In an email from Wikileaks with the subject “an interesting proposal from Bruce Riedel re how Israel could help get Assad out of office,” Hillary Clinton and her advisers bounce around strategies for how Israel can help get Assad out of office and eliminate Hezbollah in one “fell-swoop” using the Golan Heights as a bargaining chip; referring back to an original plan from 2000.
“If Israel is willing to think outside the box, it can deal Bashar al-Assad, Iran, and Hizbullah a body blow without firing a shot,” Bruce Riedel opened with in an email from 2012. The email describes using the Golan Heights as a bargaining chip: Syria gets control of the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace-agreement with Israel.
Obviously this plan includes a change of government without an Assad leadership. The email doesn’t directly describe setting up a Western imposed “puppet” government, but it does state that if Syria would like to regain control of territory in the Golan Heights, then the new government had better “cease all military and intelligence cooperation with Iran and Hizbullah.”
The email also states that if Assad is not removed and chaos ensues (which seems to be the point we’re at now) or if Assad is removed but a new government retains intelligence cooperation with Iran, then the Golan Heights offer will be taken off the table. According to Clinton and her advisers, this is actually the “diplomatic route” to peace in the Middle East– with Israel as the main influence of course.
So if removing Assad and installing an anti-Iran puppet government in Syria is the “diplomatic” plan, what’s the alternative? A military strike on Iran. Which they don’t prefer, because this would result in retaliation directed at Israel from Hezbollah via Syria or Lebanon.
“Ephraim Halevy, the former head of Israel’s secret intelligence service, Mossad, has rightly argued that toppling Assad and weakening Hizbullah is a far more important and strategic opportunity for Israel today than a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Hizbullah has 50,000 rockets aimed at Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem. Syria has hundreds of SCUD missiles tipped with chemical warheads that could end up in Hizbullah’s hands,” the email reads.
The email also states that this plan will certainly come-off as a “Zionist conspiracy” and will surely anger al-Qaeda. But these are considered minimal downsides to what they consider the positive outcome: “The entire international community will applaud Israel’s initiative. The United States can help rally support behind it. Israel will be seen as a peacemaker and a friend of change.”
Looks like things haven’t quite worked out as they had hoped back in 2012. Once again, this 2012 strategy using the Golan Heights as a bargaining chip was a return to an idea from 2000 when the former Assad died before the plan could be implemented. “It was a tragic missed opportunity,” Bruce says.
It’s hard to believe that this plan was all expected to be done under the banner of “promoting peace.” They state in the email that this whole process will certainly anger Hezbollah, which puts Israeli citizens’ lives at risk. They state that it will anger al-Qaeda– remember this is from 2012, ISIS “emerged” in 2014– which has risked citizens’ lives in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States.
As we now know, thousands of Syrians have lost their lives and ISIS has spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa creating a global terrorism epidemic and refugee crisis. Not only that, but these emails indicate that we can’t entirely rule out military action or nuclear war between Israel and Iran since things haven’t panned-out quite as expected.
Want a reason for the rise of global terrorism in the last few years? These emails pretty much have it covered. And unfortunately, as the Democratic and Republican parties announce their platforms for the November election, it doesn’t seem like we’ll see much of a strategy change anytime soon.
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Also published on Medium.