October 25, 2013

October 25, 2013 | Commentary on Syria, Middle East

Prez clueless over Mideast mayhem

This week the president plugged the toll-free number for Obamacare, urging citizens to join by calling in rather than logging in if they want a health care policy.

My question: Which toll-free number do we call if we’re looking for a foreign policy?

The fact is that while we’ve been understandably distracted by domestic policy debates, Team Obama’s foreign policy continues to flounder. The Middle East/North Africa is a good example.

Let’s start with Syria. Despite the U.S.-Russia-U.N. chemical weapons deal last month to remove deadly gas from Syria, the killing continues.

The Bashar Assad regime — backed by Iran and Hezbollah — appears to be on top, the rebels are divided and a meaningful peace conference is a fantasy.

Innocents caught in the crossfire are suffering unspeakable horrors. CNN has reported on snipers targeting pregnant women and children. House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) recently said that Syria-based al-Qaeda plotters could attack abroad.

Saudi Arabia is so peeved about Syria that it passed on a two-year term on the U.N. Security Council, protesting the body’s (read: America’s) inaction on the civil war.

“Dithering” might be the kindest way to describe U.S.-Syria policy over the past two-plus years.

Don’t hold your breath on Iran either. Nuclear talks have been ongoing for 10 years now and the mere possibility that Washington will let Tehran out of the “sanctions” box any time soon is making U.S. partners in the region antsy.

For instance, Israel reportedly worries that we’ll ease punitive sanctions on Iran as a goodwill gesture before getting hard-and-fast progress on the ayatollah’s atomic ambitions.

Or worse yet, that we’ll come up with a squishy, dreadfully overly-optimistic deal that seems to contain Iran’s bomb program but actually allows Tehran to proceed secretly with its nuclear naughtiness.

Plus, there are ample rumblings from Riyadh that they’re none too happy about Washington getting chummy with Tehran, the Saudis’ regional rival.

Remember Iraq, that Middle Eastern country we pulled out of in 2010 after years of war?

Not only have some 6,000 Iraqis reportedly been killed in a simmering, sectarian near-civil war, an al-Qaeda affiliate is planning a new Islamist state that will encompass both Syria and Iraq.

In addition, U.S.-brokered Middle East peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians seem to be going nowhere, despite countless frequent-flier miles logged by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Post-NATO intervention Libya is also a mess. The Benghazi consulate killers are still on the loose a year after the attack, the government is powerless and Islamist militias are running amok.

None of this is good for U.S. interests; a regional instability spiral is possible, perhaps even likely.

It seems Team Obama’s health care policy is about on par with its foreign policy — both are train wrecks. With lives at stake in both cases, that’s just unacceptable.

Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

- See more at: http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/opinion/op_ed/2013/10/prez_clueless_over_mideast_mayhem#sthash.yno94kXL.dpuf

This week the president plugged the toll-free number for Obamacare, urging citizens to join by calling in rather than logging in if they want a health care policy.

My question: Which toll-free number do we call if we’re looking for a foreign policy?

The fact is that while we’ve been understandably distracted by domestic policy debates, Team Obama’s foreign policy continues to flounder. The Middle East/North Africa is a good example.

Let’s start with Syria. Despite the U.S.-Russia-U.N. chemical weapons deal last month to remove deadly gas from Syria, the killing continues.

The Bashar Assad regime — backed by Iran and Hezbollah — appears to be on top, the rebels are divided and a meaningful peace conference is a fantasy.

Innocents caught in the crossfire are suffering unspeakable horrors. CNN has reported on snipers targeting pregnant women and children. House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) recently said that Syria-based al-Qaeda plotters could attack abroad.

Saudi Arabia is so peeved about Syria that it passed on a two-year term on the U.N. Security Council, protesting the body’s (read: America’s) inaction on the civil war.

“Dithering” might be the kindest way to describe U.S.-Syria policy over the past two-plus years.

Don’t hold your breath on Iran either. Nuclear talks have been ongoing for 10 years now and the mere possibility that Washington will let Tehran out of the “sanctions” box any time soon is making U.S. partners in the region antsy.

