I wrote Russia’s challenge, America’s (non) response: Whither Israel? as a two-part article because of length intending to upload "Part 2" later. Having undergone a radical rewrite, at least in the part not appearing I decided for full appreciation the entire article should appear as a single unit. Sorry for the length. I believe it worth the time to read entire.

As Putin ups the ante in his Middle East challenge to America (and hegemony in Europe should Russia control the Mediterranean Sea) what will be the response of “the world’s only superpower”? The likely response will be the same as over the past 14 years: What was is and will be tomorrow. Let History speak.

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Bush failure in Iraq demanded he enter into a (still) secret agreement with Iran, a quid pro quo limiting US losses at the hands of Shiite militias in exchange looking the other way regarding Iran’s pursuit of its nuclear program, and continuing involvement in Iraq. As reported in [the Guardian] on July 17, 2008,

“The US plans to establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time in 30 years as part of a remarkable turnaround in policy by President George Bush… an announcement will be made in the next month to establish a US interests section - a halfway house to setting up a full embassy. The move will see US diplomats stationed in the country.”
Was Bush’s “remarkable turnaround in policy” just months after “the Surge” which provided cover for a dignified exit from the war, and just months before leaving office just coincidence?

Enter Obama and his public declaration of a policy of “peace through mutual respect” shorn of threat which provided Iran its goal of a publicly sanctioned nuclear threshold state awash in “sanctions” money to support its freedom of action against America’s past Arab allies and Israel.

For a decade of blogs and responses on the pages of JPost, Times of Israel and Haaretz I have described the obvious retreat behind America’s policy towards the ME (and the world, but that was and remains for me off topic). A power vacuum, such as America’s return to Isolationism characterized well by Obama’s preferred “lead from behind” approach to superpower crisis management holds no credibility for challengers since, as von Clausewitz described, “War is simply the continuation of political intercourse” or, put another way, “Diplomacy rests on the threat of War.” Policy minus threat equals vacuum open to exploitation by rivals. However the White House today describes its approach as based on “world peace” and “nuclear non-proliferation.” What, other than regional instability and the threat of nuclear arms race, has been the outcome? It is instructive to recall that Kenneth N. Waltz, described as America’s dean of foreign policy, appeared in Foreign Policy in 2012 advocating for a nuclear Iran. By his reasoning in, Why Iran Should Get the Bomb, Nuclear Balancing Would Mean Stability,

“Israel's regional nuclear monopoly, which has proved remarkably durable for the past four decades, has long fueled instability in the Middle East. In no other region of the world does a lone, unchecked nuclear state exist. It is Israel's nuclear arsenal, not Iran's desire for one, that has contributed most to the current crisis. Power, after all, begs to be balanced. What is surprising about the Israeli case is that it has taken so long for a potential balancer to emerge.”
No academic adviser to the White House and with access only to the open media still is it obvious that, even assuming Israel has that which Waltz describes as a "nuclear arsenal" spanning forty years that, as even he describes, “it has taken so long for a potential balancer to emerge,” that the threat of a nuclear arms race only surfaced with the emergence of the Iranian threat! America’s endorsement of Iran as a nuclear threshold state is clearly in accord with Waltz' dubious reasoning.

Enter Obama and America’s now public policy of appeasement towards the Islamic Republic: Iran a publicly sanctioned nuclear threshold state awash in sanctions-money to support its freedom of action against America’s recent past Arab allies and Israel. And likely America also.

For more than a decade I have described the return of Russia to the Middle East, Putin’s intention to reverse its failed Cold War challenge to American hegemony four decades. His actions today in Syria are the first step in addressing that failure. As for the PRC, China was recently reported as joining Russia in acting against ISIL. That the announcement came just days after President Xi Jinping’s White House meetings with President Obama suggest the announcement more symbolic, a demonstration of disrespect for Obama than an alliance with Russia. China will likely replace Russia as global superpower in the not distant future so however “comradely” they may appear in Syria, relations between them have been historically “testy,” occasionally resulting in cross border military exchanges. And, as power continues to drift West to East, relations between them will certainly become increasingly competitive. As for China today “joining” Russia in the Middle East: this is more akin to Xi Jinping dipping his toe in superpower diplomacy, a primer before taking the future superpower plunge.

