- - Thursday, February 15, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

We all know how the Iran nuclear deal betrayed our long-term ally in the Middle East, Israel, by essentially providing a timeline for Tehran to acquire a nuclear weapon capability.

The desperation by the Obama administration to cut a deal, displayed to achieve this outcome, even to the point of calling off an investigation of drug-smuggling by Hezbollah in a bid to keep the negotiations alive, speaks for itself.

The U.S.-backed deal was just one more burden for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has had to navigate in a very tough neighborhood. The Syrian civil war rages just over the border, while Iran busies itself arming Hezbollah with sophisticated weapons to fight the Sunni insurgents, with an eye to eventually turning the mostly Russian-built weapons on Tel Aviv.

For its own preservation, Israel under Mr. Netanyahu has been forced to cozy up to the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has made himself the kingmaker in the region after Mr. Obama’s abdication of responsibility.

Mr. Netanyahu made multiple trips to Moscow to obtain Russian assurances on security and to try to avoid conflicts with Russia air operations in Syria. Israel even obtained Mr. Putin’s permission to continue bombing Syrian and Hezbollah targets in the border area which threatened Israel, such as air defense nodes and artillery.

This arrangement worked well for several years, but seems to have fallen apart over the last few weeks. Hezbollah had always stated that when the Syrian war wound down and the Islamic State and rebel forces had been marginalized, the Iranian-backed terror group’s militants would turn its sights on the Jewish state.

And so they have.

Last week, Syria, working with the Shia axis of Hezbollah, and Iran, flew a drone into Israeli airspace. It was promptly shot down by an Israeli helicopter. Israel responded with strikes on air-defense targets inside Syria. One Israeli IAF F-16 was shot down. Israel then launched massive strikes on even more targets in Syria.

Who knows whether the drone incursion was a set-up, meant to lure Israeli aircraft into target range of Syrian defenses, or whether it was just the natural result of the creeping Hezbollah presence in the Golan towards Israel? In any event, the drone-sparked clashes showed how volatile the region can be, where a small spark can quickly ignite a large-scale conflict.

The long and short of it is that Israel is confronting an array of threats: Russian forces, Hezbollah, Syrian government troop and an increasingly belligerent Iran, where the ruling mullahs sense their long-cherished dream of “wiping Israel off the map” is within reach. There are many Russian Jews in Israel, so maybe Vladimir Putin will keep the Shia wolves at bay for the near term. However, as Iran grows stronger, buying more Russian weapons with the money from Mr. Obama’s misguided nuclear deal, the danger for Israel will grow.

Mr. Trump is the friendliest president Israel has had in decades. The White House has said all the right things about protecting Israel in the face of Iranian threats. It’s time the U.S. do more than talk and make it clear to the world that we will defend our long-standing ally with the full might of American power.

Mr. Obama did a great job of alienating American allies around the world, including Israel. However, Israel is America’s ally, not Russia’s. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, one that accepts Muslims as well. In fact, Muslims have more freedom in Israel than they do in their own countries. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

Perhaps a good way to break down the bad blood between Moscow and Washington would be a joint declaration of Israel’s security, and deploy American force in the region to make it clear our intention to protect her.

L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, the New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached through his website, LToddWood.com.


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