The War Nerd: Bombs away in the Middle East! But why is Israel so quiet?
Where’s Israel? That’s one of the most interesting, and widely ignored, questions to come out of the US bombing campaign against Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq. Two days into the bombing, and there's near-silence from Israel, a country not known for shyness about military operations on its borders.
The only public reaction from Bibi Netanyahu so far is this vague mumble about helping behind the scenes:
Netanyahu said Israel was also contributing to the international coalition. “Israel is carrying out its part in the struggle against the IS organization,” he said. “Some of the things are better known and some are less known.”
Bibi Netanyahu is not a shy sort of guy. When he talks like this about a bombing campaign targeting Islamic radicals, something odd is going on.
Israel sent a message about how it views the US campaign against IS without using words at all. On the same day that American forces were attacking IS bases in Syria, Israel shot down a MiG-21 from Assad’s Alawite forces over the Golan Heights. Quite a moment in Middle Eastern military history: While the US was intervening to attack the Sunni jihadis, the IDF underlined its view of the real enemy by knocking down one of Assad’s antique fighters out of the sky.
That ancient MiG wasn’t downed because it was a threat to Israel, or because it was over the line. It was downed as a gesture. Bibi and his Likud allies are sulking, because the way they see it, we’re bombing the wrong Syrians. The Israeli elite has always wanted the US to intervene in the Syrian Civil War—but not against the Sunni jihadists, as we’re doing now. They want American planes and drones to obliterate the other side--the Alawites’ Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its Hezbollah allies.
Nobody ever seems to mention it, but the supposedly fearsome IS now owns the ground right under Israel’s Golan Heights fortifications, after moving in in June 2014 when the weary SAA, tired of being shelled by the IDF, moved out.
So IS has been in place right there on Israel’s border for months now—and there’s been no attack from Israel. Yes, folks, you might actually get the impression that the Israelis—who know a thing or two about threat assessment—just don’t take IS very seriously.
In fact, IS is a convenient little irritant, as seen from Jerusalem, a useful way to annoy the real enemy—the Shia/Alawite/Iran bloc.
And a year ago, when it looked like that might happen, Israel and its stateside proxies weren’t shy at all. They were all for intervention.
Yup, almost exactly one year ago, the US was only a poll or two away from blasting Assad’s bedraggled SAA. Someone in the SAA had given the war party in D.C. all it needed, a perfect provocation, an atrocity so atrocious it seemed like a P.R. man’s fantasy. On August 21, 2013, someone—most likely Assad’s SAA—crossed Obama’s “red line” by using poison gas against Sunni neighborhoods in Ghouta, east of Damascus.
At least 300 people died, most of them women and children. It was the stupid provocation the war party in D.C. had been praying for—and the biggest cheerleaders back then were neocons closely tied to Netanyahu’s Likud Party. There was no silence from Israel or its stateside lobbyists back then. God no. They were weeping TV tears (like crocodile tears but with Nutrasweet) over those dead kids and demanding the USAF start bombing Assad/Hezbollah targets immediately.
The Israeli lobby AIPAC was planning “a major…effort with about 250 activists in Washington to meet with their senators and representatives” and urge them to support air strikes against SAA/Hezbollah.
AIPAC got a big surprise: Its Surge didn’t work. For once, the American people had met a war proposal they didn’t like.
Part of the problem was the difficulty of explaining why the US was going to provide air support for Sunni jihadis who’d already made a few too many snuff videos, and lacked the finesse to soft-pedal their admiration for Al Qaeda. Besides, this was an Obama war, which meant that the right-wing audience, normally suckers for a good bombing campaign, decided they just wouldn’t be able to enjoy it. And Obama’s supporters drew the line at going back into combat in the Arab Middle East—Bush Country.
So after looking like a sure thing, the September 2013 Syrian bombing campaign never happened. And Israel was not happy at all.
Israel decided long ago that only the Shia are what noted Zionist Walter Sobchak would call “a worthy fuckin’ opponent.” If you look at the pattern of Israeli intervention in Syria since the Civil War began there, you find the IDF striking Assad's SAA targets over and over, especially when the SAA might have been transferring weapons to Hezbollah—but to the best of my knowledge, not once attacking any Sunni jihadi forces like IS.
The Israeli view seems to be that only the Shia forces—the SAA, Hezbollah, and above all their patron Iran—are serious threats. Meanwhile, they’ve been treating Sunni jihadi militias like IS like de facto allies, never once attacking Sunni militias dug in just below the Golan Heights.
Israel considers Sunni militias a useful virus to introduce to the Levantine Shia environment, an organic pesticide that’s effective against Hezbollah and Assad. What that also suggests is that, while most gullible Western news agencies are talking up IS as the reincarnation of Khalid ibn al-Walid’s cavalry, Israel has no fear of IS, or any other Sunni jihadi force in Syria, at all.
Israel fears Hezbollah and its backer, Iran—period. So the next time you hear idiots like Senator Lindsey Graham blithering about IS chopping us all up in our beds one of these days, remind him that his favorite ally is so comfy with IS, so contemptuous of IS’s combat ability, that the IDF has coddled an IS outpost right below its most sensitive strategic position on the Golan Heights.