Evidence of the perils of President Obama’s Middle East policy, or lack thereof, abound. We are less influential than at anytime since the Carter administration, and there is more unrest as well, largely traceable to inadequate and wrongheaded U.S. policy.
First, the Jerusalem Post reports:
Palestinians in Bethlehem on Monday set fire to pictures of US President Barack Obama, saying he was not welcome in their city.
Scores of protesters gathered near Manger Square and threw shoes at a US diplomatic vehicle as it arrived at the scene in the context of preparations for Obama’s visit to the city later this week.
The protesters also set fire to signs posted in the city earlier this week and reminding Obama that Palestinians still don’t have 3G communications technology.
Similar anti-Obama demonstrations are expected to take place in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities in the coming days.
To put it differently, all of Obama’s attempts to curry favor with the “Muslim World” have earned the United States no brownie points. To the contrary, by raising expectations and then failing to deliver, he’s incurred the ire of the Palestinians and made the Israelis less trusting. Rather than narrow the differences between the two sides, he has exacerbated them and alienated the United States from both sides.
Second, Iraq is now ” teetering between progress and chaos, a country threatened by local and regional conflicts that could drag it back into the sustained bloodshed its citizens know so well,” The Post reports. The responsibility for that rests with the president who inherited a victory and then couldn’t manage to work out an agreement to leave forces in place. The Post observes: “The nation is no longer defined or notably influenced by its relationship with the United States, despite an investment of about $1.7 trillion and the loss of 4,487 American troops. In the end, Washington failed to carve out a role as an honest broker in postwar Iraq, an aspiration born out of the recognition that the country’s future may again have explosive implications for the region.” Not mentioned in the report is the geopolitical failure beyond the suffering of the Iraqi people, namely the growing influence of Iran. Sure, Obama “brought the troops home,” but he left chaos, unrest and waning U.S. influence in the stampede to score points with his base and free up defense dollars for more domestic spending.
Then consider a candid interview with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who goes on a tear ragging on the despots in his neighborhood (Egypt’s Mohammed Morsi, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, etc.) and bashes the cluelessness of the Obama State Department:
[H]e accused American diplomats of naïveté about their intentions.
“When you go to the State Department and talk about this, they’re like, ‘This is just the liberals talking, this is the monarch saying that the Muslim Brotherhood is deep-rooted and sinister,’ ” King Abdullah said. His job, he said, is to dissuade Westerners from the view that “the only way you can have democracy is through the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Well, there you have it from one of the few pro-American, stable Arab governments. The region is awash with unrest, he is struggling to modernize (“King Abdullah promises to move Jordan closer to a British-style constitutional monarchy, and thus to stay ahead of the Arab Spring wave”) and the Americans are playing footsie with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Perhaps sheer frustration prompted the king to speak openly with such bluntness. And who can blame him? The Obama administration’s approach has been entirely reactive and maddeningly inconsistent (yes to intervening in Libya and no to Syria). It has been dictated to by the United Nations, in essence the Russians, on Syria. Obama’s administration suggests we are an unreliable ally by picking fights with its closest ally, Israel. And it undermines secular, actual democracy by throwing bouquets (and F-16s) at Morsi’s feet.
Ironically, despite one president’s flubs, the U.S.-Israel relationship will survive and flourish precisely because we do share values, interests and common enemies. (The “Israeli Lobby” is the American people, overwhelmingly Christian.) Rather, it is the U.S. relationship with virtually everyone else in the region and our credibility with foes like Iran that may be past the point of no return.