Peter Van Buren: Why the US Should Withdraw From the Middle East

By Peter Van Buren, who blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during the Iraqi reconstruction in We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. He writes about current events at We Meant Well. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent. His next work will be a novel, Hooper’s War. Originally published at TomDispatch

How can we stop the Islamic State?

Imagine yourself shaken awake, rushed off to a strategy meeting with your presidential candidate of choice, and told: “Come up with a plan for me to do something about ISIS!” What would you say?

What Hasn’t Worked

You’d need to start with a persuasive review of what hasn’t worked over the past 14-plus years. American actions against terrorism — the Islamic State being just the latest flavor — have flopped on a remarkable scale, yet remain remarkably attractive to our present crew of candidates. (Bernie Sanders might be the only exception, though he supports forming yet another coalition to defeat ISIS.)

Why are the failed options still so attractive? In part, because bombing and drones are believed by the majority of Americans to be surgical procedures that kill lots of bad guys, not too many innocents, and no Americans at all. As Washington regularly imagines it, once air power is in play, someone else’s boots will eventually hit the ground (after the U.S. military provides the necessary training and weapons). A handful of Special Forces troops, boots-sorta-on-the-ground, will also help turn the tide. By carrot or stick, Washington will collect and hold together some now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t “coalition” of “allies” to aid and abet the task at hand. And success will be ours, even though versions of this formula have fallen flat time and again in the Greater Middle East.

Since the June 2014 start of Operation Inherent Resolve against the Islamic State, the U.S. and its coalition partners have flown 9,041 sorties, 5,959 in Iraq and 3,082 in Syria. More are launched every day. The U.S. claims it has killed between 10,000 and 25,000 Islamic State fighters, quite a spread, but still, if accurate (which is doubtful), at best only a couple of bad guys per bombing run. Not particularly efficient on the face of it, but — as Obama administration officials often emphasize — this is a “long war.” The CIA estimates that the Islamic State had perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 fighters under arms in 2014. So somewhere between a third of them and all of them should now be gone. Evidently not, since recent estimates of Islamic State militants remain in that 20,000 to 30,000 range as 2016 begins.

How about the capture of cities then? Well, the U.S. and its partners have already gone a few rounds when it comes to taking cities. After all, U.S. troops claimed Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s al-Anbar Province, in 2003, only to see the American-trained Iraqi army lose it to ISIS in May 2015, and U.S-trained Iraqi special operations troops backed by U.S. air power retake it (in almost completely destroyed condition) as 2015 ended. As one pundit put it, the destruction and the cost of rebuilding make Ramadi “a victory in the worst possible sense.” Yet the battle cry in Washington and Baghdad remains “On to Mosul!”

Similar “successes” have regularly been invoked when it came to ridding the world of evil tyrants, whether Iraq’s Saddam Hussein or Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, only to see years of blowback follow. Same for terrorist masterminds, including Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, as well as minor-minds (Jihadi John in Syria), only to see others pop up and terror outfits spread. The sum of all this activity, 14-plus years of it, has been ever more failed states and ungoverned spaces.

If your candidate needs a what-hasn’t-worked summary statement, it’s simple: everything.

How Dangerous Is Islamic Terrorism for Americans?

To any argument you make to your preferred presidential candidate about what did not “work,” you need to add a sober assessment of the real impact of terrorism on the United States in order to ask the question: Why exactly are we engaged in this war on this scale?

Hard as it is to persuade a constantly re-terrorized American public of the actual situation we face, there have been only 38 Americans killed in the U.S. by Islamic terrorists, lone wolves, or whacked-out individuals professing allegiance to Islamic extremism, or ISIS, or al-Qaeda, since 9/11. Argue about the number if you want. In fact, double or triple it and it still adds up to a tragic but undeniable drop in the bucket. To gain some perspective, pick your favorite comparison: number of Americans killed since 9/11 by guns (more than 400,000) or by drunk drivers in 2012 alone (more than 10,000).

And spare us the tired trope about how security measures at our airports and elsewhere have saved us from who knows how many attacks. A recent test by the Department of Homeland’s own Inspector General’s Office showed that 95% of contraband, including weapons and explosives, got through airport screening without being detected. Could it be that there just aren’t as many bad guys out there aiming to take down our country as candidates on the campaign trail would like to imagine?

Or take a look at the National Security Agency’s Fourth Amendment-smothering blanket surveillance. How’d that do against the Boston bombing or the attacks in San Bernardino? There’s no evidence it has ever uncovered a real terror plot against this country.