Regarding Russia, American pundits point to the disparity in wealth and military resources between the U.S. and Russia as determinant for the outcome of Putin’s Syria shot across America’s bow. Certainly no contest, they assert! But what importance wealth and military might if un- or underutilized? If American "power" is always in “reserve,” used only cautiously and inadequately to achieve its policy objectives; if American power is so vacuous as to allow even a comparative national dwarf as “Iran” to manipulate the retiring giant to its ends: what expect from Putin’s Russia, adventurous and still smarting from of disaster as regime and superpower adversary to the U.S. in the Middle East? NPR recently aired an interview with a Russian military analyst for Tass news agency regarding Putin’s goals in Syria. He was able to describe openly that which Putin demonstrates in action but describes in diplospeak. Putin’s strategy, the analyst said, is to first target the Assad opposition, including the America-backed “moderate” rebels. Yes he will mask his intentions with a sprinkling of ISIL targets for media consumption and to allow Obama deniability. But once, according to the Russian analyst, the proximal threat to Assad is contained (ISIL is still, for all practical purposes, distant from Assad’s Alawite coastal enclave) then will he turn his attention to ISIL in Syria and Iraq in earnest. His ground forces acting under Russian air cover consist of IRGC commandos, Syrian Army troops and Hezbollah fighters to take and hold ground. And these will soon be joined by Russian “volunteers” already en route from their success in the Ukraine.

How does all this impact Israel? Before Obama who, in his desperation to conclude an “agreement” with Iran somehow missed the fact that the Islamic Republic was already “taken,” had a decade-long relationship as client to Russia I anticipated a slow transition in which Russia would replace America in the region. During this “transition” Israel, still the only socially stable and militarily powerful country in the area would, minus American commitment to the region and no longer needing the “special relationship” force Israel to gradually partner with Putin who, as new hegemon, would also need Israel to server as counter to radical threats to its interests. Such a shift already has an historical precedent: before 1962 Israel was partnered with France, until that country no longer needed the alliance (involved withdrawing from Algeria: “special relationships” always serve the senior party’s interests and end when the “interests” move on). Five years later America replaced France. And today, with the U.S. “moving on,” Russia and Putin’s interests. And then, China. Israel has much to offer a “superpower.”

And make no mistake, the U.S., at least since Iraq and Afghanistan, is in retreat. To American foreign policy such considerations as von Clausewitz and Realpolitik hold little sway against pie-in-the-sky White House idealism. Such as Waltz and Mearsheimer are the inspiration for America’s foreign policy. Israel’s assumed nuclear arsenal demands an Iranian stabilizing “balance” which, incidentally, provides cover for the U.S. abandoning responsibility for whatever might follow.

In recent years, as I observed Israel ‘s diplomatic exchanges with Putin, including its dramatic expansion of trade and military exchanges, I felt the possibility of accommodation, that Putin was priming Israel to serve the same role for the future Eastern as for the previous Western hegemon. Today things are far murkier. By Obama establishing Iran as a potentially credible adversary to Israel the U.S. actually empowered Russia’s long-time client in the region. Syria was and continues an important asset, Russia’s toe-hold in the Levant and a sea port to its still small fleet. And, in Syria, Russian and Iranian interests converge far more closely than does America’s delusion of an Iranian partner as America abandons global as well as national interests in the region.

For whatever reason Bush invaded Iraq; whatever his reasons for installing a Shi’ite regime vulnerable to direct Iranian influence, one thing is clear: in one swift moment he transformed the entire sectarian balance in the region: he transformed Iraq, the Sunni barrier, into a Shi’ite welcome mat for Iranian ambitions. And that which Bush initiated Obama completed by signing off on the Iranian nuclear armaments program. Obama has enormously magnified the Iranian challenge to the Sunni monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and Israel. With America’s blessing and Russia’s military backing the regional chessboard has been completely overturned, the pieces scattered.

With all the challenges Israel has had to face in the past, from the War for Independence to the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, today may well represent its greatest challenge. How the Arab states respond to the Iranian nuclear threat is still in play. The Saudis who financed the Pakistan Bomb have made it clear that they have access to that arsenal yet are still moving forward on its own nuclear reactors (to be purchased from Russia!). Many Gulf emirates are also negotiating Russian reactors as are Jordan and Egypt. The genie is drifting out of the bottle.

And then there is lonely Israel with an assumed nuclear arsenal of her own.

America’s “dean” of foreign policy has certainly influenced American diplomacy. Let us hope the godfather of nuclear Iran and his presidential protégé are not remembered in history as having turned the Middle East, Iran and Pakistan into a nuclear wasteland, the West’s War on Terror into a War on Nuclear Terror.  
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