‘Targeted Assassination’ by the U.S. Security Establishment? (JEWISH PRESS) By: Shoshana Bryen 04/02/12)
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When President Obama wants to impress Jewish audiences, such as
AIPAC, he frequently casts U.S.-Israel relations in a military
context. How much military aid Israel receives (although he had
nothing to do with the level; President Bush set the level in a 10-
year deal), how many exercises the two militaries do together (the
last one was canceled; previous ones were on a regular multi-year
schedule); provision of the X-Band radar to Israel (done single-
handedly by now-Sen. Mark Kirk during the Bush Administration) and
missile defense cooperation (for which the Administration has reduced
its financial request for 2013). Intelligence cooperation is
assumed. “I’ve got Israel’s back,” he says.
But how good is the Obama administration on security for Israel? And
how does that impact upon American security interests in the Middle
East and Southwest Asia?
There have been a series of media reports recently suggesting that
intelligence cooperation has been reduced, in part because of
a “trust gap” that developed when Israel became concerned that the
U.S. did not share Israel’s sense of urgency on Iran. A visit to
Israel by National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and Donilon’s
subsequent report to Capitol Hill did not help. Testimony by the
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called Israel’s strategic
security choices “imprudent” – a line repeated and expanded upon by
other American military officers, both active and retired.
Last week, a Foreign Policy article by Mark Perry shows American
military intelligence officials and diplomats being snide, cutting,
and condescending – both toward Israel and toward Azerbaijan, a
country that sits on Iran’s border and has its own serious problems
with the Iranian style of radicalism exported to it.
Perry makes several points, each of which, if your assumption was
that the President stands behind Israel, raises eyebrows:
1. Israeli military cooperation with Azerbaijan “complicates U.S.
efforts to dampen Israeli-Iranian tensions.” When did “dampening
tensions” become the goal of U.S. policy toward Iran? The President
did not say he wanted to “dampen tensions”; he said a nuclear Iran is
unacceptable to the United States. But if lowering the volume were
the goal, there were two ways to go about it – one by reassuring
Israel, the other by reassuring Iran. Exposing Israeli defense
choices and publicly mocking its capabilities (see below) just
reassures Iran. Why would this be the Administration’s choice?
2. Israeli-Azeri cooperation requires that U.S. military
planners “must now plan not only for a war scenario that includes the
Persian Gulf – but one that could include the Caucasus.“ What is true
for American military planners is equally true for the Iranians – and
there is something to be said for making your adversary worry that
there is more than one avenue of attack. Through America’s obvious
irritation with Israel and the exposure of Israeli assets in a third
country, the administration is choosing to provide Iran with
information it can use, to the detriment of Israel. Why would this be
the Administration’s choice?
3. The US finds surveillance of both our adversaries and our friends
irritating. ”We’re watching what Iran does closely… but we are now
watching what Israel is doing in Azerbaijan. And we are not happy
about it.” How Iran must appreciate the conflation of the two
countries: an Israel that makes its patron America unhappy is a
country that can be harassed, boycotted, and delegitimized with less
fear of an American response than a country that believes its patron
is also its friend – a friend that “has its back.” Why would the
Administration want to give Iran this impression?
4. The Iranians do not have to worry about Israel’s refueling
capability, which was described as “pretty minimal.” Israel is also,
according to “military planners”, “just not very good at it.” That is
true mainly because Israel’s enemies are so close, but if the U.S.
can quash Israeli-Azeri military cooperation, the Iranians will not
have much to fear from an Israeli air strike. Why would the
administration want to reassure the Iranians on this point?
5. Turkey’s irritation with the Israeli-Azeri relationship has the
ear of American “senior officials.” The Turkish government threw over
a long and bilaterally beneficial relationship with Israel to polish
its pro-Arab and pro-Islamist bona fides. Its Prime Minister is a
booster of Hamas, does big business with Iran, and has offered up a
blood libel against the IDF. Turkey also has plans for regional
hegemony in Central Asia, hence its irritation with Azerbaijan for
daring to have a relationship with Israel. It is unclear from the
article how the U.S. government responds to Turkey’s concerns, but PM
Erdogan appears to be President Obama’s “go to guy” in the region and
the President was fawning over him in Seoul last week. Does this
suggest an answer at Israel’s expense?
6. Azerbaijan is not a sovereign country; it is simply a puppet of
whoever comes with the money. “The Israelis have bought an airfield,
and the airfield is called Azerbaijan,” according to a “senior
administration official.” Iran and Azerbaijan have serious border and
ethnic issues, and it is much to Iran’s benefit to find that the U.S.
does not think much of its northern neighbor. While Azerbaijan is
certainly not a paragon of democracy, neither should it be the object
of derision because it turns to Israel for support. The U.S. is
supporting a wide variety of less-than-adorable governments,
including the one in Afghanistan – which we are supporting with
American blood. Why are Israel’s limited choices for alliances
ridiculed, while the administration insists that Hamid Karzai – and
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Vladimir Putin for that matter – are
legitimate rulers because the President wants to work with them?
And finally, one the administration gets almost right.
7. “Israel’s main goal is to preserve Azerbaijan as an ally against
Iran, a platform for reconnaissance of that country and as a market
for military hardware.” Israel’s main goal is delaying or ending
Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons capability. But when a small
country finds itself snubbed, denigrated, and sniffed at by the one
country that should share its goals for a variety of philosophical,
historical, governmental, and military reasons, it needs to find
other allies. Azerbaijan – and Greece and Cyprus, among others –
shares Israel’s fundamental concerns about Iran. Why does the
administration find this both problematic and worthy of contempt?
The next time the President or the Secretary of State laud Israel as
a friend, an ally and a partner, it is worth considering the
conclusion of longtime Israeli defense analyst Ron Ben-Yishai:
In recent weeks the administration shifted from persuasion efforts
vis-à-vis decision-makers and Israel’s public opinion to a practical,
targeted assassination of potential Israeli operations in Iran… The
campaign’s aims are fully operational: To make it more difficult for
Israeli decision-makers to order the IDF to carry out a strike, and
what’s even graver, to erode the IDF’s capacity to launch such strike
with minimal casualties.
Yes, it is possible that the U.S. is playing “good cop/bad cop” with
Israel, but what kind of ally does that?
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