U.S. Middle-East Policy Still in Disarray
by Rabbi Dr. Daniel M. Zucker
Intellectual Conservative, International Analyst Network, June 27, 2011.
Tea Party Tribune, The United West, June 30, 2011.
Codex-Politics, July 3, 2011.
Washington, DC’s recent discovery that its U.S. Middle-East policy is in tatters appears to be confined to the Hill and some conservative NGOs. The degree of disarray still seems to be hidden from those charged with administering such a policy: the State Department. Neither the State Department, nor any of our intelligence agencies seem to have had any inkling of an idea that the forces of revolt and revolution would break out in Arab North Africa and the Middle-East. Each successive revolt caught our government by surprise: first in Tunisia, then in Egypt, and finally in Libya. After these revolutions, we again were taken by surprise at revolts in Yemen, Bahrain and now Syria. All of these revolts follow some eighteen months after the smothered youth revolt in Iran, of which our government did almost nothing to aid the young Iranians who were attempting to remove the tyrannical clerical rule of the Islamic extremist regime. Over half a year into the “Arab Spring” and the administration still is unsure of what it is doing, and consistent only in its inconsistency.
When it came to the revolt in Egypt, after some waffling, President Obama decided to pressure 82 year old ailing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak into stepping down. Our president looked aside when the Egyptian military staged a coup “to restore order”. That the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) stands to reap the benefits of the current Egyptian “democracy movement” seems not to have concerned our administration. Long term planning and careful analysis of Egyptian politics based on strong intelligence procurement apparently is far beyond the capabilities of the bureaucrats of Foggy Bottom and Langley, Virginia. Whoops! We’ve repeated our mistakes of Tehran 1979—maybe we will get it right when dealing with Libya next door. We all hate Muammar Gaddafi so much that any move to oust him has got to be worth supporting, especially when we see him killing people in his own country.
Has anyone bothered to see who it is that is leading the revolt against Gadaffi—who is financing the revolt and who is furnishing the rebels with arms? Has anyone investigated to see if these “freedom fighters” have any ties to al-Qaeda or the Islamic Republic of Iran and its IRGC Qods Force? Has anyone checked to see if the rebels include jihadists that have fought against U.S. troops in Afghanistan and/or Iraq? Over ninety days of attacking the “Ogre of Tripoli” and we’re still not sure what it is that we are going to get if we do topple him. And damned be the Constitution—everyone should be supporting getting rid of the “Libyan madman”, so why bother to inform Congress and adhere to the rule of law? Whoops! We missed that one too! Maybe we will get it right in dealing with Yemen.
So, now we are anti-Saleh, (who has been pro-U.S. but a dictator like every other Arab ruler), but have we bothered to scrutinize his opposition? What? Has anyone verified that General Ali Muhsin Al-Ahmar doesn’t still maintain his former ties with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula? Do we care? What are we doing to insure that a pro-West government stays in power in Yemen? What are we doing to prevent al-Qaeda from gaining control of Yemen and using it as a major base of operations against us and our allies? Do we care that the Islamic Republic of Iran is supplying the Houthi rebels in the north and that al-Qaeda now is entrenched in this country that straddles the Bab-el-Mandeb?
And, what do we think about the fate of the regime of Bashar el-Assad of Syria? Are we still convinced that if we find the right-sized carrot we can pry him away from his ties to Tehran? Do we care that he may be replaced by the Ikhwan, or do we think that the Syrian resistance will turn out to be populated by peace-loving secular democrats? Does President Obama think that a couple of somber declarations supporting democracy will outgun the 10,000 Iranian Pasdaran (IRGC) sent to bolster Assad’s regime? Do we have any deep-cover agents informing us about events in news blacked-out Syria? And do we have intelligence on the political leanings of the Syrian opposition inside that country? Ninety days into this fiasco and our president still think that all he needs to do is tell Bashar el-Assad that he should “step aside”. Fat chance of success on that one!
