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ISIS, the Neocons, and Obama’s Choices

Though Congress and the president are out of town, the final weeks of August have seen the arrival of an unexpectedly critical moment. The brutal beheading of James Foley by ISIS (the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq) confirmed that there remains a Sunni jihadist terrorism problem in the Mideast: decimating al-Qaeda and killing Osama bin Laden didn’t end it. It shouldn’t be forgotten that America’s destruction of the Iraqi state in 2003 created the opportunity for ISIS to grow and thrive, as America’s Sunni allies, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, gave ISIS financial backing.

How to respond? The usually wise Andy Bacevich suggests [1] that ISIS constitutes a negligible threat to America, a superpower an ocean away, that bombing it has become—like bombing elsewhere, America’s substitute for a genuine national security strategy. Bacevich suggests we ought to butt out, except perhaps to give aid to countries genuinely threatened by ISIS. There is much to this argument, as there is little inclination from the American people to send ground troops once again into Iraq. And even if we were willing to reconstitute and send an occupation force, what good would it do? In a similar vein, Paul Pillar [2] argues that overestimating ISIS as a potential threat is perhaps more likely, and dangerous, than underestimating it.

But few are comfortable with doing little or nothing: ISIS is undoubtedly barbaric, with possible potential to spread. In important ways the situation resembles the months after 9/11, in which America were brutally confronted with the sudden emergence of Sunni extremism which had not previously been deemed a major problem.

Then as now, an influential group of neoconservatives, tightly allied with Israel, had a very specific idea of what they wanted the United States to do. The neocons then—and still do—aspired for an almost endless series of American wars and invasions across the entire Middle East. Because in 2001 we were already engaged in a sort of shadow war with Saddam Hussein—Iraq was under a semi-blockade and America was enforcing a no fly zone over the country—Iraq was the logical starting point. But for the neocons Iraq was only a beginning. “Real men want to go to Tehran” was the neoconservative semi-jokey catchword during that time, and they quite seriously expected that after Baghdad was digested as an appetizer, they could steer the United States into war with Iran—then as now a top Israeli priority. That an American war with Iran was an Israeli priority does not mean Israel opposed the Iraq war: polls at the time indicated that Israel was the only country in the world where large popular majorities were enthusiastic about George W. Bush’s Iraq invasion, and Israeli politicians were regularly invited to appear as guests American news talk shows in order to beat the Iraq invasion drums. Steve Walt’s and John Mearsheimer’s indispensable book The Israel Lobby [3], contains pages filled with quotations from Israeli leaders making hawkish pronouncements to American audiences; the quotes are a necessary corrective to present to present Israeli efforts to proclaim that an American invasion of Iraq was never really an Israeli objective.

If ISIS is to be contained or defeated without using American ground troops, it is necessary to examine the regional forces ready to fight it. There are of course the Kurds, a small group which can perhaps defend its own region, if that. The biggest potential player is Iran. With its majority Shia population Iran takes a dim view of Sunni jihadism; the Iranian population was pretty much the only one in the Muslim world to display open sympathy with Americans after 9/11. By the standards of the Middle East, it is a scientific powerhouse, with a large freedom aspiring middle class, and considerable artistic community. According to published reports, Iranian tanks have reportedly engaged [4] ISIS near the Iranian border—probably with American approval. We are likely, I would guess, to hear more about Iranian tank brigades in the coming months, even root for them.

The other serious force willing to fight ISIS is Syria, led by the Alawite Bashar al-Assad. Assad is a dictator, as was his father. His regime is strongly supported by Syria’s Christians, by Iran, and by Hezbollah, the Sh’ite militia in neighboring Lebanon. Syria has been caught up in civil war of shocking brutality for the past four years. The largest faction opposing him is ISIS—and American arms distributed to the Syrian “rebels” have often ended up in ISIS hands. By opposing Assad, the United States has in effect been feeding ISIS.

