Mideast “linkage” is the notion that more distant issues like the Syrian civil war and/or Iran’s race to nuclear weapons could in some meaningful sense be significantly related to the question of Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
In regard to such linkage, just published is Aaron David Miller’s Wilson Center essay entitled: “It’s Iran, Stupid: The real, unspoken reason America won’t get involved in Syria.” Miller’s piece turns on insights offered by President Obama in a valuable Jan. 27, 2014 New Yorker article by David Remnick. However, President Obama there refers, not to linkage between matters involving just Iran and Syria, but rather to a connection among the three big Mideast issues, namely those relating to Israel, Syria, and Iran.
Obama told me that in all three of his main initiatives in the region — with Iran, with Israel and the Palestinians, with Syria — the odds of completing final treaties are less than fifty-fifty. “On the other hand,” he said, “in all three circumstances we may be able to push the boulder partway up the hill and maybe stabilize it so it doesn’t roll back on us. And all three are connected.”
Make no mistake — President Obama’s assessment that there’s less than a 50% chance of success for the three sets of now separate negotiations about Iran, Israel and Syria respectively is astonishing. Equally striking is his assertion that these three persistent problems are interconnected.
Really? Are they substantially connected? If so, how are they connected? Or is it that President Obama is significantly telling us that he will take steps to connect them? The likely link could be that, in each of these three instances, President Obama might soon try to make Israel foot the bill.
This is likely President Obama’s thinking about “next steps,” after each of the now separate negotiations fail. And, perhaps his linkage strategy might have a fair chance of “success.” It might work principally because Russia, China and Iran would probably perceive that his plan would enhance their own interests — including by weakening the USA, which President Obama probably wants out of the Middle East.
With respect to the President’s expectation of the failure of the current negotiation with Iran, Barack Obama is perhaps planning for an early diplomatic crisis which he wants to coincide with the expected collapse of the bilateral peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Specifically, President Obama wants the three issues of Iran, Israel and Syria to align in the short term, and in any event well before the Nov. 2014 USA elections, after which Congress might perhaps have more power to block him.
With references to “international peace” and also some empty threats to use force against Iran, President Obama would perhaps first posture dramatically, but then move quickly to try to exploit the perceived crisis to get Iran to solemnly agree to go no further than “threshold nuclear state,” just like Japan.
To get this (perhaps worthless) commitment from Iran, he would probably try to pay in gold coin, i.e. denuclearizing Israel’s defense. Namely, President Obama is perhaps planning to trade off Israel’s nuclear weapons for a piece of paper bearing an Iranian promise to stop short of actually building a nuclear bomb. This would dovetail with the President’s strong emphasis on gradually creating “a world without nuclear weapons” and the relevant regional reference in his June 2009 Cairo speech.
Shafting Israel in the cause of world peace? Sounds like something that would be wildly popular in the Muslim World and among left-liberals in both the USA and Europe. It also has that element of peace-loving plausibility that might appeal to independents in the USA. Moreover, such a policy would help President Obama distance Jewish Americans from Israelis. And, it might even win him a second Nobel Peace Prize!
In the same vein, President Obama would probably try to force Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights to buy Iran’s consent to some sort of a peaceful outcome in Syria. This would likely be proposed by the USA and also agreed by the other countries currently negotiating with Iran — i.e. the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, the P5+1.
Part of this ambitious package would perhaps also be creation of a new Palestinian State in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This result would likely also be imposed by Iran together with the P5+1, as part of the aforementioned diplomatic deal “to preserve the peace of the world.”
And with an eye to Tel Aviv’s safety, let us recall that “international peace and security” was also used to justify the NATO bombing of Belgrade in 1999. That military operation was designed to force the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia) to withdraw from Kosovo. Perhaps the prospect of applying similar military pressure was exactly what motivated President Obama to choose, as Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel who was well known as cold to Israel.
President Obama has several times specifically promised a “contiguous” Palestine. Thus, there may be an attempt to equip the new Arab country with a land bridge linking Gaza with the West Bank; or Israel might even lose all the Negev. Once the fate of the Jewish State is to be decided entirely by foreigners, who knows what would happen and where it would end?
Despite the camouflage, President Obama really is making every effort to do to Israel in 2014, what was done to Czechoslovakia in 1938. As suggested by the structure of his June 2009 Cairo speech, President Obama has from the beginning been targeting Israel not Iran. In essence, President Obama plans to spin the coming Iran crisis into a device for rendering Israel virtually defenseless, just as in 1938 Czechoslovakia was strategically crippled by the cession of the Sudetenland.
Is there a better explanation for President Obama’s stunning admission that the three now separate negotiations are likely to fail and for his curious contention that the substantive matters of Syria, Iran and Israel are interconnected? If so, I would be relieved to know it. But if not, a word to the wise should suffice.