How We Got the Tangled Middle East of Today

FORWARD COLUMN: …In early January 2002, four months after the September 11 attacks, Israeli national security council director Uzi Dayan met in Washington with his American counterpart Condoleezza Rice. She told him — to his surprise, he later told me — that President Bush had decided to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein. A month later Dayan’s boss, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, met with Bush in the White House and offered some advice, based on decades of Israeli intelligence.

Removing Saddam, Sharon said, according to three sources with direct knowledge, will have three main results, all negative. Iraq will implode into warring tribes of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. You’ll be stuck in an Iraqi quagmire for a decade. And Iran, a far more dangerous player, will be rid of its principal enemy and free to pursue its ambitions of regional hegemony. Bush didn’t agree…

But it didn’t work out as Netanyahu promised. The autocrats fought back. Liberal democrats, never a significant force, collapsed before Islamist radicals. Libya descended into chaos. Syria became a slaughterhouse. Yemen fell into civil war. Obama dithered, looking for bloodless diplomatic solutions to the whirlwind. America’s Arab allies, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, fumed at the inaction. Washington wanted the moderate Arab powers to take charge of their own affairs, but that wasn’t how they rolled… (more)

EDITOR: This column cannot be summarized with three excerpts since it covers what occurred over thirteen years. We recommend it be read in whole.

Bibi vs. Sharon on Bush’s Iraq Debacle

FORWARD COLUMN: Several readers suggested that I invented my account of Ariel Sharon’s conversation with George W. Bush in the White House on February 7, 2002. Or, alternatively, that I heard it from Yossi Alpher, who writes for the Forward and therefore is presumably an unreliable source.

I have great respect for Yossi Alpher, but he wasn’t my source on this. As I noted in the article, the Sharon-Bush conversation was described to me by “three sources with direct knowledge.” I didn’t name them because of space constraints in the print edition, but I can name them here: Danny Ayalon, then Sharon’s foreign policy adviser (and later Israeli ambassador to Washington); Raanan Gissin, a senior communications and policy aide to Sharon; and Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell…

One reader claimed I distorted Netanyahu’s statement to the House oversight committee in 2002 regarding Iraq’s having centrifuges “the size of washing machines.” Also that another Netanyahu quote — “If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region” — was fabricated. For your convenience, I’m posting C-Span’s video of the Netanyahu testimony below. The statement about the centrifuges begins at 28:20. The line about reverberations comes at 1:11:41… (more)