TORONTO — Israel faces dangers on a number of fronts, but according to Washington-based security analyst Clifford May, not all perils are created equal.
Hamas, he said, presents Israel with a tactical threat; Hezbollah, with 60,000 missiles at its disposal, poses a strategic threat, and Iran, with its program of nuclear armament and repeated threats of genocide from its leaders, poses an existential threat to the Jewish state.
It’s a threat that at one point during the Obama administration, Israel had hoped it would not have to face alone. But given recent developments in Syria, where the United States set a “red line” on chemical weapons and then backed away from it, Israelis are convinced that in the end, they’ll have to deal with Iran alone.
May presented a rather pessimistic evaluation of the current situation in the Middle East as part of Honest Reporting Canada’s Insider Briefing Series. May, the president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, an organization founded following the 9/11 attacks, likened the current geopolitical situation to Europe in the 1930s.
There’s Islamic scripture cited by radical Muslims to support their goal of a Middle East without Israel, with “only Muslims of a certain stripe” and of a region in which Islam must dominate, he said.
The Syrian civil war poses a grave threat to Israel, May said. If Syrian President Bashar Assad prevails, then “Iran triumphs. Syria becomes a province of Iran.” Hezbollah also wins and will prevail in Lebanon, and Hamas will come under the Iranian umbrella. It would mean Iranian hegemony in the Middle East and the withdrawal of the United States.
The prevailing view in Washington policy corridors is that “if the United States won’t defend this red line [in Syria] it won’t defend the red line in Iran.”
For their part, Israeli leaders believe “we are really on our own.”
May said that by mid-2014, Iran is expected to acquire the nuclear capability that “would make it difficult to deal with it.” To prevent Iranian nuclear capabilities, Israel will have to act within that time frame, and the best that can be expected of the United States is political and diplomatic support, plus re-supply, he suggested.
The United States under former president George W. Bush did not have a good strategy, but its war on terrorism was at least the right approach, he said.
Under the Obama administration, U.S. officials won’t even acknowledge a “war on terrorism,” choosing instead to use the term, “overseas contingency operations,” he added.
The United States has withdrawn militarily from Iraq and is doing so from Afghanistan. It won’t connect the dots between events in these countries and Syria and Mali, May said.
You have to have a strategy and goals, but “I don’t see what our strategy is,” he added.
May suggested the United States must learn from western leaders in World War II, who set a goal that went beyond military victory to defeat, discredit and delegitimize opposing ideologies.
Like Communism and Nazism, Islamism is a supremacist creed, he argued. “We have to wage a war against supremacist ideologies.”
In a question period, May was asked whether an honest discussion about Islamic expansionism, on campus and elsewhere, was being inhibited by self-censorship and accusations of Islamophobia.
“Islamophobia is a kind of jiujitsu,” May replied.
Criticism of Islamic supremacy is called Islamophobia, while at the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, formerly the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), is pushing to ban criticism of Islam, he said.
“We’re being fought with warfare, ‘lawfare’ and ‘jawfare’ – the whole idea of turning it around so that any frank discussion is one that can’t be done in polite conversation.”