What Future for the
U.S. in the Mideast?
The next time there is a serious military flare-up in the MIddle East, will either the United States or Israel be capable of defending Western interests in the region?
The question is not merely theoretical. The Clinton administration has been consciously ignoring the massive military build-up by Arab and Islamic regimes, while at the same time weakening Israel by pressuring it to make sweeping territorial concessions to the PLO. The danger of a military conflagration is more serious than ever before--but the ability of America and Israel to confront Arab or Islamic aggression is more doubtful than ever before.
Iran, with the help of Saudia Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, is bankrolling Syria's latest massive arms deal with Russia. The Russians will be supplying Damascus with 48 latest-model MiG-29 fighter-bombers, between 14 and 24 Sukhoi-27 fighter-strike aicraft, SAM-11 ground-to-air missiles, and 300 T-80 tanks and related combat vehicles.
Meanwhile, the Johannesburg Mail Guardian reports that Iran's Deputy Minister of Atomic Affairs, Reza Amrollahi, last year presented the chief of South Africa's Atomic Energy Corporation with "a shopping list of items needed for making nuclear weapons."
In another disturbing development, Russia has completed designing its new "Yakhont" anti-ship missile "and is ready to put the missile on the world armaments market," according to the Russian news agency Tass. "It can be launched from submarines, from surface ships and by coast guard launchers on the ground." How long will it be before the new Russian missiles end up in the hands of the Syrians, the Iranians, the Iraqis, the Libyans, or even the PLO?
If one of those regimes decides to embark on some new adventure, as Iraq did in Kuwait in 1990, will the United States be able to effectively intervene, to protect its regional interests, such as access to oil sources? Not likely. Budget cuts in recent years have undermined America's military capabilities. Furthermore, America will not necessarily have five and a half months to mobilize, as it did during the Gulf crisis. The U.S. might still be
assembling its forces, thousands of miles away, while an Arab regime with sophisticated weapons wreaks irreversible damage.
Would Israel be able to hold off the Arab aggressors until the Americans arrive? Again, not likely. The territorial concessions that Israel has made to the PLO, under U.S. pressure, have already gravely endangered Israel's future military position.
The PLO police force is rapidly developing into a full-fledged army and, in the case of a future regional conflict, will be able to harass and tie down the Israel Defense Forces. Israel will be barely able to defend itself, much less provide the necessary force to help protect America's regional interests.
In order to protect U.S. access to oil, there will be no choice but for America to directly intervene. An improperly-prepared, ill-equipped, and under-financed American army will be sent off to confront a heavily-armed alliance of radical Arab regimes, probably including Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Libya.
American lives will be lost, and all because of the Clinton administration's obsession with appeasing the PLO and Syria. This obsession has warped American policy in the Middle East, emasculating Israel, America's only real ally in the region, and making a U.S. deployment to the Gulf a very costly undertaking.
Herbert Zweibon is chairman of Americans For a Safe Israel.