Israel Worries as Syria Celebrates “Retreat”

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 1 2013 10:59 AM

As Syria Celebrates Obama's “Retreat,” Israel Worries of Iran Implications

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting on September 1 in Jerusalem

Photo by Abir Sultan - Pool/ Getty Images

A Syrian state-run newspaper did not mince words Sunday, writing in a front-page editorial that President Obama’s decision to seek congressional authorization for a military strike amounted to a “retreat” by the United States. "Obama announced yesterday, directly or through implication, the beginning of the historic American retreat," the al-Thawra newspaper said, according to Reuters. The newspaper also noted that Obama’s apparent reluctance to launch a strike comes from his “sense of implicit defeat and the disappearance of his allies,” according to the Associated Press translation.

Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister Kadri Jamil was even more blunt, telling a Lebanese television network that Obama “was defeated before the war began,” according to Israel’s Arutz Sheva. The Syrian official added that the seeming back-and-forth from Washington “has made a mockery of the U.S. administration all over the world.”

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Meanwhile, in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized Israel’s capability of confronting its enemies alone as many raised questions about the implications of Obama’s delay on Washington’s willingness to confront a threat from Iran, notes Reuters.

"Israel's citizens know well that we are prepared for any possible scenario. And Israel's citizens should also know that our enemies have very good reasons not to test our power and not to test our might," Netanyahu said, without ever mentioning Syria or Iran by name.

One of his ministers was less subtle. “In Tehran they are opening bottles of champagne, and surely shifting into high gear toward nuclear weaponization,” Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction Uri Ariel wrote in a post on his Facebook page, according to Bloomberg. “Anyone who believes now this president will strike Iran only on evidence that the Iranians have crossed a nuclear red line, is probably hallucinating.”

In the Times of Israel Avi Issacharoff writes that it’s “unavoidable” to draw a connection between Iran and Syria:

If after Assad’s use of weapons of mass destruction to kill what Secretary of State John Kerry specified were 1,429 of his own people, Obama hesitates — when Assad has no real capacity to substantially harm American interests — what is he likely to do if Iran decides to develop nuclear weapons? [Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei and his advisers recognize that the likelihood of this administration using military force against a country with Iran’s military capability are very low, if not nonexistent.
And they’re not the only ones who realize this. The same conclusions are being drawn by Hezbollah and al-Qaeda.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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