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The announcement last week by the United States of the largest military aid package in its history – to Israel – was a win for both sides.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu could boast that his lobbying had boosted aid from $3.1 billion a year to $3.8bn – a 22 per cent increase – for a decade starting in 2019.

Mr Netanyahu has presented this as a rebuff to those who accuse him of jeopardising Israeli security interests with his government’s repeated affronts to the White House.

In the past weeks alone, defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has compared last year’s nuclear deal between Washington and Iran with the 1938 Munich pact, which bolstered Hitler; and Mr Netanyahu has implied that US opposition to settlement expansion is the same as support for the “ethnic cleansing” of Jews.

American president Barack Obama, meanwhile, hopes to stifle his own critics who insinuate that he is anti-Israel. The deal should serve as a fillip too for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic party’s candidate to succeed Mr Obama in November’s election.

In reality, however, the Obama administration has quietly punished Mr Netanyahu for his misbehaviour. Israeli expectations of a $4.5bn-a-year deal were whittled down after Mr Netanyahu stalled negotiations last year as he sought to recruit Congress to his battle against the Iran deal.

In fact, Israel already receives roughly $3.8bn – if Congress’s assistance on developing missile defence programmes is factored in. Notably, Israel has been forced to promise not to approach Congress for extra funds.

The deal takes into account neither inflation nor the dollar’s depreciation against the shekel.

A bigger blow still is the White House’s demand to phase out a special exemption that allowed Israel to spend nearly 40 per cent of aid locally on weapon and fuel purchases. Israel will soon have to buy all its armaments from the US, ending what amounted to a subsidy to its own arms industry.

Nonetheless, Washington’s renewed military largesse – in the face of almost continual insults – inevitably fuels claims that the Israeli tail is wagging the US dog. Even The New York Times has described the aid package as “too big”.

Since the 1973 war, Israel has received at least $100bn in military aid, with more assistance hidden from view. Back in the 1970s, Washington paid half of Israel’s military budget. Today it still foots a fifth of the bill, despite Israel’s economic success.

But the US expects a return on its massive investment. As the late Israeli politician-general Ariel Sharon once observed, ­Israel has been a US “aircraft carrier” in the Middle East, acting as the regional bully and carrying out operations that benefit Washington.

Almost no one blames the US for Israeli attacks that wiped out Iraq’s and Syria’s nuclear programmes. A nuclear-armed Iraq or Syria would have deterred later US-backed moves at regime overthrow, as well as countering the strategic advantage Israel derives from its own nuclear arsenal.

In addition, Israel’s US-sponsored military prowess is a triple boon to the US weapons industry, the country’s most powerful lobby. Public funds are siphoned off to let Israel buy goodies from American arms makers. That, in turn, serves as a shop window for other customers and spurs an endless and lucrative game of catch-up in the rest of the Middle East.

The first F-35 fighter jets to arrive in Israel in December – their various components produced in 46 US states – will increase the clamour for the cutting-edge warplane.

Israel is also a “front-line laboratory”, as former Israeli army negotiator Eival Gilady admitted at the weekend, that develops and field-tests new technology Washington can later use itself.

The US is planning to buy back the missile interception system Iron Dome – which neutralises battlefield threats of retaliation – it largely paid for. Israel works closely too with the US in developing cyber­warfare, such as the Stuxnet worm that damaged Iran’s civilian nuclear programme.

But the clearest message from Israel’s new aid package is one delivered to the Palestinians: Washington sees no pressing strategic interest in ending the occupation. It stood up to Mr Netanyahu over the Iran deal but will not risk a damaging clash over Palestinian statehood.

Some believe that Mr Obama signed the aid package to win the credibility necessary to overcome his domestic Israel lobby and pull a rabbit from the hat: an initiative, unveiled shortly before he leaves office, that corners Mr Netanyahu into making peace.

Hopes have been raised by an expected meeting at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday. But their first talks in 10 months are planned only to demonstrate unity to confound critics of the aid deal.

If Mr Obama really wanted to pressure Mr Netanyahu, he would have used the aid agreement as leverage. Now Mr Netanyahu need not fear US financial retaliation, even as he intensifies effective annexation of the West Bank.

