Here is what I posted on American Spectator's spectator.org on Sunday/ Oct 11, 2015.
"If you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in, in order to prop up your ally, is leadership, then we've got a different definition of leadership." -- Barack Obama, interview with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes, October 11, 2015
Vladimir Putin is only nine years older than Barack Obama, yet they somehow are of a different generation. How could this be?
For starters, when Obama enrolled in an elite private high school, Putin already was starting KGB training. Putin was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). When I visited that city in 1979, Putin -- it turns out -- was monitoring foreigners there. That same year, Obama had just started coasting through Occidental College. In the 1980s, while Obama was a community organizer in Chicago, Putin was in Dresden working with the Stasi, the dreaded East German secret police. Thanks to Ronald Reagan, the Soviet "evil empire" was disintegrating, while a clueless Obama was in law school, then instantly to be a precocious and dubious "constitutional law scholar." This closet-socialist was soon complaining on Chicago radio that the U.S. Constitution did not require income redistribution. At the same time, outed Communist Putin was transitioning from KGB thug to political hack.
Putin has said you can take a man out of the KGB, but you can't take the KGB out of a man. He yearns for the glory days when the U.S.S.R. was the rival superpower to the U.S. He had wet (and probably fulfilled) dreams about gymnast Alina Kabayeva, now he has wet (and yet unfulfilled) dreams about a resurgent Russia. He pursues classic Soviet hegemony in the Crimea, the Baltic States and Ukraine, and these pursuits, to Obama, are signs of weakness? In 2012, Obama ridiculed his opponent Mitt Romney for predicting all this, which has given rise to this question: How do you lose weight in Washington? Answer: By having Putin eat your lunch.
Obama obviously made quite an impression on Putin when they met in New York on Sept. 29. The next day a Russian general in Baghdad visited the American embassy, where he unceremoniously told the U.S. military attaché that the U.S. has one hour to vacate Syrian air space, so the Russians could supposedly bomb ISIS targets. Congressman Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee, an Obama groupie known for his tortured defense of the Iran deal, claims Putin's inner circle did not know Putin's plan in Syria. To the surprise of no one except Obama, his un-prescient State Department, and his Congressional sycophants like Schiff, the Russians also are extensively targeting Syrian rebels contesting Syria's ruthless Bashar al-Assad. Obama did not back these rebels years ago when they might have succeeded.
The Soviet Union had long backed Bashar's father, Hafez al-Assad. In the old days, the Soviets supplied Syria and Egypt with MIG fighters, but Syrian and Egyptian pilots were poorly trained and the aircraft not properly maintained. Putin is eager to show the region that generally the Russians are a reliable ally, once again of Syria, only this time Russians maintain and fly upgraded SU-24M supersonic all weather attack aircraft, no match for what Israel has. Nor are Russian pilots operating out of a Syrian air base at Hmelmlm (which Israelis could take out despite Russian surveillance and defensive assets) a match for Israeli pilots defending their country from their home air base. Putin does not want a confrontation with Israel.
Just five years ago, we were talking about Obama's Arab Spring (the "Arab Awakening"), now remembered as a farce. For example, Obama backed in Egypt an artificial democracy that ushered in the Muslim Brotherhood, fortunately since overthrown by the Egyptian military. Obama tried to resist Abdel Fattah el-Size, a pro-Western moderate Muslim who became Egyptian president, and then Obama tried to undercut him. The Mideast is a region of symbols. For example, both Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power skipped Bibi's U.N. speech, due to a "conference call" with Obama. Given Obama's well-known contempt for Israel, the message, intended or not, of further marginalizing America's ally was unmistakable. In the Mideast, loyalty is treasured. Violent factions, nationalist and even Muslim, but not Islamist and not innately pro-Russian, want to go with a winner. The U.S. has abdicated leadership, and the Russians want that role.
In the Mideast, the Saudi government is allied with the United States, and remarkably, its intermediaries quietly deal with Israel. The Saudi leaders and Jordan's Abdullah and moderate Arabs are appalled at Obama's policies, notably his tilt toward Iran. True, the Iranian people are arguably more open to the West than others in the region. But Obama has sided with the terrorist government of Iran over its people and telegraphed to them and the region that the Iranian regime is permanent. And now, to further complicate matters, Russia is back as a player in the Mideast.
A week before the Obama-Putin meeting, Bibi Netanyahu -- with ranking Israeli military and intelligence colleagues, flew to Moscow. Who would have thought an Israeli leader would have a more productive meeting with Russia's leader than with an American president? Bibi explained to Putin their common interest in avoiding conflict. Putin respects Netanyahu who likely adopted a Donald Trump approach -- let Assad forces and ISIS kill each other. In turn, Putin understood that Israel would not tolerate any Russian-enhanced Syrian offensive capability or defensive capability that threatens Israel. Bibi probably noted the Russian-supported Iran deal ended any prospect of Israel-Palestinian peace talks, certainly while Obama is in office, but Putin is indifferent on that issue. Bibi likely emphasized that Iran does not feel bound by Obama's "Iran deal," and further that Iran now wants to provide GPS targeting for roughly 100,000-plus Hezbollah rockets based in Lebanon and also Syria. Bibi put Putin on notice (with the kind of red line that Obama can only draw) to control its ally Iran and thus Iran's proxy, Hezbollah, because Israel will not allow guided rocket attacks from the north that could paralyze this small nation.
