Mistakes, Missteps and Misspoken Words Line the Road to War...Anything Could Set it Off Now
— Donald Trump said it's time for the US to leave Syria but he didn't specify when exactly. In contrast, Macron wants to deploy the French special forces to Manbij to halt the advance of the Turkish Army. Erdogan, who organized an anti-Kurd operation, is obviously unhappy. The situation is quite murky and only Yakov Kedmi can clarify what's happening.
What happened, Yakov? Did Trump misspeak? Or did he look at a wrong note again? Because when asked what Trump meant, the White House Press Secretary said that she didn't hear anything and had no idea what he said.
Yakov Kedmi, analyst (Israel): Trump keeps on repeating the same mistake. He actually doesn't understand why the US wastes so much money on the Middle East when the global situation has changed. The importance that the Middle East used to have in terms of the world and the American economy and in terms of counteracting China, doesn't exist anymore. And actions that might have seemed logical to the US ten years ago, are obsolete today. The figure he mentioned was $7 trillion. And what did they gain? Nothing.
Besides, the fact that his press secretary wasn't aware of that means that she doesn't know much and understands even less. She just tries to say what she's been told. Trump is a solo player. A one-man show. He treats others like props. That's why he replaces them so easily. It's actually his goal, or whatever he called it. He actually thinks that the US should have nothing to do in the Middle East. He actually thinks that good relations with Russia are more beneficial for the US. The question is: Is he truly free to execute his decisions in the modern US? Not really. That's why the Pentagon pretends that it didn't understand what Trump said. They're against Trump. But in the US, the President is the one that decides. The US is leaving Syria, one way or another.
There was a curious episode a couple of days ago. The US troops were shot at by Syrians in the vicinity of Raqqa in the East. Not by the Syrian Army, but by local Arab pro-Syrian groups. That means Americans will be soon fighting a guerrilla war same as the Kurds over their remaining positions in Syria. And they understand that. It's clear that Assad will support them. But it won't give the US troops an opportunity to react because after the last warning issued by the Russian Chief of General Staff the Americans won't even think about delivering any kind of a strike against the Syrian troops that Russia will be protecting. Whatever was happening in Syria is over. The second-to-last enclave was destroyed.
— Eastern Ghouta.
— After Eastern Ghouta it's over. After that, the only territory left is Daraa, and troops are already heading there. If they are smart, they won't send Shia or Hezbollah there so that Israel won't interfere. They'll purge the region and then with Turkey, they'll purge Idlib together. The Russian President flew to Turkey, to discuss these very issues. They'll decide how to end it. Turkey also has no choice. It knows it can't remain in Syria any longer because it'll trigger a guerilla war which will quickly spread to the Kurdish enclaves in Turkey which is the worst-case scenario. Kurds made a stupid mistake by refusing to accept Assad's rule, and are now getting Turkish troops instead. Now they understand that they need to shrink their enclaves to their natural sizes. And that's it.
— So Russia is gradually putting the squeeze on the situation, right?
— The facts say so. Despite the mad hysteria and the allegations of mass murders, it seems that there were only 600 casualties total. According to them, it's fewer than during the bombing of Raqqa.
— Well, Raqqa was hit by democratic bombs so nobody counted the dead but this time, Russia's involved.
— Everybody forgot about the gas attacks in Duma. Everybody forgot about the dead innocent bystanders. The bubble… The bubble has popped. And the last thing they're going to cry about, calling for human justice and mercy, will be the last fight in Idlib.
— Meanwhile, the situation in Israel is rather complicated. As always, the international community zealously protests and Erdogan exchanges nasty comments with Netanyahu. What happened? What was the reason for that?
— We're so used to it and we tend to react more sharply and more rudely than Russia. That's just the way we are. That's why our Prime Minister responded to Erdogan explaining who he is and why he has no right to speak about morals. Regarding the international community protesting against what happened, it wasn't the first time.
— But what exactly happened?
— An ordinary thing: Hamas wanted to reinforce its position in the negotiations with Egypt so it planned to organize a mass demonstration and make the citizens of Gaza cross the Israeli border break the fence and step on Israeli territory. They had to bring their families along. Mostly, they were relatives of Hamas militants. They paid them and sent them ahead. We warned them: «Anyone who tries to cross the border will be shot.» But Hamas never changes. It's like that scorpion. Their snipers were hiding among the demonstrators and started shooting at our soldiers. We fired back. 17 people were killed, 11 of them were Hamas militants. War. The bullet's a mad thing. That's it. They are trying to turn it into another scandal. But we won't bite the bait.
— But the whole world's seen the photo…
— We're used to it.
— The whole world's seen the photo of Israeli police officers detaining a three-year-old Palestinian. Can you explain that?
