Obama’s strategy has caused the US to be seen in the Middle East as the ally of terrorists

This golden oldie from 2010, as relevant as ever 5 years later

In my previous post I quoted from a very long essay by Michael Doran in Mosaic Magazine on Obama’s strategy in the Middle East, concentrating on Iran.

Here, the article talks about Obama’s relations with Israel:

To the Israelis, who have long regarded Iran’s nuclear program as an existential threat, Obama’s engagement policy was misguided from the start.

The Israelis did more than just criticize Obama; they also threatened to take action against Iran that would place the president in an intolerable dilemma. …  The Israeli warnings grew ever starker as the presidential election season heated up. Netanyahu, it seemed, was using the threat of Israeli action as a way of prodding Washington itself to take a harder line.

To this challenge, Obama responded by putting Israel in a bear hug. From one angle, it looked like an expression of profound friendship: the president significantly increased military and intelligence cooperation, and he insisted, fervently and loudly, that his policy was to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon by all means possible. With the aid of influential American Jews and Israelis who testified to his sincerity, Obama successfully blunted the force of the charge that he was hostile to Israel.

From another angle, however, the bear hug looked like an effort to break Netanyahu’s ribs.

But Israel was not the only, and not even the most important, critic of Obama’s appeasement policy:

If, however, Netanyahu was Obama’s biggest regional headache, there was no lack of others. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was certainly the most consequential. Obama had assumed that the king would welcome his approach to the Middle East as a breath of fresh air. After all, the Baker-Hamilton crowd regarded the Arab-Israeli conflict as the major irritant in relations between the United States and the Arabs. Bush’s close alignment with Israel, so the thinking went, had damaged those relations; by contrast, Obama, the moment he took office, announced his goal of solving the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all, and followed up by picking a fight with Netanyahu over Jewish settlements in the West Bank. How could the Saudis react with anything but pleasure?

In fact, they distanced themselves—bluntly and publicly. While meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the end of July 2009, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal announced that Obama’s approach to solving the Arab-Israeli conflict “has not and, we believe, will not lead to peace.”

Behind that statement lay a complex of attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict itself, but much more than that. At the end of the Bush administration, King Abdullah had made his top regional priority abundantly clear when, according to leaked State Department documents, he repeatedly urged the United States to destroy Iran’s nuclear program and thereby “cut off the head of the snake” in the Middle East.

When Obama strode into office and announced his desire to kiss the snake, the Saudis lost no time in making their displeasure felt.

Doran then explains how Obama’s strategy has ended up accommodating ISIS (emphases are mine):

The same desire to accommodate Iran has tailored Obama’s strategy toward the terrorist group Islamic State. That, too, has not received the attention it deserves.

Last June, when Islamic State warriors captured Mosul in northern Iraq, the foreign-policy approval ratings of the president plummeted, and Obama’s critics claimed, not for the first time, that he had no strategy at all. Ben Rhodes sprang to his defense, …

Rhodes offered no details, and subsequent events seemed to confirm the impression that Obama actually had no long game. In addition to being caught flat-footed by Islamic State, moreover, he was reversing himself on other major issues: sending troops back to Iraq after having celebrated their homecoming, ordering military operations in Syria that he had opposed for years. How could such reversals be consistent with a long game?

The answer is that the reversals, although real, involved much less than met the eye, and the long game remained in place. In August, it seemed as if the American military was preparing to mount a sustained intervention in both Iraq and Syria; today, however, it is increasingly apparent that Obama has at best a semi-coherent containment plan for Iraq and no plan at all for Syria—a deficiency that was obvious from the start. At a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Senator Marco Rubio pointed to the obvious weaknesses in the administration’s approach, and asked John Kerry how to fix them. Kerry stunningly suggested that the gaps would be filled by . . . Iran and Assad. “[Y]ou’re presuming that Iran and Syria don’t have any capacity to take on” Islamic State, Kerry said. “If we are failing and failing miserably, who knows what choice they might make.”

Of course, administration officials routinely insist that the United States is not working with Tehran. The coordination, however, is impossible to disguise. Thus, when Iranian jets recently appeared in Iraqi skies, they professed ignorance. Reporters, noting that the jets were flying sorties in the same air space as American jets and striking related targets, asked the Pentagon spokesman how the American and Iranian air forces could work in the same space without colliding. “We are flying missions over Iraq, [and] we coordinate with the Iraqi government as we conduct those,” said the spokesman. “It’s up to the Iraqi government to de-conflict that airspace.” When Kerry was asked about the news that the Iranian air force was operating in Iraq, he responded that this was a “net positive.

