The Consul General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region, Mr. Yaron Sideman spoke to about 100 interested people at Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, on Sunday morning, November 3rd. He delivered his opinions on Middle East problems, including Syria and Iran, in a straight forward, no holds barred, optimistic manner. Problems exist, he said, but each problem presents an opportunity. "There are historic changes in the Middle East and an era of instability and uncertainty." As examples, he cited the ousting of the old orders in Syria, Egypt, and Libya. "The old orders have been thrown out and replaced with new orders that are not known or established." The civil unrest that may or may not exist in the countries is unknown and may or may not change the dynamics of the country.
Mr. Sideman warned not to "confuse the internal struggles with western style values and democracies that will probably not take root soon" in the conflicted countries. Many times, he stressed that this is an evolution, not a revolution. In the past, in order to know what was happening in Egypt, all one had to do was examine Mubarak's statements and actions. That is no longer possible. In Syria, there is a "breakdown to tribal and ethnic leaders and Assad is the current war lord."
Tensions in the Middle East have existed forever, but now the tug of war for dominance is between Sunni's and Shiites.
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict has been shattered as the cause of Middle East turmoil. "The 18,000 centrifuges in Iran are not related to that conflict." The nuclear Iranian threat to destroy Israel has morphed into a terrorist threat to harm the whole world and disrupt maritime commerce in the Eastern Mediterranean. "The soccer stadiums in Iran are filled with people who go to see the public hangings." A military nuclear Iran will open nuclear competition throughout the world and the weapons do not have to be air born; they can be shipped on the oceans and sea worldwide."
Mr. Sideman stressed the importance of "sitting it out and preparing for tough compromises." Of course, he acknowledged that many of the compromises would be covert and there are no clear cut differences between "friends" and "enemies." Instead, he used the term "frienemies."
It appears that severe sanctions on Iran, with its military nuclear capability, may be working to tone down the radical regimes's ambitions to annihilate the "Great Satan," the US, and Mr. Sideman urged the US to keep up the international pressure.
Mr. Sideman is a graduate of the Israel National Defense College. He served in his most recent position at the Ministry of Foreign Aﬀairs as Director of Congressional Aﬀairs at the North America Division, where he was responsible for supervising and directing Israel's relations to the U.S Congress. Prior to those posts, Mr. Sideman served as Head of the North American desk at the Diaspora and Interreligious Aﬀairs Bureau where he was, among other responsibilities, a liaison of the Foreign Ministry to many American Jewish organizations. Mr. Sideman holds a Master's Degree in Political Science from Haifa University and a B.A. Degree in Psychology and Philosophy from Tel Aviv University.