Obama Dithers While Syria Burns

UPDATES 9 am Israel time, Saturday, August 31 2013:

*In all of the concern along the Syrian-Irsraeli border about a possible U.S. attack on Syria, it is easy to overlook the threats that Israel faces on its other borders. Yesterday saw an incoming missile alarm in Eilat, an attempted infiltration along the Egyptian border, and a probable missile explosion in the Eshkol region. None of these events received any reportage of note in the Israeli news–and certainly none at all in the international media.

*For all of Israel’s talk about wanting to populate the Negev, the decision this week to demolish the unique (see picture) Jewish community that is located between Sde Boker–where David Ben Gurion is buried–and Mitzpe Ramon on Mt. Eldar is particularly disturbing.

The Israeli community on Mt. Eldar in the Negev.

The Israeli community on Mt. Eldar in the Negev.

Seven years old, the community was established mainly by Zionists who came out of the IDF combat units and their families (there are now 60 members between the ages of 25 and 35, and another 15 children. Now, because none of the “buildings” was erected with a building permit, the Israel Lands Authority (ILA) is actively pursuing the demolition.

The irony of the action of the ILA is that between Beersheva and Mitzpe Ramon there must be literally thousands of Bedouin buildings that have been constructed without permits. Their numbers continue to grow, and no one does anything about them.

Israelstreet sincerely hopes that the ILA will reconsider its action and takes steps to validate the community immediately.


Your poor humble servant and family got very little sleep last night. From midnight until 5 am, the high-pitched whine of drones circling overhead pierced the night and made sleep next to impossible.

You might wonder what drones are doing flying over Ashdod–and every other Israeli city? At least part of the reason is that they are “detection” devices–designed to monitor any possible launch from Syria, Lebanon, or elsewhere and trigger the IDF’s Arrow missile defense system. 

The burning question of today is simply where do things stand regarding a U.S. cruise missile attack on Syria? What seemed unlikely at this time yesterday seems more likely this morning. After U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s forceful delineation of the justification for such an attack yesterday, it seems almost inconceivable that such an attack will not occur.

Nevertheless, what seems to be missing is decisiveness from President Obama–particularly in light of the British decision not to get involved, and the inability to muster Security Council approval at the United Nations. Obama seems to be endlessly weighing the benefits (sending a message to Assad and Iran that weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated) against the liabilities (possibly embroiling the entire Middle East in war and putting a bullseye on everything American).

And as Obama shifts back and forth on what to do, Syria repositions its weaponry in apartment buildings, in schools, under hospitals, along the Jordanian border–and anywhere else it can do so amidst the civilian population. Considering that any cruise missile strike will undoubtedly avoid Syrian neighborhoods and chemical weapons repositories, one is left to wonder exactly what would American cruise missiles target?

Assad’s palace? The airport in Damascus? The main ports? It is hard to imagine that such strikes would do little more than temporarily disable Assad’s command and control infrastructure. In the end, the point would simply be to deliver the message that chemical weapons cannot be used.

In sum, we have the satellite images of Assad’s launch of chemical weapons. Your humble servant strongly feels that the time has come to make a decision one way or the other. To dither is to make any strike less effective and to put people in the region through needless anxiety.

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