Reconsidering the Suez Campaign

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It is hard to seize the initiative. The consequences of acting are frightening. It is always better to let others go first. But sometimes that is impossible. Today it is becoming clear that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has no choice but to lead.


The stakes have never been higher. Every day we are beset by an avalanche of evidence that Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear armed state. From the secret uranium enrichment facility in Qom, to Iran’s solid fuel missile test this week to the disclosure that Iran is developing a trigger device to detonate nuclear bombs, it is clear that Teheran is building a nuclear arsenal and that – at a minimum – it is determined to use it to force the nations of the Middle East to bend to its fanatical will.


Until now, as Israel faced this growing threat, it has tried to avoid leading by seeking to convince the US to act against Iran. Since US President Barack Obama took office 11 months ago, Israel’s desire to convince the US to act against Iran has driven Netanyahu to take drastic steps to appease the White House.


Netanyahu has bowed to American pressure and announced his support for the establishment of a Palestinian state in Israel’s heartland, even as the Palestinians themselves made clear that they reject Israel’s right to exist.


He bowed to US pressure and is implementing a draconian freeze on all Jewish building in Judea and Samaria, despite the fact that the Palestinians refuse to even discuss peace with Israel.


Netanyahu has allowed Defense Minister Ehud Barak to unravel national unity still further by picking fights with yeshiva heads who oppose the wholly theoretical possibility that IDF soldiers will be ordered to expel Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria in the framework of a peace treaty with the Palestinians.


As for Iran itself, the government and the IDF are loudly expressing Israel’s support for US-backed sanctions, despite their sure knowledge that those proposed measures will have no significant impact on Teheran’s will or capacity to build nuclear bombs.


Unfortunately, Netanyahu’s appeasement efforts have not brought a US payoff. The Obama administration continues to downplay the urgency of the Iranian nuclear threat and its calls for sanctions are half-hearted and will not prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring nuclear weapons.


Moreover, the Obama administration remains stridently opposed to using military force to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations. This was made clear during a high-level war game at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government earlier this month. At Harvard, former US undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns played Obama and former UN ambassador Dore Gold played Netanyahu. At the end of the game, the US had disavowed its strategic alliance with Israel because Jerusalem refused to give Washington veto power over its right to attack Iran’s nuclear installations. On the other hand, America had failed to get Russia and China to support sanctions and Iran was three months away from the bomb.


The Harvard game came just a few months after the real-world CIA Director Leon Panetta made what was supposed to be a secret visit to Israel and demanded that Israel not attack Iran without US permission.


All of this makes clear that Israel cannot depend on the US to defend it from Iran. Indeed, it makes clear that a breach of relations with the US is unavoidable.


IN LIGHT of this harsh reality, the time has come for Netanyahu to take the lead. While frightening, there may be a silver lining in this cloud.


If Israel moves boldly, others may support it. This was the message of an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday authored by Olivier Debouzy, a former French diplomat specializing in intelligence and nuclear military affairs, titled, “How to Stop Iran.”


In 2007, President Nicolas Sarkozy appointed Debouzy to France’s Defense and National Security White Paper Commission. A private attorney, Debouzy is well connected to Sarkozy and his national security team.


Debouzy opened with a recap of what is already known. Iran “is not serious about negotiating in good faith,” and in all likelihood, it has, “for more than a decade now, concealed a significant part of what appears to be a major nuclear military effort.”


He then explained what is at stake for the West. Western failure to stop Iran will convince the Persian Gulf states that they cannot trust Western security guarantees and are best served by developing their own nuclear arsenals. All semblance of a nuclear nonproliferation regime will be cast to the seven winds.


Given the stakes, Debouzy concludes that it is time for the US, France, Britain and Israel to “try to reach an agreement on how to terminate the Iranian nuclear program militarily.” He suggests first taking an example from the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and imposing a quarantine on Iranian shipping in the Persian Gulf while compelling Iran’s neighbors to desist from all trade and financial transactions with it.


If this doesn’t work, Debouzy acknowledges, “It might be necessary to go beyond that and actually resort to force to prevent the Iranians from achieving nuclear military capabilities.” To this end, he proposes planning “for a massive air and missile attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.”


