Team Obama gets the region wrong, again....
O's Regional Delusions. Mideast maven Lee Smith lists several major Team Obama Mideast fantasies:
The Obama administration’s map of the Middle East might as well be of the Hobbits’ Middle Earth because it bears no relationship to reality. Every corner of the region is yet another realm of wondrous fantasy governed by magical thinking. A Fatah-Hamas unity deal? How productive! Coordination with Qassem Suleimani and the Quds Force in Iraq? That’s refreshing! An agreement with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear weapons program allowing them to keep 10,000 centrifuges? This will bring the clerical regime back into the community of nations!
The White House cannot be bothered with Middle Eastern reality. Several weeks ago, the administration was warned that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was on the verge of taking over a strategically important Syrian city, Deir al-Zour, close to the Iraqi border. As the Daily Beast reported, the Syrian opposition told administration officials like U.N. ambassador Samantha Power that they were surrounded by ISIS forces and running out of ammunition. Without support, it was only a matter of time before the city and key supply routes fell into ISIS’s hands. The Syrian opposition’s warnings fell on deaf ears. Evidently, it does not matter to the White House that a terrorist organization with enormous reserves of cash now controls territory on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border, or that its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi calls this territory the “caliphate.”
Last week the White House’s Middle East coordinator, Philip Gordon, visited Tel Aviv to speak at a conference where he encouraged Israel to take bold steps for peace, to “end the occupation and allow for Palestinian sovereignty, security, and dignity.” Soon after his talk, the conference hall had to be vacated because the territory in Gaza that Israel ceased to occupy in 2005 allowed Palestinian militants to rain missiles on Israel’s largest city. This episode, a perfect illustration of the Obama administration willfully ignoring reality, should provide a lesson, wrote David Horovitz. “Our closest friend,” he wrote in the Times of Israel, “should be just a little less arrogant in telling us what we need and don’t need to do in order to keep ourselves safe.”
As the administration spurs Iran's growth by easing economic sanctions against Iran, and appears to downplay Iran's nuclear-weapon goals, Iran proceeds with ICBM tests that may give Iran an ICBM flight test as early as 2015. Team Obama, for its part, denies knowledge of any Iranian connection. This enables it to de-link Iranian geopolitics from the nuclear talks, in the mistaken belief that better terms will result.
Team Obama is--at least, on public info--not doing anything re Kurds' drive for independence. And the Kurds, for their part, are attracting minority groups who face persecution under Iraq's pro-Iran government.
Jennifer Rubin identifies Mideast priorities that a wiser administration would follow. in a nutshell: Iran lies at the epicenter of the Mideast geopolitical earthquake.
O's Israel Delusions: Part II. Jennifer Rubin notes the "true colors" that wars reveal: in this case, a US administration that lectures Israel as 3/4 of its population seeks shelter when rockets fall. Think America's 320 million population, and what Israelis are doing is what 240 million Americans would be doing were rockets falling in similar fashion. (Well, not exactly, as the US does not have anything remotely comparable in scale to Israel's civil defense shelters.) And Israel gets little credit for cancelling attack sorties "at the slightest doubt" so as to avoid collateral casualties. Talk-show star Dennis Prager succinctly captures the insane moral equivalence much international opinion applies re Israel/Arabs.
In this round Hamas uses new Iranian-designed rockets--the Syrian-made M-302 & the Hamas-made M-75--to target deeper into Israel, both with larger warheads and better accuracy, than was possible using homemade rockets in earlier attacks on Israel. Targeting the Israeli Dimona nuclear reactor, however, is unlikely to result in a breach of the facility, let alone its destruction. Here is a Hamas rocket inventory. Hamas has rejected an Egyptian ceasefire proposal that had been endorsed by the Israeli cabinet. Hamas's rejection is driven by its strategy: win by losing--lose the shooting war; win in the court of public opinion.
The administration appears to underestimate the impact of Israel's revolutionary Iron Dome missile defense system, keyed to stopping short-range rockets. This is odd, given that it was developed with US help. Thus, Iron Dome has deterred Hezbollah from launching a rocket offensive in the north.
O's Delusional Worldview. Bret Stephens sees America retreating the way Britain was said to have acquired colonies: in "a fit of absence of mind." This creates opportunities for bad actors to advance:
[U]pstart countries and movements don't operate according to objective criteria—if they did, they wouldn't operate at all. Rather, they act on an intuition about their adversaries, a sense of their psychology, a nose for their weaknesses. "When tens of your soldiers were killed in the streets of Mogadishu," wrote Osama bin Laden in his 1996 fatwa declaring war on the U.S., "you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation and your dead with you." This was not an indictment of the excess of American power. It was mockery of its timidity.
So it is now. The U.S. could have long ago dispatched Assad with targeted airstrikes. Fearing unforeseen consequences we did not, and so we got the foreseeable consequence that is Syria and Iraq today. The U.S. could use Apache gunships to blunt the offensive of ISIS and kill a lot of jihadists. Fearing entanglement we do not, and so we risk acceding to the creation of an Islamic caliphate. The U.S. could have destroyed Iran's nuclear infrastructure in a week-long bombing campaign, or crippled its economy with additional targeted sanctions. Fearing another Iraq-like war we will not, meaning Iran will get a bomb when the timing suits it best.
Thus Obama's red lines are scorned as the fraud they were. BS ends by quoting a small excerpt from the famous 1919 "Second Coming" poem by William Butler Yeats, on how destructive forces were set in motion after the mega-carnage of World War I. The full verse:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Today it indeed looks much the same. And the consequences could, in a worst case, prove even more horrific and long-lasting.
Bottom Line. Unless Team Obama--and its not-so-peerless leader--wakes up, more events will unfold in the Mideast with American an increasingly marginal player.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Foreign Policy, National Security, Conservative Politics