What was John Kerry thinking, Michael Doran asks in the Jewish-oriented publication Mosaic. “By seeking reconciliation with Iran, Washington alienates its allies and contributes to ever greater mayhem in the Middle East.”
“It’s not clear what Kerry was thinking,” Ravid wrote. Indeed, Kerry’s Israeli critics assumed that he was not thinking at all. One commentator accused him of a “rookie mistake.” But this evaluation assigns responsibility to the wrong man, and incorrectly identifies the nature of the miscalculation. The true architect of the fiasco was not Kerry but President Obama, and the blunder was no tactical mishap. Rather, it was the logical product of a grand strategy, and fits seamlessly into an unmistakably broad pattern.
All across the Middle East, the traditional allies of the United States, just like the Israeli Left, feel that Obama has betrayed them. Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians, Emiratis, and Turks, despite the very real differences among them, nurture grievances similar in kind to those expressed on the pages of Haaretz. Ravid’s question—“What was Kerry thinking?”—deserves to be recast. It would get closer to the heart of the matter to ask what the president was thinking.
The answer is as simple as it is surprising: the president is dreaming of an historical accommodation with Iran. The pursuit of that accommodation is the great white whale of Obama’s Middle East strategy, and capturing it is all that matters; everything else is insignificant by comparison. The goal looms so large as to influence every other facet of American policy, even so seemingly unrelated a matter as a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
And hey, as with most of Mr. Obama’s policies, if they work, great. If they don’t, and they lead to a destabilized Middle East and a weakened America, well, that doesn’t look so bad either from his punitive worldview.
To answer the question at the beginning of the post, what was Kerry thinking? Probably thinking back to his glory days as a radical chic youth, screwing America over during the Cold War. The chance to repeat that on a global scale must feel particularly satisfying to the now-grizzled Winter Soldier, who, as Talleyrand would say, has learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.