While Debouzy invoked the Cuban Missile Crisis, given the Obama administration’s position on Iran, a more apt analogy is the 1956 Suez Crisis. Whereas in 1962 the US acted alone against the threatened Soviet deployment of nuclear missiles in Cuba, in 1956, France, Israel and Britain acted against Egypt without US permission to limit the harm that then-Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser could cause to their separate strategic interests.


Today, the Obama administration’s treatment of US allies and enemies alike bears far more resemblance to the Eisenhower administration’s policies than to those of the Kennedy administration. And in turn, the administration’s behavior presents allied governments with options reminiscent to those they faced in 1956.


To the extent that Debouzy’s article represents a significant thought stream in France and perhaps in Britain, it tells us three important things. First, it tells us that a significant constituency in Europe believes the time has come to act militarily against Iran’s nuclear installations. Second it tells us that influential voices in France have lost patience with Obama. Sarkozy himself all but accused Obama of living in Fantasy Land at the UN Security Council meeting four months ago, in light of Obama’s support for global nuclear disarmament and his cavalier attitude towards Iran’s nuclear program.


Finally, by including Israel in a theoretical military alliance against Iran, Debouzy’s article suggests that in spite of its anti-Israel positions on issues related to the Palestinians, France may be willing to assist Israel if Netanyahu decides to attack Iran’s nuclear installations. That is, his article lends the impression that if Israel is willing to act boldly, it may not have to act alone.


THE LAST time that Israel acted militarily with others without US support was during the Suez Crisis. Debouzy’s suggestion of French support for an Israeli strike against Iran should provoke our leaders to reconsider the lessons of that campaign.


At the time, Britain and France joined forces with Israel because their national interests were harmed by Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal. Nasser’s move imperiled the British-allied Hashemite regimes in Iraq and Jordan. It opened the door for Soviet influe
nce in Egypt and throughout the Middle East. And it endangered the flow of oil to Europe through the Suez Canal.


Nasser’s move harmed Israel by threatening to permanently close the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping. Israel also stood to benefit from a joint attack against Egypt because it afforded Israel the opportunity to severely weaken Nasser’s regular forces in the Sinai and his fedayeen terror cells in Gaza.


Despite Nasser’s escalating ties with the Soviet Union, the Eisenhower administration opposed ejecting him from the Suez Canal for a host of reasons. The US wished to please its Saudi ally which, like Egypt, sought to weaken the British-allied Hashemite regimes in Iraq and Jordan. The US wished to quash Britain and France’s residual post-war capacities to act without US support as Washington solidified its position as the unquestioned leader of the Western alliance against the Soviet Union. Washington was politically inconvenienced by the need to support the British-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt as it condemned the Soviet invasion of Hungary. Finally, the Eisenhower administration opposed a strong Israel.


Although all three countries achieved their military goals, the US’s decision to side with Egypt against them caused them all tremendous political damage. Washington forced Israel to withdraw from Sinai and it threatened Britain with economic devastation until then-prime minister Anthony Eden agreed to remove British forces from the area. France was similarly humiliated into withdrawing.


America’s brutal reaction caused many Israeli analysts to conclude that Israel must never again go to war without US permission. And from David Ben-Gurion on, all Israeli leaders have given the US a de facto veto over nearly all of Israel’s military moves.


While Israel’s fear of angering America is understandable, it is far from clear that its interests were ever served by this policy. The fact is, while Israel was forced to withdraw from Sinai, the benefit it gained from the Suez Campaign still far outweighed the cost. Through the war, Israel secured its maritime rights in the Suez Canal and weakened significantly Egypt’s regular and irregular forces in Sinai and Gaza.


What is clear is that 53 years ago it made no sense to get into an open conflict with Dwight Eisenhower. As the former Allied commander in Europe, Eisenhower’s strategic credentials were unassailable both at home and abroad. Then, too, in 1956 the US was enjoying unprecedented economic growth and prosperity. Politically – at home and abroad – Eisenhower was immune to criticism.


Obama is no Eisenhower. The US is suffering its worst economic decline since the Great Depression. After just 11 months in office, Obama’s approval ratings have sunk to 50 percent. His lack of credibility in foreign affairs came though clearly this month when a mere 26% of Americans said they believe he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.


At the same time, Israel has never faced a threat as grave as that of a nuclear-armed Iran. There can be little doubt that if Ben-Gurion and Eisenhower were in charge today, Ben-Gurion wouldn’t hesitate to again defy Eisenhower and attack Iran – with or without France and Britain. Certainly, Netanyahu cannot justify placing Israel’s fate in Obama’s hands.