Islamic terrorism in the United States is less a serious danger than a carefully curated fear.

Introduce Your Candidate to the Real World

You should have your candidate’s attention by now. Time to remind him or her that Washington’s war on terror strategy has already sent at least $1.6 trillion down the drain, left thousands of American troops and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Muslims dead. Along the way we lost precious freedoms to the ever-expanding national security state.

So start advising your candidate that a proper response to the Islamic State has to be proportional to the real threat. After all, we have fire departments always on call, but they don’t ride around spraying water on homes 24/7 out of “an abundance of caution.”

We Have to Do Something

So here’s what you might suggest that your candidate do, because you know that s/he will demand to “do something.”

Start by suggesting that, as a society, we take a deep look at ourselves, our leaders, and our media, and stop fanning everyone’s flames. It’s time, among other things, to stop harassing and discriminating against our own Muslim population, only to stand by slack-jawed as a few of them become radicalized, and Washington then blames Twitter. As president, you need to opt out of all this, and dissuade others from buying into it.

As for the Islamic State itself, it can’t survive, never mind fight, without funds. So candidate, it’s time to man/woman up, and go after the real sources of funding.

As long as the U.S. insists on flying air attack sorties (and your candidate may unfortunately need to do so to cover his/her right flank), direct them far more intensely than at present against one of ISIS’s main sources of cash: oil exports. Blow up trucks moving oil. Blow up wellheads in ISIS-dominated areas. Finding targets is not hard. The Russians released reconnaissance photos showing what they claimed were 12,000 trucks loaded with smuggled oil, backed up near the Turkish border.

But remind your candidate that this would not be an expansion of the air war or a shifting from one bombing campaign to a new one. It would be a short-term move, with a defined end point of shutting down the flow of oil. It would only be one part of a far larger effort to shut down ISIS’s sources of funds.

Next, use whatever diplomatic and economic pressure is available to make it clear to whomever in Turkey that it’s time to stop facilitating the flow of that ISIS oil onto the black market. Then wield that same diplomatic and economic pressure to force buyers to stop purchasing it. Some reports suggest that Israel, cut off from most Arab sources of oil, has become a major buyer of ISIS’s supplies. If so, step on some allied toes. C’mon, someone is buying all that black-market black gold.

The same should go for Turkey’s behavior toward ISIS.  That would extend from its determination to fight Kurdish forces fighting ISIS to the way it’s allowed jihadis to enter Syria through its territory to the way it’s funneled arms to various extreme Islamic groups in that country. Engage Turkey’s fellow NATO members. Let them do some of the heavy lifting. They have a dog in this fight, too.

And speaking of stepping on allied toes, make it clear to the Saudis and other Sunni Persian Gulf states that they must stop sending money to ISIS. Yes, we’re told that this flow of “donations” comes from private citizens, not the Saudi government or those of its neighbors. Even so, they should be capable of exerting pressure to close the valve. Forget a “no-fly zone” over northern Syria — another fruitless “solution” to the problem of the Islamic State that various presidential candidates are now plugging — and use the international banking system to create a no-flow zone.

You may not be able to stop every buck from reaching ISIS, but most of it will do in a situation where every dollar counts.

Your candidate will obviously then ask you, “What else?  There must be more we can do, mustn’t there?”

To this, your answer should be blunt: Get out. Land the planes, ground the drones, and withdraw. Pull out the boots, the trainers, the American combatants and near combatants (whatever the euphemism of the moment for them may be). Anybody who has ever listened to a country and western song knows that there’s always a time to step away from the table and cut your losses. Throwing more money (lives, global prestige…) into the pot won’t alter the cards you’re holding. All you’re doing is postponing the inevitable at great cost.

In the end, there is nothing the United States can do about the processes now underway in the Middle East except stand on the beach trying to push back the waves.

This is history talking to us.

That Darn History Thing

Sometimes things change visibly at a specific moment: December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor, or the morning of September 11, 2001. Sometimes the change is harder to pinpoint, like the start of the social upheaval that, in the U.S., came to be known as “the Sixties.”

In the Middle East after World War I, representatives of the victorious British and French drew up national boundaries without regard for ethnic, sectarian, religious, tribal, resource, or other realities. Their goal was to divvy up the defeated Ottoman Empire. Later, as their imperial systems collapsed, Washington moved in (though rejecting outright colonies for empire by proxy). Secular dictatorships were imposed on the region and supported by the West past their due dates. Any urge toward popular self-government was undermined or destroyed, as with the coup against elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, or the way the Obama administration manipulated the Arab Spring in Egypt, leading to the displacement of a democratically chosen government by a military coup in 2013.

