Jewish Telegraphic Agency quotes Amb. Eric Edelman and Alan Makovsky during JINSA Conference Call on U.S. Syria Withdrawal

Iran, Iran, Iran

Israel’s greatest fear as the civil war in Syria winds down is that the Assad regime’s main backer and Israel’s deadliest enemy, Iran, will establish a permanent beachhead in the country.

“You’re going to be creating a vacuum in the region that was filled by us and our allies for the past several years that will be filled by Russia, Iran, Iranian-sponsored Shia militias, the Assad regime, no forces that are well disposed or friendly to the United States and some of which are potentially hostile to Israel,” Eric Edelman, an ambassador to Turkey and an undersecretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration, said in a conference call hastily convened just before Yom Kippur by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, or JINSA.

Alan Makovsky, a former top House Middle East policy staffer for Democrats also on the call, agreed.

“Right now, the U.S. presence helps to block Iran,” he said. “[Although] it’s not a formally declared target, it makes Iran think twice before it smuggles weapons into northeast Syria and keeps Iran out of that area. The departure of the U.S. isn’t good for Israel in that regard.”

The callousness

It’s not all gamesmanship in Washington and in Israel: Lawmakers and policy wonks on the left and the right were genuinely aghast at how casually Trump threw the Syrian Kurds under the bus.

Edelman in the JINSA phone call encapsulated the sense of shock.

“We don’t really know what transpired,” he said. “We only really have to go on the White House statement that was put out late Sunday night after the phone call” between Erdogan and Trump “and a series of tweets that the president has unleashed yesterday and today and a background phone call that the White House organized yesterday to try and explain what in fact had been decided but honestly it’s really quite confusing.”

The White House background call to which Edelman referred was indeed stunning: A senior administration official was tasked with bluntly stating that the Kurds were on their own and there wasn’t much the United States could do to prevent what happened next.

“I guess you’re presuming that Turkey is going to commit genocide against the Kurds,” the administration official said. “I mean, I don’t have any information that would suggest that. But the president has made it very clear. Again, I’ll say it again, and, you know, the president made this clear in a tweet that he would ‘obliterate the economy of Turkey’ if something of that nature occurs. So I think we’ve been very clear on that issue.”

Edelman was fairly certain that genocide was an option, saying the only time a Turkish government tried to move a million-plus people into Syria was in 1915 — “and that didn’t work out too well” — a reference to the Armenian genocide.

Also clear-eyed about the prospect of ethnic cleansing was Netanyahu, who in a statement said “Israel strongly condemns the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish areas in Syria and warns against the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies.” Netanyahu notably did not mention Trump.

Yaalon in his tweet suggested that Israel must fill the moral vacuum and “and find ways to help the Kurds in their time of need.”

“At the same time,” he said, “we must revive the sayings of our fathers — if I am not for myself, who am I?”

Read full article in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency