President Barack Obama’s visit to the Middle East, which was limited to Israel, Jordan and, as a mock formality, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, was not for the sake of peace, but war. His visit was meant to sturdy the framework of preparation and to distribute roles and tasks to the cavalry of this war.
When Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a two-part, eight-hour meeting and heads directly from the airport to visit the Iron Dome — built with financial and technical assistance from the U.S. — it will not be a courtesy call. This trip is not an occasion of political tourism or an opportunity to listen to the viewpoints of the region’s leaders, as U.S. officials publicized before the start of the visit.
In his hypocritical speech to the Israelis, President Obama focused on the global imperative of preventing another Jewish Holocaust. He stressed that Israel will remain strong and will always be assured steady U.S. support. He touched on the Iranian nuclear program, emphasizing that all options are on the table, and decreed that a nuclear Iran cannot be contained, thus giving Israel absolute freedom to deal with the Iranian threat without consulting Washington.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, received this message quickly and, rather uncharacteristically, responded directly to it. In the event of Israel launching any aggression against Iran, he threatened to crush both Tel Aviv and Haifa in an earthshaking and unprecedented response. This man is the only one who holds the key to war or peace.
Whoever visits the Middle East as a tourist does not sponsor a stalled or nearly impossible reconciliation between Israel and Turkey. Nor does a tourist ask Netanyahu to offer a clear and outright apology to Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, promise to pay compensation to the families of the victims of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara and lift the siege on the occupied Palestinian territories, specifically in the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s leaders have never apologized for any crime or massacre they have committed since the establishment of their Jewish state in Palestine, and Netanyahu stressed more than once that he wouldn’t apologize to Turkey. Instead, with unparalleled insolence and arrogance, he demanded that the other side apologize. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman purposely summoned the Turkish ambassador in Tel Aviv to lecture him on how to deal with Israel and reprimand him for Prime Minister Erdogan’s statements on the Israeli blockades in the Gaza Strip.
The question that presents itself is: What are the hidden reasons and motivations behind Netanyahu’s change of mind? What led him to amend his arrogant position and pick up the telephone to call Erdogan, apologize unreservedly and accept all conditions? What inspired him, as the official statement declared, to go even further and agree to lift the siege on the occupied Palestinian territories?
Then there is the question surrounding the motivations of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. Why did he immediately accept Netanyahu’s apology, rush to exchange ambassadors and normalize relations between the two countries, without a period of transition to specifically test Israel’s intentions?
During his four-day visit, Obama cooked something up. Perhaps we will see its results more clearly in the coming weeks or months, first regarding Syria and then Iran. The dish Obama is serving up is not at all peaceful, except for the bone he threw to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — the push to freeze settlements, for example, and waiving the habitual argument for a Jewish Israel and a corresponding consent from the Arab world.
The West does not devise military interventions based on spontaneous reactions to world events like most third world countries, especially Arab ones. Instead, the plans are prepared months or years before they are implemented. The United States designed the occupation of Iraq three years before it actually invaded, and it established an Israeli state more than thirty years after the Balfour Declaration was issued. The same thing may be said about any plan that is now entering the early stages of implementation around Iran.
It is no coincidence that Turkey reconciled with its Kurds or that Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ party, known as the PKK, ordered his supporters to lay down their arms. Nor was the deployment of the Patriot missile batteries on the Turkish-Syrian border about two months ago a chance occurrence. Furthermore, the announcement by Saudi Arabia of the detection of an Iranian spy network was also not coincidental.
Turkey is a member of NATO, and its role in the process of bringing down the Syrian regime is publicly known. It is concerned about the emerging nuclear status of Iran no less than is Israel or Saudi Arabia.
During his visit, Obama acted like a rich Arab sheikh, scattering millions at each stop. He waved a check for half a billion dollars in front of Abbas’s Palestinian Authority to save it from its financial crisis and enable it to pay its employees’ salaries. Obama promised Jordan $200 million to help it cope with the consequences of receiving tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, which led to the Jordanian monarch’s announcement that he would not close the borders but leave them wide open for new refugees fleeing for their lives to Jordan’s safe havens. This sudden, decisive American generosity is not free of charge.
Despite all these overtures, war in the region is not far-fetched. Should the fuse be ignited, it would be disastrous by every standard. The current impasses regarding the crisis in Syria and the Iranian nuclear front will inevitably be settled.
Fasten your seatbelts. The next few months will be very difficult. 2013 may enter history as the year of military decisiveness in the Middle East.