Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman:
Wishing for World War III?
By Brenda Heard
Friends of Lebanon, April 26, 2009
We have already become accustomed to the brazen statements of
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. And it is certainly no surprise
that Israel considers the US to be firmly in its political pocket. So
it is but a mild irritation to read Haaretz reporting that Lieberman,
confident that “the Obama administration will put forth new peace
initiatives only if Israel wants it to,” has stated publicly “Believe me,
America accepts all our decisions.” (Lieberman:
U.S. to accept any Israeli policy decision)
What is most
interesting about Lieberman’s first comprehensive interview on foreign
policy since taking office is his view of Russia. Lieberman, Haaretz
points out, granted his first major interview not to an Israeli newspaper,
but to Alexander Rosensaft, the Israel correspondent of one of the oldest
Moskovskiy Komosolets. Courting favour with the Slavic world
Russian immigrants are a dominant part of Israeli society.
And Russia, according to the
Virtual Library, is ranked number six in “Countries with Largest Jewish
Populations.”* Countries ranked 2—5 (US, France, Canada, UK) are already
reliable friends of Israel. On the other hand, Russia has in recent
years demonstrated an independent character in its foreign relations.
Lieberman is looking for another ally. In his interview, he stated
“Russia has a special influence in the Muslim world, and I consider it a
strategic partner that should play a key role in the Middle East. I
have argued for some time that Israel has insufficient appreciation for the
‘Kremlin factor’; I intend to mend this gap.”
Another openly brazen
admission to manipulating others for the sake of Israel. When coupled
with another assertion made by Lieberman, though, we begin to see what he
means by “key role.” Lieberman proclaimed that Afghanistan and
Pakistan are now considered jointly as the greatest strategic threat to
Israel. Iran has been downgraded to second place threat, and Iraq
falls in third place. Afghanistan and Pakistan “form a contiguous area
of radicalism ruled in the spirit of Bin Laden,” says Lieberman, and “are a
threat not only to Israel, but to the global order as a whole.”
take a good look at the regional map below. And think of President
Obama's recently announced
Afghanistan-Pakistan (AFPAK) Strategy (27/03/09)—two countries, one
challenge, Al Qaida, more American troops, bringing Russia on board—and
Lieberman’s cheerful offer of Israel’s role of bringing the US and Russia
closer. With the US already having rendered Iraq ineffectual and
vulnerable, the envisaged key role of Russia—big, big Russia—would be to
assist in crushing Afghanistan and Pakistan as well . . . in order to
maintain “global order,” of course.
The Iranian borders would then
offer not obstacles, but exploitables. Iraqi, Afghani and Pakistani
borders would be under the watchful eye of US/Israel and their would-be
partner-Russia. That leaves just Turkey and Turkmenistan.
Despite a few public tiffs, Turkey and Israel maintain a working
relationship and military cooperation. And as troubled Turkmenistan is
of little threat to anyone but itself, this new state of political power
would enable Israel to more realistically envisage overwhelming its formerly
declared arch nemesis. Once Israel and its partners were able to break
Iran, they could, they presume, cut off the lifeblood to Hezbollah in
Lebanon, thus killing two birds with one proverbial stone.
over-reaching to imagine such map-sweeping military operations? Consider the
size of Hamas. Look at the map again just to keep perspective
fresh—right, Hamas is not even on the map. What was
Lieberman’s proposal (13/01/09) for quieting this thorn in his side?
“We must continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the
Japanese in World War II. Then, too, the occupation of the country was
What, then, was the secret to US success? After
having already killed over a million Japanese 1941—1945, the US was able to
set aside its plans for a ground invasion and occupation of Japan because
the Japanese surrendered. They relented because the US carried out
atomic bomb attacks on the cities of Hiroshima (killing 140,000 Japanese)
and three days later on Nagasaki (killing 80,000 more Japanese).
Quicker and cheaper than an occupation, says the businessman.
Lieberman apparently appreciates the logic. A chilling thought,
considering that for all its finger-pointing accusations, Israel is the
Middle Eastern power that has maintained nuclear weapons and has
consistently demonstrated its willingness to use “disproportionate force.”
But Russia is no one’s fool. With a long, difficult history
stretching back nearly 500 years, the Russians have proven their ability to
endure. They haven’t succeeded by catering to someone else’s
interests. By way of example, Russia may have recently purchased
surveillance drones from Israel, but it is also still considering selling a
strategic air-defence system to Iran, despite Israel’s clear objections to
Said one Israeli official on the Russian rejection of conditions, “the
Russians don't make promises of this kind.” The Russians will,
however, stand their ground.
Even as the
UN Durban Review Conference
on Racism drew criticism from some (primarily from the Israeli camp), Russia
accepted the position of vice-chair of the Preparatory Committee working on
the declaration and the conference’s agenda. Russia maintained its high
profile participation, regardless of the boycotting actions taken by others.
