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As the chaos and carnage in Syria continues to escalate, some conservatives are very happy indeed with word of Israeli air strikes against weapons shipments reportedly destined for Hezbollah. While John McCain crowed that "the Israelis seem to be able to penetrate it [the Syrian air defense system] rather easily," former Mitt Romney stenographer Jennifer Rubin sneered that "Israel steps up to the plate."

Unfortunately for those eager to intervene in the Syrian civil war, Israel's unilateral actions may well make life much harder for any coalition seeking to halt the slaughter or overthrow the Assad regime. It's not just that U.S. and Israeli aims toward Damascus are not identical. As it turns out, Prime Minister Netanyahu's attacks may only serve to bolster Bashar Assad's legitimacy within Syria, while undermining the very rebel groups President Obama, France, the UK and their Arab allies are trying to support.

Of course, you'd never know that from reading the likes of Rubin, who charged President Obama with outsourcing U.S. national security in the Middle East to Israel:

Not only does the Israeli action contrast with the U.S. government's fecklessness, but it also raises the issue of whether the United States would prefer Israel police the Middle East. It is unbecoming for a superpower to let little Israel take on the Iranian surrogates. It will likely unnerve our allies elsewhere and embolden foes in other parts of the world.
But in Syria, Israel isn't acting on America's behalf, but on its own. (Otherwise, the Netanyahu government might have given Washington advance warning of its planned strikes, which Reuters unlike the Daily Beast reports it did not.)  While the U.S. and its western allies have focused on preventing a humanitarian disaster through the systematic use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime and forestalling a regional sectarian conflict, the Israeli strikes were narrowly focused on keeping Iranian missiles and anti-aircraft weapons out of the hands of the Tehran-backed Hezbollah militias in Lebanon. That's one reason why the Netanyahu government moved Monday to declare that its air sorties and the killings of scores of Syrian soldiers do not represent an attack on Syria or an intervention in the ongoing civil war:
Reuters reports that Israel has made several soothing overtures to its war-racked northern neighbor after launching airstrikes in Syria on Friday and Sunday. Tzachi Hanegbi, a confidante of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Israeli radio on Monday that Mr. Netanyahu aimed to avoid "an increase in tension with Syria by making clear that if there is activity, it is only against Hezbollah, not against the Syrian regime."
But there's another powerful motivation for Netanyahu to issue that kind of statement. As it turns out, neither the anti-Assad rebels nor their backers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar can possibly support Israeli attacks in Syria.

As CBS News reported Sunday, it's not just the Assad government which condemned the Israeli strikes:

Syrian opposition forces also spoke out against the airstrike in a press statement, saying it hurt their efforts to take down the regime of Bashar Assad.

"The Syrian Coalition is suspicious of the timing of this attack," the statement said. "These strikes have given the regime the necessary time to draw attention away from its crimes and massacres on the Syrian coast. It is not unlikely that as a result of these attacks, and world distraction, more crimes will be committed."

As CBS rightly noted, "Leaders in the Arab League find themselves facing a conundrum...No Arab leader wants to be perceived as giving a green light for Israeli attacks." On Monday, Saudi Arabia called for U.N. action to end Israeli strikes on Syria, describing the raids as a "dangerous violation" of the sovereignty of an Arab state, the official SPA news agency reported. Despite its opposition to the Damascus government's use of military force against its people, Egypt, too, warned that "the attack on Syrian assets (and) the violation of Syria's sovereignty" only "made the situation more complicated."

And thus the paradox for President Obama and the United States. If the U.S. in conjunction with a broad coalition of European and Persian Gulf allies is ultimately going to take any action to end the bloodbath in Syria, for all intents and purposes Israel cannot play a role in it. This is not because Israeli resources aren't needed or its interests aren't at stake. Unfortunately, the blowback in the Arab states from Israeli participation could unravel the very alliances the West is seeking to build against Assad and his Shiite partners in Iran.

If this sounds familiar, it should. During the First Gulf War in 1991, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir reluctantly agreed not to retaliate against Saddam's Scud missiles fell on Tel Aviv. "Our people want to fight very much," Shamir lamented, "But we are taking into account the complex situation and don't want to complicate it even more because our goal is the victory of the coalition." American guarantees to hunt down the Iraqi missile launchers and the very public words ("We will use every resource possible to suppress and destroy the mobile Scuds") from President George H.W. Bush thanking Israel for its "restraint" helped preserve a multinational coalition which included Saudi Arabia, Egypt and, ironically, Syria.

