White House Muddle-East Policy: Fools’ Paradise?

After four and a half years of the most inept administration of foreign policy concerning the Middle-East since a Georgia peanut farmer played a term as POTUS and managed to lose the late shah’s Iran as a valuable ally in favor of a theocractic tyrant who wished to drag his country and the region back to the seventh century, it would seem hard to display any increased ineptitude. But the events of the last several month have proven that the White House has outdone itself in demonstrating ignorance and its ability to promulgate rankly absurd policy. From Syria to Egypt and Iraq and on to the Palestine-Israel question and now to Iran’s nuclear bid, amidst lingering questions about Libya worthy of impeachment, the American foreign policy establishment as represented by the current administration has shown that it has no comprehension of who is friend and who is foe in that crucial region, or worse yet, doesn’t care. A more dangerous situation is hard to imagine.

 

Two and a half years ago when the North African revolutions began to spawn change in much of the Arab world and still seemed to portend a potential dawn of democracy, questions were raised about key players in the movements to overthrow Mubarak, Gaddafi, Saleh, and Assad. With the passage of time it has become clear that the Ikhwan (the Muslim Brotherhood) and al-Qaeda have been and continue to be major players in these revolutions and that the hoped-for Western-oriented secular movements were either illusory or vastly out-manned and/or out-gunned by the Islamists.

 

Despite the fact that none of the revolts led to an improved civil society or a boost to American and/or Western interests in any of the countries affected by the so-called “Arab Spring“, the administration continues to meddle in the area but without any apparent perception of the needs and concerns of long-standing allies or the threats—both potential and actual—that foes present to us and/or our allies. It seems that our policies are being dictated by a robot that has suffered a frontal lobotomy.

 

Let’s begin with Egypt—the largest and most important of Arab nations—a state that has been a consistant ally for more than three decades. Yes, Hosni Mubarak was a dictator, but Egypt has no history of non-dictatorial rule. And while the Ikhwan’s presidential candidate Mohammed Morsi was elected in a democratic election, he was amassing presidential powers that clearly spelled a return to one-party rule—in this case the Muslim Brotherhood. The counter-revolution launched by the Egyptian Army and the Tamarud Movement was a popular rebellion against Morsi’s rapid Islamization of Egyptian society. The inability of the U.S. administration to understand that General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was acting to prevent Islamic tyranny on a scale similar to that of Khomenist Iran and that a cut-off of foreign aid to Egypt under such circumstances was and is counter to American interests, is beyond comprehension. Instead of thanking al-Sisi for preventing another Iran, the administration sought to punish him. And given the ability of Russia’s Putin to jump in to replace American military aid, we are finding that a loyal ally is switching to the Russian camp. Fat chanch that that will help promote democracy in Egypt!

 

Having aided Islamists to topple the regime of Libyan strongman Colonel Muamar Gaddafi, we were taken by surprise on September 11, 2011 when Salafists attacked our consulate in Benghazi. And all that we have gotten since then is cover-up and obfiscationi. Acts and deeds that other nations deem reason for banishment from government if not jail time, have simply been ignored or hidden behind outlandish excusesii. And Congress has been remiss in not pressing the investigation much harder and making public their findings.

 

Saudi Arabia is joining Egypt in its intense displeasure with the US—an attitude it shares with Israel currently—because of Washington’s increasingly feckless policy towards Iran.

 

What common denominator unifies most if not all of these headlines? Unfortunately, it appears to be the disarray and naiveté being demonstrated by our current government concerning the region and the way in which politics and negotiations are conducted there. In a word: Toto, Barack, and John Kerry, you ain’t in Kansas anymore!

 

The problems that are occurring in the region are not new. They are—in many instances old ones that date back over a thousand years. But whether recent or old, they are not solved by throwing at them a weak, Western-oriented logic or negotiating stance. Lee Smith, long time Middle-East reporter for the Weekly Standard and author of the astute 2010 book, The Strong Horse: Power, Politics and the Clash of Arab Civilizations, points out that in Arab and Middle-East politics, Marquis of Queensberry Rules are ignored and he who plays by them is at a distinct disadvantage. This point of Smith seems to be totally lost, or at least forgotten, by the State Department and the White House. Instead of projecting strength—which is 90% of the battle in Middle-East politics—our government is projecting weakness. And contrary to what may be the thinking at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in the Middle-East, weakness doesn’t invite friendship; it invites and encourages disdain.

 

What seems to be causing such consternation among America’s traditional allies in the region—Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf Emirates (excluding Qatar), as well as Turkey—is the current American policy of pressuring allies and placating enemies. A policy of drawing red-lines in the sand—whether with Syria or Iran—and then continuously retreating—is doing nothing to inspire confidence. Other than Turkey—which, under Erdogan and the AKP has decided to go its own way in attempting to reconstruct the influence of the Ottoman Empire—all of the afore-mentioned nations feel abandoned by Washington, and AKP-run Turkey doesn’t really care anymore, although it should as its economic bubble is about to burst.iii

 

The result of Washington’s inept policies is that Saudi Arabia is considering importing Pakistani nuclear bombs which it helped finance. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are all looking into beginning nuclear industries as is Turkey for that matter. Rather than bringing peace to the region, Washington’s retreat is causing a proliferation of nuclear programs which in such a volatile area is a recipe for disaster.

