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Israel retains its ability to control the Syrian ‘Islamist’ rebels. Netanyahu is not worried about Syria’s possible disintegration. Despite the received wisdom claiming that Israelis prefer a stable and familiar Assad to the great unknown of Islamic guerrillas, the new and sensational information we received points out to the opposite, namely: Israelis prefer the Somalisation of Syria, its break-up and the elimination of its army, as this will allow them to tackle Iran unopposed.
This is implied in a secret file recently leaked by a person(s) apparently close to the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman. It contains a record of conversations between Bibi Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the latter’s recent visit to Israel. Israelis seem to have no doubts about its authenticity. Counterpunch received the original file, and here are the highlights of this conversation (in our translation from Hebrew):
- Netanyahu asked Putin to facilitate Bashar Assad’s departure. “You can appoint his successor, and we shall not object , said the Israeli Prime Minister. “There is one condition – the successor must break with Iran».
- Putin responded: we have no candidate for Bashar’s successor. Do you?
- No, we don’t, replied Netanyahu, but we shall tell you our preference soon.
Apparently, Israel can influence the rebels, inasmuch as it can bear on them to accept a successor acceptable to Tel Aviv. This means that the rebels’ chain of command goes beyond unruly field commanders, beyond Qatar and Saudi Arabia, beyond Paris and Washington, all the way to Israel. It is well known that the rebels seekfriendship with Israel, but nobody thought that Israel was able to control them to such an extent.
It stands to reason that Netanyahu had received a green light from Washington to make such an offer. This means that the US and Israel do not mind that Syria will remain in the Russian sphere of influence, so long as it cuts its ties with Iran. And this points to Israel as being the moving force behind the rebels, for otherwise, such an arrangement would be unacceptable for the Americans.
However, it is possible that Netanyahu’s offer was just a ploy to discover Russian intentions. Anyway Putin thought so, and answered in a similar vein:
- “We are not beholden to Assad,” said Putin. “Before the rebellion, he was a frequent visitor in Paris rather than in Moscow. We have no secret agenda regarding Syria. I asked President Obama, what are the US intentions in Syria; why do Americans reject Assad. Is it because of his inability to come to terms with Israel? Or because of his ties with Iran? Because of his position on Lebanon? I received no serious answer. Our reason, said Obama, is Assad’s violent repression of the Syrian people. I replied that violence is caused by Qatar and Saudi interference.”
One understands that Putin is befogged: if he has been offered keeping Syria in the Russian sphere, why does the US goes out against Syrian government? Perhaps, the US is doing Israel’s bidding? And what are Israel’s intentions?
- “Israel’s goal is the Somalisation of Syria, following the Somalisation of Iraq,” said Putin, and Netanyahu did not deny his interpretation.
These hard words of Putin answer the question of the US and Israeli intentions. This was the position of Israeli strategist Yinon and of the Neocons – Somalisation of the region. Israeli leaders still follow their high-risk short-term strategy of unleashing civil war in Syria, removing Assad and turning Syria into a mess of armed groups that would not interfere with Israeli jets reaching Iran. It is certainly risky, as it was risky to attack Lebanon in 2006, but Israel has such a powerful militarist complex that it needs to take otherwise unneeded risks.
The record of the Putin-Netanyahu conversation contains two important Russian concessions to Israel: Putin promised to break their contract about supply of S-300 anti-aircraft missile complexes to Damascus (and so he did) and to stop missile information leakage to Hezbollah.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman used the meeting to complain about the audacious RT channel:
- “The Israeli office of the RT outpours anti-Israeli propaganda. They broadcast talks with Hasan Nasrallah [probably a reference to Julian Assange’s interview]. We spoke to the RT reporters privately, but they won’t budge, citing instructions from Moscow. Vladimir Vladimirovitch [Putin], please lean on the editorial policy of the RT so it will become objective towards Israel.”
This complaint fits well with Israeli practice of pressuring foreign media. Recently the Israeli ambassador to Washington attempted to interfere with CBS and censor Bob Simon’s report on Palestinian Christians, causing much resentment in the US. Israelis still can’t get used to the existence of a relatively free press.
The main conclusion of the leaked protocols is that Israeli leaders retained their love to live dangerously. While some other countries, notably Russia, are seeking stability, Israelis love play, and power play. Nothing risked, nothing gained, they say. They are ready to accept short term risks for long term gains. And elimination of the Syrian army is certainly a long term gain for Israel.
Israel Shamir has been sending dispatches to CounterPunch from Moscow.