And what is going on with our ties to our “ally” Iraq? Is anyone paying attention to the fact that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered an attack on Camp Ashraf—home to 3500 Iranian dissidents for the past twenty-six years—a group that has been under U.S. Army protection since May 2003, having signed a formal treaty with our government at that time? Have our State and Defense Departments done anything to prevent the murder of 34 Iranian dissidents, the kidnapping of 6 more, and the injury of yet another 350 despite having received warnings of the pending attack for a full week ahead of the attack which commenced on Friday morning, April 8th? Is President Obama concerned about innocent, unarmed Iranians being murdered in cold-blood in Iraq, or is it only Libyan rebel blood that tugs at his heart-strings? Is Libyan blood redder (even of those who have fought against our troops in Iraq) than that of Iranians that oppose the Islamic regime in Tehran and seek to replace it with a secular democracy? Has the administration paid any attention to the fact that al-Maliki has refused both a delegation from the EU and from the U.S. Congress to visit Camp Ashraf—the sight of the massacre—in order to begin investigations? Are the Iranian dissidents disposable because Obama still harbors hopes to engage the mullahs in dialogue? Does Obama still believe that sanctions will solve the problems of Iran’s race for nuclear weapons? How deeply is his head buried in the sand?
Our State Department’s near total oblivious attitude to the slow, stealth Islamization of Turkey by Erdogan and the AKP is another example of the lack of proper planning and woeful paucity of sufficient intelligence concerning potential enemies. In less than a decade, Turkey has reversed its alliances and now is a close ally of the Islamic Republic of Iran and of Syria, recently signing an accord with them for open borders and free visa-less travel between the three states. The internal arrests and trials of leading secular high-ranking military officials on trumped-up charges of plotting against the government last year elicited almost no response from the administration, which only served to embolden Erdogan into moving closer to Iran and Syria. Last year’s Turkish government support of the Turkish Islamist group IHH in the Mavi-Marmara incident off the Gaza coast in which the IHH violently engaged a legal Israeli boarding party maintaining the naval cordon around Gaza, and Turkey’s continued support of such efforts to aid the Hamas regime in Gaza should be informing us of where Turkey is going, and it’s not towards closer ties with the U.S. or the West. And the Turkish Hurriyet daily reported in April that Ankara is in the midst of negotiations to open a Taliban office in Istanbul. Yet, Foggy Bottom seems not to notice or care that a fellow NATO member is allying itself with our principal foes in the region.
More recently, following the comfortable reelection of Erdogan earlier this month, and the recent incursion of thousands of Syrian Sunni refugees fleeing the indiscriminate death-squads of the Assad regime, Turkey is beginning to demonstrate second thoughts; it actually has withdrawn support from the IHH for the planned second international flotilla to Gaza. But our State Department still doesn’t know how to deal with Ankara and has no idea which way the wind blows on the Anatolian plain.
Forcing Hosni Mubarak from office may have made the United States momentarily a little bit more popular with the masses in Cairo, but it has caused a major rift to open between the president and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Abdullah not only looked to Egypt as the anchor of the “moderate” Arab regimes of which the king considers himself a member but also regarded Mubarak as a close personal friend. Throwing Mubarak to the wolves as it were was both a personal affront to Abdullah, and more worrisome for him, a concern that the U.S. administration is unreliable in maintaining commitments and supporting allies. The American track-record of reliability has unraveled completely as far as the Saudi monarch is concerned. Abdullah surely hasn’t missed the fact that the administration has turned its back on its pledge to protect the PMOI. Did Obama bother to consult Abdullah before deciding to throw Mubarak under the bus? Did he even consider the question? Does he think that the Saudis have forgotten how Jimmy Carter abandoned the late shah of Iran in his hour of need and the horrible results that have plagued the world for these last 32 years as a result of American short-sightedness in supporting Khomeini’s return to Iran?
