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February 27, 2011

Foreign Policy: Obama Is Helping Iran

Topics: Middle East News and Perspectives, Political News and commentaries

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett wrote a piece a few days ago at Foreign Policy on how the Obama administration's awkward handling of the Middle East uprisings is playing right into the hands of the Islamic Republic:

We take billionaire financier George Soros up on the bet he proffered to CNN's Fareed Zakaria this week that "the Iranian regime will not be there in a year's time." In fact, we want to up the ante and wager that not only will the Islamic Republic still be Iran's government in a year's time, but that a year from now, the balance of influence and power in the Middle East will be tilted more decisively in Iran's favor than it ever has been.

Just a decade ago, on the eve of the 9/11 attacks, the United States had cultivated what American policymakers like to call a strong "moderate" camp in the region, encompassing states reasonably well-disposed toward a negotiated peace with Israel and strategic cooperation with Washington: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf states, as well as Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey. On the other side, the Islamic Republic had an alliance of some standing with Syria, as well as ties to relatively weak militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Other "radical" states like Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Muammar al-Qaddafi's Libya were even more isolated.

Fast-forward to the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration as president of the United States, in January 2009. As a result of the Iraq war, the collapse of the Arab-Israeli peace process, and some fairly astute diplomacy by Iran and its regional allies, the balance of influence and power across the Middle East had shifted significantly against the United States. Scenarios for "weaning" Syria away from Iran were becoming ever more fanciful as relations between Damascus and Tehran became increasingly strategic in quality. Turkey, under the Justice and Development Party (AKP), was charting a genuinely independent foreign policy, including strategically consequential partnerships with Iran and Syria. Hamas and Hezbollah, legitimated by electoral successes, had emerged as decisively important political actors in Palestine and Lebanon. It was looking progressively less likely that post-Saddam Iraq would be a meaningful strategic asset for Washington and ever more likely that Baghdad's most important relationships would be with Iran, Syria, and Turkey. And, increasingly, U.S. allies like Oman and Qatar were aligning themselves with the Islamic Republic and other members of the Middle East's "resistance bloc" on high-profile issues in the Arab-Israeli arena -- as when the Qatari emir flew to Beirut a week after the 2006 Lebanon war to pledge massive reconstruction assistance to Hezbollah strongholds in the south and publicly defended Hezbollah's retention of its military capabilities.

On Obama's watch, the regional balance of influence and power has shifted even further away from the United States and toward Iran and its allies. ...

Read more ...

Posted by Richard at February 27, 2011 3:32 PM



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