Monday, March 12, 2012

Sarwar Kashmeri's Wishful Thinking

We haven't seen him before but Sarwar Kashmeri is a veteran Huffington Post blogger whose article has recently climbed to the height of the "World" section, possibly because he's telling the Huffington Post readership exactly what they want to hear. Specifically, that the alliance between the USA and Israel is falling apart. Again.

He begins by summarizing the Netanyahu trip to Washington, calling it a failure because even though Netanyahu came to speak to AIPAC and so forth, he did not receive American guarantees of support should he decide to attack Iran. Mr. Kashmeri then takes it a bridge too far:
"But even more important than the refusal to open the door to a potential attack by Israel on Iran was a strategic development that has not yet received the illumination it deserves: President Obama's recalibration of the alliance between the United States and its closest ally in the Middle East."
All right, I may not agree with this point of view but let's see what he has to say to back it up. Fortunately he provides evidence from a New York Times article:
 "... Mr. Obama made clear that when he said the United States "has Israel's back" -- a phrase he used in his speech on Sunday and in the Oval Office with Mr. Netanyahu -- it should not be interpreted to mean that he was giving Israel any kind of go-ahead for a pre-emptive strike on Iran. 
His statement, Mr. Obama said, was a more general expression of American support for an ally,like Britain or Japan. 'It was not a military doctrine that we were laying out for any particular military action,' he said." (Emphasis added.)"
 We'll get to Mr. Kashmeri's analysis in a minute but it seems to me that there are many ways to interpret President Obama's actions here. Let's start with the most obvious: He's trying to satisfy both hawks and doves, or in this case both very pro-Israel people and very anti-war people, by saying that although America and Israel are friends that doesn't mean that support for a strike is guaranteed. Let's be completely honest here: There is no way the American president would come right out and say that if Israel goes America will go with them. It's not politically expedient and Mr. Kashmeri is well enough informed to know that without jumping to conclusions.

Let's not forget either that President Obama declared that "Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself." So that sure seems like Mr. Kashmeri is selectively quoting. Critics of President Obama would probably say that he is "flip flopping" or that once again Israel cannot rely on him as an ally, but Kashmeri prefers his own interpretation:
"If my analysis of President Obama's recalibration is correct, the alliance with Israel has just been quietly reset."
I see. It wasn't reset two years ago when American officials were berating Israelis by phone and very public spats were taking place over settlements, but now it is. Could you maybe elaborate Mr. Kashmeri?
"The reset I believe fits into the administration's evolving American foreign policy doctrine for the new century. A doctrine which recognizes that in the future American leadership of the world can only be exercised by harnessing a matrix of power centers. Nowhere is the need for leading with a matrix more true than in the Middle East." 

What exactly does that mean? How has the alliance been reset? After all most Americans still support Israel. And military cooperation has increased greatly in the last year. If Mr. Kashmeri is saying that he doesn't think America will support an Israeli attack (and he doesn't) and takes that to mean the alliance has changed, he's entitled to his opinion. But of course the American-Israeli alliance has survived far more controversial activities such as the bombing of Iraqi and Syrian nuclear reactors, and he doesn't provide any evidence as to why this time is different.

In the end, he just gave the Huffington Posters what they want: A glimpse of hope that America and Israel won't be as friendly as they are now. He doesn't really need to back it up with facts or analysis that makes sense. The Huffington Post will be glad to publish it anyway.

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