16.12.2015 Author: Salman Rafi Sheikh

Faced with Prospects of Defeat, Obama Mends Ties With Netanyahu

345334543It is rather hard to deny that Russian military success in Syria against the CIA backed terrorist organizations have left the U.S. is a state of quandary. Therefore, the U.S. has, since the beginning of Russian campaign, been making desperate attempts and working on all possible policy options to buttress its rapidly falling position in the Middle East. Making an ironical statement in this behalf, David Petraeus, former US army general said that after the Russian “surge” into Syria “America and its allies now look like the only group without a plan.”

However, it seems that the US has developed a “plan.” It is nothing new, however. Faced with an unexpectedly tough situation, Obama has been forced by “circumstances” to turn his gaze towards a Mid-Eastern behemoth: Israel. Besides resorting to wooing Iran into Vienna talks as a means to wean it away from Syria and Russia and sending its special operations forces to Syria, an important step that the U.S. Government has recently taken is mending ties with Israel.

Following Netanyahu’s visit to Russia and his failure to extract the much desired “concessions”, the way was clear for the U.S. to revamp its ties with Israel to have her in the “grand anti-Russia alliance” the U.S. seems to be working on. The latest boost to US-Israel relations came, after experiencing a considerable cold phase, on last Monday when the U.S. President and Israel’s Netanyahu met after more than a year.

The Western mainstream media was quick to hail this meeting as unmistakable instance of the durability and resilience of the US-Israel alliance. Whether or not the meeting signifies an “unshakable” US-Israel alliance, there is hardly any doubt that this re-newed alliance is going to play a significant role in shaping broader contours of the current phase of the conflict in the Middle East as the center point of the meeting was the much expected new 10-year defence deal, with reports that Israel is also seeking an increase in the more than $3 billion in US annual military aid it receives.

This aid is in addition to other assistance, such as spending on the Iron Dome missile defence system. About two weeks ago, Netanyahu told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that his goal was to reach agreement with Obama on increasing U.S. military assistance from $3.1 billion a year to “the sum of $4 billion plus.” At the time, Netanyahu added that he did not know if he would manage to achieve such an understanding or not.

That both the new aid package as well as defence deal are Syrian-centric is evident from the statements of both Netanyahu and Barak Obama. Although no direct reference to Russian presence in Syria was made, it was made explicitly plain to the world that the US does want Israel to enhance its military engagement in Syria. The Israeli prime minister was reported to have said that he made clear to Obama that Israel would not be “obliged” by any deal to settle the Syrian civil war that does not prevent Iran from using Syrian territory for direct aggression against Israel or for sending game-changing weapons to Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. Obama, on the other hand, reaffirmed Israel’s position as he stated that “the defense of Israel is what concerns me in Syria first and foremost, and on that we’ll continue to act forcefully.”

We are obviously tested, today, in the instability and insecurity in the Middle East,” Netanyahu told Obama. “I think everybody can see it. With the savagery of ISIS, with the aggression in terror by Iran’s proxies, and by Iran itself, and the combination of turbulence has now displaced millions of people, has butchered hundreds of thousands, and we don’t know what will transpire.”

That the reason for this renewed “friendship” is deeply rooted in the on-going “crisis” in Syria is evident from the interests both states have in common in the region. The U.S. aims, as it always has, to establish its hegemony over the resource rich region and thereby control the outflow of energy resources, especially oil and gas, to the world. By controlling energy resources of the Middle East, the US can not only manipulate, as the makers of the US twenty-first century grand strategy originally envisioned, global economy to its own benefits but also maintain its domineering position vis-à-vis both ‘the East’ and ‘the West’ i.e., China and Russia on the one hand and Europe on the other.

Israel, on the other hand, too have deep interest in the region’s energy resources. Currently it has been buying most of oil from Kurds as well as ISIS. As a matter of fact, Netanyahu was the first to publicly announce support for an “Independent Kurdistan” when the first oil container from Iraqi Kurds reached Israel in 2014. Both the U.S. and Israel continue, till today, to support Kurds in Iraq as a means to materialize their own interests.

The “oil interests” of both the U.S. and Israel happen to be perfectly compatible with the U.S. strategy of Balkanizing Syria into different “zones.” By tacitly allowing Israel to strike inside Syria against Hezbollah, the U.S. is paving the way for eventually cornering Hezbollah into an isolated “zone” and thereby cut it off from both Syrian Army and Russian campaign against ISIS and other Western sponsored terrorist outfits.

This re-newed relationship has been made possible, to a considerable extent, by the fact that Obama is no longer faced with the crucial need for balancing its relations with Arab State and Israel at the same time. Since the announcement of Iran-nuke deal, both Israel and Arab States led by Saudi Arabia, have certainly “discovered” plethora of “common interests” each other. It is a fact that Arab States no longer want to see Obama publicly bashing Netanyahu for his Palestine-policy. Arab State, in fact, are much more concerned about Iran’s growing power and Russian presence in the Mid-East than they are about Israel—-a State that has turned out to be a potential “ally” of Saudi Arabia against Assad and Iran.

The much expected new US-Israel defense deal is, therefore, not a mere “consolation prize” to Israel following the Iran-nuke deal nor is it a “personal gift” from Obama for Netanyahu to “appease” him. It goes well beyond all that and is deeply rooted in the larger geo-political tension evolving in the Middle East between Russia and America in what has generically been called “new cold war” era as Moscow wants terrorism defeated and a political solution in Syria but Washington wants endless regional wars and instability – ousting all independent governments, replacing them with pro-Western ones, completely regardless of the cost in human lives and suffering.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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