Judging from the recent remarks by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Martin Dempsey, who preferred rather not to be an “accomplice to an Israeli attack on Iran” (an interesting choice of words) and the anecdotal reports from last week’s shouting match between US Ambassador Dan Shapiro to Israel and PM Netanyahu in the presence of Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, we can see clearly that all is going according to plan. Probably not Mr. Netanyahu’s, but a plan it is, nevertheless.
Former US Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk clearly indicated on August 23rd that the administration feels thoroughly duped by Israel’s mixed messages and about faces. I think we can now safely assume that President Obama has had it and has decided to let go. What do I mean by letting go ? Instead of engaging Israel and attempting, yet again to discourage it from attacking Iran, the US administration will now likely stop interfering. If Israel wants to attack so badly, is so convinced that it’s the right thing to do and cannot be dissuaded even at the cost of alienating its most important ally, let it take responsibility and go ahead. The US will stand by and deal with the fallout whatever it may be.
This is not the first time the US has stepped back after Israel insisted not to play along. In 1967 the US tried in vain to convince Israel that the closure of the Straits of Tiran should not be a cause for war with Egypt and the issue could be resolved diplomatically. That did not prevent Israel from jumping the gun and initiating hostilities on June 5th, two days before a scheduled meeting between the Vice President of Egypt the and the US administration.
In 1970, the US tried to promote the Rogers plan to make peace between Israel and Egypt. When Israel, through efficient lobbying, managed to thoroughly undermine public support for the plan in the US, the Johnson administration dropped the ball and did not prevent Egypt from moving anti-aircraft missile batteries into the Suez Canal Zone, a development which made the early Egyptian successes of the 1973 Yom Kippur War possible.
If by design or coincidence, US policy has been to work hard at resolving the issues, let go once it becomes clear that Israel doesn’t play along and then deal with the consequences, whatever they may be. In 1967 things went well initially. The war, after all was a roaring military success (as, incidentally, predicted by the CIA). Nevertheless, Israel and the world pay dearly until this day for the geopolitical fall-out which remains one of the biggest burdens on peaceful development of the Middle East.
In the 1973 war, in the wake of the Rogers plan spurned by Israel, things went awry big time (this time the CIA was misled by faulty Israeli assessments) and the US was basically forced into a major airlift to prop-up Israel’s badly damaged military. The short term outcome ? Thousands killed, huge expenses, massive damage. The long term result? Ten years of depressed economic development to make up for the costs of the war. But, let’s not forget, we did get peace with Egypt, which as I recall, was on the agenda before the war. Just not our agenda.
This time again, the US administration is stepping back from the table. By definition, the US is willing to deal with the outcome of an Israeli attack on Iran. Obama’s assessment is that the ongoing friction with Netanyahu will get him nowhere politically, not in the showdown with Iran and not in the US election campaign. The US intelligence estimate probably indicates that Israel can sustain the damage it may incur as a result of the outcome of an attack of Iran. America is standing by.
And in the long term ? Everybody will pay. First of all the People of Israel. But if Netanyahu thinks he even has a remote chance of coming out of this one on top when the US administration is in pay-back mode, he should think again.