March 20, 2019

The Only Middle East Strategy Worth Pursuing

“President Trump’s surprise December 19 announcement of an immediate withdrawal of American forces from Syria hit some Israelis like a sucker punch. “With this withdrawal, the United States abandons Syria and leaves Israel alone,” said Yaakov Amidror, a former national-security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While conceding that “the effect of the U.S. decision is primarily psychological and diplomatic,” Amidror continued: “In those arenas, this is a very significant decision.” Subsequent reports to the effect that the drawdown of forces will be slower than originally announced and coordinated with America’s allies have softened the blow, but the shock still remains.

In retrospect, the announcement shouldn’t have come as a surprise. After all, Trump has never hidden his conviction that extended military operations in the Middle East are futile. He campaigned on the theme in 2016 and then returned to it last April. The United States, he declared then, had “spent $7 trillion in the Middle East in the last seven years. We get nothing out of it, nothing.” To this general observation, he added a specific promise: “We’ll be coming out of Syria . . . very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.”

In the intervening months, however, the president’s top advisers seemed to suggest that the withdrawal would never happen. “We’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders, and that includes Iranian proxies and militias,” said National Security Adviser John Bolton last September. Given Bolton’s proximity to the president, the promise sounded authoritative.

The shock in Israel, then, was understandable, and it quickly gave way to related fears. Trump’s Syria decision is clearly part of a larger effort that includes patching up American relations with Turkey, a goal that leaves Israelis decidedly cold. For over a decade, Jerusalem’s relations with Turkey have been abysmal, with no prospect of improvement on the horizon. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, who aligns with the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world, would appear to have made hostility to Israel an enduring part of his political persona. To make matters worse, the American withdrawal will likely entail a downgrading of U.S. relations with the Syrian Kurdish forces that have aided the United States in the fight against Islamic State.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"We don’t know how many people have died since Cyclone Idai made landfall last Thursday on the coast of Mozambique... The United Nations estimated that more than 2.6 million people are in need of immediate assistance."

"Some of your favorite presidents have tried to pack the Supreme Court. So why does it sound like such an extreme tactic? And how did some of the top Democrats running for president come to embrace it?

"I decided to move from my home in cosmopolitan Tel Aviv to the settlement of Tekoa in the West Bank for a summer. I wanted to make a film about my experiences as I got to know the settlers I’d formed so many conclusions about."

"20 years ago, if you saw something on TV that offended you and you wanted to let someone know, you would’ve had to get a pen and paper and write, “Dear BBC, I’m bothered.” But you didn’t do it because it was too much trouble."

"America’s now trendy socialists mistake accretion for creation when it comes to wealth. This error of convenience serves as self-justification for the left’s policies, by simply assuming wealth will inevitably result...

"Anxious, I asked the Google gods for advice. I expected I’d find something from a lifestyle blogger, or a life coach, or a Reddit thread — the corners of the web that have always been there for me during pivotal life moments..."

"The air is getting more dangerous to breathe all over the world — and a suite of companies are hoping to capitalize with a new fashion item."

"Was the British Empire boring? As Jeffrey Auerbach notes in his irreverent new book, it’s an unexpected question, largely because imperial culture was so conspicuously saturated with a sense of adventure."

"Let’s face it: Few of us marry and then begin planning for divorce or widowhood. But based on the statistics, that is precisely what we should do. I know this viscerally because I recently lost my husband."

"The foodie—as a word, a concept, a person—began life in the early 1980s. New York writer Gael Greene first used the term in a restaurant review, but it was Ann Barr and Paul Levy of England’s Harper’s and Queen who popularized it."

"As Beresheet nears the moon, where it will spend eternity as a 160 kg tin can, experts warn of a growing pile of man-made debris on the lunar surface and more junk in orbit."

" Ilhan Omar in particular has garnered attention for tweets widely viewed by the Jewish community as trafficking in anti-Semitic tropes. The result has been the most media coverage of anti-Semitism in a decade..."