In public shift, Israel calls for Assad's fall
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel wants to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad toppled, its ambassador to the United States said on Tuesday, in a shift from its non-committal public stance on its neighbor's civil war.
Even Assad's defeat by al Qaeda-aligned rebels would be preferable to Damascus's current alliance with Israel's arch-foe Iran, Ambassador Michael Oren said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.
His comments marked a move in Israel's public position on Syria's two-and-1/2-year-old war.
Though old enemies, a stable stand-off has endured between the two countries during Assad's rule and at times Israel had pursued peace talks with him in hope of divorcing Syria from Tehran and Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah guerrillas in neighboring Lebanon.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had long avoided openly calling for the Syrian president's fall. Some Israeli officials now worry that radical Sunni Islamist insurgents fighting Assad will eventually turn their guns on the Jewish state.
But with Assad under U.S.-led condemnation for his forces' alleged chemical attack on a rebel district of Damascus on August 21, Oren said Israel's message was that he must go.
"We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren't backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran," Oren said in the interview, excerpted on Tuesday before its full publication on Friday.
Assad's overthrow would also weaken the alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, Oren said.
"The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc," he said.
Oren said that other anti-Assad rebels were less radical than the Islamists.
Israel believes around one in 10 Syrian rebels are Sunni militants sworn to its destruction. Assad's Alawite sect is closer to the rival Shi'ite Islam of Iran and Hezbollah.
Oren, a Netanyahu confidant, did not say in the interview whether or how Israel was promoting Assad's fall.
Netanyahu casts Iran's disputed nuclear drive as the main menace to Israel and world stability.
Israel, which is widely assumed to have the region's sole atomic arsenal, has played down any direct Syrian threat to it but is concerned that a weak Western policy towards Assad could encourage Iran.
The Israelis have conferred closely with Washington as it first threatened military reprisals over the Damascus gas attack and then struck a deal with Russia for placing Syria's chemical weapons under international control.
Netanyahu has urged Syria be stripped of such arms, while insisting that his government was not getting involved in Assad's feud with the rebels.
Congress Backs Terrorists In Syria … Then Says We Need NSA Spying Because There are Terrorists In Syria
Source: Washington's Blog
The civil war in Syria started in March 2011. And see this.
However, the U.S. has been funding the Syrian opposition since 2006 … and arming the opposition since2007. (In reality, the U.S. and Britain considered attacking Syrians and then blaming it on the Syrian government as an excuse for regime change … 50 years ago (the U.S. just admitted that they did this to Iran) . And the U.S. has been planning regime change in Syria for 20 years straight. And see this.)
The New York Times, (and here and here) , Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CNN, McClatchy (andhere), AP, Time, Reuters, BBC, the Independent, the Telegraph, Agence France-Presse, Asia Times, and the Star (and here) confirm that supporting the rebels means supporting Al Qaeda and two other terrorist groups.
Indeed, the the New York Times has reported that virtually all of the rebel fighters are Al Qaeda terrorists.
The Syrian rebels are now calling for terrorist attacks on America. And we’ve long known that most of the weapons we’re shipping to Syria are ending up in the hands of Al Qaeda. And they apparently have chemical weapons.
And yet the U.S. is stepping up its support for the Islamic extremists.
The chair of the House Intelligence Committee – Mike Rogers – voted for arming the Syrian rebels. And the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee – Diane Feinstein – has apparently quietly let arms flow to the rebels.
So are they admitting their mistake?
Heck, no! They’re using the specter of Syrian terrorists to justify mass surveillance by the NSA on innocent Americans …
And now he’s trying to use rebel Al Qaeda as an excuse for mass surveillance by the NSA.
As Juan Cole notes:
Senator Diane Feinstein and Rep. Mike Rogers took to the airwaves on Sunday to warn that Americans are less safe than two years ago and that al-Qaeda is growing and spreading and that the US is menaced by bombs that can’t be detected by metal detectors.Indeed, Al Qaeda wasn’t even in Iraq until the U.S. invaded that country.
Call me cynical, but those two have been among the biggest detractors of the American citizen’s fourth amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure of personal effects and papers. I think their attempt to resurrect Usama Bin Laden is out of the National Security Agency internal playbook, which specifically instructs spokesmen to play up the terrorist threat when explaining why they need to know who all 310 million Americans are calling on our phones every day. [Here's what he's talking about. Andhere.]
CNN’s Candy Crowley interviews them
Now, obviously there are violent extremists in the world and the US like all other societies is likely to fall victim to further attacks by terrorists. But if they could not inflict significant damage on us with 9/11 (and economically and in every other way except the horrible death toll, they could not), then it is a little unlikely that this kind of threat is existential.
In fact the number of terrorist attacks in the US has vastly declined since the 1970s (as has violent crime over-all), as WaPo’s chart shows:
(The chart shows each attack as a number and does not show fatalities; obviously the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 would be prominent in that case. But the fact is that foreign terrorist attacks kill almost no one in America these days. You’re far more likely to fall in your bathtub and die than to face terrorism).
Rogers makes a big deal out of the fighting in northern Syria as a threat to the United States and says “thousands” of “Westerners” have gone to fight there. But Rogers is just obfuscating by mentioning vastly exaggerated statistics.
The number of Americans estimated by the FBI to be fighting in Syria? 24. Two dozen. That’s it.
The Syrian civil war has nothing to do with the US, and is a local struggle rather unlikely to involve hitting America (more especially since, as Rogers carefully avoids mentioning, the US is committed to arming these rebels to fight against al-Assad.)
That’s right. Mike Rogers voted to give arms to the Syrian rebels. And while he may hope they don’t go to the al-Qaeda affiliates (as happened when Ronald Reagan gave $5 billion to the Afghan Mujahidin in the 1980s) [oops], he has no guarantee that won’t happen and is willing to take the risk. If Rogers were really, really concerned about the Jabhat al-Nusra, he wouldn’t be risking upping its firepower with Americans’ tax dollars as a justification for monitoring who your 15 year old daughter calls on her cell phone.
Let us say that again. Feinstein and Rogers just came on television to scaremonger the American people with the Syrian jihadis, and both of them voted to give the Syrian rebels millions of dollars in arms.
That’s a pretty good racket. You support the jihadis abroad and then point to jihadis abroad as the reason for which you have to get into the underwear of the American people.
Then they brought up Iraq, which is another local struggle. Dick Cheney repeatedly warned that if the US left Iraq, the terrorists created by the US Occupation (he didn’t put it that way) would follow us home. But it was never very likely an allegation. You could easily get an attack in the US by a disgruntled Sunni Iraqi. But that the Sunni Arabs of Iraq are gunning for the US? No sign of it.
And U.S. policy has lead to a world-wide increase in terrorism.
Of course, mass surveillance doesn’t really have much to do with terrorism in the first place.
No wonder Americans have such a low opinion of Congress. But people like Feinstein and Rogers couldn’t care less.