It was an an interesting press conference in China, if somewhat predictable. After lecturing China on its need for transparency in carbon emissions and fairness in bilateral trade, President Obama stood in his joint press conference with the Chinese president and listened as the Chinese leader, in answering a question about press freedoms, lectured the American president. Embarrassment? Yes, when this is clearly the pattern when related to foreign affairs for the American leader. Lecture the world in general on a topic, or an ally in particular and then, surprise, blowback occurs and the US is unprepared to deal with the consequences.
The U.S.-Israeli relationship has received much attention during the six years the odd couple that are Obama and Netanyahu have occupied their respective executive offices. After speeches and overtures and staff-induced apologies there is little love loss between the pair. The critical issues between them are those that have defined their time in office, notably the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran. On the latter, the U.S. is hoping to reach a monumental nuclear deal before the November 24, 2014 deadline. The rhetorical battle lines have been clearly drawn years ago and compromise is unrealistic. The bigger issue currently is that the White House appears to wish away the long term negative impact in the region and on the United States such a deal contains.
In this effort there are little guarantees that Iran is genuine in wishing to strike a deal. The Iranians have stalled in the past, established conditions based upon external events that are not directly related to the negotiations, and by both overt and covert means offer, even tentative supporters, little to believe Iran will not pursue a nuclear weapons program in the future. The recent domestic lectures from the Obama administration is that Iran’s cooperation is needed in confronting the Islamic State. The lecture monologue towards Israel in recent weeks is in essence, ‘don’t screw this up for us by building settlements or protecting your citizens against Palestinian terror’. Personal relations are soured, but relations the US has with other regional powers such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and even Egypt are equally fraught with private warnings and public silence.
In both public and private the result is unfortunately the same for all his lecturing; posturing by opponents and consequences of those lectures based on best intentions and some critics argue, visions of greatness, unfulfilled. The White House staffer whose private comments surfaced last week is a recent example on how the American administration views the Iran deal. Reaching for greatness is commendable but at the risk of greater harm? The consequence just may be an armed Iran in Israel’s backyard and for the next occupant of the White House after 2016, blowback of significant proportions.