It would seem logical that if ISIS really is a threat—a metastasizing terrorist entity and enemy of America and all civilization—then the United States should patch up its relations with Syria and Iran to deal with it. That’s the advocacy of some groups favoring a detente with Iran (like the National Iranian-American Council), which views Iran [5] as the most stable state in the region. But there is a problem: Israel hates Iran, and hates Syria because of Iran. The only Arab military force to give Israel any difficulty in the past 40 years is Hezbollah, armed by and allied with Iran. No matter how much Israel pretends to dislike Sunni extremism, it hates Iran more, because Iran has scientific, cultural, and political potential to be a major rival to Israel in the Middle East.

So the neoconservatives are arguing [6] that the United States confront ISIS by sending in its own troops (“primarily” special forces, [7] or a contingent of 10-15,000 “for now”) but hoping of course that can be expanded upon later, rather than relying on regional allies. This is essentially a revised variant of the policies they advocated after 9/11—divert Americans away from confronting a threat from Sunni jihadists, while preparing the ground for a subsequent war with a state actor that Israel doesn’t like. So the neocons will argue against any policy which contemplates detente with Iran or a lessening of tension with Syria, because they recognize that if the United States comes to view Iran as an ally in the fight against ISIS or other Sunni extremists, their goal of an American war with Iran is gone, probably forever. Bibi Netanyahu has boasted  [8]to Israeli audiences that America is something “easily moved” by Israel’s public relations abilities, unregistered agents, and other well-wishers. But Bibi and his allies are likely to find their proposals to send American troops back into the Mideast a hard sell.

A final point: over the past two generations thousands of articles have been written proclaiming that Israel is a “vital strategic ally” of the United States, our best and only friend in the “volatile” Middle East. The claim is a commonplace among serving and aspiring Congressmen. I may have missed it, but has anyone seen a hint that our vital regional ally could be of any assistance at all in the supposedly civilizational battle against ISIS? Fact is, when you use the most powerful military in the Mideast to continuously brutalize Palestinian children, your usefulness as a regional ally becomes pretty limited.

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative.

29 Comments (Open | Close)

29 Comments To "ISIS, the Neocons, and Obama’s Choices"

#1 Comment By Rachmiel Ariel On August 27, 2014 @ 9:52 am

How interesting to see McConnell and Buchanan satisfy one another’s lust in their disdain for the Jewish State—apparently, a fond pastime for American Conservative (AC) founding editors. When AC author, Rod Dreher, continues his Dante study this coming Fall, McConnell and Buchanan should pay particular attention to Inferno Canto XXXIII. In it, the poet describes both Count Ugolino and Archbishop Ruggieri, two real historical figures, frozen in a lake of ice in a region called Antenora. For their crimes, he indicates that “Ugolino is eating the back of Ruggieri’s head like a dog using its strong teeth to gnaw a bone.”

#2 Comment By Kurt Gayle On August 27, 2014 @ 12:44 pm

Scott McConnell takes a hard look at recent attempts to hyper-inflate the so-called “ISIS threat to America.” McConnell cites Andrew Bacevich and Paul Pillar (Daniel Larison and others might be included here, too) who all make convincing arguments that the ISIS threat to the U.S. is hugely exaggerated and quite likely negligible.

But even if the ISIS threat to the U.S. is negligible, Scott McConnell is still right to think that it makes good sense to find ways to contain the growth of ISIS.

First, McConnell lays out U.S. mistakes that have helped build ISIS:

“America’s destruction of the Iraqi state in 2003 created the opportunity for ISIS to grow and thrive…American arms distributed to the Syrian ‘rebels’ have often ended up in ISIS hands. By opposing Assad, the United States has in effect been feeding ISIS.”

O.K., we screwed up! But what can the U.S. do now to contain the growth of ISIS?

Although we can’t undo our Iraq invasion mistake, the U.S. can quickly and easily (1) create a “lessening of tensions with Syria” and (2) stop sending arms and supplies to Syrian rebels – arms and supplies that often end up with ISIS. We can also (3) establish a normalization of relations with Iran, the most capable regional military power besides Syria that has an interest in containing ISIS.

Those three steps seem like no-brainers in the sense that they would help to shut off arms to ISIS and get the U.S. off the backs of anti-ISIS Syria and anti-ISIS Iran.