 

Ari Shavit, senior correspondent at Haaretz and a member of its editorial board wrote an op-ed on November 14, 2013 for Haaretz entitled “Lost cause in Geneva”iv in which he indicates that the US is worn out and incapable of stopping the Iranians from getting the bomb. Shavit is a liberal and Haaretz is owned by the International Herald, an affiliate of the New York Times, so this is not the ranting of someone from Gush Emunim or the Hilltop Settlers’ Movement. Shavit reports that America’s Iran policy is simply to delay Iran’s nuclear breakout until just after Obama leaves office so that he can claim that it didn’t occur on his watch. Israel’s current displeasure with Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry is only topped by the displeasure with these two as expressed by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey. As Shavit puts it in the conclusion of his article when referring to 2014:

 

“It’ll be fun, my friends. The Sunnis and the Jews are boiling with anger. Therefore, they are now holding hands and launching a campaign against the Christians and Shi’ites who are closing a deal in Geneva.”v

 

Israeli displeasure with the current administration hit the boiling point in the last couple of months due to four separate issues that came to light. First was the American confirmation on October 31st of Israel’s secret attack on Syria’s missile base near Latakia in which Israel destroyed Syria’s new advanced Russian-made S-125 antiaircraft missile launchersvi. Israel doesn’t announce its extra-territorial activities so as not to embarrass publicly its targets—thereby helping to prevent a face-saving act of retaliation that would be costly to both sides. Only a fool or someone trying to stir up trouble would break that code of silence. Mr. President: Which is it? Are you fools or are you deliberately trying to cause problems for an ally?

 

Israel’s second beef with Washington concerns US Secretary of State John Kerry. While in Jerusalem to meet again with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Kerry announced that any breakdown in the peace talks—which he inferred was Israel’s fault for not acceding to Palestinian demands—would cause an outbreak of a third intifada. Kerry’s statement did little to bolster his claim to neutrality. As if that was not enough, a letter endorsing two Palestinian-Americans planning to participate in the 2010 running of the Gaza blockade—which incidentally included the infamous MV Mavi Marmara incident on May 31, 2010—surfaced during the Secretary of State‘s November visit with Kerry’s signature when he still was a senator and head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.vii The sponsoring organization of the run of the Gaza Blockade and owner of the Mavi Marmara was the İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri ve İnsani Yardım Vakfıviii, a Turkish Islamist “humanitarian” group whose principal beneficiary is the “Union of Good”, which is designatedix as a Specially Designated Terrorist Group by the US Office of Foreign Asset Control and banned by Executive Order 13224. John Kerry either is a fool or was deliberately trying to cause problems for an ally. Either way, he shouldn’t be the Secretary of State.

 

Israel’s third point concerns America’s disinterest in confronting Iran in a serious manner. At the time that sanctions are finally taking a major bite out of the Iranian economy and tightening then stands the chance of causing Iran to cry “uncle”, Obama agreed to cut a deal that would slow the Iranian program but fail to halt it, in return for major sanctions relief of at least seven billion dollars and possibly as much as twenty billion. The interim agreement between the P5+1 and Iran of November 24, 2013 fails to end its enrichment program. Israel and the world now know that America truly is a paper tiger at this time.

 

The forth concern of Jerusalem was the discovery that the United States had been spying on its ally, intercepting communications between then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barakx in 2009 and 2010 as well as between Barak and his Chief of Staff, Yoni Koren.xi

 

Disconcerting at the very least was the discovery that the US secretly has been negotiating with Iran for nearly a year and a half.xii As Lee Smith reportsxiii, such a revelation demonstrates that the United States has become an extremely unreliable partner. Smith indicates that the current administration has betrayed the Iranian Resistance organization, MeKxiv, the Syrian rebels, and the Israelis and is indeed intent on cutting a deal with Iran.xv

 

As Smith puts it, the current policy is to apply “Smart Power”, a phrase coined by Joseph Nye, former Assistant Secretary of Defense who authored a text by the same name in 2004. However, as Smith points out, Nye’s theories call for coalition building and careful projection of military power in order to accomplish goals and maintain American interests as opposed to the use of brute power to accomplish the same. The current administration claims to be using Nye’s theories, but in the Middle–East theater American power—whether soft or hard—is clearly becoming an illusion. In the year and a quarter years since the Benghazi incident, the US has bluffed and played the worst game of poker in a generation. And none are being fooled anymore. The Saudis, as Richard Miniter points outxvi, feel that they have been betrayed by the American president.