Israel, like any nation, will do what it deems necessary for its self-defense. (That neither Israel nor the United States would ever accept pre-emptive strikes on its own soil is another matter for another time.)  But that doesn't mean Israeli interests coincide with American goals. Whether or not Bashar Assad crossed President Obama's red line with the use of sarin gas, he apparently already stepped over the Israelis' crimson stripe. (As the New York Times explained today, "The Israelis were responding to a different threat, in the form of weapons being sent to the Islamic militant group Hezbollah.")  Jennifer Rubin has it completely wrong:

When a U.S. president is this passive and unwilling to act in accord with its words, the West and the Sunni states can take comfort in knowing that Israel is there to rein in the mullahs and their surrogates.
Instead, Israel may have just made that task much more difficult.
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Comment Preferences

  •  While I agree (10+ / 0-)

    you shouldn't need Israeli airstrikes to prove the perils of blind US support of the occupation. All you need is to look at the UN resolutions where the US stands alone, along with 4-5 other countries no one has heard of.

    You know how the west views Russia as the main impediment to dealing with Syria, and China as the main impediment to dealing with N. Korea? Well, thats how we're viewed on the Israeli issue. Like those 2 other examples, we are the benefactor that refuses to budge in its support of the regime the world is, en masse, denunciating.

  •  I never got kicked out of the White House, ... (0+ / 0-)

    ...but some friends of mine who I was with did get busted in the White House while we all went thru the tour.

    My role during the tour was distraction.

    I have been busted in front of the White House for blocking the street.

  •  they can't back them in public (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib

    but I bet they are all backing them privately.  Assad may end up in his own territory and the rebels in theirs, but all of them need less lethal options, to make for some kind of cease fire and truce.  I bet even Syrians on the streets are glad those weapons are out of the picture.  

    "oh no, not four more years of hope and change?" Karl Christian Rove

    by anna shane on Mon May 06, 2013 at 05:21:25 PM PDT

  •  I was surprised (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brecht

    when Obama didn't say something more diplomatic when asked about the Israeli airstrike.  He was pretty unambiguously  clear that he publicly supported the Israeli action.  One would have expected something more  equivocal "urging restraint on all sides"

    That's a tell.  

    A scenario is emerging where the US, Israel and perhaps the EU have thrown their weight behind the moderate rebel group, and coordinating to provide them the means for overthrowing Assad, actually we have been doing that for almost a year, but now going public.  We split them off from the Islamic opposition, and their big coming out party was supposed to be this week at WINEP.  

    But something is wrong, not sure what.   The secular moderates are losing ground and public support, despite the resources we are providing.  Saudi and Qatar have been resurocing the Islamist resistance groups.  Maybe the islamists have achieved dominance in public support and combat effectiveness, or the FSA disqualified themselves by virtue of brutality, ineffectiveness, corruption or accusations of collaboration with the West.  

    Something happened.  And it isn't good for the plan to support the moderate rebels.  Something in the plan blew up.  And the US is scrambling in disarray.

    We should back away slowly and throw our weight to supporting a UN led resolution.   we are trying to thread the needle using US checkers thinking in a region where they invented chess.

    Let's see what Kerry gets from Putin tomorrow.  

  •  my guess is that Bibi's goal is for Syria to end (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mickT, Quicklund

    up like Lebanon with varying factions vying for control and power.  The problem is that the Israelis have committed several long term strategic mistakes, ranging from the incursion into Lebanon to backing the SLA in the late Lebanese civil war to backing Hamas as a counterweight to the PLO.

    Both Saudi Arabia and Israel are very concerned with the Arab Spring and would like to see it scotched as soon as possible.  However, with both nations, it seems they are obsessed with Iranian intentions in the region to the exclusion of other possible threats to regional security and peace    

  •  Nothing shows Democracy... (3+ / 0-)

    Than a good ole military strike!

    I'm sure after years of having Israel blow Arab shit up because the power base in America is finds the balance of power being changed will show Arabs how democracy is run.

    By might.

    Legal justification? None needed. International law? Who cares. Violating UN resolutions? Who cares.

    Oil and Gas paid companies and their whore politicians around the world don't give a damn about those minor things. (see Tony Blair and lying about Iraq).

    Yet we on the left pretend to think that we are supporting 'democracy' in the world.

    By airstrikes.

    And embargoes.

    Only four more days to weekly chop-chop square in Riyadh! Can't wait for our friends to chop some heads and hands off!