Problem of containing ISIS on the way to being solved, right?

You would think so, but not quite. McConnell points to the problem:

“No matter how much Israel pretends to dislike Sunni [including ISIS]extremism, it hates Iran more…The neoconservatives are arguing that the United States confront ISIS by sending in [U.S.] troops (‘primarily” special forces, or a contingent of 10-15,000 ‘for now’) but hoping of course that can be expanded upon later…preparing the ground for a subsequent war with a state actor [Iran] that Israel doesn’t like.

“So the neocons will argue against any policy which contemplates detente with Iran or a lessening of tension with Syria, because they recognize that if the United States comes to view Iran as an ally in the fight against ISIS or other Sunni extremists, their goal of an American war with Iran is gone, probably forever.”

Not being a politician dependent upon Israel-Lobby PACs for my campaign finance needs, I think this discussion should be really simple:

Americans leaders should make American foreign policy decisions based upon the American national interest – not the national interest of a foreign country.

Period.

Better still: Exclamation point!

#3 Comment By James Canning On August 27, 2014 @ 1:28 pm

Richard Haass writes in the Financial Times today, in favor of US support for Syrian government in its war with Isis.

#4 Comment By John G On August 27, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

While I agree that the Kurds and the Iraqi Shias can CONTAIN ISIS, and should definitely be helped by the international community in this respect, only the Sunnis can truly defeat it.

It might even be that the only way for this to happen would be to let ISIS rule the Iraqi and Syrian Sunnistan for a while, should they win the popular vote. I bet the alienation of the regular folks would be quite rapid. Or if they can’t win an election and start a civil war in response, the world can support the democratically elected government, but in any case, the problem is now more localized.

But of course, the world is reluctant to get involved in defining the internal borders in Iraq. If the international community just supports the Kurds and the Shia, they will be tempted to grab more than their fair share, hence further alienating the Sunnis and giving ISIS a chance to present itself as their sole defender, and further weakening the already weak monarchies in the Gulf. If, on the other hand, the Kurds and Shia are not given support, God knows what kind of violence, ISIS advancement, refugees, Saudi-Iranian involvement, etc. we’ll see, until the internal ethno-religious borders stabilize or are finally imposed by outside powers.

#5 Comment By KXB On August 27, 2014 @ 2:01 pm

Don’t expect the US media to point out the uselessness of our most valuable ally. In an upcoming book, it seems that after 9/11, then head of CNN Walter Isaacson tried to pressure reporters in delivering the news that was sympathetic to Israel, even when the facts were inconvenient. Christine Amanpour objected, and went ahead and reported Israeli shelling of an Arab village, without including Israel’s POV.

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#6 Comment By Carson City On August 27, 2014 @ 10:21 pm

@KXB : “Don’t expect the US media to point out the uselessness of our most valuable ally. “

Not just the uselessness. There is the continuing pretense that we somehow acquired all these frothing at the mouth enemies because we’re such nice tolerant people, and that Israel, also hated for inexplicable reasons, is our natural ally against their inexplicable hatred. Forgotten is the sort of crucially important fact that a huge part of the reason these people hate us is because of our role in enabling Israel and the perception that Israel’s agents and “friends” in the United States are able to decisively influence and at times control American foreign and military policy.

In sum, Israel is worse than useless to us. It is a strategic burden and an important cause of the hatred and the terror attacks against us.

#7 Comment By Escher On August 27, 2014 @ 11:44 pm

About time we ask Israel to earn some of the billions in aid gobbled up by it over the years. ISIS hates all non-Sunnis equally, so Israel can make common cause with Assad, Iran and the Kurds to take them out. Unless what Mr. McConnell is saying is true, and our most valuable ally is actually a parasite.

#8 Comment By Ed K On August 28, 2014 @ 7:58 am

To defeat ISIS, you have to put pressure on Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait to stop all funding & supports. See this article on the genesis of ISIS. [10]

#9 Comment By Duglarri On August 28, 2014 @ 10:46 am

On your last point, Scott, am I the only one who has the idea that Israel is not an ally of the United States, but is instead an objective? There is not and has never been a legal alliance between Israel and the United States, and there has never been a conflict in which an Israeli soldier got to within a thousand kilometers of a foxhole holding an American under fire. It’s a very strange strategic ally that never lifts a finger.