In this larger context, the Islamic State is only a symptom, not the disease. Washington’s problem has been its desire to preserve a collapsing nation-state system at the heart of the Middle East. The Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq certainly sped up the process in a particularly disastrous fashion. Twelve years later, there can’t be any question that the tide has turned in the Middle East — forever.

It’s time for the U.S. to stand back and let local actors deal with the present situation. ISIS’s threat to us is actually minimal. Its threat to those in the region is another matter entirely. Without Washington further roiling the situation, it’s a movement whose limits will quickly enough become apparent.

The war with ISIS is, in fact, a struggle of ideas, anti-western and anti-imperialist, suffused with religious feeling. You can’t bomb an idea or a religion away. Whatever Washington may want, much of the Middle East is heading toward non-secular governments, and toward the destruction of the monarchies and the military thugs still trying to preserve updated versions of the post-World War I system. In the process, borders, already dissolving, will sooner or later be redrawn in ways that reflect how people on the ground actually see themselves.

There is little use in questioning whether this is the right or wrong thing because there is little Washington can do to stop it. However, as we should have learned in these last 14 years, there is much it can do to make things far worse than they ever needed to be. The grim question today is simply how long this painful process takes and how high a cost it extracts. To take former President George W. Bush’s phrase and twist it a bit, you’re either with the flow of history or against it.

Fear Itself

Initially, Washington’s military withdrawal from the heart of the Middle East will undoubtedly further upset the current precarious balances of power in the region. New vacuums will develop and unsavory characters will rush in. But the U.S. has a long history of either working pragmatically with less than charming figures (think: the Shah of Iran, Anwar Sadat, or Saddam Hussein before he became an enemy) or isolating them. Iran, currently the up-and-coming power in the area absent the United States, will no doubt benefit, but its reentry into the global system is equally inevitable.

And the oil will keep flowing; it has to. The countries of the Middle East have only one mighty export and need to import nearly everything else. You can’t eat oil, so you must sell it, and a large percentage of that oil is already sold to the highest bidder on world markets.

It’s true that, even in the wake of an American withdrawal, the Islamic State might still try to launch Paris-style attacks or encourage San Bernardino-style rampages because, from a recruitment and propaganda point of view, it’s advantageous to have the U.S. and the former colonial powers as your number one enemies.  This was something Osama bin Laden realized early on vis-à-vis Washington. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in drawing the U.S. deeply into the quagmire and tricking Washington into doing much of his work for him. But the dangers of such attacks remain limited and can be lived with. As a nation, we survived World War II, decades of potential nuclear annihilation, and scores of threats larger than ISIS. It’s disingenuous to believe terrorism is a greater threat to our survival.

And here’s a simple reality to explain to your candidate: we can’t defend everything, not without losing everything in the process. We can try to lock down airports and federal buildings, but there is no way, nor should there be, to secure every San Bernardino holiday party, every school, and every bus stop. We should, in fact, be ashamed to be such a fear-based society here in the home of the brave. Today, sadly enough, the most salient example of American exceptionalism is being the world’s most scared country. Only in that sense could it be said that the terrorists are “winning” in America.

At this point, your candidate will undoubtedly say: “Wait! Won’t these ideas be hard to sell to the American people? Won’t our allies object?”

And the reply to that, at least for a candidate not convinced that more of the same is the only way to go, might be: “After more than 14 years of the wrong answers and the disasters that followed, do you have anything better to suggest?”

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  1. Synoia

    Come up with a plan for me to do something about ISIS!

    Depends on the US’s real strategy. Pick one of:

    1. Keep funding them. They are our secret weapon against Russia.
    2. Cut off their money Strafe the oil trucks, bomb the oil depots, sink the crude tankers, and embargo the banks carrying the trade.
    3. Nuke Israel. They are exacerbating the situation. Good luck with that Nobel peace prize.
    4. Ask congress to declare war on ISIS. When they don’t, because you are black, blame congress for inaction, and go and play golf.
    5. Use drones. They are so effective (see 2 above). Try not visiting wedding parties, and focus on Oil Trucks instead.

    I might regret this post in the morning, when I have not consumed a few glasses of whine.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    And the oil will keep flowing; it has to. The countries of the Middle East have only one mighty export and need to import nearly everything else. You can’t eat oil, so you must sell it, and a large percentage of that oil is already sold to the highest bidder on world markets.

