Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz tells Newsmax that while he had a “generally positive” reaction to President Barack Obama’s speech on Tuesday, he believes the Syrian crisis will have a negative effect on U.S. relations with Israel.
“I think the Israelis have basically lost trust in the Americans when it comes to Iran,” the famed attorney said in an exclusive interview following the president’s speech. “I think this increases the likelihood that Israel will have to go to it alone. What it says to the Israelis is that the president can’t declare red lines and can’t respond to the crossing of red lines.”
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Dershowitz, a Newsmax contributor, urged Congress to pass its own “red line” — not only in the case of Syria’s use of chemical weapons, but also with respect to the ongoing Iranian nuclear threat.
“If it turns out this is all a fake — and they’re just buying time — the president then gets the authority to strike at any time he and the military feel it’s essential [in Syria],” Dershowitz explained. “And the same must now be true with Iran. Congress must establish a red line — the Iranians getting close to having nuclear weapons —and the president has to be authorized to decide when — and how — to respond to that red line.”
He said Congress rarely authorizes military action on its own “when it doesn’t directly involve the United States” or in the absence of a clear timeframe to act.
“I think a lot of Israelis are today thinking — as many have thought in the past — that they can’t outsource the defense of their own people, that they have to make their own decisions, make their own judgments and take their own actions as they did when they destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and various Syrian reactors more recently,” Dershowitz asserted.
He recalled being invited to the White House to discuss the Iranian threat with the president several months ago in the Oval Office.
“I sat in the Oval Office with the president and he looked me in the eye and said ‘I don’t bluff and when I say Iran will not be able to develop nuclear weapons I mean it,’” Dershowitz explained. “I’ve known him a long time and he doesn’t bluff. He was telling me the truth.”
Despite Obama’s best intentions, the president may have weakened his credibility with not only the Syrians, but also with the Iranians, and Israel with his handling of the Aug. 21 chemical attack on in the suburbs of Damascus.
“There’s an enormous difference between that and the president actually being able to carry out that promise when he now has made the decision essentially to let Congress share that decision-making with him,” according to Dershowitz.
“He can’t promise to deliver Congress. All he can promise to do is try his best — and that probably is not enough for the Israelis,” he said.
Israel will most likely be unable to wait as long for a peaceful resolution in Iran without the ability to rely on its U.S. ally.
“I think that it would be far better for world peace if the United States did it because the United States can wait longer because it has the ability to penetrate what are impenetrable targets to the Israelis,” he said. “It also commits to more diplomacy.”
Nevertheless, Dershowitz believes that Obama deserves credit for wading into what he described as a “very complex” situation with respect to Syria’s civil war.
“I challenge anybody to come up with a clear, unequivocal approach if you support either side,” Dershowitz said. “You either compromise human rights or you pose the risk for an Islamic take-over of Syria which could have terrible implications for the region, the world."
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