Fortunately, as Netanyahu’s moment of decision rapidly approaches, we see that if he seizes the reins, he is likely to be surprised to find many other leaders offering him a helping hand.


Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.
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  • Marcel 12/18/2009 at 13:57

    they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered morter:
    Ezekiel 13:10
    Prime Minister Netanyahu’s track record at the helm leaves no doubt that he is only capable of playing the weak puppet without spine,controlled by the attached strings always pulling him towards the evil agenda.
    He cannot lead and is only capable of following orders given to him by his puppet masters.
    He is a small man with a eloquent mouth boasting great empty words that he does not really believe or follow.
    He is an empty suit politician like his master Obama.
    He cannot even stand up to minimal pressure from a supposed ally to halt all building in the heartland of Israel.
    What makes anyone think he can stand up to real pressure unless they are in fantasyland ?
    This perilous time with no real leaders and only spinless men on capitulation errands does not bode well for Israel but especially the superpower now running on empty.
    Iran can smell the odor of weakness from Israel which does not hesitate to kill off it’s own prodigy,the settlers for the promise of imaginary peace.
    As the arrogant fool Netanyahu without spine awaits green lights and permission he and his sidekick Ehud the Terrible are only moving against one enemy,the Jewish settlers faithful to another God and not their god in Washington
    Their zeal to build homes in the heartland of Israel in obedience to another power is an unforgivable crime against the kingdom of darkness.
    Israel’s spineless puppets will pay a heave price for this treachery of bending to the will of darkness in hindering the building up of Zion as God has commanded His people Israel.
    You don’t sacrifice your own children to the wolves without paying a heavy price personally.
    Bibi & Ehud don’t remember the fate of the last arrogant Israeli Prime Minister who drove fellow Jews off their land and homes to please his master President Bush in Washington in return for Islamic rockets.
    They are willingly blind to the reality that their capitulation weakens and harms Israel severely as they continue down the same insane and failed path.
    May God intervene and stop their evil agenda soon.
    Again Iran sees the weakness and capitulation of Israel by it’s slavish devotion to insane demands from Washington and it encourages them.
    Will Israel eventually learn from it’s misguided loyalty to an idol (USA) which cannot save ?
    As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help: in our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save us.
    Lamentations 4:17

  • Archimedes 12/20/2009 at 17:13

    The money line….
    “Obama is no Eisenhower.”
    For reasons far too numerous to list here and on a multitude of levels one cannot begin to address, this perhaps the greatest understatement of all time.

  • DaveP 12/21/2009 at 8:58

    Ms Glick
    France has been consistently hostile to Israel for the better part of four decades. This hostility has got more severe as France’s Muslim population has increased.
    In the event that Israel acts against Iran’s nuclear facilities, Israel will be confronted by uniform international hostility. It will need to rely on the USA to neuter such hostility. As is clear from your article, the support from Obama’s America may not materialise, and that Israel, in extremis, will have to rely on France or Britain.
    There are two points one needs to consider in this situation.
    1. To rely on the assumption that France may support Israel, even as French cars and cities burn, is taking a chance. The same point applies to Britain. Neither country is what they were at the time of Suez. Besides, Isreal should consider, that unofficial and deniable support, may well be a French ploy to sucker Israel.
    2. Since the ratification of the Lisbon treaty, foreign policy is the provenance of the EU. This could be advantageous for Israel, as it will bring in Germany, the most powerful and influential of all EU states.
    In the end, Israel will have to take action and vigorously stand by it, and hope, that as in the past, people will see that it is in the interest of the whole world.