A positive? With American acquiescence, Iran is steadily taking control of the security sector of the Iraqi state. Soon it will dominate the energy sector as well, giving it effective control over the fifth largest oil reserves in the world. When the announced goal of the United States is to build up a moderate Sunni bloc capable of driving a wedge between Islamic State and the Sunni communities, aligning with Iran is politically self-defeating. In both Iraq and Syria, Iran projects its power through sectarian militias that slaughter Sunni Muslims with abandon. Are there any Sunni powers in the region that see American outreach to Tehran as a good thing? Are there any military-aged Sunni men in Iraq and Syria who now see the United States as a friendly power? There are none.

Concurring with this above statement, Khaled Abu Toameh in the Gatestone Institute describes how The US is seen as an ally of terrorists in Egypt too:

 Many Egyptians and moderate Arabs and Muslims were shocked to hear that the U.S. State Department recently hosted a Muslim Brotherhood delegation. They were equally shocked when an EU court decided to remove Hamas from the bloc’s list of terror groups.

The State Department’s hosting of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders has outraged Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Sisi, who has been waging a relentless war against the organization over the past year.

The Egyptian government condemned the hosting of the Muslim Brotherhood officials by the State Department. Egyptian Foreign Minister Same Shoukry denounced the State Department’s move, saying, “The Muslim Brotherhood is not a political party, but according to the Egyptian law, which must be respected, it is designated as a terrorist organization.”

The timing of the meeting between State Department officials and Muslim Brotherhood leaders could not have been worse for many Egyptians — it took place shortly after Islamist terrorists killed 31 soldiers and wounded 45 others in a series of attacks on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Judging from the angry reactions of Egyptians, it has become obvious that most moderate Arabs and Muslims no longer see the U.S. as an ally in the war against Islamic terror groups. What is even more disturbing is that they view the U.S. as an ally and friend of the terrorists.

All this should give us an idea of the extent of the failure of Obama’s Mideast strategy. But maybe he considers it a success, as Melanie Phillips convincingly claims that Obama’s doctrine is “Israel’s enemy is my friend”:

It was evident from their interim agreement with Iran that the US-led negotiators had crossed their own previous redline. Having pledged they would never allow Iran to enrich uranium, they signed a deal that allows it to do precisely that and to become a nuclear-threshold state with the capacity to make the bomb.

In addition, thanks to Obama Iran is the one country in the Middle East that is becoming increasingly powerful as a result of the unrest in the region.

The coup in Yemen has brought an Iranian- backed Shi’ite group to power there. In Iraq, where Iran is fighting Islamic State, Shi’ite militias responsible in the past for killing US forces are giving orders to the Iraqi army under the oversight of Maj.-Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds force. Iraq is on the way to becoming an Iranian satrapy.

Last week’s Hezbollah missile attack from the Golan, in which two Israeli soldiers were killed and others wounded, followed an Israeli strike on a Hezbollah convoy which killed 12 members of the organization and an Iranian general. The seniority of those who were killed suggested Iran’s proxy army was planning to open a new front against Israel on the Syrian border.

Such an expansion of Iranian power and aggression should be sounding a loud alarm in Washington. Yet it is all but dismissed. For the Obama administration, nothing can be allowed to interfere with the US rapprochement with Iran.

The fact that Iran is fighting Islamic State seems to be driving all before it. The State Department even suggested the US would side with the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen because, over Islamic State, Iran and the West were on the same side.

This is utter madness. In the Middle East, my enemy’s enemy may nevertheless still be my mortal enemy. Iran has killed countless American personnel in Iraq and elsewhere, and has been responsible for attacks against US and Western interests over the years.

What we’re seeing is not just a knock-down fight with Israel. We are watching the destruction of America’s role as guarantor and protector of the free world, and the translation of the US instead into the facilitator of Islamic terror and war.

Only Congress can stop this. Which is the real reason Mr. Netanyahu is going to Washington.

I will be writing more on Netanyahu’s visit to Washington soon.

This entry was posted in International relations, Mideast news and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Obama’s strategy has caused the US to be seen in the Middle East as the ally of terrorists

  1. ealha3 says:

    By now, it should be apparent that the US policy is motivated by two primary elements. First is its stupidity that explains it’s inconsistency, hesitancy, ignorance and incompetence. Secondly, is its cowardice shown by its refusal to deploy resources to confront belligerent adversaries. Complicit with this misguided policy are the European Union nations including France, England, Germany, and Russia, that have higher priorities involving domestic economic and political issues that are more important than those of the Middle East which do not threaten their homeland. Israel together with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan are cognizant of their mutually allined interests. They will be driven to unite against the Iranian threat if the US et, al. abandon them to a nuclear Iran. I suspect that Netanyahu will make this apparent to Congress in his speech on March 3.

