Tag Archives: American foreign policy

THE SHIFTING SCENERY IN THE MIDDLE EAST

 Only change is unchanging.

            And the Mideast just won’t stop. When former Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren left his post in Washington, D.C., he made a few parting observations that are worth noting. He predicted three major influences will continue to contribute to instability across the region. The split and warring between Sunnis and Shi’ites will add to instability. The Islamist-modernist split will remain a factor. Finally, the challenges to the Arab state system remains problematic. He believe these three conditions will be a joint challenge to both America and Israel.

Oren also observed that at a time when American companies are outsourcing jobs to Asia, Israeli corporations are sending jobs to the US. Interesting indeed!

In my last blog I noted that Turkey is now on the move to make a power grab. Surely, they have recognized that even if Assad should survive, Syria is in such bad shape, they will have to lean on someone. On the other hand, the world is pressing Assad to disappear and he may well do so before it’s over. In that case, how about the winners leaning on the Moslem brothers in Turkey? If you are Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, you love that scenario.

A major part of what is also creating change is the shift in American foreign policy. While promoting democracy in the Middle East was once at the top of President Obama’s priority list, that goal has disappeared. When the Muslim Brotherhood hijacked Egypt’s democratic revolution, the dream began to fade. Syria plunged into a civil war and Libya has remained in chaos. At the same time, American citizens have declared they’ve had enough war. When President Obama recently spoken at the United Nations, he did not mention any intention of pressing for democracy or pushing Assad out. It appears that America has backed off of the promise to send arms.

As mentioned in last week’s blog, all the chips are placed on nuclear negotiations with Iran and achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Since the collapse of Iranian negotiations this weekend, both issues remain in the “iffy” category. If either or both fail, the Obama administration will be looking for the back door.

The result is that both Israel and Saudi Arabia wonder if they are being abandoned by America. Already lacking popularity in both countries, the current American administration is not in a good position for leadership in the Middle East. Like it or not,  the only way that Iran is going to buckle on its nuclear program will be the result of believing that Washington still carries the big stick. Sanctions and the threat of military action are the final prod to bring a positive response.

Right now there is a serious doubt about the seriousness of American intentions. Back peddling won’t push the envelope forward.

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Filed under America, Israel, middle east, Saudi Arabia

TIME TO DECIDE

            It’s decision time! Will the USA have a decisive policy on the Middle East and Syria or will the Yanks keep floundering around? The question is long overdue. The time has come for America to decide.

            Iran President Hassan Rouhani is coming to town this week and the rumor is that he might meet with either President Obama or Vice-president Joe Biden. Tightened sanctions are definitely  having an effect. The hope is that his moderate tone and new offers of constructive talks on nuclear armament are more than a smoke screen. However, after former President Ahmadinejad’s irresponsible and bizarre statements negativing the Holocaust and sounding like a war monger, the Iranians are not trusted. Rouhani must prove he is not simply stalling for time. The question also remains as to whether Iran wants regional stability or is only attempting to gain traction for their rise to dominance.

But how can talks progress when American hasn’t decided where it is going? Obama and Kerry have one opinion; the vast majority of Americans have a different view. The contradiction can only lead to more confusion.

Since the end of the Cold War, nothing has challenged America’s diplomatic idealism like the chemical attacks in Syria and the continuing revolution in Egypt. The White House’s judgement, effectiveness, and consistency has been severely confronted. While Americans saluted when the flag went by on July 4th, the country’s foreign policies have never been completely consistent with the  publicly espoused idealistic positions.  America danced with Hosni Mubarak who was a Middle Eastern Pinochet.  Eisenhower abandoned Hungary to the Russians and Ronald Reagan courted Latin American dictator’s while confronting the Soviet Union on moral grounds. The truth is that these contradictions have always been present just as they were when America retreated from Vietnam.

The continuing struggle in Syria has now pushed the envelope. What will the American policy be in countries from Libya to Dubai?

For the moment, the Russian proposal to remove chemical weapons from Syria has pulled President Obama’s backsides out of the fire. Only the threat of immediate retaliation by American missile strikes will keep this alternative from getting lost in diplomatic haggling at the United Nations where Putin stands ready to veto what he doesn’t like. The problem is that America must rise above these dilemmas and this can only happen with a comprehensive foreign policy that is recognizable by the rest of the world.

What will it be?

Rebel opposition forces now feel betrayed by American backing off of a strike. Assad has brought more time to hide his chemicals (that he says he doesn’t have). American indecision only leads to more chaos and escalating dangerous maneuvering.

These past years have stripped the United States of being seen as the sole superpower in the Middle East. Russia has turned up as a staunch ally of Syria and China stands behind them. With such backing, Assad’s fear of America diminishes. Such a scenario kicked off World War I with tragic consequences.

So, Washington, what is your policy? The time is overdue to make up your mind.

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Filed under America, Iran, middle east, Syria

CROSSROADS COMING

            The current situation in Syria has exposed a chasm in American foreign policy that has brought the United States to an unexpected crossroads. Not only has Syrian’s gassing of its own citizens introduced an even more deadly element in the Syrian conflict, it has revealed international indecision about how to respond.

            In last week’s blog, I was critical of President Obama and his staff’s lack of planning that left the administration exposed. The debate over attacking Syria should have occurred well before lines were drawn. Apparently, the president assumed he had America, Britain, and other allies standing behind him. The vote in Parliament left even the British Prime Minister shocked. Today, Obama virtually stands alone.

American Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain faced a similar surprise as his constituents in Arizonia told the war hawk they didn’t want Syria bombed and America drawn into another conflict. In Washington, it is not clear that Obama can carry the Senate or House. He may be the first American president to find that the Congress won’t stand with him against a common enemy.

Around the world the Bush-Cheney era actions are coming home to haunt the United States. Parliament blamed Tony Blair for swallowing Bush’s claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Vice-president Dick Cheney advocated water-boarding and bombing the enemy into oblivion.  Many nations apparently no longer have any sympathy for the Cheney’s of world politics. America appears to be one of them. American intelligence is still viewed as misleading and deceptive.

I have gone out of my way to talk with all kinds of people about their views on striking Syria. No one doubts Assad murdered his own people The problem is that after 10 years of unending and unproductive wars, we have become the most hated and despised nation in the world. (At least that what many of the people I’ve interviewed think.)  They point out that a “limited” strike still kills. These people no longer believe what the Washington politicians are saying. President Obama has now discovered that approximately 75% of the American public don’t agree with him.

Consequently, we have come to a crossroads.

Are Americans retreating from world leadership? Do moral issues like using poison gas no longer demand our response? Can nations like Iran and North Korea afford to gamble that our military might will not be used against tyranny and aggression. Must Israel decide to go it alone against Iran’s nuclear pursuits because American’s pronouncements cannot be counted on?

This week will possibly bring America to a show down. These issues loom over the landscape leaving frightening shadows. It is clear the American public no longer wants the government to be the world’s policeman. On the other hand, it is also evident the United Nations has failed in its role to guarantee world peace.  And then there’s Putin. If Obama fails, Putin wins. Are you ready for that one? Another crossroads indeed.

In this biog, I am suggesting that the American public and Congress must view the alternatives from the perspective of what kind of future this nation will have. The options are bad, but the alternatives are worse. The issues are far more serious than shooting missiles at Damascus. The issue is the future.

And we stand at a crossroads.

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Filed under America, middle east, Syria, War