Wednesday, September 24, 2014

More in the Annals of Lousy Allies

I was on TV last night (an hour and 38 minutes into the program) to chat about the US effort in Syria and Iraq, and was lucky enough to be on with some smart people: Bessma Momami of CIGI and Ferry Kerchove of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute.  Evan Solomon, the host of Power and Politics, and his crew were most fixated on an interview they were able to get with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Netanyahu had said that Hamas and ISIS were essentially one and the same, and that militant Islam is a poisoned tree that has sprouts around the world including in North America.  I really wish the CBC had buried this interview because Netanyahu is doing the US and the war effort no favors.

How so?  We were talking about the US attacking ISIS/ISIL in Syria along with five Arab countries.  This is a pretty radical shift since none joined in the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.  This participation by the Saudis in particular help to undercut the ISIS/ISIL theme that the US is attacking Islam.  And then Netanyahu says: yes we are attacking Islam AND he is raising the costs of Arab participation by tying them to Israel.

My co-panelist's accent made it sound like Netanyahu was a troll (Ferry was saying "throw") which would be a pretty accurate description.  Netanyahu also would to crap on pretty much anything that Obama wants to do, so that might be in play here as well.  My comment focused on how Netanyahu was doing something that was hardly unique.  When the US engages in counter-terrorism, as it did in the aftermath of 9/11, countries around the world will label their various opponents terrorists and fellow travelers of the group the US is targeting.  Marc Lynch makes basically the same point here

When I was in the Pentagon, the Macedonian Minister of Interior Boskovski set up seven migrants (six Pakistanis, one Indian) and had them killed in an act of "counter-terrorism," apparently to appeal to the US to give Macedonia greater support in its conflict with the Albanian minority.  No one believed it, and the evidence quickly proved that these guys were framed and executed.

I am not saying that Netanyahu is Boskovski.  But they are of the same ilk, combining ideological commitment, hate, and opportunism.  The thing is Hamas is bad, the US does not like it, but it is not the same fight.  Hamas is not the same as ISIS.  And that whole poisoned tree thing is wrong, as the US and Canada have faced very little violence from Muslims in North America.  Not none, but a far lesser threat than ... white supremacists.  Also, ISIS/ISIL presents the greatest threat to Muslims, given how many Muslims they have killed.  So, the real poison in yesterday's conversation is Netanyahu's, who is trying to poison the US relationship with the Arab countries.

Maybe this war is a bad idea, maybe it is just the least bad option.  Whatever.  But in the past, when the US needed the Israelis to be restrained (1991, for example), they did so because it was in their larger self-interest.  These days, Israel and the U.S. are pretty far apart, and it is not just about Obama vs Netanyahu, but the realization that Israeli behavior in the region, including its irredentism in the West Bank, undermines America's interests.

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