Israel and permanent war in the Middle East

Is Instability the Goal of U.S. Mideast Policy?
by Sheldon Richman
Free Association (his blog), 2015-10-21


Can we make any sense of this fixation on Iraq? I think we can.

It begins to make sense when we realize that American neoconservatives, who include Wolfowitz and a host of people in the Bush's Pentagon and State Department, have for years acted as a brain trust for the right-wing of Israel's ruling elite (Likud). In that capacity they issued papers, under the auspices of the Israeli Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, expressing favor toward policies to destabilize the secular regimes in Iraq and Syria, as well as the governments in Lebanon (home of Hezbollah) and, ultimately, Iran -- the Shia Crescent. (Hence the general demonization of Iran and the touting of the nonexistent nuclear threat.) These proposed policies would embody a change in strategy for Israel, from seeking a "comprehensive peace" with its neighbors to managing a balance of power. Those signing on to these papers, which were issued in the mid-1990s just as Benjamin Netanyahu was about to become Israel's prime minister, were aware that, at least in the short run, radical Sunnis would profit from the destabilization and fill the vacuums created in Iraq and Syria. (The papers are here and here. The author is David Wurmser, who later worked in the Bush II administration for both Vice President Dick Cheney and John Bolton in the State Department. The "study group leader" who oversaw the preparation of the papers was Richard Pearle, a leading neoconservative intellectual.)

As the first of these papers stated, "Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq -- an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right -- as a means of foiling Syria's regional ambitions." The paper envisioned, bizarrely, King Hussein of Jordan extending his rule over Iraq, a move that the neocon brain trust expected to unite Iraq's Sunnis and Shi'ites and cut Iran out of the picture. Note how well that worked out.

The second paper, in speaking of Syria but with Iraq in mind, stated, "The issue here is whether the West and Israel can construct a strategy for limiting and expediting the chaotic collapse that will ensue in order to move on to the task of creating a better circumstance." (Emphasis added.) Observe the hubris in assuming that chaos can be limited, that is, managed. (For more on these papers see Dan Sanchez's writings here and here.)

If this is not enough to make sense of an otherwise seemingly senseless U.S. policy in the Middle East, we may also mention an earlier paper, written in the early 1980s by Oded Yinon, a journalist who had been in Israel's foreign ministry. This paper saw the Arab world as a "house of cards" ripe for "dissolution" by Israel and the United States: