As Yogi Berra used to say, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
Iran once again threw down the gauntlet to the United States. The ayatollah’s dispatched the cream of its navy, two small and aging warships, on a diplomatic mission through the Suez Canal to Syria. If permitted to pass, Iran would also break a thirty-year policy barring their warships from the canal. So Obama ordered the Navy into action. And two days later the Iranian vessels reached their destination unmolested. The mouse had roared again, and again the eagle took flight.
On Monday, responding to the threat by two Iranian ships the US deployed an armada of naval vessels to block their entrance to the Suez Canal: “Thursday night, Feb. 17, the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, escorted by missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and the fast supply ship USNS Arctic… [took] up position opposite the Kharg cruiser and Alvand missile destroyer of the Iranian Navy''s 12th Flotilla, which were waiting to enter the Suez Canal at the southern Red Sea entrance… another aircraft carrier was posted in the Great Bitter Lake opposite Ismailia and the canal''s main routes with a large contingent of marines aboard.” By Wednesday, those ships had peacefully transited the Canal and arrived at Lattakia, Syria.
Since the Iranians needed the approval of the Egyptian military it is clear that, not only did the US fail to force the Iranians to flee, but failed also to persuade the Egyptian generals not to allow them passage through the canal. In fact America’s failure regarding those warships represents a pattern of avoidance by America regarding Iranian challenges dating back to the year 2003 of the Bush Administration.
As Bush had repeatedly failed to carry through on his threats to bomb Iran’s nuclear program to rubble; as Obama had as many times retreated from his “last and final” threats that Iran turn over nuclear materials, or else; once again America chose retreat over action. And what began as the U. S. Navy dispatched to demonstrate American power, an armada blocking the Canal entrance to the Iranians turned into the spectacle of yet another American self-inflicted bullet in the foot, another display of American irresolve and strategic ineptitude.
What exactly did our president think would be the result of that display of massive military might? He certainly could not have thought that the outgunned Iranians would just turn and run. And that was the problem: the US was not about to fire on those ships, nor even board them in as provided for under recent UN sanctions allowing search for weapons and other contraband. Both options involved the unacceptable risk of Iranian resistance. A more prudent, and possibly successful resolution would have been to “encourage” the Egyptian military, as it did in ousting its hapless president, to continue the 30-year long ban to Iranian war shipping in the canal. If successful that would have not only have forced the Iranian ships to turn around, but would also have demonstrated to the Egyptians and the region that perhaps the US still had muscle and resolve. Of course this obvious alternative diplomatic channel may have been tried, and also failed. And that sends an even more damaging message to the region.
Of Middle East countries Turkey appears the first to appreciate the consequences of America as a fading power. Her defiance of the US in voting against American UN sponsored sanctions for Iran; Turkey’s dispatch of the Mavi Marmara flotilla to break the Gaza blockade enforced by Egypt and Israel, and sanctioned by international law; both actions clearly signaled Turkey’s strategic shift from west to east.
And long before Obama turned against America’s and Saudi Arabia’s long-time ally President Mubarak, the king had expressed doubt, lost faith in America’s commitment and ability as protector of its Middle East interests. Whether by ignorance or design the United States has long been clearly signaling weakening resolve, slowly withdrawing not only from Iraq and Afghanistan, but from the Middle East entire. And America’s defeat in Suez may well turn out to have been America’s Waterloo.
I have long expressed concern over Israel’s commitment no, dependence, on its “special relationship”with the United States. History demonstrates that such a relationship is “special” only so long as it serves the perceived (Obama’s ideology seems to interfere with his ability to fully appreciate Israel’s importance to the United States in the Middle East) interests of the senior partner.
Prior to Pearl Harbor the commitment of a large proportion of America’s public and political elite abandoned its centuries long “special relationship” with England, then under attack by Germany, in favor of Hitler. Americans greatly admired his eugenics-inspired efforts to achieve racial purity; they supported his intention to invade Russia. And although the relative tranquility of today colors our memory of yesterday’s fears, antisemitism was as intense and widespread in America before the war as it was in Germany, France, Poland and the rest of Europe. This goes a long way in explaining America’s policy of non-intervention in Germany’s persecution of the Jews for eight years before the war, and Roosevelt’s lack of action on behalf of European Jewry facing death by gas chamber.
This is not the place to go beyond my brief reference to Jewish survivability in the Christian Diaspora. I have written on this topic several times over the years (see below for examples) and will no doubt continue to do so in the future. But Israeli Jews are clearly in greater danger than are we of the Diaspora today. And while we have the luxury of complacency, confronting unfolding events Israel today is further threatened by America’s drift, her retreat from the region. Israel’s “special relationship” with the United States had been a source of confidence, provided a sense of protection.
So what is Israel to do? In a previous article I suggested how the chips would fall in the Middle East minus an American presence. I suggested Russia the likely inheritor of the American mantle. My description of Israel as a stabilizing force in a highly unstable region is in conflict with what appears to be Obama’s position.
Where mid-20th century radicalism was nationalist, today’s radicalism is Islamist. Same threat, different flavor. Israel’s role in the past would be no less valuable, would serve the same stabilizing purpose for the new regional power. And while Israel will lack the “consolation” of “shared values,’ etc., identified with America, at least the distracting and realpolitik danger lurking behind belief in a myth, salvation through a “special relationship,” will be gone. And Israel can base its future on fact-based reason rather than emotion-driven faith.