The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Posts Tagged ‘Schenker

Schenker and the SCUDs

WINEP’s David Schenker recently published a piece on the SCUD controversy that adds a bit more clarity to where the neo-con lobby is headed in Washington (Schenker was a key Pentagon offiicial on Lebanon and Syria policy during the heady early days of the Cedar Revolution and played an important role in limiting the Lebanese Armed Forces capabilities, as this ex post facto piece suggests): branding Syria as a “resistance state” whose fundamental posture is irretrievably hostile and downright evil. A few points are worth examining:

1) “At the same time, the transfer of Scuds to Hizballah would be entirely consistent with the reckless and provocative policies pursued by Syrian President Bashar Assad in recent years.”

— As a number of commentators on the opposite side of the aisle have pointed out recently, the policies pursued by Syria vis-a-vis the exercise of US power – while perhaps “bad” from our moral or pure interests points of view – have hardly been “reckless.” Instead, they appear to have been carefully (and successfully, to this point) calibrated responses to a joint US-Israeli-Sunni Arab state move to undermine the Assad regime. Instead of pursuing an alternative approach early on with Syria, when it was extremely vulnerable in 2003 and again in 2005, the Bush administration fecklessly chose the path of total victory instead of a negotiated solution that accurately reflected Syria’s power and potential in the region. This turned out to be remarkably unwise, on top of the failure of the Clinton administration to push Barak a few meters further to get a deal done on the Golan in March 2000 (read this excellent recent interview with the key Israeli actor)…all of which leads to our current position where Syria can be described as many things – including provocative – but where it will either have to be militarily confronted or given a few more pounds of flesh than would have been sufficient in years past.

2) “On April 15, an article in the Kuwaiti daily Al Rai laid out why Hizballah–irrespective of whether the transfer occurred–does not consider the Scud to be a significant upgrade to its armory. According to the anonymous Hizballah official interviewed, while the Scud has a range of 1,000-1,500 kilometers, the fire prep time is a lengthy 45-60 minutes, and it is only accurate to five kilometers. (Reports in the western press suggest the weapon in question, the Scud D variant, is accurate to within 50 meters).”

— Given the ongoing media wars in the region, and especially the general lack of understanding in the US and elsewhere about which Arab media outlets are owned or influenced by which side, all of us should very carefully qualify when using a source as Schenker does above. Using words like the daily “laid out” creates a context of certainty that simply does not exist.

3) “More likely, Damascus and Tehran engineered the Scud crisis to divert US-led efforts to build an international coalition to sanction Iran for its nuclear endeavors.”

— Although one could make this point, of course, the “evidence” Schenker marshalls is weak. It is made weaker still by the fact that he does not even consider the other side – Israel’s – interest in raising this controversy, with all that the SCUD word implies for the force of the Israeli effort (but perhaps not for what is actually happening on the ground). This is an absolutely critical aspect to examine and understand for US policymakers, especially during this time of increased US-Israeli tensions and the possibility of the US being dragged into a region wide war by Israeli needs/interests/concerns. Moreover, viewing (nearly) all of the resistance axis members as merely subservient to Tehran’s nuclear program is unhelpful in understanding the different actors’ calculations. For me, the critical issue is Hizbullah’s calculations – ones which I believe have a great deal to do with their own interests and beliefs that can and should be differentiated, at a number of critical points, from those of Iran, Syria, Hamas etc. Avoid these aspects, and the SCUD controversy merely becomes another, simple reason for lobbying in DC for more war against the whole lot – a war where the outcome is far from certain vis-a-vis US interests, Israeli interests and Lebanese interests.

3) Hence, Schenker’s final point: “If this unhelpful Syrian behavior continues, the Obama administration will likely arrive at the same conclusion the Bush administration reached in 2004: that Damascus actually is–as it so vociferously claims to be–a regime dedicated to supporting “the resistance.” One year into President Barack Obama’s tenure, it may be too early to declare the Syria policy a failure. But the administration’s decision earlier this month to renew sanctions against Damascus just might suggest a growing appreciation in the White House as to the nature of the Syrian regime and perhaps for the limits of diplomatic engagement with this self-defined resistance state.”

–Lets hope we do not arrive at the “same conclusion” that the Bush folks, including Schenker, reached in 2004… because, setting aside the moral concerns for a moment, the position of the US is far worse than it was at that point when the Bush folks demonstrated that they could not match their rhetorical muscle with facts on the ground.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

May 16, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Posted in ANALYSIS

Tagged with ,

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