Top 10 Obama Mideast mistakes
Despite Barack Obama’s view that his presidency would repair relations with the Muslim world, America’s standing on the Arab street has never been lower.
1. Egypt policy
The administration has been consistently one-step behind events in crafting an Egypt policy. The White House’s initial backing of President Hosni Mubarak lost any support it might have gained from the crowds in Tahrir Square. Then the United States shocked its Mideast allies by pulling support from the Egyptian leader. The United States is now faced with a hostile regime in Cairo, where a Muslim Brotherhood-headed government could hardly be bothered to act when a mob tried to overrun the U.S. embassy.
2. Iran nuclear program
During his 2008 campaign, Obama posited that the Iranian leadership was bellicose mostly in reaction to misguided policies of the Bush administration. Unlike his predecessor, he would be willing to sit down and talk with the mullahs, confident that his powers of persuasion would convince them to lay down their nuclear ambitions. Four years later, Obama seems has been more concerned about cutting back our nuclear arsenal than trying to stop Tehran.
3. Diplomatic security
How could a U.S. ambassador be at an unsecured consulate in a hostile location in the Arab world on the anniversary of September 11? Christopher Stevens’ murder by a terror mob need could have been avoided if the U.S. heeded the warnings that violence was afoot. The State Department had even issued a travel alert to Americans about going to Libya, yet the consulate had minimal security.
4. Libya explanation
Long after the entire world knew that the strike on the Libyan consulate was a terrorist attack, the Obama administration continued its laughable explanation that the assault was solely the result of a spontaneous mob enraged by an anti-Islamic film. As Sen. John McCain pointed out, protesters don’t usually bring rocket-propelled grenades to a political rally.
5. Disdain for Israel
The one ally the United States could always count on in the Middle East—Israel—has consistently gotten the shaft from the White House. Obama has shown nothing if not disdain for the Jewish state, at one point offending Israeli officials by urging a return to 1967 borders. Now Obama can’t even find time in his schedule for a face-to-face meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
6. Leading from behind in Libya
Hillary Clinton asked, “How can this happen in a country we helped to liberate?” when the U.S. ambassador was murdered. The answer goes back to the method of liberation—Obama’s sanctioning of NATO air strikes. Little regard was given to the make-up of the rebels that finally steamed-rolled to victory who are vying for power.
7. Iran protests
Before the Arab Spring, there were the Iranian protests of 2009, where any assistance from Washington, could have helped to tip the balance of power away from the hard-line Islamist leaders. Instead, Obama was still convinced of his own power to sweet-talk Ahmadinejad and he left the nascent democracy movement out to dry.
8. Syria muddle
That the Syrian uprising has turned into a crisis reminiscent of the Cold War, with Russia and China teaming against the West to support the Assad regime, is a sign that Obama’s “reset” with the Kremlin is headed to the dustbin of history. The Obama administration truly is leading from behind in Syria, with no real strategy to influence the outcome, deal with its aftermath or, mostly importantly, advance U.S. interests.
9. Hurt sensibilities
After the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was breached by an unruly mob, the diplomatic staff put out a statement condemning “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims”—referring to the anti-Muslim film the crowd was protesting. While Obama later distanced himself from the statement, it is not surprising that an embassy under his watch would offer such drivel, as the placating of Muslims seems to be engrained in the administration’s DNA.
10. Cairo hubris
The hubris of Barack Obama is astonishing. Who else would actually believe that a speech to the Arab world would somehow persuade Muslims everywhere to set aside their hatred of America? Yet Obama’s key strategic initiative in the Middle East was going to Cairo in June 2009, where he sought a “new beginning” with Islam. The speech seems almost quaint today, talking about his own common bond to the faith during his childhood in Indonesia, where now mobs are burning him in effigy.