On the other hand, though, Israel is clearly an objective of the United States. In some instances, the security of Israel is even more important than the security of America, as the fate of New Orlean’s demonstrated. The National Guard troops and equipment that might have gone a long way to saving that city were all in Iraq when the hurricane hit, on an errand for Israel, and there was no hint whatsoever that they should be brought back to serve Americans instead of Israel. The destruction of New Orleans was a lower priority.

Referring to Israel as an objective (and for many Americans, the highest objective) clears up a lot of the confusion about the strange zig-zag of American policy. Israel is an objective, and Israeli actors play America like a fiddle based on that fact.

#10 Comment By balconesfault On August 28, 2014 @ 11:52 am

@John G It might even be that the only way for this to happen would be to let ISIS rule the Iraqi and Syrian Sunnistan for a while, should they win the popular vote. I bet the alienation of the regular folks would be quite rapid

I’ve been thinking the same way you are. Taking territory and running existing oil infrastructure and terrorizing the populace is a lot easier than managing a state and maintaining and expanding oil infrastructure and winning the support and consent of the populace.

If ISIS fails at the latter – then they’ll quickly run their course. If they succeed – they’ll represent a true threat to the Saudis and Gulf emirates who funded their startup … sweet irony there.

In any case, let’s just quit giving military weaponry to the Middle East. That means Syrian rebels, that means the Kurds, that means even the Iraqi military. First, because there’s a good chance any gun or bomb we send over there might be used against our interests in the future. Second – make them pay for the hardware they want to kill each other with, so they run into the conflict between governance and firepower that much quicker.

And I’m not really that sympathetic to the Kurds. They wanted a weak Iraqi government … let them deal with the consequences.

#11 Comment By ATBOTL On August 28, 2014 @ 2:25 pm

It’s good to have folks like Rachmiel Ariel around to remind us of the contempt that Israelis have for Americans.

#12 Comment By protectionist On August 28, 2014 @ 2:49 pm

I was mostly with McConnell until the very last sentence when, referring to Israel, he said “when you use the most powerful military in the Mideast to continuously brutalize Palestinian children”

EARTH TO McCONNELL: Israel doesn’t brutalize Palestinian children. Hamas does that. Every death, every wound, every blister, is on Hamas’ doorstep.

#13 Comment By cato newman On August 28, 2014 @ 3:47 pm

Next time don’t forget to include Hillary Clinton in your list of “neo-con” war hawks.

#14 Comment By Dan Greene On August 28, 2014 @ 4:02 pm

“No matter how much Israel pretends to dislike Sunni extremism, it hates Iran more, because Iran has scientific, cultural, and political potential to be a major rival to Israel in the Middle East.’

Yep, that’s it in a nut shell.

#15 Comment By KenI On August 28, 2014 @ 4:02 pm

That closing paragraph was a real doozy. Great article, Mr. McConnell. Keep it up!

#16 Comment By philadelphialawyer On August 28, 2014 @ 4:38 pm

Kurt Gayle:

“O.K., we screwed up! But what can the U.S. do now to contain the growth of ISIS?

“Although we can’t undo our Iraq invasion mistake, the U.S. can quickly and easily (1) create a “lessening of tensions with Syria” and (2) stop sending arms and supplies to Syrian rebels – arms and supplies that often end up with ISIS. We can also (3) establish a normalization of relations with Iran, the most capable regional military power besides Syria that has an interest in containing ISIS.

“Those three steps seem like no-brainers in the sense that they would help to shut off arms to ISIS and get the U.S. off the backs of anti-ISIS Syria and anti-ISIS Iran.”

To me, those three steps, and others like them, seem like “no brainers” even if we had no interest in stopping or checking ISIS or even if there was no such thing as ISIS! The US should be ratcheting down tensions with Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, etc for its own sake, and for the sake of peace, ISIS or no ISIS.