All of this explains why now is the time for Hamas to create a third Intifada (Palestinian uprising). As in the past, CNN, the BBC, public radio and the mainstream media are already predictably blaming Israeli settlements and "Palestinian disenchantment with the peace process." The two prior Intifadas (late 1980s, early 2000s) were no more sporadic than Benghazi; they were strategic and planned; as in Benghazi, an event was blamed. Gullible and anti-Israeli media accepted the contrived "catalysts." Thus, the current controversy over the al-Aqsa Mosque is a pretense.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has urged Israeli Arabs to join the Intifada. Imam Sheikh Muhammad Saliah "Abu Rajab" brandished a dagger in his sermon at Gaza's al Abrar Mosque as he praised stabbers for making Israelis too afraid to leave their home and urged more widespread knifings. Although Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calls for calm and claims he does not want a Third Intifada, the PA is hardly blameless, because it uses U.N. and U.S. funding (which therefore should be eliminated) for teaching hate and inciting violence like the so-called "lone wolf" attacks, whose mosaic becomes a strategy. And Abbas publicly condones terrorist attacks ("every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood").
The Oct. 10 Wall Street Journal featured a large color photograph of violence in the West Bank city of Ramallah. In 1981, I visited Birzeit University, just outside Ramallah. As if on cue, the Palestinian students (of course, out of my view) threw rocks at Israeli soldiers, who then responded with tear gas. I sought cover and relief, but I was not impressed with this show or presumed Israeli oppression. A generation later, the stakes are higher, and Israel has learned that no matter how it responds to sometimes fatal rock throwing and escalating violence, probably Messrs. Obama and Kerry, and certainly the media and the United Nations, will play the "moral equivalence" game, reprise the "cycle of violence" paradigm, and ultimately condemn Israel for "disproportionate" response. And don't forget the Israel bashing "progressive" pro-Obama Hollywood Jews who are secular or at best, attend reform synagogues where the leftist rabbi publicly supported the Iran deal.
In Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, as well as in smaller cities like Aful, Peta Tikava, Ma'ale Adumin, and Kiryat Arba, or even a Kibbutz like Gan Shmuel, more than 150 terror attacks have occurred, many by Israeli Arabs, creating major injuries and even fatalities --rocks thrown, vehicle ramming, rolling tires on fire, stabbings, and shootings. Imagine if in the U.S., members of a particular ethnic group began a wave of stabbings on streets in cities and towns throughout America. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu already has ordered massive police reinforcements in cities and critical border areas as a deterrent.
Hamas wants momentum so that Israel will be under siege. The mainstream media are barely reporting the spreading attacks and their psychological effect on the Israeli populace. Perhaps that's not all that bad. But when an Israeli youth knifed innocent Palestinians, Israel -- as it always does in such a situation -- apprehended and condemned him. He will likely face what Netanyahu terms "the full extent of the law." Yet, the media reported this single incident in Dimona as "stabbings on both sides." After a Palestinian boy stabbed passers-by and then tried to attack police, he was killed. The British newspaper headlined: "Israeli security forces kill boy, 16, after stabbing in Jerusalem as violence continues." As in the past, Palestinian terrorists are counted as victims.
Putin is not stupid, but his strategy is risky. How can he keep Assad in power without getting in bed with Hezbollah, which backs Assad? Yet, Putin must have assured Bibi that he will try to keep Iran from enhancing guidance for Hezbollah's tens of thousands of Syria-based rockets, customarily embedded in residential areas, and around hospitals and schools. One way or another, Israel must prevent GPS-type targeting capability for these rockets or take them out with major civilian casualties in Syria (and Lebanon). Putin knows any tactic of putting Russians on the ground in Syria as "human shields" will not deter Israel, and right now some Russians could get in harm's way. All this must be sorted out; otherwise a major Israeli war against Hezbollah could lead to Russian casualties. Russia cannot be in Hezbollah-controlled areas or it must accept Russian deaths; in either case, Russia must step aside. That's because Russian military support for Hezbollah would not only destroy Putin's credibility among moderate Arabs but also risk a wider military confrontation with Israel, and could draw in the United States. Perhaps Putin's end game is to assure Assad's hold on power, so that Hezbollah in Syria becomes expendable. That would be win-win-win for Russia, Israel, and the U.S. and would occur despite, not because of, Obama, who would seek credit.
Back to reality. Months ago, Michael Oren, Israel's former Ambassador to the U.S., focused on the frightening prospect that Iran, especially emboldened by Obama's "deal" and tens of billions in sanctions relief, would provide targeting capability for Hezbollah's huge rocket inventory, in Syria (and Lebanon). Guided rocket attacks against Israel and indiscriminate stabbings within Israel may seem unrelated. They are not. With Russian involvement in Syria, and the Hezbollah rocket scenario unresolved, Israel cannot be diverted. It must stop the Third Intifada.