I’ve shared this story with y’all on previous occasions, but it warrants repeating.
Back in August 2011 during a Congressional delegation visit to Israel, we had the distinct honor and pleasure to sit with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his cabinet chamber. It was there that PM Netanyahu advised us against the complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq.
He carefully articulated that there would be a vacuum created, something would fill that space and there would be immense and detrimental consequences not just for America, but for the Middle East and the world.
You see, leadership is about prescient vision, not just fulfilling empty rhetorical campaign promises and becoming wedded to an intransigent ideological perspective. PM Netanyahu represented the former, Barack Obama the latter.
And Obama’s ill-conceived and insidious decision in Iraq has led to two phenomena: the creation of ISIS (actually a regeneration of al-Qaida in Iraq, just a more virulent strain) and the regional hegemonic dominance of Iran. Both of those foreign policy missteps have led to the current situation in the Middle East — one that has immediate effects on PM Netanyahu and Israel.
As reported by CBS News, “Israeli aircraft struck a machine gun-mounted vehicle inside Syria Sunday, killing four militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) inside after they had opened fire on a military patrol on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, the Israeli military said.
Israel has been largely unaffected by the Syrian civil war raging next door, suffering only sporadic incidents of spillover fire over the frontier that Israel has generally dismissed as tactical errors of the Assad regime. Israel has responded to these cases lightly, with limited reprisals on Syrian positions in response to the errant fire.
But Sunday’s event, in the southern part of the Golan Heights, appears to be a rare case of an intentional shooting ambush by Islamic militants targeting Israeli troops. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the Israeli patrol came under machine gun and mortar fire early Sunday. They returned fire toward Syria before an Israeli aircraft engaged, striking the vehicle in question and killing its passengers. He said all were suspected militants from an IS offshoot that controls the area. No Israeli troops were harmed.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended the troops for thwarting the attack. “We are well prepared on our northern border and will not allow Islamic State elements or any other hostile elements to use the war in Syria to establish themselves close to our borders,” he said at his weekly Cabinet meeting.
Though Israel has generally stayed on the sidelines of the fighting, fearing being sucked into a clash between forces that are all hostile to it, it is widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on arms shipments said to be destined for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, a close ally of the Syrian government.
Amos Yadlin, a former military intelligence chief and current director of the Institute for National Security Studies, an independent think-tank, said it was too early to determine whether the attack marked a shift in ISIS policy or just a local initiative by some of its fighters. He said ISIS has been very careful to avoid attacking Israel to this point since it has been engaged with so many other adversaries. But with its back against the wall in Syria and Iraq, he said they may be looking for a propaganda victory by targeting Israel. He said they were capable of far worse than a routine ambush.”
We are seeing the results of Obama being a “chicken” and it’s coming home to roost for others in the Middle East. And folks, there’s nothing brave about drone strikes; it’s not a national security strategy at all.
I must wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Yadlin. ISIS finds its back against the wall and is looking for some rallying cry.
As you recall, it was twenty-five years ago during Operation Desert Storm, when Saddam Hussein fired SCUD missiles into Israel for two purposes: provoke the Israelis into a response, which he hoped would rally the Arab-Muslim world to his defense.
The Israelis, with the support of deployed Patriot missile systems, remained on the sidelines and did not take the bait – but it did lead them to develop their own missile defense system, the Iron Dome.
Fast forward to today, and here we have ISIS seeking to provoke Israel into a greater engagement and call for jihad against our best ally in the region. As well, Israel openly has Iranian influence by way of the Quds Force and Hezbollah operating in Syria. There’s only so much PM Netanyahu and the Israelis will take.
It is therefore a strategic imperative for the incoming Trump administration to show its unequivocal support for Israel as they face these threats from the north with Iran, Hezbollah, Jabhat al-Nusra, and ISIS…along with threats from Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Islamic Jihad and the Al Quds and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade forces supported by Mahmoud Abbas and the “Palestinian” authority. Trump must not make the same mistakes Obama has made.
This is about having that prescient strategic vision and realizing if there’s anything Islamic jihadists believe will rally folks to their cause of death, destruction, and supremacy, it is Israel — and recent Organization of Islamic Cooperation rhetoric backs that belief. And here we are trusting Vladimir Putin in Syria to destroy ISIS? Putin is in Syria to prop up Bashar Assad, and secure a port facility in the Mediterranean.
Barack Obama has made the Middle East a tough place. It can be won back, but it will take a focused effort to isolate Russian support there. Russia has overly extended lines of communications and supply, along with Iran. If there is to be success there, it will be necessary to reduce the sphere of influence, support, and military aid Russia and Iran are flowing into Syria.
It means the United States has to prepare to conduct targeted strike operations against ISIS elements and also, give support to Israel to prevent any attempts by the Iranian-backed Quds Force and Hezbollah to gain a foothold in Syria.
The Trump administration needs a very savvy secretary of state and secretary of defense who can gain the confidence of allies in the region, such as Egypt and Jordan, along with the Kurds. We must engage and rebuild all at the same time for a military that has been in continuous combat operations, regardless of what Obama says has ended.
But what has been missing is a strategy for victory, the real defeat of the enemy. Remember, this is a critical phase — the transition phase from one presidential administration to another — and it’s a different political party. Our adversaries know if they can make a move to garner a full strategic advantage, it is now, in these next few weeks…we have 53 days before the inauguration.
This is why it’s a strategic imperative that the Trump national security and foreign policy teams have a strategy to implement from day one. He cannot take his eye off the ball.
It’s much like a football coach with a laminated play call sheet based on scouting the opposing team. And that also means having flexibility, not the Obama kind, to call an audible, because as we’ve often shared here, “the enemy always has a vote.”
Stay tuned, lots happening. Enjoy your Hanukkah and Christmas seasons, but there is some serious work that has to be done.