Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Mirage: Obama's Middle East Strategy

When Barack Hussein Obama started out as president seven months ago, it all looked so simple to him.

Obama felt he had a handle on the entire Middle East situation. Having managed to finesse a good majority of American Jews to vote for him, he figured he had the leverage he needed to ingratiate himself and America with the Muslim world by pressuring Israel to make far reaching concessions in line with the Saudi peace plan, pulling us out of Iraq as soon as possible and presenting that famous 'open hand' to the mullahs in Iran.

He expected everything to fall neatly into place, especially after his al Arabiya interview, his apologetic speech in Turkey and his Lap Dance of the Seven Veils in Cairo.

As anyone with even a little knowledge of the Middle East could have predicted, the Chosen One got blind sided by the players, largely because of his own arrogance.

The first mistake Obama made was to assume that the Israelis were basically just like the Leftist American Jews in his immediate circle, and that even if they weren't, they were susceptible to being pressured to knuckle under. Accordingly, he had the Pentagon change the rules on military aid to restrict how the IDF could use it, made blatantly anti-Israel appointments to his cabinet and his advisers, and explicitly violated the Road Map by endorsing the Saudi 'peace' ultimatum and reneging on the Bush Administration's agreement with Israeli PM Ariel Sharon on Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria(AKA the West Bank) that were supposed to remain part of Israel in any settlement. He then decided to turn up the heat by insisting that Jews were not entitled to build anything in the so-called settlements, including Jerusalem.

All this had several effects he hadn't counted on. Obama, a self-described 'student of history' apparently didn't realize that the vast majority of Israelis had taken a lesson from Lebanon, Oslo and Gaza that appeasing the Arabs and giving up strategic concessions involved a dangerous price in blood to pay. He also apparently forgot that most Israelis remember what it was like when the Arabs controlled East Jerusalem as a Jew-free zone, and that attempting to turn the clock back to a division of the city was a red line that even many of the most dovish Israelis were unwilling to embrace. Essentially, Obama united the Israeli electorate behind the current center-right government in a way he never intended.Only 6% of Israelis polled approve of Obama's policies and regard him as 'pro-Israel', putting him only slightly ahead of disgraced and indicted Israeli ex-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in popularity.

Obama's toadying to the Arabs and his blatant disregard for the previous agreements between Israel and the US had another consequence.The Israeli government across the board now regards Obama with distrust and feels that his word or any guarantees he makes are essentially worthless. And the lesson wasn't just noted by the Israelis. People have long memories in this part of the world, and reputations persist.

There were similar missteps when it came to the Arab world. In Cairo, Obama made the usual pro forma remarks about US ties to Israel, but he accepted the Arab positions in almost every other respect, including the fallacious Arab narrative that the Jews got foisted on the Middle East only because of the Holocaust and that the Palestinian nakba was the equivalent of what the Jews endured.

After all that, the Arabs expected Obama to deliver. Based on what he was saying, surely the US should take the side of the Arabs in this conflict, cut off all aid and ties to Israel and even intervene on the Arab's behalf to correct this injustice, shouldn't they?

Having little experience with democracy and how Congress works in our society, the Arabs can be forgiven for not understanding that while Obama could (and did) take certain hostile steps towards Israel, a lot of the US Congress wouldn't go along with a total rupture of ties; they have constituents to answer to. The Arabs didn't understand that Obama wasn't free to unilaterally destroy the US-Israel relationship overnight, however much he might want to ideologically.

Again, this has had effects the Chosen One didn't count on.

Believing that Obama was on their side, the Arabs, instead of becoming more amenable to negotiations with Israel have become even more intransigent. The Palestinians, enjoying largess from the American taxpayers and a sympathetic US government they haven't ever seen before have become content to put off negotiations of any kind with Israel indefinitely until they get everything they want. Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas is more than happy to wait until the Obama Administration forces the Jews to bend to his will - and why not ? While he waits, the Americans under General Keith Dayton spend additional millions to equip and train an army for him.

As for the other Arab states, they could barely contain their astonishment when their ally Obama asked them for reciprocal concessions towards Israel. Obama, after all, had endorsed the Saudi peace plan. Didn't he realize that to the Arabs, the Saudi plan was a take it or leave it offer with no concessions or negotiations allowed? Didn't he understand that unless the Israelis knuckled under and pulled back to the 1948 lines, displaced half million of their own people, agreed to redivide Jerusalem and allowed what was left of Israel to be flooded with Palestinian 'refugees', no 'normal relations' were possible? Did he actually expect the Arabs to violate their notion of honor by reneging on that pledge or any part of it?

