What’s on America’s Middle Eastern Plate lately?

Having an ally like Israel severely limits the choices in front of US policy makers for the Middle East. It is no secret that the axis of the two hawks; Netanyahu and Barak, is driving Israel and the US towards attacking Iran’s nuclear installation, and that the voices of caution inside both countries are finding it more difficult to restrain such an action which comes with uncertain consequences. The other difficult choice in front of US Middle East policy is what to do about Syria? Syrian opposition is at least holding ground if not gaining in military sense against overwhelming government brutality supported by Russia and Iran. Israel’s position vise-a-vise Syria is not very well defined due to the probability of an anti-Israeli Islamist regime to follow the Assad dynasty. The vagueness in the Israeli position provides some latitude for US action on Syria. Continuing the conflict is not entirely bad for the US since the conflict is draining resources from Syria’s allies and cannot be sustained for too long, but an outcome of government victory or long term prevalence weighs into justifying an attack on Iran. Also, an unaided win of the Islamist opposition in Syria without the substantial involvement of the US will diminish its leverage and encourage anti-Israeli sentiments.

Among so many uncertain factors affecting Middle Eastern events we have to recognize which ones are more certain and which can change. Nuclear technology is old and is getting older with the passing of time, this fact is more certain than the commitment of the US to the qualitative superiority of Israel’s military technology. There will be more countries with nuclear technology, this is an immutable truth, and the US has to assert its qualitative superiority with new technology rather than to hopelessly try to suppress old well-known nuclear science and engineering. A coordinated US/Israeli attack on the depth of Iran will justify the use of Iranian nuclear devices against Israel and will show its vulnerability and its shallow strategic depth. Due to its geography, Iran is more able to absorb the first strike and the US will be forced to act against its own interest in a futile war. The US has every reason not to play second fiddle in an Israeli strike, but how does Syria play into this? Syria provides a neutral ground for containment of Iran and its nuclear ambitions but the US must show tangible gain in order to stall the Israeli hawks and prevent them from hurting themselves. The short term choice on the US’s Middle East plate is either a Syrian opposition win or an Israeli nuclear venture into Iran.

Between leading in the aid of Syrian opposition or trailing behind Israel in attacking Iran the US has to make a choice. If it is the former it must act now in full effort to arm the SFA, Russia must understand that it is much more than a question of protecting its own interest and leverage in the Middle East. No immediate action on the part of the US is a sure recipe for losing leverage and letting Israeli and Iranian hawks rule the region.

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