— Photos could be altered. Why was he detained? Where? The whole world's seen the photos of that Arab girl hitting an Israeli officer. And he just stepped back. He just stepped back. He didn't return the punch because she was just a young girl. She was swearing, punching him, and throwing stones at him. And he just covered and stepped back. He didn't lay a hand on her. Our army is not like the American one. I'd like to see someone dare to punch an American soldier be it a kid or a woman. After how many seconds, would they get riddled with bullets? That's how it's always been. But we're different.
— Meanwhile, France is going to deploy soldiers to Syria. What's that exactly? Isn't Macron late to the party?
— I treat France as a country with low social responsibility.
— Yakov. Yakov! France is a great country, some politicians might not be.
— I agree France is great. The French cuisine is great… although Italians taught them. I was referring to the policies of France. Macron wants to exploit the moment when the British left Europe And make a name for himself. Macron wants to resurrect the old French politics when France controlled the order in the Mediterranean. Suddenly, he remembered that Syria used to be a French colony. He thinks it owes its existence to France. And what does he do? He makes some pathetic steps. For example, their poor aircraft carrier came there, did nothing, and left. France has long been powerless. From the military point of view, it could be helping somewhere in Mali for a week at best. But nowhere else. They can't fight, they don't have an army and can do nothing. And nobody needs them. The first one to oppose them was the Turkish sultan. He said: «France? Here? Next to Turkey? No way!» The Turks won't tolerate that. Macron said many stupid things.
Unfortunately, the French leadership went downhill after de Gaulle. I'd like to remind you of a single rule de Gaulle followed. Always, in all circumstances, he tried to maintain good relations with Russia. Because it was Russia who let France emerge from WWII the way it did. It emerged victorious didn't deserve it though and got its seat in the UN and a seat… and a seat in the Security Council. Poland had its issues but it still fought against the Nazis more than France did.
— The famous quote during the signing of the surrender terms of Germany: «What? Did we lose to them as well?»
— And he was absolutely right. Absolutely right.
— Yakov, before our conversation we were discussing Britain the poisoning, the OPCW and the unique deadly toxic agent that doesn't kill and could have been cooked that bunch of nonsense. People who do this, serious, smart and organized people at least the majority of them are trying to accomplish something. It's clear that tomorrow they won't say: «Oops, our bad.» What are they trying to accomplish? And how shall we respond?
— Understanding what they're doing, has never been a hallmark of British foreign policy. Their biggest mistake was the Suez Crisis. Did they understand what they were trying to accomplish? Did they understand what consequences it would bring? Nope. I wouldn't consider them serious. They would never admit their guilt. A gentleman never does. A British gentleman will never do that. Well, maybe in ten years. No. The traditional anti-Russian British policy that was launched the moment Russia started to raise its head during the times of Ivan the Terrible. And it's never changed. I wouldn't say «it's in their blood». It's in their genes. Russia has always been their enemy. Not a rival, but an enemy. And only in times of grave peril are they ready to make a concession and cooperate with Russia while defending their own interests. The British never forget.
We treat them in our own way. A very specific way. And so do the Brits. No member of the British royal family has ever officially visited Israel. They've visited every other country but Israel. They remember our war for independence. And we remember it too. Before the Falkland War, Argentina asked us to supply them with weapons. They came to Menachem Begin and asked him to sign the paper. He asked why they needed weapons. «To fight Britain.» «A charitable deed,» he said. «God bless you.» He said he'd sign anything as long as it harmed Britain. We remember the Englishmen too. We remember how we fought them in the War of Independence too. We have no sentimental feelings for them and no illusions of their gentlemanship. When a British officer shot Avraham Stern, he did it in cold blood. He just told Stern to go to the window and took the shot. And that's it. No trial, nothing. That's how the British act. Because everyone else, including the French, are primitives to them. Aborigines. And they are representatives of the great empire, so that's why they will never admit to a primative, and you are even more like primatives, that they made a mistake. Maybe 10 years later, like when Tony Blair said: «Yes, excuse us, we deceived you.»
So the British intelligence services are magnificent in their profession. Spying, breaking into other facilities, they do it excellently, they are the best at it. They are the best at it, and I say it firsthand. I know it. I feel it. But the British have made a mistake in their assessment of the political situation. Since the beginning of the 20th century, only the Americans have made more mistakes.
— But where are they going with this? What's in store for Russia?
— I don't know. But on one of your programs, you talked about the Vietnam War. How did the Vietnam War start?
— With a lie.