    This is the single most important line in this article. The single biggest mistake the US (and to a lesser extent the European) foreign establishment has been making since WWII is the assumption that the oil will only flow if a ‘friendly’ or ‘client’ state controls it. This is an obvious nonsense. Oil always flows to whoever will buy it. History shows that it does not matter if it is owned by Communists, Islamic fundamentalists, crazed Christians, democratic green governments, far right fascists, Nazi’s, whoever. It is simply too valuable, and all governments overcome their reluctance to sell it to an enemy by the realisation of what the money can do for them domestically.

    The only strategic interest the West has in Middle Eastern Oil is to protect the shipping lanes from pirates (State or non-State), and to prevent anarchic breakdown if absolutely essential (such as is happening in Libya, which of course was caused by intervention). The Chinese, Japanese and Germans have realised this for decades, its about time the US, and its mini-me’s in London and Paris realised this.

    On a related point, I think a fundamental error often made (by the anti-Imperialist left as much as the right), is that US intervention is all down to US politics. In reality, the Gulf States in particular have proved highly skilled at manipulating foreign intervention in their own interests. If Saudi Arabia didn’t want Iraq invaded by the US, it would not have happened. Sometimes its not a case of a malign US foreign establishment throwing its weight around – very often, the US is nothing less than the rather stupid but very strong henchman doing the unwitting bidding of his physically weak, but much smarter partner.

    1. Merf56

      Agree. But you left out what would happen if the US dramatically reduced its dependence on middle eastern or indeed, any oil including the environmental disaster that is the tar sands/shale debacle. And no, that is not some pie in the sky idea. We went to the moon and safely backwithin thirty years. When we started the research in earnest we didn’t even have antibiotics…. It could be done with the level of commitment we gave say, the space program or the bomb or the development of the www. What we lack are two vital components – the will to smash the oil oligarchy and the simple belief that we CAN achieve this goal.
      At this point in time we are not even trying to achieve anything on any front. It’s a depressing state of affairs…….

  3. C. G. Estabrook

    We must demand that Obama
    (1) end his drone killings;
    (2) bring all US troops (and mercenaries) home;
    (3) close the 1,000 foreign US bases in the Mideast and elsewhere (no other country has more than twelve);
    (4) end the provocations of Russia (in Ukraine) and China (in the South China Sea);
    (5) end support for Israel’s apartheid policy; and
    (6) support negotiations among the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and the Kurds to end the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars.

    1. Malcolm MacLeod, MD

      C.G.: That’s an excellent bucket list. Problem is, Obama is unable to
      do anything on the list with the possible exception of (1). The people
      calling the shots like everything the way it is.

  4. Carolinian

    The problem with this article is that it assumes the goal of American policy is to further American interests and that we are therefore failing. If, on the other hand, you start with the assumption that the goal of American policy is to further Israel’s interests–or rather the right wingers running Israel– then a different picture emerges. Why, for example, do we give billions in aid to Egypt other than to bribe them to maintain good relations with Israel? Could the same apply to our support for the head choppers in Saudi Arabia? Did we invade Iraq because Hussein was giving rhetorical and some financial support to Palestinian resistance? Does the obsession with treating Iran as a villain have anything to do with America, or is it because that’s the way Netanyanhu wants it?

    The truth is that American policy in the Middle East has everything to do with domestic politics beginning with Truman’s support for the creation of Israel itself at the behest of some wealthy backers who helped him win in 1948. In the intervening years both oil and anti-communism have been cited as reasons for our involvement–with some truth no doubt–but it’s hard to see either of those as being relevant today. So while the premise of this article’s call for the US to withdraw is correct, it tiptoes around the reality of the situation. Nothing will happen until we are willing to speak plainly.

    1. MikeNY

      Sadly, I agree with you on the Israel angle.

      I also agree with the author: we helped break the ME, but we can’t fix it. We make it worse.

    2. Jim Haygood

      What Carolinian says is deep truth that even Jimmy Carter, who was brave enough to take the heat for titling his 2006 book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, won’t acknowledge.

      Bribing Egypt, Israel and Jordan with $6 billion a year to make nice (for which Jimmy Carter won a peace prize); aiding, abetting and even leading Israel’s strategy to destabilize its neighbors (Iraq, Syria and Israel’s bête noire, Iran); and turning a blind eye to Israel’s dangerously destabilizing nuclear weapons mounted on state-of-the-art warheads — this policy has been a catastrophe for all concerned.

