moved to the site of the attack (see here).
I am unaware of evidence for a heavy involvement of Israel Lobby operatives on the U.S. side responsible for verifying this intelligence, as was the case when the Israel Lobby manufactured the rationale for the Iraq disaster — doubtless the most treasonous and corrupt such episode in American history. Nevertheless, one would have to be naive indeed not to be suspicious of Israeli involvement.
As many have noted, it would make no sense for Assad to unleash chemical weapons in a conflict he was winning; no point in killing women and children; no point in attacking just as UN investigators arrived in Syria; no point in incurring the wrath of the U.S. moralizers by crossing Obama’s idiotic red line — idiotic because it is an open invitation to a false flag operation carried out by the opponents of the Assad regime.
Uri Avnery claims that “practically all Israeli political and military leaders” want the Syrian civil war to “go on forever.” The other obvious motive for Israel and its fifth column in the U.S. is to strike a blow against Iran, as many have noted. The anti-Iran motive is front and center at the AIPAC website (“Syria proves Urgency to Stop Iran“). This article assumes as true that Assad did use chemical weapons:
The use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime highlights the danger of allowing the world’s most dangerous regimes to possess weapons of mass destruction. As Israel prepares its citizens for the possible ramifications of a chemical attack from Syria, the United States must consider potentially catastrophic ramifications if Iran, who is actively backing Assad, acquires a nuclear weapons capability. … We cannot allow Assad to operate with the support of his greatest ally in Tehran backed by a nuclear weapons capability. The Islamic Republic is already expanding its influence throughout the region, moving military equipment and resources into Syria and Lebanon.
In a statement from June, 2013, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, like AIPAC, emphasizes the implications of failure to act in Syria for the larger question of Iran:
Rather than deterring Syria or Iran from using or pursuing illicit weapons, the administration’s red lines appear to be eroding U.S. credibility and national security. The lesson learned from Syria is that preventing a nuclear Iran will require an actionable and verifiable red line. This should include a credible mechanism for assessing Iran’s progress toward the red line and warning of its crossing.
An article on the JINSA site by Michael Makovsky and Blaise Misztal advocates an “asymmetrical” response in which the U.S. would cause far more damage to Syria than caused by the chemical weapons attack: “if Washington orders an operation against the Assad regime, it should not hold back from breaking a few eggs on the way into Syria to ensure easier access in the future. This approach would send a credible and menacing message to the regime to amend its behavior or face further strikes.”
The ADL statement engages in double talk on who is responsible for using chemical weapons (“Use of chemical weapons in Syria ‘an immoral crime of the first order‘”). On one hand, it states that the attack was performed “reportedly by the Syrian government.” On the other hand, Abe Foxman clearly blames the Syrian government for “the horrific events of last week,” a claim that goes much further. And as usual, the Holocaust is invoked as establishing a special Jewish moral posture useful for achieving Jewish interests:
For more than two years, the world has been witness to President Bashar al-Assad’s slaughtering of his own citizens. Following the horrific events of last week there is no longer any doubt about the brutal and evil nature of Assad and his regime.
We welcome Secretary Kerry’s clear statement of condemnation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the U.S. commitment to work with allies to ensure those responsible are held accountable. The world failed to act during the Holocaust and stood by through the genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda. It is a moral imperative that the international community act now to prevent further atrocities in Syria.
From Foxman’s perspective, it’s hard to see how “preventing further atrocities” could happen short of regime change.
Clearly, the organized Jewish community will not be satisfied with a mere gesture against Assad, but wants something in the general vicinity of regime change. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy has numerous articles with the message that a U.S. attack needs to be linked to strategic goals. Robert Satloff (one of the most despicable neocons) makes a ridiculous case that regime change in Syria is in American interests:
Given the strategic stakes at play in Syria, which touches on every key American interest in the region, the wiser course of action is to take the opportunity of the Assad regime’s flagrant violation of global norms to take action that hastens the end of Assad’s regime. Contrary to the views of American military leaders, this will also enhance the credibility of the president’s commitment to prevent Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability, not erode America’s ability to enforce it.
Likewise, neocons like Charles Krauthammer (also high on the list of most despicable neocons) want the U.S. campaign to change the balance of power — “a sustained campaign aimed at changing the balance of forces by removing the Syrian regime’s decisive military advantage — air power.” What the neocons don’t want is a brief attack that serves little more than to show U.S. displeasure, leaves Assad in power, and doesn’t change the military situation
So from the Israeli and (what is the same) the neocon point of view, it’s win-win. A serious U.S. intervention would minimally prolong a war that Assad is winning, weakening Syria and Hezbollah far into the future. And perhaps it could lead to the fall of Assad and a Sunni government severed from Iran. Iran and its allies are seen as a far more dangerous enemy of Israel than the Arab nations and the mainly Sunni rebels opposing the Assad government, no matter how fanatically Muslim, Israel-hating, and in bed with al Qaeda they turn out to be.
The decision by Obama to consult with Congress may actually benefit the Israel Lobby because it could quite possibly provide a mandate for much more than a brief attack that is little more than a gesture—like Bill Clinton lobbing a few cruise missiles into Afghanistan to protest the bombing of American embassies in Africa. Without a congressional mandate and without support from the U.K., Obama would have been unlikely to carry out the sort of attack desired by the Lobby. Now there’s a chance.
The delay provides an opportunity for the Israel Lobby to get into high gear in order to bump up the poll numbers and exert its power over Congress. At this time, there is clearly no popular mandate for a war; only 42% favor a “broad military response”, and only 16% favor the regime change desired by the Israel Lobby. A much higher percentage but still far from a mandate (50%) favor the sort of action detested by the Israel Lobby — a limited response involving only U.S. naval ships directed at the chemical weapons.
Congressional approval is also iffy. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) has stated that the odds are “50/50″ that the House will approve force, but that the Senate will “rubber stamp what [Obama] wants.” Others believe that even the Senate will be an “uphill battle.”
So the Israel Lobby has a challenge ahead, but it’s certainly doable. Expect a blizzard of propaganda emanating from the most elite media in the U.S., and a lot of arm-twisting in Congress. The Israel Lobby sees this as a preliminary battle prior to the really serious campaign for a war with Iran. If the Lobby loses this test, it would be a clear indication that the U.S. lacks the determination to attack Iran.
The pressure will be intense. Don’t bet against the Lobby.