JINSA Report #:973
Viral on the web yesterday was a blog post at ForeignPolicy.com about a briefing supposedly given to Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by CENTCOM senior officers following a trip through the Arab world. It contained the paragraphs:
The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM's mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region, and that [U.S. envoy and former Senator George] Mitchell himself was (as a senior Pentagon officer later bluntly described it) "too old, too slow ... and too late."
The briefers were careful to tell Mullen that their conclusions followed from a December 2009 tour of the region where, on Petraeus's instructions, they spoke to senior Arab leaders. "Everywhere they went, the message was pretty humbling," a Pentagon officer familiar with the briefing says. "America was not only viewed as weak, but its military posture in the region was eroding." But Petraeus wasn't finished: two days after the Mullen briefing, Petraeus sent a paper to the White House requesting that the West Bank and Gaza... be made a part of his area of operations. Petraeus's reason was straightforward: with U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military had to be perceived by Arab leaders as engaged in the region's most troublesome conflict.
This, according to the blog, was the background to Vice President Biden's tongue-lashing of Israel's prime minister and the outrageous slander that Israel is to blame for the difficulties the Obama Administration is having getting our Arab leaders to help us in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In our experience, there are three half-truths and an enormous, vicious lie in the post.
True is that what the Arab countries of CENTCOM often call "the Israel problem" is a foil for their unwillingness to risk their internal stability by being seen as an overt U.S. ally or by confronting Iran. True also is the notion that, according to the Arab states, "America (is) not only viewed as weak, but its military posture in the region (is) eroding."
The "half" in the truth is what they leave out: Israel is not the object of their concern; Iran is.
To the extent that U.S. power is eroding in the region, it is because the Obama Administration spent more than a year "engaging" Iran while the mullahs spent the year increasing their nuclear weapons development program and brutally suppressing election protesters. The Obama Administration then announced "crippling sanctions" that it couldn't deliver and now is openly engaged in ensuring that Israel will not take action against what for Israel is an existential threat, but for the United States is only a distraction.
This American policy terrifies Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. For them, as for Israel, Shiite Iran presents an existential threat.
The third truth in the story is the perfectly reasonable sentiment attributed to CENTCOM Commander Gen. David Petraeus, "With U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military (has) to be perceived by Arab leaders as engaged in the region's most troublesome conflict."
But the "most troublesome" conflict is Iran, not Israel.
To blame Israel for Arab anxieties over the American withdrawal from the fight against the nuclear weaponization of Iran is a lie promulgated by people in the administration who, a) have a fundamental agenda that includes breaking the longstanding U.S.-Israel relationship; and/or b) don't want to acknowledge their impotence against Iran.