ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | The Rise of a Radical Eastern Front 14.4.04

The Rise of a Radical Eastern Front

14 April 2004

By Yisarel Ne'eman

Taking out Saddam Hussein is much easier than democratizing Iraq. The Americans are now on the threshold of a popular uprising, despite their good intentions of bringing liberty and freedom to the Iraqi people. As the June 30 deadline approaches for the American appointed temporary government to take office, Washington is being forced to realize that these supposed leaders enjoy little popular support. The Sunnis and Shi’ites appear willing to agree to a temporary cease-fire, and possibly even one lasting long enough to let the Americans disengage but once there will be a “decent interval” the Shi’ite majority can be expected to enforce its will. Democracy will not be an issue, it simply will not be.

America may distance itself from the Middle East, but Israel cannot. Unfortunately the possibility of a “New Middle East” made up of an Iranian-Iraqi-Syrian alliance (and throwing in the Hizbollah in Lebanon as a Syrian proxy) is very real. PM Ariel Sharon is in Washington working out a deal with President Bush on how to “disengage” from Gaza, but the true strategic threat to Israel is shaping up on the Eastern Front, much faster than anyone expected.

During the past several years both MK Yuval Steinetz (Likud) and Mk Ephraim Sneh (Labor) have warned the optimists against considering the Eastern Front dead. Unfortunately, some of their worse fears may be realized within a year or so. Not for the cameras, one can rest assured of a Bush-Sharon tête-à-tête over the issue.

Israel needs to prepare two responses:

Attaining American approval giving Israel the right to keep territory necessary for its defense in any final agreement with the Palestinians can pave the way for retaining the Rift Valley on the border with Jordan, thereby preventing any future territorial continuity with the West Bank. Today Jordan serves as a buffer, but could collapse under radical pressures.

Using the eastern Mediterranean for mobility, Israel must develop long-range naval missile fire, which would serve as an extra arm to the air force and artillery corps in halting any future major advance through Syria and a defeated Jordan. Steinetz, who chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, is a staunch supporter of a massive naval development program.

The conditions for Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip are no doubt important, but they pale when compared to the Israeli need for American cooperation once Washington withdraws from Iraq. The crisis could arrive much sooner than expected and escalate into an existentialist threat to the Jewish State. The immediacy of the threat may not be in the news, but that does not mean it should be underestimated.