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Obama Switches Sides

In yesterday’s U.N. speech, Obama kissed goodbye to U.S. allies and signed on with Iran, Russia, and Syria.

6:05 PM, Sep 25, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
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There’s no doubt that a war memorial in, say, Baghdad, or Basra, or Beirut, to our fallen dead is long overdue. But a little respect and appreciation from the Arab world is not the main thing that’s missing. What has a practical impact on the American people is the incompetence of the commander in chief. It’s his job to explain to the American public why the Middle East matters, why maintaining and advancing our interests there also means security at home.

As for the tendency of leaders in the region to skirt tough issues, the unpleasant fact is that Obama is in no position to lecture them on this particular failing. Whoever heard a superpower whine about its allies? American policymakers never deluded themselves that the planes, tanks and other weapons sold to Saudi Arabia meant that Riyadh was capable of taking care of itself. The purchases kept production lines running and were a pledge of U.S. support and investment in the region’s stability. When it came to ensuring open sea-lanes in the world’s most strategically vital body of water in the Persian Gulf, it was up to the United States, not Saudi Arabia, to do it.

Moreover, it cannot have escaped Obama’s notice that our regional allies have indeed tried to address one rather significant difficult problem on their own—the Syrian civil war. Obama has not only rebuffed their request that we take a leading role among them, he has undermined their efforts.

The conflict in Syria, said Obama, “is not a zero-sum endeavor. We are no longer in a Cold War. There’s no Great Game to be won, nor does America have any interest in Syria beyond the well-being of its people, the stability of its neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons, and ensuring it does not become a safe-haven for terrorists.” That’s not how our allies see it. For them it is zero-sum. An Iranian victory in Syria, regardless of whether Bashar al-Assad survives, further expands Tehran’s reach and puts Qassem Suleimani on the border of Israel, Jordan, and Turkey.

From their perspective, the White House has changed sides. In agreeing to the Russian initiative to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, Obama legitimized an Arab butcher whose departure he called for two years ago. Obama made Putin as well as Assad partners. Given that the process to find and destroy all of the Assad regime’s chemical weapons will last at least until mid-2014, or Syria’s next presidential election, Obama is ensuring that when the only Syrians unafraid of sticking their head out of the rubble go to the polls, Assad will still be the only name on the ballot.

If the president of the United States wants to hazard his own prestige on a diplomatic breakthrough with Rouhani that’s one thing. It’s something else when he uses American prestige in order to defend the interests of our adversaries, like Russia, Syria, and the Iranian-led resistance bloc.

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