— A group of Navy officers, when they were drunk, started shooting. And when they were asked, why did they shoot, they decided to make the thing up: «Yes, we were attacked by the Vietnamese.» Did they think that they started the Vietnam War? No. When the Office of Naval Intelligence and the CIA covered up for them, did they think about war? No. When Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense, found it out, he said: «We have no choice.» And together with the president, knowing, that it was a lie, to cover up for their army, to cover up for the foolishness of several drunk officers, asked for a permission to commence an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin. That's how the war started, which is still thrilling the USA, which cost the Vietnamese 2.5 million lives, while the US lost only 55,000. After that one wonders: Do they even think?
When the French, and the British, and the Italians and the Americans destroyed Libya, did they think? No. So don't ascribe to them, qualities they don't have. Yes, they are gentlemen. Yes, they have style, they have good whiskey. The French have good wine and food. And good style, unlike the British. And that's all. In politics, in those countries, democratic ones, sometimes absolutely incidental things are important, absolutely foolish actions of a person, whom the empire must cover up for. No matter how the empire is called: the United States of America or Great Britain. There is no logic anymore.
— And how should we communicate with such, as Putin calls them, partners?
— Well, we similarly respond to the expulsion of ambassadors. It appears that they will continue to escalate. On one of the programs you said that we shouldn’t worry, there will be sanctions, more quickly and more severe.
— Anything can happen, it can even grow into a severance of relations, why not. Your response depends on how you see your interests. I know what we would do, I know what I would do. My approach is that debts must be repaid. With interest. With interest. And not when somebody did something. Israel never, like I said before, never responds only with the same measure that was taken. We are often accused of overreacting. Why we do that? To send the others a message. Not only to respond but to send a message, that they will pay more for that. With England and the 50 additional, this is good. But with the other punks, decided to respond, felt sorry for them. Well, Russia has always been notable for excessive sympathy. You felt sorry for many, for Germany, for France. You felt sorry the for nationalism of Ukrainian, Polish, Romanian, Hungarian fascists. One shouldn't excite racial strife. One should cover up for the crimes and collaboration with the Nazis. And that's what you got. Didn't carry out the denazification of Hungary, got the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Got in Poland what you got, getting it from Germany. Soft-hearted you are. And we are not, we are an Eastern people; rough, acrid, impulsive. As de Gaulle said: haughty. Yes. He was right. Towards enemies — yes.
— Well, in the Bible, you are called stiff-necked.
— Well, yes, yes. Life taught us that. We have a different history, that's why we react differently. And that's why, when the Turkish sultan says something to our prime minister, no matter what I personally think of him, he replies as is customary, so that he would understand.
— And Yakov, finally, in strict confidence, there are only two of us, nobody hears us, we will ask all the others to step away from the TV, maybe Mossad knows something, what really happened in England? What happened to the poor Skripal family?
— I'll tell you, that many things you say about Mossad, Israeli intelligence services, are exaggerated. We are a small country, we are interested only in our security. What do we care about what the British services make up? Has it something to do with us? No. Like we would use our people… What the British are saying, that the people with contacts in Mossad and representatives of MI5 and MI6 in Israel have told their theory. That's none of our business, we have no global interests. May God give us the strength to do what we need. And we have Middle East, Iran…
— But do your experts confirm or don't?
— Nobody asks them. And they don't ask. On what ground what can they confirm?
— Have you been pressured to support?
— Yes, there was political pressure on Israel to support. We were pressured, before the expulsion of the diplomats, and afterward. And the Israeli answer was…
— You are resistant to pressure.
— Well, we are stiff-necked, we don't like being pressured. We break the law of physics, we have resistance power higher than the power of pressure. They direct energy at us, so we respond in such a way, so there will be no more pressure. That's it. One mustn't pressure us. We are nervous people. We had a hard history, a hard childhood. We react very nervously when our interests or honor or our security are affected. And you have a large country, you are used to it, you have a big heart. Well, we will withstand. You think that you will withstand.
— No-no-no, we are like a bear. We will tolerate over and over again, and then everyone wonders what happened, it seems like we're still tolerating. That is a grave mistake of many. There is a limit, and after that comes an attack without warning.
— That is right, but there is a certain truth in the world, in the course of events in politics. A problem can be solved at a certain stage. But if one neglects it, it will be more difficult and painful to solve it. Maybe one shouldn't let this happen. Maybe, while it's still small it can be solved with one hit or two slaps?
You have an example: western Ukraine. Neglected? Well, it's harder to solve now. It would be easier in 2014. It would be easier in 1904. In 1991, 1992 even easier. One mustn't neglect problems. They're like diseases.
— I agree. A disease should be treated preventively.
— And if not, then early in the course of it and effectively. So if there is an infection, treat it with penicillin or an antibiotic. Not with tea.
— And so that was Yakov Kedmi, and his opinion is always accurate, rough and surely reasoned.