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Obama’s Faith-Building Exercise: Energy and the Middle East

Our Sphinx-like president is now faced with a riddle: how to maintain stability in the Middle East, in the midst of, ironically enough given his campaign slogan, tectonic change.

by
Mary Claire Kendall

Bio

March 26, 2011 - 11:18 pm
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“Let me tell you, these past two years, they have deepened my faith,” President Barack Obama intoned at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this year.

Let me tell you, President Obama, these past two years, they have deepened everyone’s faith!

The latest faith-building exercise is the president’s management of revolution in the Middle East, where strategically important energy supplies hang in the balance, while he’s simultaneously curbing American oil and gas production.

It’s surreal.

Just before that Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire, thereby inflaming the region with revolutionary fervor, Obama, on December 1, rescinded his March 2010 decision to expand offshore oil exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic coast — a moratorium expected to last at least seven years. All told, these regions have reserves equivalent to Norway (7.5 billion barrels of oil), and Canada (58.5 trillion cubic feet of gas); and the expansion, partially opening those waters, would have yielded enough oil to fuel more than 2.4 million cars and heat 8 million households for 60 years.

In spite of a Louisiana federal judge holding the administration in contempt over the moratorium, Republican Senator David Vitter (R-LA) recently called out Obama appointees Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Director Michael Bromwich, for claiming many more pending offshore drilling permits than is actually the case.

Under pressure, Bromwich, the top U.S. offshore-drilling regulator, said this month that more permits would be issued “within the next week,” not months, while publicly excoriating the industry for what he considers its devil-could-care attitude in the wake of last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Bromwich told reporters, “I don’t know what the pace will be going forward. I don’t think anyone is in a position to say what that will be.”

But Obama’s energy sleight-of-hand is a tea party compared to his management of revolution in the Middle East.

He was, of course, a little late to that party that, Sphinx-like, now involves solving a riddle — how to maintain stability in the midst of tectonic change — or be gobbled up.

Obama didn’t even mention the nascent Egyptian uprising in his State of the Union and failed to publicly encourage democracy in Egypt until crisis hit, leaving many scratching their heads given Egypt’s critically important role in Middle East stability.

With revolution spreading like wild fire throughout the region, prevention in Egypt — urging now-deposed President Hosni Mubarak, as President George W. Bush did, to prune dead branches of government repression and end incendiary injustice — should have been job one.

But it was only when the fire was fully ablaze that Obama engaged — in spite of remaining neutral during the historic Iranian “Green Revolution” in June 2009. Nine days earlier, speaking at Cairo University, on the eve of the Iranian elections then shaping up as a sham, Obama highlighted U.S. intervention in the 1953 Iranian coup, intimating that it catalyzed the 1979 radical theocratic takeover. When protests erupted over the patently unfair Iranian elections, Obama remained neutral in spite of the fact that our interests and values perfectly aligned in that instance.

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