The president’s happy talk and sad resultsAug 10, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 45 • By MAX BOOT
President Obama is putting on the hard sell to market the nuclear deal he reached with Iran. On July 14, in announcing the agreement, he said: “This deal shows the real and meaningful change that American leadership and diplomacy can bring—change that makes our country and the world safer and more secure. We negotiated from a position of strength and principle—and the result is a nuclear deal that cuts off every pathway to a nuclear weapon.”
He promised that this agreement would put Iran and the entire region on a path away from “violence and rigid ideology,” a path towards “tolerance and peaceful resolution of conflicts,” a path that “leads to more integration into the global economy, more engagement with the international community, and the ability of the Iranian people to prosper and thrive.” In conclusion, he said, “This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction. We should seize it.”
Stirring words. But are they credible? Aside from the specifics of the Iran deal, it is possible to look back on the president’s litany of pronouncements about the Middle East to assess the reliability of his promises. Here are a few highlights.
In 2011, President Obama joined an international coalition of countries to drive Muammar Qaddafi out of power. On August 22, after Qaddafi’s ouster, he said: “A season of conflict must lead to one of peace. The future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people. Going forward, the United States will continue to stay in close coordination with the TNC [Transitional National Council]. We will continue to insist that the basic rights of the Libyan people are respected. And we will continue to work with our allies and partners in the international community to protect the people of Libya, and to support a peaceful transition to democracy.”
A year later, on July 7, 2012, he said, “The United States is proud of the role that we played in supporting the Libyan revolution and protecting the Libyan people, and we look forward to working closely with the new Libya—including the elected Congress and Libya’s new leaders. We will engage as partners as the Libyan people work to build open and transparent institutions, establish security and the rule of law, advance opportunity, and promote unity and national reconciliation.”
In fact the United States did precious little to bolster the legitimacy of Libya’s nascent democratic regime. Partly as a result of that failure, Libya transitioned not to democracy but to anarchy—anarchy in which U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. Now Libya has, in effect, no government, and the country is divided among warring militias, with the Islamic State playing an increasingly prominent role.
In 2011, President Obama made a halfhearted effort to win renewal of the Status of Forces Agreement allowing U.S. troops to remain in Iraq. When negotiations, which had begun in the middle of the year, bogged down, the president, rather than getting personally involved in the talks, instead announced that all U.S. troops were coming home. But don’t worry, he said. Their departure would not imperil Iraq’s future.
On October 21, 2011, he promised: “With our diplomats and civilian advisers in the lead, we’ll help Iraqis strengthen institutions that are just, representative, and accountable. We’ll build new ties of trade and of commerce, culture, and education, that unleash the potential of the Iraqi people. We’ll partner with an Iraq that contributes to regional security and peace, just as we insist that other nations respect Iraq’s sovereignty. . . . Just as Iraqis have persevered through war, I’m confident that they can build a future worthy of their history as a cradle of civilization. . . . So to sum up, the United States is moving forward from a position of strength.”
A few weeks later, on December 12, 2011, he hosted Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at the White House. In a joint appearance, Obama said: “The prime minister leads Iraq’s most inclusive government yet. Iraqis are working to build institutions that are efficient and independent and transparent. . . . In the coming years, it’s estimated that Iraq’s economy will grow even faster than China’s or India’s. . . . People throughout the region will see a new Iraq that’s determining its own destiny—a country in which people from different religious sects and ethnicities can resolve their differences peacefully through the democratic process.”
11:23 AM, Jun 26, 2015 • By JOHN ROSENTHAL
Back in the heady days when the Western world was still enthralled by what was then known as the Arab Spring, the 2012 Egyptian presidential elections represented a watershed – if albeit a mixed one, given the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi. The coming-to-power of Morsi provided one of the clearest signals that the “Arab Spring” was turning out to be an Islamist spring. But as it occurred by democratic means, hardly anyone could object.
10:51 AM, Dec 19, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Concerned Veterans for America has launched a new video series on the failures of the Obama administration's foreign policy doctrine of "leading from behind." The launch begins with Libya as a case study in what's gone wrong with U.S. foreign relations. Watch the video below:
A society on the edge of chaos.Feb 18, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 22 • By LEE SMITH
This week marks the second anniversary of the fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Two years after the refrain “the people want to topple the regime” filled Tahrir Square, it is now Egypt itself that is toppling. Street violence has pitted various groups against each other—anarchists against Islamists, policemen against protesters, men against women—and has left scores dead throughout the country.
Feb 4, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 20 • By LEE SMITH
One thing Hillary Clinton got right in her testimony before Congress last week: “When America is absent,” she said, “there are consequences.” But the administration she served has chosen to be absent, and we are seeing the consequences play out, from North Africa to the Levant, where the unchecked flow of weapons, experienced jihadist fighters, and Salafist ideology is reshaping the regional balance of power—and tilting it agai
Dec 17, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 14 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
The flurry of excitement over Syria’s “moving” of chemical weapons highlights yet again the paralysis gripping U.S. Middle East strategy. “We’re kind of boxed in,” an administration official confessed to the New York Times. “There’s an issue of presidential credibility here, but our options are quite limited.”
7:19 AM, Dec 4, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
Iran is claiming to have successfully "hunted" an American drone, according to a piece in the regime organ Fars News Agency. The propaganda outlet claims that this is the first time Iran has shot down an American drone.
8:02 AM, Nov 30, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
Steve Hayes, with A.B. Stoddard and Charles Krauthammer, last night on Fox News:
Internet, landlines, and cell phones are affected.2:00 PM, Nov 29, 2012 • By LEE SMITH
Two technology firms that monitor global Internet traffic report that Syria has been cut off from the Internet. Regular landline phone and cell phones services have been affected as well, Syrian opposition activist Ammar Abdulhamid told me. “Therefore, the possibility of accidental damage can be discounted,” said Abdulhamid. “This is something done intentionally by the regime, and reflects growing desperation on account of the recent advances made by rebels, especially in Damascus.”
10:47 AM, Oct 22, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
It's worth recalling President Barack Obama's foreign policy instincts before tonight's presidential debate on that topic.
Leading from the front against Assad, Hezbollah, and Iran, Wissam al-Hassan was an American ally.4:32 PM, Oct 20, 2012 • By LEE SMITH
Yesterday a car bomb in Beirut killed a senior Lebanese security chief along with seven others, while wounding hundreds in Ashrafiyeh, a busy neighborhood in Christian-majority East Beirut. The target, Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, was close to former prime minister Saad Hariri and his late father, Rafik Hariri. Yesterday evening, Hariri supporters, mostly Sunnis, closed down roads and burned tires in protest against the assassins, almost certainly tied to the Syrian regime and their Lebanese ally Hezbollah.
8:46 AM, Oct 3, 2012 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
On and around September 11, 2012, al Qaeda attacked multiple American assets around the world. The attack that has received the most attention is the deadly attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. But the U.S. consulate in Libya was not the only diplomatic facility assaulted by al Qaeda-affiliated groups in September. Terrorists with ties to al Qaeda’s senior leaders, including al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, were involved in at least three other U.S. embassy sieges in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, and possibly elsewhere.
11:18 AM, Oct 1, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
A pro-America rally is scheduled to be held tomorrow outside the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel. The expression of support for America is being organized by Im Tirzu Movement in order to "remind the United States that Israel is America's best friend in the Middle East"
10:08 AM, Sep 27, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
In a message to Israeli citizens yesterday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he'd use his remarks at the United Nations to respond to the "black day" at the international body. Netanyahu is scheduled to speak later today.