Belmont Club

The Inscrutable Barack Obama

Caroline Glick describes President Obama’s trip to Israel as a “mysterious visit.” To her, the administration policy in the Middle East is a riddle wrapped inside an enigma.

The is truth we don’t know why Obama is coming to Israel. The Obama administration has not indicated where its Israel policy is going. And Obama’s Republican opposition is in complete disarray on foreign policy and not in any position to push him to reveal his plans.

Barry Rubin, also based in Israel, believes the president does have a long-term strategic goal. He’s decided to break with old American policy in the Middle East and throw his weight behind what he believed to be the coming wave of Islamic politics in the region. Rubin wrote that an analysis of documents showed that Obama’s idea of a solution to the crisis in the region was to pick the other side on the grounds that it would win:

In other words, a popular revolt was going to happen (I’ve seen the cables from the U.S. embassy in Tunisia that accurately predicted an upheaval), but would it succeed or fail? The Obama administration concluded that the revolt should succeed and set out to help make sure that it did so. As for who won, it favored not just moderate Islamic forces — which hardly existed as such — but moderate Islamist forces.

Which didn’t exist at all…

So the Obama administration did not stand beside friendly regimes or help to manage a limited transition with more democracy and reforms. No, it actively pushed to bring down at least four governments — Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen.

It did not push for the overthrow of two anti-American regimes — Iran and Syria — but on the contrary was still striving for good relations with those two dictatorships.

Equally, it did not push for the fall of radical anti-American governments in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

No, it only pushed for the fall of “valuable allies.”

In which case his trip to Israel is for the purpose of “managing the decline.” Does this conclusively show what is on the president’s mind? At least one Republican who is still asking pointed questions about Obama’s Arab Spring policy is Senator Lindsey Graham. He believes on the basis of survivor interviews that the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was burned while the U.S. was trying to cork the terrorist genie unleashed when Gaddafi was overthrown. “We were desperately trying to control the anti-aircraft missiles, the manpads, that were all over Libya, that are now all over the Mideast.”

An even larger genie, Graham argues, is now being freed in Syria and is demanding a plan to secure the Assad arsenal. According to CBS News: “Amid unconfirmed allegations of a chemical weapons attack in Syria, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is demanding a plan to secure chemical weapon sites in the country – even if it means sending in U.S. troops, according to Foreign Policy. Graham expressed grave concerns about the prospect of ‘chemical weapons in Syria falling in the hands of extremists,’ and said in an interview with Foreign Policy today ‘Americans need to lead on this issue.'”

This suggests that Obama is at least partially afraid of the powerful forces he has unleashed. Thus, even if Rubin is right, the other side of the coin is a desire to keep things from going too far. And in this matter the president has to walk a tightrope.

The use of chemical weapons, readers may recall, constituted an Obama “red line” that Syrians should not cross. It has probably been technically crossed already. But until some huge and barbaric attack returns the issue to world headlines, the president can temporarily ignore it. It is more than likely that Obama will address another “red line” in the coming days: Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon. The Financial Times writes:

President Obama said recently that he does not think Iran will be in position to get a nuclear weapon for at least another year. But Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s PM, is still looking for a firmer commitment from the White House that if the Iranians take their nuclear capability beyond a certain point, the US will take military action.

Obama had hoped that diplomats could persuade Iran to back off at a meeting in Almaty in Kazakhstan. James Blitz says: “But senior western diplomats say that a further round of technical discussions was held on Monday in Istanbul and that this did not go well at all. According to one senior western official I have spoken to: ‘The Istanbul meeting went badly wrong and there’s a sense now that the whole process is delivering nothing.’”

That would be par for the course. But sooner or later, like the chemical weapons, the red line will be crossed in a manner so unmistakable that a crisis cannot be avoided.

The administration has proved remarkably vulnerable to manipulation by enemy intelligence. A hacker named “Guccifer” recently broke into the email accounts of Sidney Blumenthal, who was an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In his emails, Blumental accidentally recorded himself spoon-feeding disinformation by the Libyan officials to Hillary Clinton. He wrote to Clinton that “a senior security officer told [interim Libyan President Mohammed Yussef] el Magariaf that the attacks on that day were inspired by what many devout Libyans viewed as a sacrilegious internet video on the prophet Mohammed originating in America.”

Later Blumenthal passed on a different story.

This individual adds that this information provided by the French service indicates that the funding for both attacks originated with wealthy Sunni Islamists in Saudi Arabia. During July and August 2012, these financers provided funds to AQIM contacts in Southern Europe, who in turn passed the money into AQIM operatives in Mauritania. These funds were eventually provided to Ansar al Sharia and its allied militias in the Benghazi region in support of their attack on the US consulate. The money was used to recruit operatives and purchase ammunition and supplies.

How “intelligence” like this is evaluated is an open question, but the Mohammed-video incident shows how gullible the administration can be. It cannot be discounted that Obama is being played like a fiddle by Islamist diplomats. And done once, then why not again? No wonder the president’s foreign policy in the Middle East is “mysterious.” A sufficiently “confused,” “meandering,” and “deluded” policy is indistinguishable from “mysterious.”

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

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