#17 Comment By Marc L On August 28, 2014 @ 5:45 pm

Brilliant summary of the mess we’re in – word for word, sentence for sentence 100% TRUTH – excellent, Scott McConnell!

Few thoughts:

You say “In important ways the situation resembles the months after 9/11, in which America were brutally confronted with the sudden emergence of Sunni extremism.”

That isn’t true, Scott, how many Americans after 2001 knew that this was a ‘Sunni’ branch of Islam, namely the Wahhabite/Salafist ideology directly stemming from Saudi-Arabia, US’ best ‘Ally’ in the Middle East after Israel?! I estimate 1/1000 maybe – the word was “Islamist extremism” – yet not ONE SHIITE was among the 9/11 assassins, also not ONE ALAWI, ALEVI, AHMADI was one of the perpetrators as well.

Incredibly and grotesquely though, not only did the NeoCon-media manage to paint all of Islam a threat, no, they even managed to veil Saudi-Arabia’s role concerning the salafist ideology that stood behind 9/11, also Pakistan’s role in empowering the Taliban in Afghanistan. And they even managed to paint Iran the major Terrorist-state in the world – the ‘Axis of Evil’…

One of the most important lectures out of all this is, that we shall never ever again play one out against the other – the ‘divide et impera’, the ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend’ principle – Machiavellianism has to stop – there are too many decent and good Sunni people out there that should not be further alienated and incited against the USA+West (I’m German) by being thrown under the bus – there are moderate forces in Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood too, and we will NOT end the ‘War on Terror’ if we go on changing sides, interfere in foreign domestic politics and continue supporting dictatorships not based on principle but based on profit – a mid/long term strategy to bring peace and destroy ISIS imho can only work if we start empowering the UN – bring the Indians, Brazilians, Chinese and Russians in…The Philippines is the greatest muslim (sunni) Nation, remember Chechnya or the muslim Turkmen/Uigurs in China/Russia…

This must not become the ‘Clash of civilizations’ if we anticipate more intelligently and if we start understanding the greater panorama…

Again – Excellent article, Scott, Kudos to you!

#18 Comment By Sean Scallon On August 28, 2014 @ 10:52 pm

“But there is a problem: Israel hates Iran, and hates Syria because of Iran. The only Arab military force to give Israel any difficulty in the past 40 years is Hezbollah, armed by and allied with Iran. No matter how much Israel pretends to dislike Sunni extremism, it hates Iran more, because Iran has scientific, cultural, and political potential to be a major rival to Israel in the Middle East.”

This may well be true but it also demonstrates Israel’s utter idiocy these days when it comes to foreign policy. Once upon a time, Israel and Iran enjoyed fairly close relations. As two non-Arab powers in the Middle East, they had a lot in common and worked closely together on certain matters. Evan after the Shah was ousted from power in 1979, there were still a lot residual contacts between them (that’s why the Iran-Contra scandal took place). Isarel may have gone to war against Assad’s Syria and vice-versa but since 1973, the border on the Golan Height was actually one the quietest and most secure in the world.

It’s Hezbollah and the fact the militia drove the Israelis out of south Lebanon and bloodied the IDF’s noses in 2006 is what has Israeli politics and foreign policy out of joint. There is no reason for Israel to want an ISIS controlled state on its borders consider the amount anxiety another Sunni extremist organization, Hamas, causes them year after year. So why do they still view Shiia of Lebanon, Syria and Iran as more of a threat? The only thing one can imagine for such a non-sensible policy is wounded pride. Israel is trading away its acutal security needs in a fit of pique. A friendly Iran, even with nukes, is far less a threat than ISIS led jihad coming from Syria.

#19 Comment By philadelphialawyer On August 29, 2014 @ 9:12 am

“It’s Hezbollah and the fact the militia drove the Israelis out of south Lebanon and bloodied the IDF’s noses in 2006 is what has Israeli politics and foreign policy out of joint. There is no reason for Israel to want an ISIS controlled state on its borders consider the amount anxiety another Sunni extremist organization, Hamas, causes them year after year. So why do they still view Shiia of Lebanon, Syria and Iran as more of a threat? The only thing one can imagine for such a non-sensible policy is wounded pride. Israel is trading away its acutal security needs in a fit of pique. A friendly Iran, even with nukes, is far less a threat than ISIS led jihad coming from Syria.”

