Alan Edelstein
Alan Edelstein

A Thanksgiving to remember?

I have had many debates with friends over the years about President Obama’s foreign policy, which I thought was very likely to lead to dangerous situations in several parts of the world, particularly here in the Middle East. President Obama had a strategic vision of the U.S. withdrawing from its traditional “policeman of the world” role in several of the world’s regions and of regional players developing balancing acts of their own in each region.

Many predicted that this policy would lead to disaster in the Middle East, and it may just be coming to fruition. It resulted in Iran and Russia moving in at an extraordinary scale and pace to fill the void. One can argue that it is, at least in part, responsible for the deaths of a half million Syrians, the displacement of millions more of them, and basically the disintegration of Syria as a unified nation. Not to mention the slaughter in Yemen.

One can argue whether the nuclear deal is a plus or a minus in terms of perhaps delaying Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons for 10 or 15 years before becoming an internationally legitimatized nuclear power, but one cannot argue with the fact that it did nothing to make Iran a more responsible member of the “family of nations” as Obama predicted it would. Iran has become more aggressive, more destabilizing, and more set on hegemony in the area.

The Obama Administration’s policy was naïve and misguided, and its policies have led to a very dangerous situation.

I don’t credit President Trump with any deeply held strategic vision. He is just a narcissistic, unread, impulsive, insecure bully, although he may have a few people around him who have some background, reasoning ability, and strategic vision. Despite all of his tough talk, he basically has allowed the results of the Obama vision to occur, and may have actually accelerated them.

President Trump agreed to allow Iran/Russia to be right on the Golan Heights, within kilometers of Israel. Iran and Hezbollah are in control of Lebanon. Lebanon’s Sunni Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, quit, laying the blame on both Iran and Hezbollah and thereby precipitating a crisis in Lebanon and the region. Saudi Arabia, along with other Gulf States, has urged its citizens to leave Lebanon.

We have a powder keg on our Northern border. Hezbollah/Syria/Iran may very well start a war with Israel to try to divert attention away from its aggressiveness in Lebanon and to try to unite the Arab/Muslim world against us rather than have much of it aligned against them. Or, Sunni forces, led or encouraged by Saudi Arabia, may start a war against Hezbollah, drawing in Syria and Iran and, ultimately, Israel.

Israeli generals have said that Israel will have to quickly pound Southern Lebanon with massive bombing to prevent it from doing severe damage to Israel with the approximately 120,000 missiles that Hezbollah, with Syrian and Iranian as supporters and suppliers, has buried within towns and villages in Southern Lebanon in flagrant violation of UN Resolution 1701.

Resolution 1701 was passed at the end of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. It required the following: 1) Disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon (implying Hezbollah); 2) No armed forces other than UNIFIL and Lebanese (implying Hezbollah and Israeli forces) south of the Litani River;3) No foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its government.

Israel complied. Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran have not.

The UN has effectively done nothing to enforce the resolution. Now, to protect its citizens, Israel will have to do massive destruction, resulting in the death and injury of thousands of Lebanese citizens. The world will inevitably condemn Israel. Moreover, now that the Russians have re-entered the Middle East after many years of trying but being thwarted by the U.S.,
the IDF will have the added complication of ensuring it does not inadvertently kill or wound Soviet “advisors” in the area, thereby precipitating unimaginable consequences.

In Wednesday’s NY Daily News, Dennis Ross, while, discussing the consequences of the U.S. failure to stand by the Kurds, also addresses the larger dangers of U.S. Middle East policies under both the Trump and Obama administrations.

Khaled Abu Toameh discusses the widening reach of Iran and Hezbollah, their efforts to move into the Gaza Strip, and the resulting adverse impacts on the chances for peace.

I am pretty certain this is not the first thing on most of the minds of those  Americans who supported and still support President Obama’s foreign policy, and I doubt it is the first thing on the minds of most of the  Americans who support President Trump’s foreign policy are aware of this.  But both sides should know that America’s foreign policy, both in the recent past and currently, is at least partially responsible for terrible death and destruction in the Middle East and is very likely to lead to an awful conflagration very soon.

While Americans prepare to count their many blessings on Thanksgiving, they may want to take a moment to question whether America’s Middle East policy has potentially led to a very deadly season here in this part of the world.

About the Author
Alan Edelstein was a lawyer and lobbyist in California for 30 years. He currently lives in Jerusalem and Sacramento, California and consults on governmental affairs, communications, politics, and business development. He blogs at Inquiries regarding speaking engagements: