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The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
Hashimi and Mutlaq are now in hiding in Erbil. Maliki is demanding that the Kurdish regional government extradite them to Baghdad for trial.
Maliki's actions have driven Sunni leaders in the Sunni provinces of Diyala, Anbar and Salahadin to demand autonomy under Iraq's federal system. He has responded by deploying loyal forces to the provinces to fight the local militias.
The situation is so explosive that three prominent Sunni leaders, former prime minister Ayad Allawi, who heads the Iraqiya party, Parliament Speaker Osama Nujaifi, and Finance Minister Rafe al-Essawi published an op-ed in the New York Times on Tuesday begging Obama to rein in Maliki in order to prevent Iraq from plunging into civil war.
Then there is Egypt. Obama's decision in February to abandon then president Hosni Mubarak, the US's most dependable ally in the Arab world in favor of the protesters in Tahrir Square was hailed by his supporters as a victory for democracy and freedom against tyranny. By supporting the protesters against the US ally, Obama argued that he was advancing US interests by showing the Muslim world the US favored the people over their leaders.
Ten months later, the Egyptian people have responded to this populist policy by giving jihadist parties a two-thirds majority in Egypt's parliamentary elections. For the first time in thirty years, the strategic anchor of US power in the Arab world — the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty — is in danger. Indeed, there is no reason to believe it will survive.
According to the Gallup poll, 48 percent of Americans approve of Obama's handling of the war in Afghanistan and 44 percent disapprove. Here too, it is far from clear what there is to approve of. Against the public entreaties of the US commanders on the ground, Obama is carrying through on his pledge to withdraw all US surge troops from Afghanistan by the US presidential elections in November. In the meantime, the US is engaged in negotiations with the Taliban. The purpose of these negotiations is to reach a political agreement that would set the conditions for the Taliban to return to power after a US pullout. That is, the purpose of the talks is to set the conditions for a US defeat in Afghanistan.
The administration hails its success in overthrowing Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi without sacrificing a single US soldier. And certainly, this was a success. However, Qaddafi's opponents, who are now taking charge of the country, are arguably worse for the US than Qaddafi was. They include a significant number of al Qaida terrorists and are dominated by jihadist forces. Attempts by the NATO-backed provisional government to convince them to disarm have failed completely.
Since Qaddafi was overthrown, large quantities of advanced weapons from his arsenal — allegedly including stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction — have gone missing. Significant quantities of Libyan shoulder-to-air missiles have made their way to Gaza since Qaddafi's overthrow.
In Syria, while the administration insists that dictator Bashar Assad's days in power are numbered, it is doing essentially nothing to support the Syrian opposition. Fearing the instability that would ensue if a civil war were to break out in Iran's Arab protectorate, the US has chosen to effectively sit on its hands and so cancel any leverage it ought to wield over the shape of things to come.
As to Iran, Obama's policies have brought about a situation where the regime in Teheran does not fear a US military strike on its nuclear installations. Obama's open opposition to the prospect of an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear installations has similarly convinced the regime that it can proceed without fear in its nuclear project.
Iran's threat this week to close the Straits of Hormuz in the event that the US imposes an embargo on Iranian oil exports is being widely characterized by the US media as a sign of desperation on the part of the regime. But it is hard to see how this characterization aligns with reality. It is far more appropriate to view Iran's easy threats as a sign of contempt for Obama and for US power projection under his leadership.
If Iran's ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons are thwarted, it will be despite Obama, not because of him.
Then there is the so-called peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Due to Obama's unbridled hostility towards Israel, there is no chance whatsoever that Israel and the PLO will reach a peace deal for the foreseeable future. Instead, Fatah and Hamas have agreed to unify their forces. The only thing standing in the way of a Hamas takeover of the PLO is the US Congress's threat to cut off US aid to the Palestinian Authority. For his part, Obama has gone out of his way to discredit the Congressional threat by serving as an indefatigable lobbyist for maintaining US financial support for the PA.
Of course, the Middle East is not the only region where the deleterious consequences of Obama's foreign policy are being felt. From Europe, to Africa, to Asia, to Latin America, Obama's determination to embrace US adversaries like Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez has weakened pro-US forces and strengthened US foes.
So how is that that while Carter was perceived by the majority of the American public as a foreign policy failure, a large plurality of Americans views Obama's foreign policy as a success?
Obama's success in hiding his failures from the American public owes to two related factors. First, to date the US has not been forced to contend directly with the consequences of his failures.
Carter's failures were impossible to ignore because the blowback from his failures was immediate, unmistakable and harsh. His betrayal of the Shah of Iran led directly to the takeover of the US Embassy in Teheran and the hostage crisis. Carter could not spin to his advantage the daily stories about the hostages. He could not influence CBS evening news anchor Walter Cronkite's decision to end every broadcast by reminding viewers how many days the hostages had been in captivity.
So too, the consequences of Carter's weakness in confronting the Soviet Union were impossible to ignore or minimize with images of Soviet tank columns invading Afghanistan dominating the news.
To date, Obama's foreign policy failures have yet to explode in a manner that can make the average American aware of them.
Then too, Obama and his advisors have been extremely adept in presenting his tactical achievements as strategic victories. So it is that the administration has successfully cast the killing of Osama bin Laden as a strategic victory in the war on terror. Obama has upheld the mission, as well as the killing of al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki as proof of his competence in securing US interests. And to a large degree, the US public has accepted his claims.
Because it is impossible to know when Obama's failures will begin to directly impact the America people, it is possible that he will not pay a political price for them in the 2012 elections. Be that as it may, the Republican presidential contenders would provide an invaluable service to both themselves and the American public as a whole if they make exposing Obama's disastrous stewardship of US foreign policy a central plank of their campaigns.
At a minimum, forewarned is forearmed. And the dimensions of Obama's failures are so enormous, that it is clear that the American people will suffer their consequences for years to come.
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JWR contributor Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where her column appears.