Friday, May 15, 2009

Weathervane Watch

...Or, Keeping Up With Uzi Arad

The folks at Just World News are interested in the issue of whom Israeli right-wing security honcho Uzi Arad is meeting with during his visit to the United States, and whether his trip is deliberate poke in the eye of the Obama administration.

Uzi Arad is Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security advisor. There was some awkwardness about permitting Arad to participate in classified US discussions with Netanyahu, or even to come to the United States, because of his involvement in the Larry Franklin espionage affair; hence the speculation about the possible provocative character of his trip to the United States.

I don’t think Arad’s visit is an attempt to insult the United States. I think it’s a rather desperate attempt to demonstrate that Uzi Arad still has U.S. juice and thereby buttress his rather shaky credentials as the Likud administration’s custodian of the American relationship in the Obama era.

In my opinion, Uzi Arad’s main mission in life is not to bend American policy to the will of the Likud.

His main job is to determine the prevailing trend in US policy toward Israel and find a viable place inside it for his government and himself.

China Matters took a look at Uzi Arad because of his statements on what was once a hot-button issue involving North Korea: the bombing of the alleged Syrian nuclear facility in September 2007.

My take is that quite possibly there was a nuclear facility of some sort getting built, but it was not an imminent threat to Israel.

In my view, the Israeli government blew it up because it wanted the Bush administration to turn back the clock to the good old days of unilateral pre-emption, keep the IAEA’s multilateral mitts off the Middle East’s nuclear issues, and, through a powerful U.S. condemnation of Syria, get an implied show of U.S. support for a strike against Iran.

U.S. support for a strike against Iran is absolutely critical because—and I think this bears repeating in light of Mr. Netanyahu’s threats that Israel will take out the Iranian nuclear program itself if the U.S. doesn’t step up—because active U.S. participation is needed to degrade the Iranian nuclear program in a meaningful way.

Not just refueling support.

Active participation, as in bunches of U.S. bombs and missiles showering down on Iran’s dispersed and hardened facilities (armament enthusiasts can refer to this discussion of the technical obstacles to a lone Israeli attack on Iran).

And I think everybody who matters, in Tel Aviv, Washington, and Tehran, not to mention Moscow and Peking, knows this.

With the Bush administration depopulated of its neo-con enthusiasts and war-weary bureaucrats at State/Langley/DoD calling the shots, the whole “nuclear reactor in Syria” story was allowed to fizzle.

And Uzi Arad, who had at first vigorously fluffed the story to his network of U.S. reporters, let the issue drop.

Apparently, Mr. Azad believes that his most important brief is to keep Israel’s lines of communication open to the people holding power in Washington, in order to maintain good relations with Israel’s most important ally while assuring a central role for himself and the continued prosperity of his Herzliya security conference—the pre-eminent right-of-center venue for developing the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Arad obligingly conceptualized, endorsed, or reinforced every significant U.S. policy shift of the Bush years, from Clean Break to democracy crusade to countering the existential Islamicist threat. I expect he will, albeit with some difficulty, make similar efforts to ingratiate himself to the Obama administration.

Uzi Arad derives his clout from his image as the ultimate insider—not a lone voice crying in the wilderness.

When the United States showed no interest in running with the Syrian allegations, he briskly dropped the matter.

At the present time, Mr. Arad is undoubtedly anxious about the rapprochement between the United States and Iran.

Good relations between Washington and Tehran inevitably detract from the importance of Israel as America’s only true buddy in the United States.

If the U.S. no longer gives absolute priority to backing Israel, Tel Aviv’s freedom of movement—and the ability to evade the dire consequences of its confrontational policies toward the Palestinians by shifting the frame of reference to a pan-Middle East battle against Islamicist extremism—is significantly curtailed.

The logic of U.S.-Iranian cooperation—and the benefits of Iranian support to a successful disengagement from Iraq and rolling back the Taliban in Afghanistan--is currently so compelling to the Obama administration that I don’t think that Uzi Arad is trying to buck the tide.

Mr. Arad and Netanyahu’s objectives at the present time presumably involve holding the line until the U.S.-Iranian relationship comes acropper, either from internal contradictions or active Israeli connivance.

All that matters now is making a show of cleaving to the Obama administration’s line on Palestine, so that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Mr. Arad can still present themselves as Israel’s effective interlocutors with the United States.

So the weathervane flops to the left for the time being.