Why Looney Anti-Semites Remain Respectable

This week, the New York Times ran an op-ed by Lawrence Wilkerson—who served as Colin Powell’s chief of staff during his term as secretary of state—alleging that the Trump administration and its supporters are attempting to seduce America into war with Iran, much as the George W. Bush administration had done with Iraq. In the original version of the article, which appeared online on February 5, it named the Jewish billionaires Paul Singer and Sheldon Adelson as the secret forces behind these efforts. Liel Leibovitz argues that, although these references have since been edited out, Wilkerson has no place in a supposedly respectable publication:

Wilkerson is no stranger to conspiratorial thinking: in a May 2013 interview with Current TV, [the now-defunct channel then owned by Al-Jazeera], he suggested that the genocide in Syria “could’ve been an Israeli false-flag operation,” with Bashar al-Assad being a puppet of the Zionist government in Jerusalem. This mad rant was covered widely, including by the Times, when Wilkerson became a leading adviser to Bernie Sanders. The retired colonel also frequently fulminates about Israel being an apartheid state, has claimed in a 2016 interview that it will eventually have to be “eliminated” by either the Arabs or the international community, and has called Republican senators who took a hawkish position on Iran “traitors” who were somehow under the Jewish state’s sway.

To be plain, the problem with Lawrence Wilkerson has nothing to do with his “controversial” views on Syria, or the particular wording of any of his repugnant public statements about Israel. It is that he is an unhinged conspiracy theorist, of the kind that one most often finds muttering to himself in public libraries about Masons, Illuminati, and, of course, the Jews. There are . . . hundreds of videos of Wilkerson following weird trains of logic and causality that make one wonder about his hold on reality. . . .

Why the paper of record would give such a man a spot on its vaunted op-ed page is anybody’s guess, though it’s hard to believe that kooks of other stripes would’ve been welcomed so warmly. . . . Why, then, Wilkerson? . . . The answer is simple and scary: it’s because many on the well-groomed left, even if not subscribing to the classical definitions of anti-Semitism, inherently believe things about Israelis and Jews that are, at their very essence, absolutely and absurdly insane. This includes everything from the conviction that a small cabal of Jewish men are forever using their unending wealth and their mystical sway over Congress to lead generations of innocent American soldiers into needless wars to the belief that Israel’s imperial appetites constantly lead it to meddle in the affairs of its neighbors in murderous and malicious ways.

Thankfully, most people on the left today are sensible enough to understand these ideas are patently lunatic and deeply hateful. Sadly, they can’t seem to shake them off. This is where “experts” like Wilkerson come in handy, flashing their credentials, however flimsy, to say what “everyone already believes.”

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The U.S. Must Maintain the Kurdish Enclave in Eastern Syria

Aug. 16 2018

Presently only two rebel enclaves remain in Syria, and both are dependent on outside powers: one in the northwest, under Turkish control, and an area in the east controlled by the U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Only by continuing its support for the latter can America prevent Iranian domination of Syria, writes Jonathan Spyer. Officials in Washington have made various statements suggesting that the White House has no intention of ceding the country to Iran, but haven’t clarified what this means in practice:

Actions . . . are a better guide than sentiments. And it appears that the SDF leaders remain skeptical regarding America’s long-term plans. Last week, the first direct negotiations took place between their representatives and those of the Assad regime, in Damascus.

It is not quite clear where things are heading. But Israel’s interest in this is clear. Maintenance of the east Syrian enclave and the [U.S.] base in Tanf means keeping a substantial physical obstacle to the Iranian hope for a contiguous corridor [connecting it to Lebanon via Syria and Iraq]. It would also prevent an overall Iranian triumph in the war and give the West a place at the table in any substantive political negotiation over Syria’s future. . . .

Specifically, efforts should be made to ensure a formal U.S. declaration of a no-fly zone for regime and regime-allied aircraft east of the Euphrates. This move, reminiscent of the no-fly zone declared over Iraqi Kurdistan after the Gulf War of 1991, would with one stroke ensure the continued viability of the SDF-controlled area. There should also be a formal recognition of the SDF zone, or the “Democratic Federation of Northern Syria,” as it is formally known. This entity is not seeking independence from Damascus, so Western concerns regarding the formal breakup of Syria need not be raised by such a move.

As the strategic contest between Iran and its allies and the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East moves into high gear, it is essential that the West maintain its alliances and investments and behaves, and is seen to behave, as a credible and loyal patron and ally.

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More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Kurds, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy