Obama’s Tattered Middle East Policy – OpEd
By Arab News
By Linda Heard
Let’s not fool ourselves, Washington’s relationships and actions are primarily based on US interests; interests which coincide with its allies in some instances but not on others.
Currently, US policies in the region fail to satisfy anyone’s interest, let alone America’s. In fact, they’ve become an embarrassment to President Barack Obama who’s being hammered by Republicans — and increasingly Democrats — for leading from behind and making America look weak.
Can anyone say with hand on heart that the Obama administration has been a force for good in this part of the world where conflicts and civil wars are raging?
He’s dumped all efforts to secure Israel-Palestine peace, despite pledging to bring about a Palestine state during his first term; Palestine wasn’t even mentioned during his recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Rather the US was one of seven other countries that voted against the raising of the Palestinian flag outside UN headquarters in New York.
Instead, he’s bending over backward to pacify the Israeli prime minister still raging over the nuclear deal with Iran. Was that Mr. Obama who prior to the White House was a supporter of the Palestinian cause, according to the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said, his doppelganger?
Gulf States, which were only consulted about the Iran nuclear deal after the fact when heads of state were invited to Camp David, were also poorly treated. While they were convinced to watch and wait to see whether Tehran alters its behavior toward its Arab neighbors, there’s little sign of that happening.
Indeed, Iran’s Supreme Leader has sworn to up his support for “the resistance’ – which translates to its proxy militias, cells and spies – and is hurling insults at Saudi Arabia over the Arab coalition’s intervention in Yemen at the invitation of the legitimate government, while politicizing this year’s Haj tragedy.
However, America’s Commander-in-Chief believes his biggest policy mistake was with regards to Libya. “I think we underestimated, our European partners underestimated, the need to come in full-force if you’re going to do this…”he admitted.
Since, he’s made no attempts to bring order to this oil-rich country overrun by feuding militias and terrorists. Worse, he slammed Cairo for retaliating against Daesh fighters responsible for beheading Coptic Christians and still refuses to arm the country’s recognized government.
As for Iraqis, they were virtually abandoned on Obama’s watch to the Daesh that’s ravaged a third of the country. He ignored appeals for help from Iraq’s former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki when the terrorists numbered around 10,000 and could have been swiftly quashed. And in truth, the US-led bombing campaign can hardly be described a success story.
Same story in Syria! Over 250,000 dead and eleven million displaced or refugees in foreign lands. The world was outraged by the bloodshed and so was Mr. Obama, promising to throw his full weight behind opposition fighters. Ultimately, less than 100 were trained and armed and all but a handful have joined extremist groups.
What’s truly embarrassing for the White House is this. The US Air Force has been engaged in striking Daesh targets for a year yet life in the faux caliphate’s capital Raqaa carried on as normal. Until last year, its henchmen were free to attack Kurdish villages close to the Turkish border and to pop across to do their shopping. Turkey came under international pressure and dispatches its warplanes over Syria to bomb Kurdish groups fighting the Daesh with Obama’s blessing!
Whether one agrees with Russia’s recent thrust to erase the Daesh and other terrorists from Syria or not, its air force is effective to the extent there are reports that the Daesh fighters are fleeing Raqaa with their families, which begs the question why were they relatively relaxed under US bombardment?
Russia is issuing ultimatums to the US to clear the skies of its fighter jets and there’s nothing President Obama can do about it short of igniting WW-III. In the meantime, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi is inviting Moscow to bomb Iraq’s Daesh militants.
One can only imagine that Obama is tearing his hair out at the way events are spiraling out of his control not only in Syria and Iraq, but also in Afghanistan where the US Air Force is bombing the city of Kunduz to free it from a resurgent Taliban. Sadly, a clinic, managed by Doctors without Borders, was strafed by a US gunship killing 19. The UN human rights chief describes the attack as “utterly tragic, inexcusable and possibly even criminal.” You would have to dig deep to find a glimmer of light within Obama’s thinking in respect to this region, which is a far more dangerous part of the world than it was eight years ago. The US president’s legacy is a re-arrangement of the geopolitical deckchairs that serves to empower Russia and its anti-western allies which aren’t only calling checkmate but are working to shove America off the board.
To quote the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Senator John McCain, “The weakness and feckless foreign policy of the President of the United States” has permitted Vladimir Putin to “gain control of the entire Middle East.”