  • 12/21/2009 at 11:19

    Once again Caroline congratulations on a solid article, with factual and an insightful review, of historical issues surrounding Israel.
    I can see how it appears that Israel is on its own in world opinion, especially in the United States. However, I have to point out, that much of the citizens of the free world, do in support your country, and are as horrified by the conduct of Iran as you are.
    Having said that, it also appears that many of those governments will play-up to the tyrants, including Iran, due to their seemingly, endless supply of oil. However the citizens of those same countries are seeing that this accommodation comes at a price which is unacceptable to them and are insisting that they change their tune.
    That is not to say that there isn’t organizations/groups within those countries who continue to work against the views of the majority of citizens. Canada for instance has stood firm behind Israel and continues to support that nation. The citizens generally give approval to the actions of your nation. In the last few years we have made a concerted effort to confront internal activities, which attempt to marginalize Israel and its people.
    Regrettably some of the seemingly, bastions of Christianity will buy into left wing politics and attempt to influence their members to act against your country. It’s perhaps appropriate that your article appears at the same time that our Immigration Minister announced defunding for an obvious anti Israel collection of churches in Canada.
    To hear the angst from these packs of leftist twits, you would think that the government had bombed their offices. However Canadians have seen through the stupidity and support Mr. Kenney. So in conclusion I guess I’m trying to say Israel is not alone, and you have support of other nations, regardless of its internal politics, and Obama.
    I suspect that very soon, that there will be an unpopular decision to be made, but I think I speak for most Canadians, when I say, Israel’s first priority is to survive, and do what you have to do.

  • Joe Huber 12/22/2009 at 4:49

    Your comment is full of pieces of truth. However, I can still see a chance for Netanyahu to act forcefully as a leader when the danger of the Iranian nuclear bomb is even more imminent than now. I do not think that he lacks realism. As I understand the circumstances, he does not want to miss any if the slightest chance to avoid what will be a potentially catastrophic military clash with Iran. One should not rule out his patriotism and sense of responsibility for the people of Israel.
    Yet there is one flaw in his government. The defense minister ought to be Carline Glick. She wouldtake him to the tipping point of decision and provide the guts he needs to enter a war.
    God bless Israel.
    Josef from Germany

  • Marcel 12/22/2009 at 8:20

    Your comment is full of pieces of truth’
    Put the pieces together and the picture is clear.
    I know without a doubt that with the character of Israel’s present leadership that Israel will suffer.
    How is it that Israel at one time could go to Entebbe to rescue hostages but with Gaza after so long only working on a deal that will give Hamas a great victory if it goes thru ? Don’t you see the decay and rot directly tied to Israel following the fake US peace scam ? This is also why Israle failed to defeast Hizbollah and Hamas, they were obeying their US Superiors instead of looking out for Israel’s security. This is criminal and not one of them was held accountable.
    They know they can get away with anything they do because so many think like you.
    You don’t mind the lies and deception from the charlatan and still hold out hope for this dishonorable man even after his first term of failure and deceit in the late 90’s ?
    If so,as with the majority you are very easy to seduce.
    The majority in Israel have been immunized against the truth. They love to be fed their daily pablum of lies from the corrupt leadership and it’s controlled media.
    This is where Caroline stands out,she tells it like it is
    The government of surrender and capitulation can even get away with attacking and beating up fellow Jews with your guaranteed loyalty.
    You are an enabler to these liars and criminals who run roughshod over those who rightly oppose their suicidal surrender.
    The naive and brainwashed citizens are so easily lead about by the nose by the devious men like Netanyahu and his iron fist Barak against Jews and kid gloves towards Israel’s enemies .
    An example of the perversity and wickedness that goes on with the blessing and silence of the brainwashed citizens of Israel is the double standard applied to Sheikh Saleh. The weak and cowardly Israeli politicians are afraid of him and his fellow Muslims and so he has had no trial on charges for incitement brought against him in May of 2007.How can justice be so delayed ,two and a half years ? The same delay game goes on for Olmert.
    If he were a ‘settler’ Jew he would have long ago been tried and imprisoned.
    Yesterday he was given a three week ban from the Temple Mount by the sissey IDF commander because the faithless,leftist cowards are afraid of the Islamic movement.
    Maybe it’s time that these weak cowards become afraid of fellow Jews in Judea and Samaria ?
    It seem to work well as Israel’s leaders are always rewarding the Islamic terrorists at the expense of fellow Jews.
    These corrupt leaders get away with injustice because so many like you make excuses for the inexcusable and the treacherous betrayers like Netanyahu and Barak can count on you to continue to side with them no matter what they do.That is where they learn to be arrogant and rule with impunity and a smirk on their face.Only God can humble these wicked men because they know there is no accountability with the citizens under their total control.
    They haven’t gotten to Caroline and this is why she does not write the party line.

