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Ending Obama's Middle East Drift


There appears to be a hard-nosed strategy of sorts trying to emerge from under the rubble of the Obama administration’s Middle East policy, and it may not be a bad one. FP is reporting that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is on the cusp of concluding a massive $10 billion arms deal with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE that could help renew US credibility in the region.

Pentagon officials insist it’s basically a done deal; other individuals close to it say there are some details still on the table. Either way, when Hagel does get it across, the Obama White House will have fresh leverage in a region that’s once again engulfed in turmoil. Exactly how much leverage is unclear; Hagel is also seen as the singular channel to Egyptian General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi — who took over in Cairo despite Washington’s wishes, and whose troops have begun massacring its enemies in the streets.

What really animates the arms deal is the degree to which it strengthens not only Israel’s capabilities, but those of two other Arab countries against the region’s biggest danger: Iran. That has thrust Hagel, already acknowledged as the administration’s messenger to Egyptian leaders during that turmoil, to the fore as someone who has enough gravitas to anchor a new coalition between Israel and Arab countries.

It’s good to see that the administration hasn’t lost sight of the importance of containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Of course, whether Chuck Hagel or anyone else within the administration can bring the positive momentum generated by an informal Arab-Israeli coalition to bear on the burgeoning chaos irrupting elsewhere in the region is an open question. But it’s a potentially credible approach if backed by a measure of hard power, and as such is a sight better than the diplomatic careening we’ve been witnessing up until now.

[Chuck Hagel and Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon, courtesy Getty Images.]

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  • cubanbob

    The influence our weapons sales bring is contigent on not only how good our weapons are but the strings that come with them. Too many strings and the weapons aren’t worth it. Besides the sales are also a way to keep the production lines open to cover the drop in sales to the pentagon. The foreign buyers aren’t that ignorant.

  • wigwag

    I think the article gets it backwards at least for the Saudis. The arms deal gives provides the United States with little leverage; what it demonstrates is that the Saudis have alot of leverage over us.

    From Obama’s perspective, the Saudis have gone rogue. There $12 billion in aid to Egypt (with support from other Gulf Arab regimes) made American aid dramatically less consequential to the Egyptian military. At the same time Obama is asking the Egyptian generals to go easy on the Muslim Brothers, the Saudis are asking for a harsh crackdown. Who do you think the Egyptian generals are going to listen to?

    Because the Saudis have taken charge, Chuck Hagel can’t pressure the Egyptians not to attack the Brotherhood too harshly, he’s been reduced to begging the Generals not to be too tough on the Brothers.

    To make matters worse, it is now being widely reported that Prince Bandar has arranged for Vladimir Putin to visit Egypt before the end of August and that he is coming with a big package of military goodies all to be financed by the Saudis. This makes Obama’s influence over Egypt even less important that it already was.

    Our clueless Cimmander-in-Chief resembles Elmer Fudd more and more with each passing day.

    American leverage in the Middle East is more anemic than ever. What little we have less is disappearing fast.

    That’s what happens when you elect a “community organizer” as President.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    While I agree selling our weapons to allies or potential allies is smart. How selling our weapons to these three countries, whom we’ve been selling our weapons to for decades, is being seen as the Obama administration finally ending it’s diplomatic careening I just don’t see it.

  • Mahon1

    Gee, maybe our influence would be even greater if we had a couple Army divisions and an air wing stationed in Iraq. Of course, that might interfere with the “soft power” that has contributed so much to stability in the region.

  • ljgude

    Personally, I’d take the Egyptian General staff out to dinner to thank them.

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