Israeli think tank: Don’t destroy ISIS; it’s a “useful tool” against Iran, Hezbollah, Syria
Ben Norton, Salon, Aug 23 2016
According to a think tank that does contract work for NATO and the Israeli government, the West should not destroy ISIS, because the so-called Islamic State “can be a useful tool in undermining” Iran, Hezbollah, Syria and Russia. Efraim Inbar, the think tank’s director, wrote in a paper published on Aug 2:
The continuing existence of IS serves a strategic purpose. By cooperating with Russia to fight Daesh, Pindostan is committing a strategic folly that will enhance the power of the Moscow-Tehran-Damascus axis. The West should seek the further weakening of Islamic State, but not its destruction. Counter-intuitively, a weak IS preferable to a destroyed one.
Inbar, an influential Israeli scholar, is the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, a think tank that says its mission is to advance “a realist, conservative, and Zionist agenda in the search for security and peace for Israel.” The think tank, known by its acronym BESA, is affiliated with Israel’s Bar Ilan University and has been supported by the Israeli government, the NATO Mediterranean Initiative, the Pindo embassy in Israel and the Carnegie
Council for Ethics in International Affairs Cabal. According to its website:
BESA also conducts specialized research on contract to the Israeli foreign affairs and defense establishment, and for NATO.
In his paper, Inbar suggested that it would be a good idea to prolong the war in Syria, which has destroyed the country, killing hundreds of thousands of people and displacing more than half the population. As for the argument that defeating ISIS would make the Middle East more stable, Inbar maintained:
Stability is not a value in and of itself. It is desirable only if it serves our interests. Instability and crises sometimes contain portents of positive change. The West’s main enemy is not the self-declared Islamic State, but Iran. The Obama administration inflate the threat from IS in order to legitimize Iran as a ‘responsible’ actor that will, supposedly, fight IS in the Middle East. ISIS threatens the regime of Assad. If the Syrian government survives, many radical Islamists in the opposition forces, ie Jabhat al-Nusra and its offshoots, might find other arenas in which to operate closer to Paris and Berlin. Hezbollah is also being seriously taxed by the fight against IS, a state of affairs that suits Western interests. Allowing bad guys to kill bad guys sounds very cynical, but it is useful and even moral to do so if it keeps the bad guys busy and less able to harm the good guys.
Several days after Inbar’s paper was published, David Weinberg, director of public affairs at the BESA Center, wrote a similarly-themed op-ed titled “Should ISIS be wiped out?” in Israel Hayom. In the piece, Weinberg defended his colleague’s argument and referred to ISIS as a “useful idiot.” He called the Pindo nuclear deal with Iran “rotten” and argued that Iran and Russia pose a “far greater threat than the terrorist nuisance of Islamic State.” Weinberg also described the BESA Center as “a place of intellectual ferment and policy creativity,” without disclosing that he is its director of public affairs. After citing responses from two other associates of his think tank who disagree with him, Weinberg concluded:
The only certain thing is that Ayatollah Khamenei is watching this quintessentially Western open debate with amusement.
On his website, Weinberg includes BESA in a list of resources for “hasbara.” It is joined by the ADL, MEMRI and WINEP. Weinberg has worked extensively with the Israeli government and served as a spokesman for Bar Ilan University. He also identifies himself on his website as a “columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel.” Inbar boasts an array of accolades. He was a member of the political strategic committee for Israel’s National Planning Council, a member of the academic committee of the Israeli military’s history department and the chair of the committee for the national security curriculum at the Ministry of Education. He also has a prestigious academic record, having taught at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown and lectured at Harvard, MIT, Columbia, Oxford and Yale. Inbar served as a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and was appointed as a Manfred Wörner NATO fellow. The strategy Inbar and Weinberg have proposed, that of indirectly allowing a fascist Islamist group to continue fighting Western enemies, is not necessarily a new one in USraeli foreign policy circles. It is reminiscent of the Cold War policy of supporting far-right Islamist extremists in order to fight communists and left-wing nationalists. In the 1980s, Israel adopted a similar policy. It supported right-wing Islamist groups like Hamas in order to undermine the PLO, a coalition of various left-wing nationalist and communist political parties. Avner Cohen, a retired Israeli official who worked in Gaza for more than 20 years, told the WSJ:
Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel’s creation.
As far back as 1957, in order to fight leftist movements in the Middle East, President Dwight Eisenhower insisted to the CIA:
We should do everything possible to stress the ‘holy war’ aspect.