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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Report: Israel helped Obama avoid action in Syria

Stories from Michael Oren's new book continue to leak to the media. In yet another report based on the book, Eli Lake reports that Israel helped President Hussein Obama avoid action on his 'red line' on Syrian use of chemical weapons.
Oren's book, "Ally," discloses for the first time that in late August and early September 2013, Israel's then-intelligence minister, Yuval Steinitz, floated a plan for Syria to relinquish its chemical weapons to the Russian government and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received Obama's blessing to move forward with the proposal.  
To be sure, Oren also writes in his memoir that Israel did not oppose U.S. airstrikes in late August 2013, saying the Jewish state saw no downside with Obama enforcing his red line and hopefully deterring Syria's ally, Iran. But at the same time, he credits Steinitz and Netanyahu with helping prepare the diplomacy that allowed Obama to climb down from the air strikes that Oren himself believed at the time were all but a certainty.
It was in this period that America came closest to directly entering the Syrian civil war. In August 2013, U.N. inspectors confirmed that Bashar al-Assad's regime attacked a rebel position in Ghouta outside of Damascus. Obama reluctantly acknowledged that the Syrian dictator had crossed the administration's red line and used chemical weapons. But after Syria and Russia agreed to a plan in which Assad would acknowledge and dispose of his chemical weapons, the threat of American airstrikes as punishment for the attack in Ghouta subsided.
At the time, the disarmament plan appeared to come about by accident. On Sept. 9 that year, Secretary of State John Kerry floated the idea that Assad could avert a U.S. attack on his territory if he gave up his chemical weapons. State Department officials soon after said the remarks were more a rhetorical flourish than a sincere proposal. But Kerry's Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, quickly seized on the remarks and presented a proposal to Syria's foreign ministry. Within the space of a news cycle, a U.N. plan was being negotiated and America was backing away from airstrikes.
It turns out that Netanyahu was helping to bring about the deal behind the scenes, according to Oren. "In the course of this frenzy, though, I heard of a proposal to peacefully remove Syria’s chemical arsenal," Oren writes. "The idea originated with an Israeli minister, Yuval Steinitz, who first pitched it to the Russians, who were eager to avoid an American intercession that they could not stop. Netanyahu next brought it to Obama and received a green light."
And it goes without saying that Arrogant Obama showed no appreciation for Israel's role in saving him from his red line.
Oren also notes that Obama never publicly credited Israel with help on the plan. "In subsequent interviews, Obama rarely missed the chance to cite the neutralization of Syria’s chemical capabilities as an historic diplomatic achievement. Russian president Vladimir Putin also took credit for the initiative and praised this 'vivid example of how the international community can solve the most complex disarmament and non- proliferation task.' Israel’s role remained unmentioned, but its citizens were relieved not to have to sign up for more gas masks," he writes.  
Given what's happened in Syria since 2013, perhaps we're better off with Obama's lack of gratitude. Read the whole thing

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