It is because Israel desires complete power vacuums, and failed States, on its borders, and throughout the ME, if it can’t have compliant, sell out regimes like it has in Jordan and Egypt. ISIS, if it ever came to power in Syria or Iraq or both, would be too busy fighting internal sectarian wars and trying to maintain control against rival groups (some of which, no doubt, Israeli funded) than menacing Israel in any way other than rhetorically.

Israel is about playing all sides against the middle, when it comes to the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors (and Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, etc). Israel helped create Hamas, so that it would rival the PLO, and the two would waste time, energy, resources and lives fighting each other. And the resulting chaos provided one more rationale for continued Israeli dominance.

What Israel does not want are coherent, competent regimes. In Occupied Palestine or its neighbors. Thus, the more Hamas provides a viable alternative to the sold out al Fatah, the more it must be crushed. Hamas is becoming altogether too much like Hezbollah. Sunni, Shi’a, that’s not the relevant criteria to Israel, the issues are can, will and does the relevant Palestinian or neighbor State regime stand up to Israel and the IDF. The more they can do so, naturally, the less Israel wants them around.

There was a time when the PLO in South Lebanon was the most consistent and dogged opponent of Israel. Thus, it is no mystery why Israel at that time was obsesses with invading Lebanon. In the end, through its invasions, through it collaboration with the mass murder in the refugee camps, and so on, Israel got rid of the Lebanon-based PLO. Arafat and his group only returned to the regime by agreeing to make nice-nice with Israel.

As you mention, in the long run, this (as with the creation of Hamas) blew up in Israel’s face. Hezbollah, now seemingly lodged permanently in South Lebanon, right on Israel’s border, is a much more formidable opponent than the PLO ever was. Indeed, the PLO, because it alienated the local Shi’a population, was rather weak, even if belligerent. Hezbollah is belligerent and tough.

I don’t think it is so much wounded pride as it is that Israel fears that Iran and Hezbollah are simply too competent. Here in the USA, we get a very distorted view of Iran. And having “friendly” relations with Iran and Hezbollah is just not consistent with Israel’s insistence on total regional dominance.

The Islamic Republic is never going to be like the Shah’s government, and Israel would rather that chaos develops there than that Iran succeed in becoming a more modernized, prosperous State. And thus it does everything in its power to destabilize it, and to foment tensions between Iran and the USA.

#20 Comment By the summing up On August 29, 2014 @ 12:12 pm

About time we ask Israel to earn some of the billions in aid gobbled up by it over the years.

“Billions”?

Try “hundreds of billions”.

And that’s just direct aid. It doesn’t come anywhere near what Israel has actually cost us.

#21 Comment By dreamers hit the beach On August 29, 2014 @ 1:24 pm

“O.K., we screwed up! But what can the U.S. do now to contain the growth of ISIS?”

We shouldn’t do anything. We should leave it to others, who have much more at stake and who might actually know what they’re doing.

If we’d stop meddling in that region and start tending to our own disordered affairs we’d be much better off.

Think about it: while elite know-it-alls are shrieking about hypothetical threats from various Oogaboogalands on the other side of the planet, scenes like this are unfolding right here in America:

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#22 Comment By David Pascual On August 29, 2014 @ 2:03 pm

Excellent article Mr. McConnell.

There is no more pressing political issue than the excessive influence of the Israeli Lobby. I mean, the useless Iraq war must have something to do with the oversized US Government deficit, must it not?

Also, the fact that a small, wealthy group of people can define policy for their own benefit does not speak very well of the political system itself.

#23 Comment By Rapture On August 30, 2014 @ 12:22 am

Looking at Obama and Rice in the photo of this article it looks like neither one of them knows what they are doing. Good grief!!!