  • Ron Grandinetti 12/24/2009 at 6:01

    Caroline the bottom line is Israel a sovereign nation doesn’t need permission from the US to protect her citizens and nation.
    The Obama administration has taken a back seat as to the leader of the free world. Other nations are becoming aware of this and are deeply concerned.
    Iran also is aware of this and has no intentions of putting a halt to their nuclear ambitions.
    Right now side deals with the US in order to persuade them to take action against Iran are fruitless and in the long run don’t really benefit the Israelis.
    Israel needs to concentrate on what is happening in Iran and be prepared to take whatever military action is necessary to protect her people.
    I don’t think Iran would blatantly attack Israel direct. Iran has a number of proxies who can be called on to do the dirty work. The mere fact Iran has a nuclear arsenal should send a chill up your spine.
    Talking about spine, this is what Obama lacks. As the good nuns would say, that person has the backbone of a jellyfish. This description fits Obama well.
    I am sure there are a number of Arab countries although anti-Israel and anti-Semitic would support Israel should she undertake a mission to take out Iran’s nuclear ability.

  • yuval.hatikva 12/24/2009 at 11:07

    Dear Caroline
    Debouzy may confess his wishes, alas they are irrelevant because neither France nor Britain are powers to be reckoned with at this time. Its not a question of will, its a question of ability. The only forces with proven abilities in this region are Israel and the US, as has been shown by Raas and Long and confirmed by a former COS. Since the US is inimical to such action it is up to Israel to defend itself as it always did. Britain and france being what they are, impotent nincompoops, the present status is more like the pre june 67 war when the US imposed an embargo on Israel, rather than 1956 when Britain and France harboured the shreds of imperial grandeur. Forget them, and lets get crackin’
    Yuval Brandstetter MD

  • Jorge Banner 12/29/2009 at 11:35

    Israel doesn’t seem to have the resources for a conventional war with Iran.
    On the other hand any confrontation with Iran will cause other foes from Lebanon and Gaza to immediately start attacking Israel in a way that has already proven impossible to stop by conventional means.
    And in any case Israel can be sure the marxist hussein led United States has already abandoned Israel to her fate. hussein is a muslim lover sissy boy who can find his manhood with a map and a compass. He’s so self involved with his own leftists and racial fantasies that I’m reminded of that image of a snake eating its own tail
    Lebanon and Gaza in combination with a nuclear armed Iran will mean the destruction of the State of Israel.
    So Israel has only one option: nuke Iran out of existence and warn the rest of her foes that there are still more nukes in the magazine and the will to use them.
    Israel’s point should be “we are going to survive you and you should think if you are going to survive us”.
    Up to know Israel’s attitude has been one of pussyfooting, hand wringing, apologizing and showing nothing but weakness.
    The world stands in awe at the horrid and incomprehensible spectacle of the United States choosing socialism and going voluntarily into slavery and Israel allowing its own destruction even while having the means to successfully fight for survival.
    This is proof of morality’s strength. Neither the USA nor Israel have been able to keep their sense of self worth and their will to live after decades of successful leftist brainwashing. Wars are won in the will. By now everybody knows Israel’s will is gone.
    I would give the leftists an award for technical accomplishment. Five minutes before putting them against a wall and shooting them.
    An insect would use whatever it has to defend its life. The West has chosen suicide by inaction.
    If there are still any Israelis listening: if you are not winning you are loosing. And you are not winning. And you only have one war to loose. Israel can not go home after its Vietnam. You’d better learn how to swim. Your only option is the Mediterranean. You are alone. The rest of the world couldn’t give less for Israel. Now that the USA is busy with its own suicide you have no more friends. War does not determine who is right. War determines who is left. Go back to basics. You can not talk your way out of this one. Political correctness will not save the day. This is two animals facing each other. The rest of the Universe is simply indifferent if not hostile to you. Choose. Kill Iran. Do not send planes. You’ll only loose pilots. If you try to fight this one conventionally your supplies will run out and the bower marxist hussein will not help you out. Nuke them out of existence. And then warn the others that your finger is on the trigger and they can choose what happens to them. And follow through without mercy or consideration for anything but your own survival. In fifty years, in a hundred years, nobody will remember how it was done. All that will be remembered is whether there is an Israel or not.
    Israel has survived many foes. The Assyrians couldn’t kill you. The Egyptians couldn’t kill you. The Romans couldn’t kill you. The Germans couldn’t kill you. Are you going to allow an unhygienic band of raghead muslim camel lover cannibals to succeed?!


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