It is not the American penchant for retreat that Jerusalem needs to remember so much as Washington’s track record on making promises to provide security and then abandoning the mission.
The current Palestinian-Israeli peace talks have brought the question of security arrangements to the fore. Although it is quite early in the process, suggestions have already been floated that propose an American presence in the West Bank in order to assure that Palestine remain free of jihadis wanting to attack Israel, as well as to protect a nascent Palestinian government from a Hamas takeover along the lines of Gaza.
In theory, the idea looks good enough on paper. The United States remains a superpower despite the setbacks to its prestige due to the Obama administration’s short-sighted policies that continually demonstrate near-total ignorance of the region and its politics. But that potential power unfortunately has a track record of folding when the heat gets turned on by those willing to test Washington’s resolve. Even Ronald Reagan turned tail in his day and withdrew when Lebanon proved to be more dangerous than expected.
But it is not the American penchant for retreat that Jerusalem needs to remember so much as Washington’s track record on making promises to provide security and then abandoning the mission. Everyone should remember the senior Bush administration promising the Kurds and the Shiites of Iraq protection from Saddam Hussein if they would rebel against his tyrannical rule, and then abandoning both groups to their fate when push came to shove.
An even better example can be drawn from the 2003 Disarmament Agreement made with the Iranian resistance organization—the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran—in Iraq, and subsequent 2004 agreement with all of its members at Camp Ashraf to guarantee their safety. The agreement was good only so long as the US controlled Iraq. But with the Separation of Forces Agreement (SOFA) of January 2009, the Government of Iraq (GOI) regained control of Camp Ashraf, and despite pious promises to respect the human rights of the residents of Camp Ashraf, the GOI began a campaign of pressure and attack on Camp Ashraf that led to over three dozen deaths of Iranian dissidents, and their forced move to another site in the Baghdad outskirts that is both inadequate for basic habitation, and leaves the Ashrafis vulnerable to violence instigated by elements aligned with the Tehran regime, a fact borne out most tragically with an attack that left 52 Iranian dissidents this morning. The ironically called “Camp Liberty”—more a prison than a livable transit camp—already has seen ten more lives lost to hostile Iranian rocket attacks. In short, the 2004 agreement and promises of protection have proven to be worthless in the long run.
One needs to distinguish between American security agreements made to protect American allies in which American troops reside on territory of American allies, and those agreements where US troops reside on territory belonging to those not really allied with the United States. American security arrangements with South Korea and with (West) Germany held strong and were and are dependable as both sides continue to value the agreement. However, agreements made between the United States and the current Government of Iraq, controlled by the Shia Islamist Dawa-Party strongman, Dr. Nouri Kamal al-Maliki, an ally of the mullah regime of Iran, are not durable for Iraq is not really an American ally, and in truth, never was.
Since the suggestion was made that American or other foreign (UN?) troops would patrol the Jordan Valley eastern border of Palestine with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to prohibit jihadi elements from entering, continued cooperation of the Palestinian government cannot be guaranteed since radical elements may succeed in taking over in Ramallah. A repeat of the May 1967 fiasco of Nasser’s removal of UN troops from the Egyptian-Israeli border would not be unlikely, creating circumstances similar to 1967 imperiling Israel’s security.
Given the American track record, it would be foolish to rely on any promises made by Secretary of State John Kerry or President Obama concerning American guarantees of a secure Palestinian eastern border. As a variety of experts have suggested, doing so is virtually a guarantee of future trouble. And in today’s world, the future arrives almost instantly.