      Did Europe realize that kicking over the middle eastern anthill would flood it with refugees? That’s the price of still being militarily occupied by the U.S. seventy years after the war ended, and getting sucked into its imperial windmill tilts.

      Even the question “How can we stop the Islamic State?” is tendentious. Likely if the U.S. stopped propping up radical regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey who help fund Isis, and deported U.S. spook agencies with their billions in black budgets and drug-dealing cash from the region, Isis would fold like a cheap suit.

      I don’t give a good damn about Isis, or any candidate or journo who yammers on about them.

  5. Paul Tioxon

    Death to active enlisted military troops on a regular basis by training accidents and other accidents on military bases is annually much higher but not as anxiety causing as the much fewer instances of ISIS or other terrorist attacks here in the USA. The UK reports a similar story, where over the past 15 years, 1 in 20 military deaths are the result of accidents while rock climbing, live ammo mishaps and auto accidents.

    12 marines died as 2 helicopters were lost in training this past Thursday in Hawaii. If you follow the news on a daily basis, this kind of news story about military deaths in the US or in non combat training situations over seas in Europe or Japan is quite regular. If you live near a large military reservation, the term used for large scale military properties such as Fort Dix/Mcguire AFB in S Jersey, these stories also come up, usually from a lot more mundane causes such as traffic accidents on base.

    All told, the domestic and international death toll, not related to combat or combat support activities is greater than terrorist attacks against the US mainland civilian and standing military. Even when we reduced our combat missions in the Middle East to a very small presence, the cost of maintaining a standing army and navy in a time of overall peace costs the lives of many service men and women in their daily activities of training and just living on base doing their regular duties. And this does not account for suicides, which may be considered combat related, but are self inflicted no matter the cause. Without intervening in the Middle East ever again, due to less reliance on oil and more on solar and wind, our ties to NATO and trade partners throughout the world can keep our military occupied with policing activities. And that role alone, without being a hegemon that most nations defer to on most issues most of the time, is likely to be a long standing role of the US military. And in the process of maintaining that military force, our citizen soldiers will die just to be get ready to move into harms way, where they will die in even greater numbers. That is the long term policy decision for us as a nation and is THIS burden with all of its costs in human lives one that we want to pay?

  6. SumiDreamer

    I have waited 4 1/2 decades for some “local” leadership/visionaries to step forward in the MENA.

    Fighting back against neoliberalISM, the backwash of history and the IsraHELL “experiment” has to be a global undertaking. How MurKKKa can continue to support the gawd-awful policies of the Dulles’ years is beyond my understanding.

    If I have figured out one thing it is that monotheist GAWD religions keep producing patriarchal monarchists for whom human life has no value; money, property and prestige carry the day. ISIS is but an _expression of how deeply engrained the misogyny and elitism actually is. It’s fascinating to watch the Kurd rebels try to assert some fundamental humanity into the power equation with damned little support.

    I shudder to think of how hard it’s going to be to attempt to place humane concerns on the table when Jimmy Carter passes.

  7. Local to Oakland

    There is a lot that could be said. One aspect that I haven’t seen addressed enough was the immediate post 9 11 shift in the US to encouraging fear. Living through it, it is amazing how different that was.

    I grew up in a world where it was assumed that a certain level of physical courage was a necessary part of life. My grandparents and their generation were WWII veterans. I was young, but remember Vietnam.

    I am not making a policy argument in favor of any war. I am pointing to a zeitgeist, a culture of resilience, where the possibility of military service was assumed, and courage was admired publicly, but also just seen as a needed part of life.

    One of many moments for me of ‘who are these people’, after 9 11 came when the government didn’t offer us a Churchill style response. The courage shown on flight 93 was ignored. We were encouraged to be afraid of a few militants. I had both read about and seen a little of the stoic response of the British to the IRA and what we were being asked to do simply didn’t measure up.

    ISIS looks like a more solid military threat than Al Quaeda ever was. But as the author said, not out of reach for effective military or diplomatic action. I agree that trying to control where the chips fall now is a bad idea and probably futile. But for us here in the US, any effective policy response to the current Middle East mess and how it evolves, should also change the tone of how citizens are asked to respond. My grandfather, the bench chemist and WWII vet was all about careful measured action. We need more of that and more encouragement of that at the highest level.

  8. Ranger Rick

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The Broken Window Theory of international relations posits that failed states cannot be allowed to exist because it undermines the entire international system of states: that there can be a land without rule of [international] law.

