“I think that the United States has not taken a more active role in Syria from the beginning because they didn’t want to disturb the possibility, to give them space, to negotiate with Iran . . .”
Isn’t it just as likely that the motive is not to disturb the possibility of going to war with Iran?
One war at a time, as Lincoln once said.
Luke, we have been at war with Iran for years, or at least, they have been with us. They have been killing our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan for years, and we have done nothing about it. And, the best way to invite a war is to show weakness to a bully like Iran.
This is a brave effort to sort though the tangle of what motivates Obama’s Middle East policy. Still, I find it difficult to understand why he overtly encouraged Mubarak’s demise but went soft on the Iranian regime during the Green revolution. Iran is a threat as a nuclear power to its neighbors and Europe, and eventually the US while Egypt is a threat only as an economic basket case. I can understand a lot by recognizing that Obama is a post colonial college professor, but his softness on Iran – both readily apparent and speculative as in the current context – makes no sense to me. He toppled Khadafi, which was more a war of choice than Iraq, yet may well be appeasing and bluffing with the iranians. If I were in Israel’s shoes I’d be making my calculations based on not getting any help from the US. I don’t mind a bit of hypocrisy in my politicians, but this is a man who made a great to do about reducing, even eliminating nuclear weapons, and got a Nobel Peace Prize for it before having any opportunity to try to achieve that goal. Everyone knew than, as they do today, that Iran was the single greatest threat because if it obtains nuclear weapons it can seriously alter the power structure in the Middle East. So is Obama walking softly knowing that he will use the big stick? My gut says no, but I recognize I do understand what really makes the man tick.
I think he’s expecting this to become North Korea: Theocracy Edition. Too bad nobody is taking MacArthur’s advice this time, either.
Edit- best-case scenario: the civil war drags on interminably, and Iran sends resources while the U.S. does not. There’s a lot of ruin in a nation, but Iran is still much worse off than the U.S. in terms of cash.
as kissinger said of the iran-iraq war: “too bad they both can’t lose.” in syria, we should arm both sides and keep it going until every last one is eradicated. iow: turn it into a self-cleaning oven.
He’s a Muslim. Look no further for an answer.
Valerie Jarrett! ‘Nuff said!
I’m a big believer in multiple motives whenever figuring out politicians’ decisions, so I don’t doubt that AP and Solana have authoritative administration sources who might emphasize the Iran issue. I think Obama has at least five motives in staying clear of any but the most gingerly involvement in Syria:
1) Obama is at heart a lefty who is unenthusiastic about any and all US military actions (and he’s especially sensitive to the views of the left if his own party)
2) Consistent with that worldview, he is eager to avoid any clash of arms with Iran.
3) He feels burned by the Libya experience where, in his mind, he sought to stand aloof, issuing statements but taking no military action, and was pressured into action by France, Britain, human rights advocates and US public opinion which was unsurprisingly hostile to Gaddafi — action that has left a mess and empowered AQIM.
4) He quite rightly fears that prominent US intervention in Syria could drag us into a similar post-regime mess, while creating a situation in Syria where al Qaeda-affiliated groups and Salafists generally would gain new influence and use US intervention against us.
5) He understands and fears that the more significant US support to anti-Assad forces, the more likely Iranian or Iranian-inspired retaliation — through stepped up anti-US actions in Afghanistan to Hezbollah terrorism inside Lebanon or perhaps elsewhere.
I’m not saying Obama is right about any of this; only that this may be his thinking. Consider how he approached the resurgence of AQAP in Yemen: as AQAP built its strength and numbers and went on a major ground offensive in southern Yemen, capturing territory and threatening Aden, Obama declined to authorize military help to Yemeni forces. He stuck to his strategy of targeting key al Qaeda figures (like Awlaki) who were directly involved in operations targeting US interests. (Eventually, the Saudis came to the rescue, running bombing missions against AQAP forces.)
The Obama Foreign Policy;
1. Talk loudly about things of which you are completely ignorant.
2. Don’t carry a stick
3. Vote “Present” as often as possible, rather than do anything or try anything
4. Pretend the entire civilized world is not laughing at your ignorant adolescent condescending pretense of intelligence and effectiveness
5. Enable the advance of shariah wherever possible.
Sounds about right.
Proxy war in Syria? “While we’d be the last to conclude that the case for intervening in Syria is open and shut….” Interpreting foreign policy decisions from outside is always ostensible at best and generally fallible at worst. “Subvert your neighbors…, arm terroists and enable murder and civil war….” read horribly. Yet, the dispatch should be taken as it reads: an observation premised on unattached, though familiar, sources.
Aristotle said that nature abhors a vacuum. Science also holds what is called the Conservation of Energy where all energy exists at a constant sum of its parts whether those parts of energy are the forces of horsepower, foot-pounds, heat, etc. The point is that you can’t increase or decrease energy in the universe. You can only increase your share of energy by taking it from a different source.
This maxim applies itself beyond only the scientific, but to the social and political: Responsibility ignored becomes responsibility
transferred to another party. Power restrained becomes the transfer of power to another state.
Current US policy with Iran and Syria is creating this same power vacuum in the Middle East.
As Mead’s essay clearly shows, whatever Obama’s policy really is to Syria and
Iran, it is misunderstood nationally, internationally, and even less likely to be understood by Syria and Iran. International misunderstandings can be tragic.
To be clearly understood, and to fill the power vacuum, the US, in spite of the inevitable criticisms from Russia and China and even the potential empowerment of anti-Western jihadists in Syria (including al-Queda), should tell Iran as a precondition to further negotiations all nuclear activity must stop, that:
1) The United States can and will do whatever necessary to drive Assad from power and sever Iran’s only link to the Arab, Sunni world, to the Levant and the Mediterranean.
Further, if Iran continues to pursue a nuclear bomb that:
2) The United States can and will destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities, its air force that defends those capabilities and any of its navy seeking to stop the free flow of petroleum through the Persian Gulf.
To Russia and China: The United States holds these nations to contain the reckless statements of North Korea or the United States, with our South Asian allies, will settle the matter with dispatch. No more blackmail from that fat
little pork belly, Kim III.
I realize this will create a great international sucking sound, but that’s what happens when
great power fills a vacuum.
Fantastic piece. But to paraphrase the bard “me thinks the scholar does not understand the liberal conscience”.
Obama, for all his political acumen in America, is still beholden to idea that our foreign policy is best served by simply not creating waves unless there is a nation-wide (in this case Iranian) watershed. i.e. unless the Iranian people really think there might be a war against them, best to not rattle the saber.
Obviously a war with Iran has zero upside, and arming the Syrian rebels is fraught with problems. But there is no way Obama would rather wage an unnecessary war than be seen as a Chamberlain.
Once Iran gets the bomb, probably around 2015, there will be an uproar amongst the Security Council but nothing substantial will be done.
To President Obama, the value of nuclear weapons for a nation-state are the same as an AR-15 rifle for an ordinary American citizen. In both cases, the dangers far outweigh the benefits, and he cannot understand why any rational actor would desire them.