#24 Comment By John G On August 30, 2014 @ 12:31 pm

@philadelphialawyer

I think that your hypothesis about the underlying Israeli strategy is supported by “the data”. Maybe there are other competing hypotheses but let’s leave that aside and assume that you are 100% right.

I have to wonder whether that recipe can work in the long run, as it gradually reveals itself to all the parties and peoples involved. I believe not (even the most dysfunctional neighbor, not to mention the world at large, will eventually learn its lessons), and the question then becomes what next?

Granted, it’s a very bumpy road but the world is democratizing, developing, and ethno-religious groups left and right are emancipating. Peoples and communities we never heard of are becoming familiar names. And they are demanding their rights!

So, an interesting question is whether Israel can ride this wave to make itself secure in the long run, with another strategy that needs to replace the current one which will increasingly prove problematic.

I think that the ethno-religious patchwork of the region offers a natural framework into which a Jewish state CAN fit and live in peace with its neighbors. Help federalize Syria into Sunni, Druze, Alawite, and Kurdish parts. Do similar in Iraq and possibly Lebanon, and the map looks like a mosaic into which a Jewish state can fit quite naturally and enjoy lasting peace, just like EVERYONE ELSE!

Of course, IF we manage to engineer this peacefully and in ways that treat everyone fairly, say, though the principle of equal minorities on all sides (this one would also likely guarantee that all minorities are treated fairly). This will likely also provide a useful pattern for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and force the Sunnis to finally confront the question whether they really want to be ruled by ISIS (as opposed ISIS being a problem for everyone else).

The alternative is endless war and conflict among all these groups, not to mention terrorism spilling over to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is the likelier scenario, at least in the medium term. But let us not blame JUST Israel, I also think there is a big taboo in the West regarding the issue of (con)federalizing states and maybe even changing the mostly nonsensical borders that western powers drew long time ago when they found this useful and convenient.

Finally, once everyone is safe and secure, and basic fairness is achieved, having “competent regimes” should be a GOOD thing, as it will open up the region to trade etc., conditions under which Israel should thrive! Kind of like Switzerland of the ME…

#25 Comment By James Canning On August 30, 2014 @ 2:16 pm

@Dan Greene- – Does Iran pose a problem for Israel, if Israel tries to keep entire West Bank?

#26 Comment By Kurt Gayle On August 31, 2014 @ 7:58 am

Scott McConnell is right: With respect to containing ISIS (even though in truth ISIS represents a negligible threat to the US) there are two nations in the region – Syria and Iran – that are ready and willing to do what they can to accomplish precisely that goal.

So, scrub the US bombing. And forget about putting thousands of US Special Forces back into Iraq. Instead, as McConnell wisely suggests, “the United States should patch up its relations with Syria and Iran.”

That’s right. Normalize relations with Syria and Iran. No need to form alliances with either nation – just get off their backs, and let those two nations act in their own national interests with respect to ISIS.

But what do the brilliant foreign policy minds in the Obama administration come up with? Yesterday they announced “new sanctions on 25 firms and individuals” in Iran.

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Has the administration think-tank smoked something they didn’t buy in Colorado? Or is the Israel lobby supplying what they’re smoking?

I mean really! How counterproductive a move can you possibly make than to pick this moment in time to hit Iran with new sanctions?

In the midst of important 5 + 1 nuclear negotiations with Iran — and in the midst of a region flare-up in which Iran’s presence could represent a stabilizing force against ISIS — has the Obama administration gone mad?

Just asking.

#27 Comment By Thaddeus Hildebrand On August 31, 2014 @ 6:56 pm

They blew it with Iraq. Saddam Husein was preventing the Shiite arc Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hezbollah.

#28 Comment By Bill Jones On August 31, 2014 @ 9:54 pm

Outside of the fever swamps of the minds of the warmongers, there is, of course, no need to “confront” the Islamic State at all.
It is no threat to the American people.

#29 Comment By Land Grab On August 31, 2014 @ 10:32 pm

“EARTH TO McCONNELL: Israel doesn’t brutalize Palestinian children.”

No. It just bulldozes their homes and annexes their land.

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That’s how Israel thanks its American benefactors. It builds more settlements and paints a target on every American’s back.