Whatever else one might say about President Trump’s meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Trump’s and Putin’s generalities on Syria are worrisome.
If the stakes were not so serious, we would say: You’ve got to hand it to Vladimir Putin. President George W. Bush famously looked into Putin’s eye and saw someone “very straightforward and trustworthy.” President Barack Obama famously thought he could simply “reset” relations with Russia. Now Donald Trump falls for the Putin Hex, thinking he can take Putin at his word and transform a direct American adversary into an American ally. Meanwhile, over the course of three American presidencies, Putin’s influence around the world has only grown more malignant.
One major arena of Russia’s bad behavior is Syria. Trump failed to make it clear that the US is willing to stay the course in Syria until a benevolent regime replaces Syria’s Russia-backed practitioner of genocide and deployer of chemical weapons, Bashar Assad; and until the presence in Syria of Iran, the would be practitioner of genocide against Israelis, is ended.
While others may marvel at how Trump excoriates Germany for getting too close to Russia even as Trump is blasé about Russia’s interference in American elections, our focus here is on the negative impact of these diplomatic gyrations on Israel. To be sure, both Trump and Putin spoke of the need for safety for Israel. But in one of those diplomatic subtleties often lost on the listener, Putin referred to Israel’s concern over southern Syria, while in fact Israel is threatened by Iran anywhere in Syria, not to mention by the massive instability induced by the Assad regime. Trump did not challenge Putin on either count. Any final arrangement in Syria that includes Iran endangers Israel.
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