THE SPINE APRIL 13, 2010
I don’t know whether I should have ended the headline above with a question mark or an exclamation point. The first of my options would suggest that the president might actually learn from his palpable mistakes. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. But, to tell you the truth, I felt that would be playing with my readers. My alternative would hint—more than hint, I suppose—at my utter exasperation with Obama’s foreign policy. I don’t really want to go there. Still, are you not really exasperated with him and with it? Or are you one of those who care only about domestic affairs? And where, in any case, are those idealistic young liberals who wanted American to have no truck with monstrous tyrants?
Now, to be sure, the extent of Bashar Assad’s monstrousness doesn’t exceed that of Dr. Ahmadinejad, what with his clerical tyranny that has all but demolished Iran’s civil society, his nuclear designs, and his open genocidal threats to the state of the Jewish people. Still, Assad is monstrous enough, running a minority personal polity that has nullified the diversity of Syrian society, smothering whatever chance Lebanon had to be Lebanon, and turning himself into an errand boy of the mullahs by spreading imported advanced weapons southward throughout the Levant and elsewhere as far as the Persian peacock aims to strut.
Anyway, Obama saw in Assad an ally of sorts, imagining that he would shed his alliance with Iran, an alliance which made him the lynchpin of Shi’a Tehran’s ambitions among the Sunni Arabs. Obama even had the audacity to think he could lure Assad away from Shi’a designs where his patron and sponsor, the monarch of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Holy Mosques, had failed utterly. It’s instructive to remember that the ophthalmologist’s clan and the minority sect to which he belongs, the Alawites, are Shi’a of sorts. This is his lifeline of legitimacy as a Muslim.
Not grasping these tell-tale signs, Obama still thought he might lure Assad to the anti-terror cause. Apparently, no purport or pretense is too much for our president. He designated a career diplomat, Robert Ford, as ambassador to Damascus, an appointment that was scheduled for approval by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday with the usual assurances of the tyrant’s conversion to peace. Of course, these promises included Assad’s peaceful intentions towards Israel. How Obama inveigled my friend Senator John Kerry, chairman of the aforementioned committee and a no-nonsense skeptic, to front for this half-assed diplomacy is anybody’s guess.
Well, an article by Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel in this morning’s Ha’aretz, “Syria is shipping Scud missiles to Hezbollah,” explains why the White House decided to “suspend” its plans to send Mr. Ford’s name to the Senate. It’s Ha’aretz’s article that I saw. But the initial reports came from a Washington report Al-Rai Al-Aam, a Kuwaiti newspaper. Although it is not known which types of missiles were sent to Hezbollah, ones it already possesses can reach almost all of Israel. Scud C and Scud D missiles can reach Eilat, the southernmost tip of the Jewish state. The report added that the Syrian air force trained Hezbollah in the use of Scud missiles and advanced anti-aircraft missilery on Syrian soil.
The Jerusalem Post carries a report on the same transfers of Scuds. Its headline is grim: “[Ehud] Barak warns of Lebanon escalation.” A dispatch in the Wall Street Journal reveals that the Israel Defense Forces came close to attacking a convoy carrying Scuds from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. It was “cancelled” at the last moment, says the WSJ. I would say that it was postponed. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon was delegated by Security Council Resolution 1701 to prevent these breaches. Well, it doesn’t. Is that why UNIFIL is the model for monitoring the envisioned settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority?
And, thinking about the utter collapse of American policy in so many areas of the world, I wonder why there is so little oversight and even so little questioning of the diplomatic apparatus by the Senate.