    • anneinpt says:

      I’m not convinced that US policy is guided by stupidity, not any more (see my previous post on Obama’s strategy). I do agree that cowardice plays a part, but I think at large the policy is guided by conviction, at least Obama’s.

      I concur with your conclusion that Israel will align with other Middle Eastern nations to “take care of business” in Iran, because it has become obvious that no one else will.

  2. Pete says:

    I think what you are really seeing is a change on America’s role in the world – as a whole. I don’t think it’s clear yet, what the new role of the USA will be. This is a change that will take place over the next 2-3 decades. Therefore, it will span the terms of several US presidents. Pres. Obama is one of these, but only one.

    Perhaps the most noticeable thing – is the change of Russia’s behavior. Vladimir Putin has become much more assertive and independent in his own policies. Increasingly, he is willing to go toe-to-toe with America on key issues. Very likely, 2015 will mark the effect of a “new Russia” that is following its own priorities in the Middle East. Those policies may conflict directly with the USA.

    How this all works out … is anyone’s guess.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Definitely we are seeing a change in America’s role – and it’s much for the worse of all sides. But the change has been brought upon America by itself, or rather by Obama. It has been his distinct and clear policy all along to weaken America, “lead from behind” whatever that means, “reset” with Russia (huh! Some reset with Putin walking roughshod over everyone), and “putting daylight” between the US and Israel.

      Re Putin, it’s not that he’s become more assertive and despicable. He always was, and it should have been no surprise to the Administration. But if the Administration abdicates its own responsibilities and abandons Syria to its fate, who did they think would step in? We should be glad it was Russia and not ISIS – yet. Ditto for Egypt and Jordan. Look what’s happened in Yemen. No one knows for sure if ISIS wouldn’t have prevailed anyway, even if America had taken action, but certainly Obama’s weakening of America has helped bring about this miserable situation.

      How this will all be undone is a very big problem.

  3. Brian Goldfarb says:

    “Melanie Phillips convincingly claims that Obama’s doctrine is “Israel’s enemy is my friend””, which effectively makes Saudi Arabia his enemy as well, on the analysis offered in the article.

    Further, the best thing that has happened (sadly, given the precipitating factor) in the region recently is the very public and brutal killing of the Jordanian pilot. The Jordanian reaction has been immediate and, in turn, brutal. But then, King Abdullah of Jordan knows very well that Israel has his back, in the most positive way. Given Egypt’s willingness to co-operate with Israel in Sinai to combat their common enemy in Hamas and Saudi Arabia’s clear disinclination to view a stable Israel as any sort of threat to its interests in the region, that leaves the US with a very vicious tiger by the tail.

    Obama’s Presidency is going to end in tears and, frankly, he will deserve to go down as a weak President.

    And we thought Bush G.W. was bad!

    • anneinpt says:

      Yes, I should have made mention of the Jordanian pilot’s horrific execution. I wonder if ISIS knew what Jordan’s reaction would be. They might have bitten off more than they can chew.

      It’s funny how clearly the adage “politics makes strange bedfellows” can be seen in the Middle East. 10 years ago, even 5, no one would have thought these alignments possible.

      Obama’s presidency has already led to too many tears around the world. He is not only a weak president. He’s a BAD president. Weak implies lack of action, hesitation or indecisiveness. But he is very active when he wants – i.e. with Iran; he doesn’t hesitate when he should and has made innumerable bad decisions.

      Bush was bad in that he leapt into action too quickly without taking proper advice, or listening to the good advice he was given. But he meant well even if he mucked it up.

      I don’t believe that Obama means well, not for America and not for Israel. I know I sound like a conspiratorial loon, but there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation.

  4. Pete says:

    the policy “risk” is the possibility of what you said … that Iraq becomes an Iranian satrapy. Or worse, the two countries merge into one large Shiite empire. The combined oil production would be huge and the power wielded by such a state would be immense. Clearly both the Saudis and Washington DC are worried about such a development. The future … is a BIG unknown.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      The Saudis are definitely worried. Is Washington? Really? They don’t give that impression.

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        Depends how one defines “Washington”: if it is the White House, then no, they aren’t worried, but if it taken to include Congress as a whole, the CIA and other intelligence agencies, to say nothing of the military, then the answer is probably yes, they are worried.

Comments are closed.