US Middle East policy from Eisenhower to Obama: Six decades of dysfunction

As the Obama administration aggressively pursues its policy of détente with the Islamist militant regime in Iran it has maintained media focus on Israel as the lone public critic of the policy of what amounts to protection for regional hegemony backed by an Iranian nuclear warhead. If outspoken criticism by America’s most important traditional ally in the region is more headline-grabbing and distracting from administration aims than the same criticisms from Arab sources, then maintaining focus on Netanyahu serves well the doubtful policy shift underway in Washington. And the more excitable Israeli warnings, the better the target for administration substance-avoiding counter-punches.  As regards US policy towards Iran Arabs and Israel see eye-to-eye. As both attempted to warn Bush of the consequences of invading Iraq and overthrowing Sadam Hussein, consequences today’s reality; as they collectively warned Obama of the consequences of overthrowing Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, consequences today’s reality: any non-ideologically committed rational person must have been able to clearly conclude that empowering Iran would only further destabilize a region already shaken by Bush transforming Iraq into an Iranian vassal state; that providing Iran the time to pursue nuclear weaponization could only result in the Arab insecurity requiring the same level of weaponry for self-protection. 

Any “objective” observer should have been able to conclude long in advance that which Obama & Co. to this day and despite obvious evidence on the ground still apparently are unable to grasp: allow the Islamist Republic the bomb and every Arab state from Egypt to Saudi Arabia to the Gulf emirates to Jordan; every Sunni Islamic country fearing the threat of Iranian Shi’ism including Turkey would seek the same. And the result is a nuclear arms race in the least politically stable region of the world: a nuclear arms race abutting Europe; nuclear terrorism a credible threat to western interests at home and around the world.


As update to my recent article, “President Strangelove…” 

Jordan: In its seemingly endless stream of temerity, duplicity and outright callous indifference, on 28 October, 2014 “[t]he U.S. government formally denied the request for [defensive drones for] Jordan...” Defensive, unarmed drones for America’s ally to protect itself from ISIL now threatening the kingdom on its eastern border;  Jordan, loyal partner in Obama’s “no boots on the ground” air war against Islamic State; Jordan, forced to watch helplessly as television broadcast live its young pilot burned alive in a steel cage! 

Rewards of alliance with Obama. Except when a clear and present danger to its transformed self-interests grows self-evident. Then even Obama “can do the right thing.”  

Rebuffed by the U.S. King Abdulla turned the Chinese for the drones and, coinciding with the arrival in Amman of a Chinese trade delegation to seal the deal Obama did a hasty about-face: those drones are now on fast track for the Hashemite kingdom! 

Syria: In a demonstration that even when the U.S. appears to have achieved a success even “success” turns out to be other than what appears at first glance. A post ops statement by NSA insisted that, “[t]he US government did not coordinate with the Syrian regime, nor did we advise them in advance of the operation.” Which on the face of it may be “true.” But how account for the safe passage afforded America’s Delta Force across Syrian airspace, “bristling with Syrian air defense units” backed by Russian air defense facilities? One explanation might suggest that Kerry’s 12 March trip to Moscow was to inform Obama’s ally in the Syria poison gas cooperation of the upcoming mission which Putin would then have passed on to Assad. Whatever the reason Delta Force managed to safely traverse Syria and carry out its nearly successful (they failed to capture their target alive) mission. Another indication of the burgeoning US-Russia/Iran alliance while America’s “official” allies, Arab and Israeli, remain outside the loop. 

The Saudis: According to a US official, "For the Saudis the moment has come… "There has been a long-standing agreement in place with the Pakistanis and the House of Saud has now made the strategic decision to move forward." According to another US official working in intelligence, “"We know this stuff is available to them off the shelf… “[and] that the Saudis have decided to become a nuclear power.”” 

"We can't sit back and be nowhere as Iran is allowed to retain much of its capability and amass its research," an Arab leader preparing to meet Obama told the New York Times on Monday (11 May). Over the past former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki bin Faisal has repeatedly warned that, "whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too." 

And a  Palestinian voice: We Arabs have been claiming for seven decades now that Israel is the source of all evil… [W]hile most of our governments would not admit it, we know that Israel is the only Levant force capable of keeping Iran at bay... Some Arab governments already realize that Israel is a necessity. We might hate Israel -- we might curse it day and night -- but that does not mean our intellectuals and sane ones want it gone, as each area that Israel leaves falls under chaos, trouble and even Iranian influence, be it in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. 

Let's not get confused here -- we Arabs are most likely going to keep hating Israel and Jews for decades to come. Still, we may have reached the point where we publicly admit that Israel is a better partner than our so-called Muslim brothers in Iran, Syria or elsewhere… After all, a strong Israel has never threatened us without a provocation, while Iran is burning up Syria, dismembering Lebanon and destabilizing Bahrain… If Israel were to disappear tomorrow, Iran would be in Jordan, Bahrain and even Kuwait the next morning. 

We Arabs, along with some Americans, can demonize Israel all we want, but deep down we know we are lucky to have Israel around at such a critical time… American voters, taxpayers and legislators should also realize that supporting Israel means supporting the U.S.'s interests to the fullest. 

My Last Word: Since Eisenhower backing Nasser (and the Soviet Union) against Britain, France and Israel following his nationalization of the Suez Canal I have had serious doubts regarding American policy in the Middle East. An elephant in a china factory is comes to mind from the earliest years. This impression has only been confirmed following Carter deposing America’s principle Muslim ally in the region, the Iranian Shah (1979); Bush invading Iraq, a past US ally and single greatest barrier to Iranian ambitions in the Arab world only to replace its Sunni regime with one headed by Iraqi Shi’a, Iran’s surrogates (2003); Obama decapitating Libyan strongman and US ally in war against terrorism Qaddafi followed soon after by deposing Mubarak of Egypt: both in 2011. Thanks to American ideologues both Iraq and Libya were transformed from relative stability into near failed states, contributing much to the spread of chaos called the “Arab Spring” across the region. 

As an American it is difficult for me to find words to describe my attitude towards that which can only be described as a persistent and insistent policy trajectory seemingly incapable of learning from glaring failures. How many hundreds of thousands lost their lives as combatants and as civilian “collateral damage.” From Libya to Egypt to Syria, Iraq and even Iran during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980’s. In that war the armed both sides contributing to a near-decade war and more than a million casualties alone! Arrogant… ideological… contemptible. 

In the end words fail me.