For instance, Israel reportedly worries that we’ll ease punitive sanctions on Iran as a goodwill gesture before getting hard-and-fast progress on the ayatollah’s atomic ambitions.

Or worse yet, that we’ll come up with a squishy, dreadfully overly-optimistic deal that seems to contain Iran’s bomb program but actually allows Tehran to proceed secretly with its nuclear naughtiness.

Plus, there are ample rumblings from Riyadh that they’re none too happy about Washington getting chummy with Tehran, the Saudis’ regional rival.

Remember Iraq, that Middle Eastern country we pulled out of in 2010 after years of war?

Not only have some 6,000 Iraqis reportedly been killed in a simmering, sectarian near-civil war, an al-Qaeda affiliate is planning a new Islamist state that will encompass both Syria and Iraq.

In addition, U.S.-brokered Middle East peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians seem to be going nowhere, despite countless frequent-flier miles logged by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Post-NATO intervention Libya is also a mess. The Benghazi consulate killers are still on the loose a year after the attack, the government is powerless and Islamist militias are running amok.

None of this is good for U.S. interests; a regional instability spiral is possible, perhaps even likely.

It seems Team Obama’s health care policy is about on par with its foreign policy — both are train wrecks. With lives at stake in both cases, that’s just unacceptable.

Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

- See more at: http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/opinion/op_ed/2013/10/prez_clueless_over_mideast_mayhem#sthash.yno94kXL.dpuf
This week the president plugged the toll-free number for Obamacare, urging citizens to join by calling in rather than logging in if they want a health care policy.

My question: Which toll-free number do we call if we’re looking for a foreign policy?

The fact is that while we’ve been understandably distracted by domestic policy debates, Team Obama’s foreign policy continues to flounder. The Middle East/North Africa is a good example.

Let’s start with Syria. Despite the U.S.-Russia-U.N. chemical weapons deal last month to remove deadly gas from Syria, the killing continues.

The Bashar Assad regime — backed by Iran and Hezbollah — appears to be on top, the rebels are divided and a meaningful peace conference is a fantasy.

Innocents caught in the crossfire are suffering unspeakable horrors. CNN has reported on snipers targeting pregnant women and children. House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) recently said that Syria-based al-Qaeda plotters could attack abroad.

Saudi Arabia is so peeved about Syria that it passed on a two-year term on the U.N. Security Council, protesting the body’s (read: America’s) inaction on the civil war.

“Dithering” might be the kindest way to describe U.S.-Syria policy over the past two-plus years.

Don’t hold your breath on Iran either. Nuclear talks have been ongoing for 10 years now and the mere possibility that Washington will let Tehran out of the “sanctions” box any time soon is making U.S. partners in the region antsy.

For instance, Israel reportedly worries that we’ll ease punitive sanctions on Iran as a goodwill gesture before getting hard-and-fast progress on the ayatollah’s atomic ambitions.

Or worse yet, that we’ll come up with a squishy, dreadfully overly-optimistic deal that seems to contain Iran’s bomb program but actually allows Tehran to proceed secretly with its nuclear naughtiness.

Plus, there are ample rumblings from Riyadh that they’re none too happy about Washington getting chummy with Tehran, the Saudis’ regional rival.

Remember Iraq, that Middle Eastern country we pulled out of in 2010 after years of war?

Not only have some 6,000 Iraqis reportedly been killed in a simmering, sectarian near-civil war, an al-Qaeda affiliate is planning a new Islamist state that will encompass both Syria and Iraq.

In addition, U.S.-brokered Middle East peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians seem to be going nowhere, despite countless frequent-flier miles logged by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Post-NATO intervention Libya is also a mess. The Benghazi consulate killers are still on the loose a year after the attack, the government is powerless and Islamist militias are running amok.

None of this is good for U.S. interests; a regional instability spiral is possible, perhaps even likely.

It seems Team Obama’s health care policy is about on par with its foreign policy — both are train wrecks. With lives at stake in both cases, that’s just unacceptable.

-Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

About the Author

Peter Brookes Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy

Related Issues: Syria, Middle East

Originally published in the Boston Herald