December 16, 2013

On Syria: “The U.S. gave us the impression that they were going to do things in Syria that they finally didn’t. The aid they’re giving to the Free Syrian Army is irrelevant. Now they say they’re going to stop the aid: OK, stop it. It’s not doing anything anyway.” The Israeli prime minister? Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)? Nope, that is Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal,  an Arab royal and a brother of Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal speaks during a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Riyadh in Nov., 2013. (Jason Reed/AP Photo)
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal speaks during a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Riyadh in November. (Jason Reed/AP Photo)

More broadly on the Middle East: “We’ve seen several red lines put forward by the president, which went along and became pinkish as time grew, and eventually ended up completely white. When that kind of assurance comes from a leader of a country like the United States, we expect him to stand by it. There is an issue of confidence.” That’s McCain? Nope, the prince again.

One more: “Saudi unhappiness with Iran’s growing power in the region is no secret, and the Saudis, who themselves engage with Iran, have no problem with the United States trying to do the same, the prince said. But he complained that bilateral talks between Iranian and American officials had been kept secret from American allies, sowing further mistrust. The prince said Iran must give up its ambitions for a nuclear weapons program — Iran says its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes — and stop using its own troops and those of Shiite allies like the Lebanese organization Hezbollah to fight in neighboring countries, like Syria and Iraq.” Not the prince; that’s the New York Times.

I point out these critiques because the White House and its political spinners in the left-leaning punditocracy would have us believe that President Obama and his secretaries of state have done a swell job “ending” wars or keeping us out of them and it’s only the cranky Israelis and GOP hardliners who can’t see the successes. In fact, not only Saudi Arabia, but also Jordan, the Gulf states, Turkey and non-jihadists throughout the region understand all too well that the president’s fecklessness has empowered Iran, an Iran that doesn’t even have the bomb. At least not yet.

It is not only Iran’s past behavior in deceiving the United Nations about its nuclear weapons program but also the U.S. willingness to overlook bad behavior from Iran and its allies that have leaders in the region (the French as well) anxiety-ridden over the prospect that we will allow Iran to keep an enrichment program. Obama doesn’t have the will to admit obvious uses of WMDs (see the delay in acknowledging Bashar al-Assad’s atrocities), so why would he ever accuse Iran of cheating when the evidence will almost certainly be less conclusive and the military action far more extensive? He won’t, of course. He wants the deal, it is widely seen, so that neither the United States nor Israel will challenge Iran militarily. He ends wars, remember.

Ironically, the president is right about one thing: Only military action is going to stop Iran. (Hence the need for a phony, quick interim deal to stave off Israel and calm fears.) Obama sees the alternative not as between a nuclear-armed Iran and military action, but between a phony deal that essentially allows Syria to go the way of North Korea and military action (by the United States or Israel).  Even he understands the Iranians are determined to get the bomb and will not be sanctioned or bluffed into giving up their perceived stature as a nuclear power.  If a phony deal can’t be had — one that Iran would accept and that would keep lawmakers and the public from decrying it as a threat to our security — then, by gosh, he’d have to do something since he’s always said that a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable.”

What is unacceptable, if not impossible, for this president is resolute, consistent use of American power that might involve hostilities, cost something or upset his worldview that the world’s problems of late have generally been attributable to the Americans or to “misunderstandings.” So, yes, Obama would prefer a rotten deal that allows the “unacceptable” nuclear-weaponized Iran to emerge (but quietly, and hopefully after he leaves office) than U.S. or Israeli action. Our allies in the region have figured this out and are desperate enough to sound the alarm publicly. They have every reason to do so.

The Middle East and the West largely are at the mercy of a president for whom Iran’s nuclear-weapons capability is not in fact something to be avoided at all costs. Unless public opinion —  both domestic and foreign — can force Obama into taking out Iran’s nuclear weapons program, it will be up to Israel to act. That is the only country on the planet, it seems, that has the military and the will to stop the “unacceptable” from happening.

 

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.