Aug 17, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 46 • By LEE SMITH
War, President Obama says, is the only alternative to his deal with Iran. But if the president’s overriding goal is to avoid bloody conflict, why is he arming the Middle East for a shootout that may lead to Armageddon?
The Iran nuclear deal lifts the U.N. arms embargo and ensures a huge cash windfall to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which will fund its imperial wars across the Middle East. As a result, the other side is girding its loins for combat, too. Saudi Arabia is almost certain to go shopping for a nuclear weapon, now that the path is clear for Iran to get a nuke. But, of more immediate concern, the White House has been selling conventional weapons systems to the Sunni Arab states at record levels.
It’s worth remembering that Obama believes these same Gulf Cooperation Council states—Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, etc.—that have spent billions on U.S. weapons are also the most threatened from within. The Gulf Arabs’ real strategic threat, Obama says, is not Iran but their own disenfranchised populations. In other words, the president is arming states he believes are fundamentally unstable, regimes that might not be long for this world. He wouldn’t give MANPADs to the Syrian rebels because shoulder-held missile systems might wind up in the wrong hands. But apparently it’s okay to bestow F-15s on countries whose masses feed the ranks of ISIS.
The Middle East never fails to disappoint. Many believed that the silver lining in the Iran nuclear deal would be improved relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, thanks to a shared concern over a nuclearized Islamic Republic. Israel and Saudi Arabia would perhaps coordinate on regional defense and fighting the deal in Washington. Nope. As Obama noted in his speech at American University last week, the government of Israel is the one country that says the deal is rotten (as does the American public, by a 2-1 ratio, in recent polls). Whatever they may think privately, the Gulf states will not stand alongside Israel to oppose the deal.
According to a senior Israeli official, the Saudis think they can’t afford a fight with the White House, even though Obama has less than a year and a half left in office. The way the Saudis see it, the Israelis can have a public argument with the president because it’s family, and after Obama everything will go back to normal. The Saudis have a point—they have never enjoyed the popular American support that Israel counts on. Riyadh’s ability to influence American policymakers is based on the oil it sells, the money it spreads around, and the weapons it buys. The arrangement has been good for the stability of global markets and American industry. It was also good for regional security insofar as it was the United States that, regardless of how many arms the Saudis bought, was ultimately responsible for keeping the Persian Gulf safe.
The other key component to managing regional security, of course, is that the United States also protected the Saudis from themselves. Riyadh never wanted a nuclear weapon until now not just because it knew Israel wasn’t going to level Mecca and Medina. The Saudis understood that the Americans were 100 percent with them, so they didn’t have to do things, like acquire a bomb, that might well complicate Saudi Arabia’s interminable succession crises. Once you remove the United States from regional security, the Saudis are more apt to shoot themselves in the foot—and they have plenty of guns to do it with.
But that’s not how Obama sees it. He wants the Arabs to grow up and learn how to take care of themselves. That is a fine instinct for a parent, but it is hardly a foreign policy principle. You can’t change the nature of your allies without risking the interests that they embody.
Obama’s view of Persian Gulf security is based on the twin-pillars policy that Great Britain formulated shortly before it vacated the Middle East. In order to cover its retreat, London wanted to establish a balance of power in the Persian Gulf between Iran and Saudi Arabia. That’s what Obama wants—a geopolitical “equilibrium,” as he’s put it, that will stabilize the region while the United States retreats.
The twin-pillars policy may have been attractive as an academic theory, but there was no balance of power after the Brits left—the United States simply filled the vacuum. It was only because of the American presence that there was any stability in the Gulf. For instance, when the order of the region was threatened after Saddam invaded Kuwait and contemplated a run at Saudi Arabia, Washington had to land troops to restore order.
Aug 17, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 46 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
It’s more than a quarter-century since the Berlin Wall came down. We now take it for granted that it happened, assume it was inevitable that it would happen, and forget that some people helped bring about victory in the Cold War while others sought to impede their efforts.
Mar 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 26 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Three moments stood out for me as I watched Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech Tuesday from the gallery of the House of Representatives.
Jan 19, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 18 • By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
This past week, at least a dozen French people, most of them journalists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, were gunned down during an editorial meeting by the brothers Chérif and Said Kouachi, two French Muslims who may have returned recently from waging jihad in Syria. French citizens crowded into public squares across the country to vent their grief and wave signs reading “I am Charlie.” Foreign leaders professed their willingness to rally behind the values that France shares with the West.
Dec 1, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 12 • By LEE SMITH
As we go to press, the White House has reportedly offered Iran a deal regarding its nuclear program, a framework agreement with details to be worked out in the coming months. However, even as the interim agreement is set to expire November 24, it seems the Iranians have not responded to the Obama administration’s offer. And why would they? The White House has made it clear it wants a deal more than the Islamic Republic does. Under the circumstances, why wouldn’t Tehran wait to see how many more U.S. concessions it can extract?
Nov 3, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 08 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Supposing Republicans win a big victory on November 4. What then?
First, celebration. Republicans are sober and conservatives are . . . conservative. Neither group has a reputation as party animals. But The Weekly Standard gives them permission—nay, we urge them with the full authority of our weighty editorial voice—to let themselves go for one night. Pop the champagne corks. Put on the party hats. Go wild with the funny little noisemakers.
Nov 3, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 08 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
At long last, the conventional wisdom about the 2014 midterms is here: It’s an election about nothing.
Oct 13, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 05 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
How to introduce students to conservative thought? It’s hard. The colleges and universities aren’t interested. The media and popular culture are hostile. What if young Americans nonetheless become aware of the existence of such a thing as conservative thought? How to convey its varieties and complexities? Even tougher. You can write articles and put things online, but there’s an awful lot competing for young people’s attention these days.
But there’s good news nonetheless. Help has arrived. Its name? President Barack Obama.
Oct 13, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 05 • By LEE SMITH
Last week Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to the U.N. General Assembly and the White House to warn against letting Iran become a nuclear threshold state. He may be too late. With the Obama administration walking back its longstanding demand that Iran dismantle its centrifuges, the clerical regime in Tehran will soon be on the threshold of a nuclear breakout.
This fact is not lost on the White House. Recent appointments and statements underscore the administration’s new posture toward Iran—détente.
Sep 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 03 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Republican voters are down on the sluggish GOP officials they elected, and the officeholders whine about the unreasonable people who voted for them. Republican backbenchers complain about their lame leaders, and GOP leaders grumble about their unruly followers. Right-wing pundits despair of unimaginative Republican pols, and the hard-headed pols are impatient with impractical commentators. Conservative activists loathe the GOP establishment, and the establishment is terrified and contemptuous of the base.
Sep 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 03 • By JAY COST
Pundits throw out all sorts of numbers to explain the Republican defeat in the 2012 presidential election. So here’s our number: $65,000. That is a rough estimate of the household income of the average 2012 voter. Republicans lost because Mitt Romney did not do well enough with this voter or those near him on the income scale.
Sep 8, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 48 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
"Rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy and it won’t be quick,” President Obama told the American Legion’s annual convention in Charlotte on Tuesday, August 26. He repeated the thought in his pre-Labor Day weekend press conference on August 28. A week before, the day after the murder of James Foley, Obama had remarked, “From governments and peoples across the Middle East there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer, so that it does not spread.”
Sep 1, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 47 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
On Tuesday, August 19, an American citizen, James Foley, was savagely killed. The group of jihadists known as ISIL had previously killed and brutalized tens of thousands of non-Americans. But they killed Foley because he was an American. They titled the grotesque video of this particular act of barbarism “A message to America.”