Strategic failure

In a New York Times interview, President Obama spoke on the Iran deal and also how it has been “personally difficult” for him to hear expressions that his administration has not done everything it could to look out for Israel’s interest.

Who would have suspected a politician to have such ‘thin’ skin regarding criticism?

The more appropriate response is to borrow the old British expression “the proof is in the pudding”. President Obama spent nearly a quarter of The New York Times interview in a vain attempt to assure not only Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israelis in general that the Iranian deal makes their country and the region safer. This is laughable.

Really? How when Iran sponsors terrorism, supports the proxy-war between itself and Saudi Arabia in Yemen and in the Golan Heights with Israel and whose support in Syria is questionable.

The president defended the deal, as is his prerogative, saying that the framework provides an almost foolproof monitoring system to ensure that Tehran did not produce any nuclear weapons for at least 20 years. Almost foolproof.

Does anyone remember how a similar system worked in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War? And on the deal specifically, the U.S. conceded to Iran the point that Iranian military sites are not open to inspectors. So, the logical question is then, what will prevent Iran from continuing its research and nuclear weapon development at said military sites which are not monitored?

The president uttered statements that while rhetorical reassuring is questionable in context of American foreign policy in the region. President Obama stated, “I would consider it a failure on my part, a fundamental failure of my presidency, if on my watch, or as a consequence of work I have done, Israel was rendered more vulnerable. That is not just a strategic failure, that would be a moral failure,” Obama said. The president went further, “Our core interests are, that everyone is living in peace, that it is orderly, that our allies are not being attacked…”

But this is wrong. Allies are being attacked. Iraq has large swaths of its territory under the control of ISIL. Israel is and has been continually attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah. Yemen, once championed by the president as an example of an ally that successfully transitioned to democracy from the upheaval of the Arab Spring has been over-run by Iranian-backed rebels. Libya has descended into civil war. Egypt and Jordan are dealing with the strain of Palestinian and Syrian refugees, internal discontent, and threat of ISIL.

Rather than making the region safe, the nuclear deal with Iran and American foreign policy in the Middle East has made the region less safe. Long-standing allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel have become more vulnerable. American diplomatic and military relations offer the perception that the commitment of the U.S. to allies and nations in need is doubtful instead of resolute.

Finally, addressing specifically the potential charge stated by President Obama of both strategic and moral failure, it is appropriate that he did so, because as history and future generations will judge his legacy in the region, there is a real possibility that he did fail on both.

About the Author
Dr. Aaron Walter teaches International Relations. He writes on American foreign policy towards Israel. In addition to topics directly related to U.S.-Israeli politics, he has written on the presidency and security studies as linked to U.S., Europe, and Israeli studies