Saturday, July 05, 2014

US presents: A disconnected administration

Boaz Bismuth

While the world is busy watching the World Cup, the forces of evil in the Middle East are working overtime in Iraq, Syria and here in Israel as well. With the situation as volatile as it is, it was no surprise to find a headline in The Washington Times stating: "The 'gates of hell' ajar in the Middle East."
The accompanying article was written by Dr. Monica Crowley of Columbia University, an expert on international relations and a former adviser on international affairs to several presidents.
Without hesitation, Crowley accuses the United States of having opened the "gates of hell" -- and she is not alone. It seems that there is no argument that the old order in the Middle East has collapsed. In its place, we now have a lack of order. And to think that two years ago, President Barack Obama said in an optimistic address, "The core of al-Qaida ... is on the way to defeat."
In her article, Crowley wrote: "A little over two weeks ago, three Israeli teenagers set off for home from the Jewish seminaries, where they were studying near the West Bank city of Hebron. Hitchhiking is not unusual for Israeli teenagers studying in the West Bank, despite its dangers. And the three -- Eyal Yifrach, 19; Gil-ad Shaer, 16; and Naftali Frenkel, a 16-year-old with dual Israeli-American citizenship — began the trek home.

"They were never heard from or seen again, until Monday, when their corpses were found in a shallow grave.
"What does this have to do with the United States? Everything.
"The lessons of history are clear: Whenever the U.S. is weak or is perceived as weak, the wheels come off the world -- the good guys retreat, the bad guys advance and violence and chaos usually follow.
"This is what we are watching unfold now across the Middle East, a region critical to our national security and in which our increasingly vulnerable ally Israel sits.
"The abduction and murder of the Israeli teenagers is the latest example of our enemies taking full advantage of American impotence. Iran continues to work 24/7 toward obtaining a nuclear weapon. Russia is delivering jets and experts to Iraq to 'assist' the Iraqi army (and their allies the Iranians, as well). The Islamic State marches forward, using civil war-torn Syria as a staging ground for what may prove to be the final assault on what's left of Iraq."
Wait a minute -- so who is the enemy?
While it may be possible to argue over the degree of the U.S.'s responsibility, one cannot argue with the facts. The Middle East is in terrible trouble. The jihadists are thriving in Iraq, Syria and Gaza, and the Iranian Shiite alternative, which the Americans are counting on, is definitely not good news. Between a Sunni caliphate and a Shiite empire, there is no doubt that Jerusalem would prefer a third, stable option such as Egypt, but Washington let it collapse.
Washington does not hesitate to convey to the world the message that it wants to run away from problems, to disconnect, and not just in the Middle East. It easily allowed Vladimir Putin's Russia to slice off a good chunk of Ukraine (the Crimean peninsula) for itself, in Libya it chose to "lead from behind," and in Egypt, it chose to abandon a serious ally in the form of deposed president Hosni Mubarak. The Obama administration did not fool Syrian President Bashar Assad either, when it did not follow through on its threat that there would be consequences for crossing the "red line" (referring to the use of chemical weapons).
The Obama administration continued its illogical policy, which also does not match American interests in the region, when it suggested to Iraq's Shiite prime minister, the highly unpopular Nouri Al-Maliki, that he ask for help from his Shiite neighbor, Iran. At the same time, American Secretary of State John Kerry asked the Kurds -- perhaps America's only true friends in the region aside from Israel -- to give up their dream of independence. He asked them not to make things more difficult for Al-Maliki in his fight for survival. In Afghanistan, too, Washington is courting the Taliban, of all things, whose anti-Western, anti-American DNA resembles that of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS in Iraq.
At the same time, it appears that the Obama administration is making life difficult for its partners. For anyone who may have forgotten, Israel is a partner and an ally. The U.S. even describes Israel as an American "aircraft carrier" in the Middle East. These days, this aircraft carrier is sailing in troubled waters.
American public-opinion polls show that the American people are not eager for military operations. It is precisely for this reason that the president, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize when he first took office, should conduct a policy that looked one step ahead and prevented most if not all of the crises.
Obama's credit has run out
As the leader of the free world, with an obligation to the past and an abundance of values, Obama cannot afford to observe from the sidelines. But it is more comfortable for him to appease Putin and Iran, even if this is at the expense of partners such as Ukraine, the Kurds and Israel.
Obama is also being criticized in Europe. His credit has run out. The left-wing newspapers, which supported him strongly, are already writing about his failures. Pierre Haski of the French newspaper Le Nouvel Observateur wrote: "The American president is disappointing in his lack of vision and lack of determination ... just as the debate over 'who lost China' took place in America in the 1950s. After the victory of the Communist forces in 1949, the end of Obama's term as president could give rise to a debate over who lost the Middle East, and a debate over who lost Afghanistan could take place even tomorrow."
After five years in the White House, Obama can no longer shift the responsibility onto the previous administration. His administration failed to emerge from the crises and failed in its management of Middle East policy. He must take out the "hammer" -- that is what he calls military weapons -- because the other components of his leadership are not working. If he does not do so, the U.S. will lose not only the Middle East, but the West as well

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