As Andrei Podoplekin, political scientist at the leading Russian school
Pomor State University,
said, “This is a way for Russia to show that it can be an independent
player. By agreeing to participate and serve as a moderator at an event
boycotted by others, it proved that it could act independently, most
importantly from the Western states.”
Where does Lebanon fit into all
this? As always, there is a political and military tug-of-war.
Four months ago, for instance, Moscow gave 10 MiG-29 fighter jets to
Lebanon, free of charge, as assistance in building the Lebanon Army.
New York Times was quick to characterise the gesture as a “slap to the
United States.” Not to be outdone then, the
US has announced (14/04/09) that it “will provide the Lebanese Armed
Forces (LAF) with twelve Raven unmanned aircraft in the coming months.”
This comes with a training course, “funded by the U.S. Department of Defense
(DOD), [and] is one part of the comprehensive, robust U.S. military
assistance program to Lebanon.
It must be remembered, though, that the
that the world financial crisis would not jeopardise its promise of $30
billion in military aid alone to Israel over the next 10 years. In
2007 the US had
that it would continue military aid to Egypt at $13 billion from 2009 to
2018, and would increase military aid to Israel by 25% --- $ 30 billion from
2009 to 2018. US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs
Nicholas Burns, who signed
the memorandum of understanding governing the aid package, stated the
“allow Israel to plan its defense expenditures in a way that's
rational, in a way that takes into account its own appreciation of its
situation in this region. So we look at this region and understand
that a secure and strong Israel is in the interest of the US.”
the Jerusalem Post
paraphrases, this means that “there were no strings attached to the aid
- no special annexes - and that it was not dependent on Israeli policy.
Burns underlined that the aid was coming at a time when Iran ‘is resurgent,’
and was both seeking nuclear weapons and expanding its conventional power in
the region. He said Iran and Syria were funding and arming terrorist
organizations fomenting violence in every part of the Middle East, be it
Hamas, Hizbullah or Shi'ite groups in Iraq.” Perhaps Burns, back in
August 2007, didn’t think Afghanistan would hold out as long as it has, or
that Pakistan would be a nice addition to the target list.
On 22 April 2009, Foreign Minister Lieberman cemented another “strategic
partner”: Egypt. Despite tensions due to Lieberman’s past offensive
statements regarding Egypt, diplomatic relations seem to be improving
between the formerly warring countries. Egyptian Intelligence Chief
Omar Suleiman met with PM Netanyahu, President Peres and FM Lieberman.
media, Lieberman “repeatedly stressed his appreciation of Egypt as a
Meanwhile, relations between Egypt—Palestine and
Egypt—Lebanon have been strained. Perhaps that is what a “strategic
partner” is for: reinforcement of Israel’s game plan. Perhaps that is
what Lieberman has in mind as he courts such a partnership with Russia.
Stack up the friends on one side, the enemies on the other. But in the
end, you don’t get a gang war. When you add billions of dollars worth
of weaponry, you get world war.
The irony is, though, that amid all
the massive global players in this drama, the sticking point for Israel is
that it has never been able to defeat Lebanon. Israel has tried and
tried to pound Lebanon into submission and has failed, no matter how many
strategic partners it stacks up. Look at the map again. You need
a magnifying glass to see the two of them. Yet the world seems intent
on setting their agendas by what transpires there. A bit ridiculous,
Russia is not apt to fall for Lieberman’s lure. Again,
Russia is no one’s fool. It has been less than a year since Russia
resolutely quashed an aggression by Georgia—backed
by US-Israel—to overtake South Ossetia. Israel may now be
anxious to have Russia as a partner; however, it is highly unlikely that
Russia will find itself needing Israel as a partner. And Russia does
stand its ground.
Like Russia, Lebanon, for all its faults,
knows how to stand its ground as well. Every Lebanese child knows the
politics of being Lebanese. Every adult has lived through the wars and
the global chicanery. Who else but Lebanon could manage to defeat
Israel and then still rake in
$1 billion total post-2006 conflict assistance and
$410 million post-2006 in military aid from America, Israel’s favourite
ally? The Lebanese might just be more clever than Lieberman is
Lebanon will not be intimidated. Syria will not be
schmoozed. Russia cannot be reduced to what Lieberman has dubbed the
”Kremlin Factor,” as though he fancies himself a Jason Bourne.
Lieberman stated that he intends to mend the gap between the Knesset and the
Kremlin. But a gap is mended at both ends. In half a century,
Russia has weathered wars far worse than those plotted by Lieberman.
If Russia decides to adjust its alliances, it will do so not at the behest
of tiny Tel Aviv, but when and if it chooses, on its own Russian terms.
*please note that it is Israel’s own insistence on distinguishing
people by their faith, Jewish or otherwise, that necessitates the topic.
FOL prefers to view people as individuals—not as representatives of a
By Brenda Heard
Founder Friends of Lebanon
Please note that it is
Israel’s own insistence on distinguishing people by their faith, Jewish or
otherwise, that necessitates the topic. FOL prefers to view people as
individuals—not as representatives of a particular religion.