The constituency Congress worries about: Israelis anxious about Obama’s ‘retreat’ on Syria

When members of Congress return from vacation and debate President Obama’s measure calling for military strikes on Syria, some people think that the body elected to represent the will of the American people will pay more attention to popular opposition to the strikes than to pressure from the White House. Yet many members of Congress will be less attentive to either of those elements and be much more concerned about how this issue is playing in Israel. When members of Congress see headlines like this — “Israelis fear U.S. debate on Syria foreshadows weakness on Iran” — they will be left in no doubt about which way to cast their vote.

Moreover, when Obama enjoys resolute support from the Jerusalem Post and from President Shimon Peres, no one on Capitol Hill needs to think too deeply about what their ‘duty’ dictates.

Sure, there will be a lively debate. There will be outright opposition from a liberal/libertarian/Tea Party coalition and Congress probably won’t give the president a blank check, but at the end of the day, Obama will get what he’s asking for. (But I’ll be happy to be proved wrong.)

The Los Angeles Times reports: Israel braced for rockets and got a diplomatic bombshell instead.

The Obama administration’s surprise decision to delay a U.S. strike against Syria to allow for congressional debate left anxious Israelis relieved Sunday that any potential blow-back from Syria would be postponed for at least a week.

But there was hand-wringing inside government offices over how Obama’s hesitancy will be interpreted in the restive region and what it says about U.S. assurances to Israel that it will use military force to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb.

Many here viewed Obama’s last-minute equivocation as the latest evidence of a growing U.S. reluctance to engage aggressively in the Middle East, a worrisome prospect for a nation that relies heavily on its close American ties to intimidate enemies.

Even if the U.S. eventually punishes Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons last month, Obama’s delay is expected to embolden those in Israel who argue for a unilateral military strike against Iran.

And the upcoming congressional debate over Syria will complicate Israel’s effort to keep a low profile on the issue and avoid taking sides in what could become a partisan clash in Washington.

Not surprisingly, Obama’s announcement dominated the headlines and airwaves Sunday in Israel, where citizens had been rushing to get government-issued gas masks in anticipation that Syria or Iran would make good on their threat to bomb Israel in the event of a U.S. strike against Damascus.

Some praised Obama for putting the matter to a more rigorous debate. Many predicted the U.S. ultimately would still strike Syria and that the impact could be stronger with a united American front.

But in a region that tends to value military strength over democratic ideals, others lambasted Obama’s decision and said it would be seen as a sign of weakness. [Continue reading…]

The editorial in the Jerusalem Post spells out what no American politician would be blunt enough to say: that Israel and America have no interest in seeing the war in Syria end. They are content to see the killing continue — just so long as mass casualties from chemical weapons can be avoided. The measure of “success” following U.S. strikes will be that the world can sink back into its indifference about Syria.

[T]he ongoing civil war in Syria is primarily a humanitarian crisis. While there is a desire by the civilized world to stop the bloodshed and reinstate political stability, the West has no real geopolitical interests in ending the Syrian conflict.

Aside from the innocent civilians caught in the crossfire, there are no “good guys” among the sides of the conflict. The despotic Assad regime, which has no qualms about using chemical weapons to kill its own citizens, is battling against forces aligned with al-Qaida – the archenemy of the US – and against the Muslim Brotherhood.

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