And what are we to think about the administration’s hopes for a peace treaty between the Palestinians and Israel? Does the administration pay any attention to the fact that Palestinian Authority President Abbas has done nothing to end incitement against Israel, refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, that the Covenant of the Fatah Party that Abbas leads has the same text about the destruction of Israel as does the Hamas Covenant, despite the late Yassir Arafat’s promise to change and remove the offensive text, and that indeed, the Palestinian Authority only speaks for the West Bank while the Gaza Strip is governed by an entirely different governing entity—Hamas—which refuses to recognize Israel, and continues to attack Israel with rockets and mortar shells. The unity agreement recently signed by the P.A. and Hamas at the urging of the military regime of Egypt, has yet to produce its promised technocrat cabinet, but a continuation of the internationally respected independent Salam Fayyad as prime minister of a Palestinian unity government has been definitively nixed by Hamas. And now it’s becoming clear that the stability that recently has come to the West Bank and to a lesser extent in Gaza is due not to Palestinian ingenuity and hard work, but rather through the infusion of huge amounts of foreign aid and a relaxation of barriers due to Israel’s successful curtailment of Palestinian terrorist cells.
And yet President Obama has managed to once again undercut any chances for a meaningful renewal of negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis by disregarding the advice of his Middle-East advisors and publicly announcing on May 19, 2011, that negotiations should resume on the basis of the June 4, 1967 (pre-Six Day War) 1949 Armistice lines with “mutually agreed land swaps”. As has been pointed out recently, such a position would give the Palestinians the ability to control the fate of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, Israel’s and Judaism’s most holy site. Having previously introduced the settlements as an obstacle to negotiations, and construction in unified Jerusalem as an obstacle—both “obstacles” not having created problems before Obama raised them as “issues”—Obama, without even discussing the idea, blindsided Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with his ill-conceived statement. Having led Mahmoud Abbas up a tree, Obama left him to dry in the hot sun without a ladder to climb back down. The new unilateral Palestinian attempt to force a United Nations General Assembly vote on Palestinian statehood is doomed to failure as the U.S. is pledged to veto the concept in the Security Council, possibly with a British and/or French nay vote as well. Meanwhile, Obama attempts to pressure Netanyahu to accept his suggestion, risking Israel’s future security and certainly the prime minister’s own government coalition. If Obama had hopes to undermine Netanyahu, it has backfired; the Israeli public overwhelmingly supports Netanyahu’s rejection of the Obama plan. Once again, naiveté in Washington is written in very bold letters.
The revolts throughout the Arab world have shown that Israel is not the central problem, and yet our president and his State Department seem to follow the old line that the Palestine question is the root of all the Middle East’s problems. One would think that the lessons of the last six months had shown Foggy Bottom and the White House that the Israel-Palestine question is not the central problem and that human and civil rights as well as economics are the keys to improving the lives of the masses in the Middle-East. Meanwhile a very disgruntled King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia—whose intelligence services clandestinely cooperate with the Israeli Mossad against threats from Iran—is pulling together a coalition of non-radical Arab states to oppose the real menace that lies across the Persian Gulf: the Islamic Republic of Iran. Yet Washington continues on its merry way. Ah, fair Washington, where the frequent fog is not only to be found along the banks of the Potomac; unfortunately, it’s located in the minds of those who are charged with crafting our foreign policy.
Only when we realize that Islamic fundamentalism in any and all of its forms is a major threat to this country and the Western form of culture upon which this nation is founded, will we begin to forge a policy that defends our allies and fights our enemies. Political correctness and multi-culturalism may be popular in liberal circles, but they do little to defend our nation and way of life from a very hostile shariah-adhering foe. The sooner Washington comes to realize this fact, the better it will be for all of us who treasure individual liberties, freedom, and democracy—conditions that exist in only one country in the Middle-East: in the Jewish State of Israel.
Rabbi Dr. Daniel M. Zucker is founder and Chairman of the Board of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East, a grassroots organization dedicated to teaching the public and its elected officials of the need to promote genuine democratic institutions throughout the Middle-East region as an antidote to the dangers posed by Islamic fundamentalism. He may be contacted at contact@ADME.ws.