Needless to say, the Arabs told Obama to pound sand. It's all or nothing, Sadik.

Perhaps Obama's most serious blunder involves Iran.

Being appallingly ignorant of the basic nature of the Iranian regime,Obama made sure that the mullahs understood that he was willing to do almost anything to negotiate.Obama's predecessor George W. Bush had also pursued negotiations with Iran almost as avidly, but because of whom he was,the Mullahs were never entirely sure that he wouldn't suddenly decide that it was time to pull the plug on a nuclear Iran, or let the Israelis do it. But President Obama made it quite clear they had nothing like that to worry about.

As a consequence, they stepped up their nuclear development and became increasingly hard line, to the point where Iran is likely only six months to a year away from having nuclear weapons.

Obama had always figured on his 'open hand' strategy combined with his outreach to the Muslim world to be a real winner with Iran,to the point where he seems not to have made any real contingency plans if things didn't work out. I think he was genuinely shocked when the Mullahs and Ahmadinejad essentially reacted to his open hand with a clenched fist.

The recent strong arming of the Iranian dissidents by the regime also obviously came as a surprise to the president. After all, it wasn't so long ago that he and other prominent Democrats were talking about what a vibrant democracy Iran is!

Obama also didn't take into consideration how the Sunni Arab autocracies he was so fond of were going to react to his non-policy on Iran.Instead of seeing Obama as an ally, the Arabs saw him as ineffectual and untrustworthy. Obama's accelerated pullout from Iraq, leaving an Iran -friendly Shiite Islamic republic with a US trained army in place also became a source of discord, especially with the Saudis, who have their own Shiite underclass to deal with in the oil bearing eastern part of their country.

At this point, Obama may have gotten close enough to reality to start to see that the oasis he thought he was moving towards is just another sand dune.It remains to be seen what he plans to do about it.

Obama tried to pick up the pieces on Iran by sending SecDef Robert Gates to Israel to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and reassure him that the US was committed to a non-nuclear Iran. Israel's response at this could be expected.Having seen how trustworthy this president is, they're continuing to prepare to deal with Iran themselves.

If nothing happens with Iran, Gates told the Israelis that the US was planning to muster international support for tougher sanctions at the end of September, especially on refined petroleum products like gasoline that Iran imports.

This is improbable for several reasons.The 'international support' part of it is problematical. Russia, China and likely elements of the EU will not honor them, and will likely veto any UN action. We've already seen how this worked with Oil For Food and the sanctions on Saddam's Iraq.

Second, assuming the US decides to implement this on its own, that's going to mean sending our navy to blockade Iran's ports. Aside from the fact that this is an act of war, is Obama likely to allow our navy to stop and search Russian, french or German ships on their way to Iran? Especially if they haven't signed on to the embargo? That just doesn't sound like the Obama I've come to know.

It's far more likely that Obama will dither and do absolutely nothing, thus forcing the Israelis to deal with Iran's nukes themselves. When that happens, Obama will use it as an excuse to insist on Israel surrendering its nuclear defenses and knuckling under to the demands of the Arabs, which would amount to national suicide for Israel. If they refuse,Obama will have an excuse leading the charge on crippling UN sanctions aimed against Israel and breaking US ties with those warlike,pesky Zionists.

At this point, having stepped on his own equipment a number of times, the president is retreating to what he knows best...empty rhetoric. He apparently has a new speech upcoming in which he's going to outline a brand spankin' new Middle East peace plan.

I can't wait.


Silas DoGoode said...

One can only Hope that Mr. Obama's by-the-seat-of-his-diaper-training-wheels Policy in the Middle East is mere ignorance and the inexperience of a Progressive Idealist.

I suspect however, this all portends to something worse, MUCH MUCH WORSE.

-- Silas DoGoode

oao said...

you took the words out of my mouth.

people may soon wake up to the most sinister intentions of alibama. the problem is he has the EU on his side and americans are too gullible to understand what's going on or care.

after all, who elected alibama? that in itself tells you all you need to know.

Lucas said...

This is what happens when you put affirmative action ahead of competence. You get Obama like "leaders", totally unable to do the job for which they were entrusted (lead).