While the US Secretary of State sat with his Iranian counterpart in an attempt to negotiate a solution to the Islamic Republic’s obvious quest for a nuclear threshold program, the US President remained eerily silent on the latest genocidal comments by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Why didn’t President Obama speak out? Is the president’s desire for a “successful nuclear negotiation” somehow a step or two above such outrageous rhetoric? It is more than just a little odd that the first Afro-American president — whose people had endured nearly four centuries of slavery followed by segregation and an absence of rights — to have remained silent. Why didn’t the leader of the free world exhibit any righteous indignation? He certainly doesn’t hesitate to criticize Israel over the construction of houses in its own capital. Why was the US response left to John Kerry and a lowly spokeswoman at the State Department? And wouldn’t the president’s trip to China have been the perfect venue in order to apply the maximum amount of leverage against Iran’s holy war of annihilation against the Jewish state? So many questions left unanswered by a president with a Middle East policy that appears to lack cogency and strategic vision.
It was just a matter of days since Obama’s latest letter to Ali Khamenei was exposed in the American press. Once again the contradictions in the president’s policy were glaringly obvious and left open for all to see. The Obama administration has attempted for nearly six years to separate the P5+1 nuclear negotiations from Iran’s role in the region. This has been the central tenet of US strategy. I know this, because I’ve been an ardent critic of this strategy since the early days of the Syrian revolution. I have argued repeatedly that Iran’s hegemonic design in the region cannot be artificially separated from its quest to become a nuclear threshold state. I have even advocated for a 14-point regional peace plan which includes Israeli participation in a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East. In conjunction with a China-Russia-US detente, this zone would also include a firm commitment to end all hegemony throughout the region (including foreign military presence and sub-state actors).
Like the Sunni Arab states, Israeli leaders believe that the Iranian threat is the most urgent danger facing the region. But since the beginning of the Arab Spring, the Obama administration has drifted in a policy funk with regard to the Middle East. Washington has attempted to solve piecemeal a deteriorated whole as if it were the sum of separate units. With the rise of ISIS, this policy failed miserably. Obama couldn’t sit on the fence forever. The very lack of an American decision in Syria (and support for an Iran puppet in Iraq) was a decision itself. The ensuing political vacuum was filled by Sunni extremism as a reaction to Obama’s failure to support both the oppressed majority in Syria and the disenfranchised minority in Iraq. So in order to compensate, Obama sent a series of ill-conceived letters to the world’s number one anti-Semite, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In the latest letter, the US president urged the Iranian leader to cooperate on nuclear issues in exchange for an American acquiescence on nearly all regional issues.
This letter was a colossal mistake. It proved, once again, Obama’s weakness and lack of creativity. You can’t be the “peace president” without a peace plan that can make sense on all three strategic levels: the international, the regional and the local. Obama’s policy fails on all three. And the reason it fails is because this president has failed to understand that the global economic crisis has changed the very nature of America’s strategic position. The halcyon days of US uni-polarity are over. Obama needs another pole or two in order to be successful. That means the cooperation of Russia or China (or both) is a must. Without such cooperation, the military pressure and cost needed to thwart Iran’s hegemonic design cannot be filled by the US alone. It will take an international effort. This is true in Syria and Iraq. Boots on the ground are a necessity. But these boots must have blue helmets under the direct sponsorship of the UN. And they most certainly (and incredibly) cannot be Iranian boots as implied in the president’s recent letter.
Only the direct cooperation of all members of the UN Security Council can moderate the eventual outcome in the Levant. Any other policy will be perceived to be solely in the US national interest, and can be checked by some form of Russian action and/or the actions of regional and local players (including Israeli military action). Everyone in the Sunni Middle East is watching Obama with suspicion. So is his Republican opposition, which just a week ago took over the US Senate. In fact, many in his own party are now watching him with suspicion. This includes Haim Saban, pro-Israel Democratic Party mega-donor, who has lately warned party leaders that Obama’s actions on Iran are under severe scrutiny. That message was delivered directly to Hillary Clinton. And also within the last day or so, support for an airtight Iranian nuclear deal was affirmed in the strongest possible language by Obama’s VP, Joe Biden.
However, now the genie is out of the bottle. The Iran nuclear deal cannot be separated from the Islamist revolutionary rhetoric of a regime in Tehran whose major strategic goal is regional hegemony and the annihilation of Israel. This regime is more dangerous than ISIS because it poses an existential threat to all current US allies — Israel and the Sunni states alike. Its support for terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hezbollah cannot be brushed aside by the mere presence of anti-missile batteries. Hezbollah has ten times the missile capacity of Hamas, and it took Israel two months to finally deter Hamas over the summer. If those weapons were ever launched en masse against Israel, the full force of Israeli power against all of Lebanon would be needed. Lebanon, as we know it, might cease to exist, and Israel would also suffer great damage.
Only a political solution for the entire region can suffice at this point to alter the dangerous course that US administration policy has foisted on Israel and the Sunnis. An American-Iranian rapprochement with such a man as Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, is an affront to freedom-loving people everywhere. Is it any wonder that the US public has become disgusted with the arrogance and ineptitude of an administration that would propose to appease such a regime as the Islamic Republic of Iran?
What the world expects from the US is to think through the reality of the situation and come up with a policy that stops the threat of Middle East hegemony and nuclear proliferation in its tracks. This will require better relations with both Russia and China. Only global cooperation by the great powers can stop the machinations of another evil dictator hell-bent on genocide against the Jews. The last thing America should do is to allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold state. If Iran cannot be isolated through international action, the fault lies solely with the policy choices of the current President of the United States.
Hegemony in Europe and Asia no longer work because they are being strongly challenged. The US must not compensate for these challenges with an impotent policy choice in the Middle East. Iranian appeasement is just such a choice. Meanwhile, no leader (especially an American leader) should remain silent when any people are being threatened with annihilation. But most of the world’s leaders stay tight-lipped when Khamenei speaks his vile epithets. One can only wonder whether the world (especially the EU) has learned anything from the horrendous events of the twentieth century. One thing is clear: the Jews need to remain vigilant in the face of such indifference.