As controversy over Chuck Hagel’s anti-Israel and soft-on-Iran comments continue to cloud his nomination as the President’s new secretary of defense, it’s an appropriate time to review Mr. Obama’s track record in that region.
Despite Iran’s role as the chief danger to peace and security in the Middle East, Washington’s reluctance to confront Tehran has led to a significant increase in that nation’s influence throughout the region, filling the void left by America’s retreat over the past four years.
Falling the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraq began to form a democratic oasis in the otherwise dictatorial desert of the region. Global news media were filled of photos of “purple fingers” of voters. Following the precipitous withdrawal of most American forces, however, democracy is imperiled, Iranian influence has sharply escalated and fractional disputes have intensified.
When Syria’s bloody regime was confronted with desperate opposition to its numerous human rights violations and genocide, many thought that the U.S. and the west would assist the rebels with arms shipments. That didn’t occur, and the Iranian and Russian supported Assad regime remains standing. Once again, Iran’s influence has grown.
Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was far from perfect, but he was pro-peace and pro-American. Repeating President Carter’s 1970’s era mistake, an imperfect Middle Eastern ruler was, with the White House’s blessing, replaced by a far worse alternative. The Islamic fundamentalist regime now governing Cairo is saber-rattling against Israel and has persecuted Coptic Christians. (It is so extreme that some of its supporters advocate blowing up the pyramids because they are “un-Islamic.”) Not surprisingly, the nation, for the first time since the Shah Pahlavi was expelled from Iran, has starting growing closer to Iran.
Tehran’s nuclear program is a major threat to international stability and safety, and Israel is clearly the target. The Obama Administration has toughened sanctions only with great reluctance and at the fierce urging of foreign policy critics. Israel’s urgent entreaties for Washington’s support for preemptive action have been rejected, and the widening diplomatic gap between Israel and the U.S. has caused further instability in the region. On a related issue, the Obama Administration’s retreat on anti-missile measures designed to counter Iranian and North Korean threats have further strengthened Iran’s hand.
The worrisome failure by the Obama Administration to come to the aid of its own ambassador in Libya, and the curious statements it made in the aftermath of the brutal attack, highlight the disarray in its Middle Eastern policy. Despite the presence of American forces within timely striking distance of Benghazi, no order was given for a rescue or defense mission. Almost instantaneously, the White House blamed a little-known American video for creating a riot that got out of hand. Even Al Jazeera, the Arab news source, didn’t agree. There was, clearly, no riot, there was only a premeditated attack. It has now been revealed that the President was oddly out of touch during most of the incident.
Hovering over all of these inexplicable White House policy choices is the figure of Valerie Jarett, senior adviser to President Obama, and his closest confidant. Ms. Jarett, who was born in Iran, has been engaged in behind-the-scenes negotiations with Tehran despite that nation’s intensely anti-American stance.
Chuck Hagel’s long history of anti-Israel statements makes him an unusual choice for Secretary of Defense, particularly at a time when that key American ally is on the front lines of the greatest threat to the Jewish people since the holocaust itself.
The Obama Administration’s record is painfully short of gains and seriously long on increased threats in this pivotal part of the globe.