Mr Netanyahu has drawn the right lesson from the aid deal – he can act against the Palestinians with continuing US impunity.

- See more at: http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2016-09-19/palestinians-lose-in-us-military-aid-deal-with-israel/#sthash.fL4Eq28N.dpuf
ISIS, Not Russia, Is the Enemy in Syria

By Patrick Buchanan

October 07, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - Denouncing Russian air strikes on Aleppo as "barbaric," Mike Pence declared in Tuesday's debate:

"The provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength. ... The United States of America should be prepared to use military force, to strike military targets of Bashar Assad regime."

John McCain went further:

"The U.S. ... must issue an ultimatum to Mr. Assad — stop flying or lose your aircraft ... If Russia continues its indiscriminate bombing, we should make clear that we will take steps to hold its aircraft at greater risk."

Yet one gets the impression this is bluster and bluff.

Pence has walked his warnings back. And there are few echoes of McCain's hawkishness. Even Hillary Clinton's call for a "no-fly zone" has been muted.

The American people have no stomach for a new war in Syria.

Nor does it make sense to expand our enemies list in that bleeding and broken country — from ISIS and the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front — to Syria's armed forces, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.

These last three have been battling to save Assad's regime, because they see vital interests imperiled should it fall.

We have not plunged into Syria, because we have no vital interest at risk in Syria. We have lived with the Assads since Richard Nixon went to Damascus.

President Obama, who has four months left in office, is not going to intervene. And Congress, which has the sole power to declare war, has never authorized a war on Syria.

Obama would be committing an impeachable act if he started shooting down Russian or Syrian planes over Syrian territory. He might also be putting us on the escalator to World War III.

For Russia has moved its S-400 anti-aircraft system into Syria to its air base near Latakia, and its S-300 system to its naval base at Tartus.

As the rebels have no air force, that message is for us.

Russia is also moving its aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, into the Med. Vladimir Putin is doubling down in Syria.

Last weekend, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned that U.S. attacks in Syria "will lead to terrible tectonic consequences not only on the territory of this country but also in the region on the whole."

Translation: Attack Syria's air force, and the war you Americans start could encompass the entire Middle East.

Last week, too, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, warned that creating a "no-fly zone" in Syria could mean war — with Russia. Dunford's crisp retort to Sen. Roger Wicker:

"Right now, senator, for us to control all of the airspace in Syria it would require us to go to war, against Syria and Russia. That's a pretty fundamental decision that certainly I'm not going to make."

And neither, thankfully, will Barack Obama.

So, where are we, and how did we get here?

Five years ago, Obama declared that Assad must step down. Ignoring him, Assad went all out to crush the rebels, both those we backed and the Islamist terrorists.

Obama then drew a "red line," declaring that Assad's use of chemical weapons would lead to U.S. strikes. But when Obama readied military action in 2013, Americans rose up and roared, "No!"

Reading the country right, Congress refused to authorize U.S. military action. Egg all over his face, Obama again backed down.

When Assad began losing the war, Putin stepped in to save his lone Arab ally, and swiftly reversed Assad's fortunes.

Now, with 10,000 troops — Syrian, Iraqi Shiite militia, Hezbollah, Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Afghan mercenaries — poised to attack Aleppo, backed by Russian air power, Assad may be on the cusp of victory in the bloodiest and most decisive battle of the war.

Assad and his allies intend to end this war — by winning it.

For the U.S. to reverse his gains now, and effect his removal, would require the introduction of massive U.S. air power and U.S. troops, and congressional authorization for war in Syria.

The time has come to recognize and accept reality.

While the U.S. and its Turkish, Kurdish and Sunni allies, working with the Assad coalition of Russia, Hezbollah and the Iranians, can crush ISIS and al-Qaida in Syria, we cannot defeat the Assad coalition — not without risking a world war.

And Congress would never authorize such a war, nor would the American people sustain it.

As of today, there is no possibility that the rebels we back could defeat ISIS and the al-Nusra Front, let alone bring down Bashar Assad and run the Russians, Hezbollah, Iran and the Iraqi Shiite militias out of Syria.

Time to stop the killing, stop the carnage, stop the war and get the best terms for peace we can get. For continuing this war, when the prospects of victory are nil, raises its own question of morality.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book "The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority." To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.

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