    And they will spend any amount of money and lives to keep that from happening, because a state without a government is a heartbeat away from being annexed by one of its neighbors. One wonders why that hasn’t happened yet in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Turkey is certainly feeling the itch to go empire-building.

  9. RicRadio

    I, for one, will be sending this link to my Member of Parliament – along with the choice bit about being a ‘stupid henchman’ to the ‘smarter partner’ from PK. We Brit’s have to acknowledge our own hegemony, historical and contemporary. We’ve been interfering in ME affairs for far, far too long. We should fold and leave the table. The Great Game is over, yet the consequences are ours and we must learn to handle those now, IMHO.

  10. knowbuddhau

    Yet another article from yet another establishment figure (looking at you, Bacevich) that takes the cover story at face value while completely ignoring that our “actions” have been and are war crimes. How can we choose the right course of action when we fail to call things by their true names?

    The whole framing is wrong. ISIS, and what “to do about it,” are not the problems. The problem is our hubris. The problem is the presumption of a god-given mandate, not just right, to rule the world. Our war crimes, from the way the West was “won” to the present day, are how we operationalize that delusion. Accepting the terms of the cover story, that the GWOT is only what its name implies, will not get us one step closer to a just and peaceful future

    The candidate needs to be told that we are not exceptional. Our state-sponsorship of terrorism is just as illegal as anybody else’s. People hate us for our war crimes, for stealing their lands and making their lives living hells and calling it “the good life.”

    PVB mentions Mossadegh, but not the criminal nature of overthrowing another nation’s government. He mentions OBL, but not our sponsorship of AQ. The problem isn’t what to do about ISIS, the problem is, what to do about us?

    How ’bout not presuming “god’s most favored nation” status? How ’bout recognizing that we’ve been war criminals ever since the “Indian” Wars? How ’bout taking Smedly Butler seriously and stop using our military as corporate thugs?

    What to do about ISIS? Renounce exceptionalism, renounce empire, put corporations in their place. Then we can talk about taking up the challenge of restitution and atonement.

    We’ll know we’re approaching the right path when establishment figures call our war crimes “war crimes” and at the very least say we must stop committing them. Anything less is just self-serving sophistry.

    1. Will

      Spot on.

      I still find articles like this helpful for illuminating how different things would be if the lies weren’t lies – helps show them for what they are.

  11. pat b

    Invest heavily in alternative energy.

    Electric vehicles, High speed freight trains, every dollar oil drops squeezes them by the testicles.

    If Oil is at 25, and ISIS has a cost of about $25 of exporting it, well, that’s not going to help them much.

  12. DRob

    A reasonable person might have learned from Israel’s failure to deter the Obama
    administration’s determination to conclude the Iran nuclear deal (if not from similar failures regarding Saudi AWAC’s and responding to Saddam’s scuds) that Israel does NOT run U.S. Middle East policy. A reasonable person might also have understood from Iran’s subversive promotion of its Shi’ite allies, Saudi/Gulf support of Salafi groups, Erdogan’s dreams of restoring Ottoman glory, etc. etc. that Israel, for all its warts, is not the primary source of instability in the Middle East. However Carolinian and her ilk seem to be immune to reason and blinded by their obsessive hatred of Israel.

    1. Carolinian

      A reasonable person might conclude that Israeli lobby influence on US policy is the only reason there were Iran sanctions to begin with. Obama finally negotiated an end to this senseless policy because the Europeans were going to stop cooperating and lift sanctions on their own. If US policy were truly evenhanded then perhaps we’d be putting sanctions on Israel, possessor of many nuclear devices.

      As for my attitude toward Israel, I agree with blogger Michael Smith who called it “a small country I know far too much about.” You don’t have to hate Israel to believe that America should avoid this particular foreign entanglement, much less give them billions of dollars per year. Indeed, continued US support is what enables their ongoing refusal to make peace–a peace that would be best for Israel as well as everyone else.

      1. DRob

        You speak of the Israeli refusal to make peace. Past polls have shown that a large majority of Israelis, the silent majority of Israelis, who are not connected to the settler movement, support a 2 state solution. However, years of Palestinian incitement and terror have left them unbelieving in the chances for peace. Perhaps when you talk of ending the occupation, you are usually referring to the 1967 occupation, but the Israeli silent majority knows very well that the Palestinians don’t give a damn about 1967, they want to end the occupation of 1948, i.e., to end the state of Israel. So until you can provide a credible path to peace, security and a 2 state solution, you really do’t know very much about Israel at all.

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