    Then we can open travel between Israel and America, as long as they aren't ARAB

    When a Republican does this shit, he is a racist.

    When Israel does it, it is for security.

    When Saudi princes abuse women, it's pushed under the rug.

  •  I've seen tree stumps smarter than Jenn Rubin (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Quicklund

    Likud  is acting in Israel's narrow interest, but missing the bigger picture of uniting the Arab world against Assad.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Mon May 06, 2013 at 08:04:01 PM PDT

  •  Disregard all the wordy conjecture. (5+ / 0-)

    The diarist has it just right when he says,  "the Israeli strikes were narrowly focused on keeping Iranian missiles and anti-aircraft weapons out of the hands of the Tehran-backed Hezbollah militias in Lebanon."

    You must give the Israelis credit when their national security and the safety of their citizens is at stake, they don't over-think the project, they get it done.

    They leave the bloviating and conjecture to others.    

    •  Unfortunately for both the Israeli justification (0+ / 0-)

      and your argument, Hezbollah has had the missiles in question (either Syrian M600 or the Iranian equivalent, Fateh-110) at least since 2009.

      I really have no idea why Israel launched any of their recent raids into Syria, but it was not to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring novel advanced missiles.

      •  I'm amazed that you have such inside knowledge (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Quicklund, leftynyc, JNEREBEL

        of Israeli military plans.

        It is apparently clear that the destruction of these advanced missiles was to prevent their being launched against Israeli civilian targets.

      •  Fewer missiles better than more missiles (0+ / 0-)

        Interdicting supply is still a legitimate military tactic even if the foe already has made some supply runs. So if Hexbollah has these missiles now Israel may still wish to prevent them from getting more.

        When I say legitimate, I mean in the sense that one side might legitimately want to see a thing done. That it makes sense from that point of view.

        That being said, who knows exactly what is the Israeli plan.

    •  That's the pretext (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lepanto, whizdom, Brecht, protectspice

      but it makes little sense. The strikes were made on military installations around Damascus. Don't believe everything you read or see or hear from the MSM.

      It appears to be an act of desperation in the face of recent gains by the Syrian military and growing fear of the population of the extremist jihadist factions who compose most of the opposition to the government.

      Israel would like to see Syria destroyed as a functioning state as was done to Iraq. This has been one of their objectives for more than a decade.

      Orwell - "Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable"

      by truong son traveler on Mon May 06, 2013 at 11:17:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Do people just make shit up? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Nospinicus, JNEREBEL

        To fit their narrative? Blowing up Iraq was not something Israel wanted. Iraq was stuck in a box and couldn't do anything. Bush was warned by Israelis AGAINST occupying the country. They knew it was a stupid idea what would be of no benefit to them, and it hasn't been. Same with the destruction of the functioning Syrian state. Hostilities have been few and far between over the last couple decades, the relationship between Israel and some of its other neighbors are far more tenuous. Dissolving functioning states has not been particularly good for Israel, which is one of the reasons why they've never been terribly supportive of change. Enemy you know v enemy you don't know. Syria is no different.

        •  Nothing was made up (0+ / 0-)

          It is history. This is from 1996.

          Link

          "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."

          Orwell - "Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable"

          by truong son traveler on Tue May 07, 2013 at 11:08:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Nice job citing something meaningless (0+ / 0-)

            Clean Break was rejected by Netanyahu. So as far as Israeli policy is concerned, it's a meaningless piece of paper. More importantly, almost nothing that Israel has done in the last 15 years indicates that any Clean Break policies were adopted. So you've pointed to a meaningless piece of paper that is conflict with actual history.

            •  do you expect people to believe (0+ / 0-)

              that it was pure coincidence that "removing Saddam from power" and rolling back Syria had become US policy?

              There is interest overlap there but there is more to it than that.

              Was it simply coincidence that Syria is being attacked using proxy forces exactly as called for in that policy paper?

              The Clean Break policies were adopted by the US largely through the influence of neocons with close ties to Israel and an some overlapping interests, security for Israel and the Path to Persia and global primacy for the US.

              Plausible dependability on behalf of Israel does not work so well in these times. People are become more aware of what is going on and they are not pleased with these policies which they see are not in their own interests.

              Orwell - "Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable"

              by truong son traveler on Thu May 09, 2013 at 03:01:10 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Look who's making shit up (0+ / 0-)
  •  This is wishful thinking (0+ / 0-)

    "While the U.S. and its western allies have focused on preventing a humanitarian disaster through the systematic use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime and forestalling a regional sectarian conflict..."

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