 

One needs to ask why the United States has decided to flee the Middle East. Smith suggests that American energy independence now permits us to leave that troubled regionxvii. But cutting a deal with Iran only makes sense—twisted as it is—if there is something to gain from it. Seeing as how the sanctions were beginning to pinch the Iranian economy so tightly that its collapse was possible next year, we need ask why the administration was willing to ease them in return for a vague promise to restrain enrichment. The only logical explanation is that Obama and his advisors fear Chinese expansionism and hope to turn Iran into an ally against the Red Dragon, so as to encircle and contain it.

 

The Obama administration has indicated for quite some time that it wishes to turn more of its attention to the Pacific and Far Eastxviii. Obama in his naiveté thinks that he is going to be a second Nixon, solving problems by courting Iran to counter China just as Nixon courted China to counter the Soviet Union. Rather than seeing that his appeasement of Iran is repeating Chamberlin’s mistake of 1938, Obama seems to thinks that he is Nixon in 1972. The problem is that Iran is a theocracy; Khamenei believes that Allah commands him to battle the West and spread the Shiite message. We are not dealing with Iranian nationalist expansionism but rather with Shiite fundamentalist millennialism. Khamenei, like Hitler, believes that his belief system is destined to rule the world. Allowing the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons doesn’t mean that Iran will now become a responsible world power; it means that worldwide terrorism will be going on steroids. Smith understands this fact as do the Israelis and the Saudis.

 

Instead of reining in our deficit spending habit so as to stop selling our country to the Chinese, Obama is trying to keep China dependent on its economic investment in America. Our children had better start studying Chinese if Obama succeeds in continuing his policies. But before we get too adept at Mandarin, we had better be prepared for dealing with nuclear threats from Tehran along with those from North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un.

 

i Newsmax Wires, “Mike Rogers, King Blast NYT Benghazi Report: ‘Misleading’”, Newsmax, December 29, 2013, http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/king-times-benghazi-misleading/2013/12/29/id/544224.

 

ii Ibid.

 

iii David P. Goldman, “The End of Erdogan’s Cave of Wonders: An I-Told-You-So”, PJ Media, December 27, 2013, http://pjmedia.com/spengler/2013/12/27/the-end-of-erdogans-cave-of-wonders-an-i-told-you-so/?singlepage=true.

 

iv Ari Shavit, “Lost cause in Geneva”, Haaretz, Nowember 14, 2013, http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.557934.

 

v Ibid.

 

vi Joel Siegel, “Israel bombs Syria, targeting missiles shipped from Russia”, New York Daily News, October 31, 2013, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/syria-destroys-chemical-arms-equipment-day-watchdog-deadline-article-1.1502465.

 

vii Joshua Levitt, “Report: 2009 John Kerry Letter Backed Anti-Israel Gaza Flotilla Activists”, Algemeiner, November 13, 2013, http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/11/13/report-2009-john-kerry-letter-backed-anti-israel-gaza-flotilla-activists/. See also: Arutz Sheva Staff, “Report: Kerry Supported Gaza Flotilla Members: Arutz Sheva, November 13, 2013, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/173961#.Ur5McvRDuSo.

 

viii Staff, “IHH, which plays a central role in organizing the flotilla to the Gaza Strip, is a Turkish humanitarian relief fund with a radical Islamic anti-Western orientation”, The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, May 27, 2010, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/18108.

 

ix Press Center, “Treasury Designates the Union of Good”, HP-1267, U.S. Department of the Treasury, November 12, 2008, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/hp1267.aspx.

 

x Staff, “Netanyahu says US spying on Israel ‘unacceptable,’ calls for ‘clarifications’”, The Jerusalem Post, December 23, 2013, http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Netanyahu-says-US-spying-on-Israel-unacceptable-calls-for-clarifications-335901.

 

xi Reuters, “U.S., UK spies targeted Israeli PM, EU official: Snowden leaks”, Reuters, December 20, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/20/us-usa-security-snowden-idUSBRE9BJ14Q20131220.

 

xii Julie Pace, “Vanishing adviser reappears as Iran policy player“, AP, The Washington Post, December 24, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/vanishing-adviser-reappears-as-iran-policy-player/2013/12/24/ad9fd050-6c72-11e3-a5d0-6f31cd74f760_story.html.

 

xiv MeK= Mojahedin-e Khalq, aka PMOI, Peoples Mojahedin Organization of Iran

 

xv Lee Smith, op. cit.

 

xvi Richard Miniter, “Saudis lament, ‘we have been stabbed in the back by Obama’”, Fox News, December 27, 2013, http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/12/27/saudis-lament-have-been-stabbed-in-back-by-obama/.

 

xvii Lee Smith, op. cit.

 

xviii Amitai Etzioni, “Obama’s Foreign Policy: Three Stages of Hope”, Huffington Post, January 17, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amitai-etzioni/obama-foreign-policy_b_2426868.html. Republished by the

The Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies at The George Washington University, October 1, 2013, http://icps.gwu.edu/2013/10/01/obamas-foreign-policy-three-stages-of-hope-2/.

 

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