Obama’s Progressive Middle East Myopia
By Rachel Ehrenfeld, Yoram Ettinger
Sunday, September 29th, 2013 @ 3:23PM
Who won the best performance at the 68th General Assembly of the Theatre of the Absurd (aka the UN)? Was it U.S. president Barack Hussein Obama, or Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president?
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, would be right to choose Rouhani (again). After all, his man, Rouhani, has achieved probably more than even Khamenei dared dreaming of.
Meanwhile Obama doesn’t seem to miss an opportunity to degrade the U.S.’s superpower stature, giving room to Rouhani to conspicuously reject an invitation to shake the hand of the U.S. president. Soon after, Rouhani was given yet another opportunity to dismiss the White House claim that it was he who initiated the “historic” phone call that caught him just before he flew back to Iran.
But this was just an additional bonus to Rouhani’s political achievements. He won all the time and more to complete Iran’s nuclear enrichment program while the plans to arrange the process for the negotiation and later perhaps the scheme to pre-approve inspections take place. He also gained the opportunity to rescue Bashar Assad and Hezbollah from defeat by Jabhat al-Nusra, and for the time being, securing Iran’s access to the Mediterranean.
These achievements all but guarantee Obama’s veto of any attack on Iran while the unlimited time of the negotiation process goes on, thus assuring that the U.S. will object to any Israeli action to prevent Iran from fulfilling its nuclear weapons ambitions.
Obama’s abysmal attempts to find new friends in the Middle East do not seem to discourage the “community organizer” mentality that paved his way to the White House.
But the Middle East is not America, and “communities” in Cairo or Tehran have different agendas. The mullahs in Tehran, for example, are focused on developing Iran’s nuclear weapons arsenal, relaxing the U.S. sanctions (which the administration partially reaxed even before Rouhani’s visit, as a gestutre of “good will”) and maintaing power in the Middle East by helping Bashar Assad.
Obama’s search for all the wrong friends among Middle Eastern countries mostly hostile to the U.S. began in 2009. His Cairo speech yielded the stormy results of the so-called Arab Spring, giving rise to the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda affilated groups in the region and beyond. His desperate attempts to negotiate with the terrorist Iranian regime that engages in killing untold numbers of Syrian civilians is the kind of misstep that Khamenei, through his new messanger Rouhani, will continue to exploit.
Yoram Ettinger reviews Obama’s performance and points out how it has been understood in the Middle East.
by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
President Obama re-introduced his New Middle East vision during his September 25, 2013 speech at the UN General Assembly: “Let me take this opportunity to outline what has been the US policy toward the Middle East and North Africa, and what will be my policy during the remainder of my presidency….” Obama clarified that his Middle East policy has not fluctuated since his 2008 presidential campaign and his June, 2009 Cairo University speech to the Muslim World,notwithstanding the unprecedented geo-political transfiguration of the Arab Streetduring his two terms.
According to Obama, “the world is more stable than it was five years ago.“ However, Iraq’s civilian death toll in July, 2013 was almost 1,000 –the highest monthly toll since 2008. Egypt has deteriorated from a leadership role in the Arab World into its most unstable period in modern history. Syria, historicallyan Arab powerhouse has become a battleground among the rogue/terrorist regimes of Assad, the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda. Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and disgruntled Palestinians and Bedouins are awaiting the “Syrian lava,” which threatens to sweep the pro-US Hashemite regime. Libya has been transformed from a rogue dictatorship to tribal anarchy and a chief proliferator of military systems to Islamic terrorists. Tunisia has become a fertile ground for Islamist takeover. Yemen features tribal, religious and ideological terrorism, involving US troops and posing a clear and present danger to the House of Saud. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman, the pro-US oil producers, are panicky in view of intensified internal and external lethal threats.
President Obama stated that “America’s diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the Arab- Israeli conflict…a major source of instability. Resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace…. Real breakthroughs on Iran’s nuclear program and Israeli-Palestinian peace would have a profound and positive impact on the entire Middle East and North Africa….” However, the Arab Tsunami, engulfing the entire Middle East and North Africa, is totally independent of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue, which constitute relative tumbleweeds compared with the Middle East sandstorms that threaten vital US interests.
How could the resolution of the 100 year old Arab-Israeli conflict facilitate the resolution of the totally-unrelated 1,400 year old intractable intra-Arab/Muslim conflicts which agitate the imploding Arab Street?! Moreover, Arab policy-makers do not consider the Palestinian issue a crown-jewel. They shower the Palestinians with rhetoric, but not with financial or military resources. Furthermore, Arab leaders view the Palestinians as a potentially subversive, destabilizing and treacherous element, based onMahmoud Abbas’ PLO destructive track record in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Kuwait. Therefore, Palestinian leaders receive Red Carpet treatment in Western capitals, but are welcomed by shabby rugs in Arab capitals.
President Obama introduced a linkage between Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the Palestinian issue, aimed at pressuring Israelinto further concessions, lest it be blamed for the failure to stop Iran’s nuclearization. However,Iran is galloping toward nuclear capabilities irrespective of Israel’s existence or the Palestinian issue, which is a sideshow for Iran and the Arab countries. Iran’s nuclearization aims to advance its 14 century old goal to dominate the Persian Gulf, where Israel plays no role. A nuclear Iran could severely intimidate the US, the mega obstacle in the way of attaining its historical goal. It would provide a robust tailwind to a chief threat to US interests: Islamic terrorism globally and on the US mainland, which was absent from Obama’s speech. A nuclear Iran would devastate the Saudi and other pro-US Persian Gulf regimes, who dread the “linkage theory,” whichsubordinates the critical campaign against Iran to the highly-complicated, but significantly less critical, Palestinian issue. It thus delays a military preemption against Iran, providing the Ayatollahs more time to acquire nuclear capabilities.
According to Obama, “President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course….” But, Rouhani derives his mandate/power from Iran’s Spiritual Leader, Khamenei, who selected him via a fixed election process. Rouhani demonstrated his “Taqiyya” (Islam-sanctioned deception) capabilities during his term as Iran’s chief negotiator with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), systematically violating commitments made to the IAEA. In September, 2002, Rouhani stated: “When we sign international treaties, it means that we are not pursuing nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.” An ally of Hizballah, Hamas, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba and a supporter of Islamic terror organizations, he was an early ally of Khomeini. He served as National Security Advisor to Presidents Hashemi and Khatami, and was a planner of the 1994 “AMIA terrorism” – the murder of 85 civilians in Buenos Aires.
Obama presented a supposed moral equivalence between Israel and the Palestinians. A moral equivalence between Israel – the only stable, predictable, effective, reliable, democratic and unconditional ally of the US in the seismic Middle East – and the Palestinians, who sided with the Nazis, the Communist Bloc, Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden and are currently linked to Russia, China, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela?! A moral equivalence between Israel – the role model for counter terrorism – and the Palestinian Authority/PLO, the role model of international terrorism, hate-education and incitement?!
Twenty years ago, President Peres introduced the Oslo Process with the vision of a peace-driven new Middle East. However, the increasingly tectonic, violent, intolerant, terroristic, unpredictable, treacherous, Islamist and anti-American, conflict-ridden Middle East has overwhelmed the new Middle East. It produced unprecedented Palestinian terrorism, non-compliance and hate-education, radicalizing Arab expectations, further eroding the prospects for peace. Will President Obama learn from recent history by avoiding – or repeating – the devastating errors committed by President Peres?