Has U.S. lost touch with Mideast reality?

Has U.S. lost touch with Mideast reality?

It is tempting to write about the trials and tribulations of Obamacare and the disastrous launch of the HealthCare.gov website. Obamacare has been the lead story in just about every media outlet, forcing other news to the back pages. Meanwhile, there are developments in the Middle East.

The Obama administration has a strange way of building trust with America’s Middle East allies. Once again, the administration has compromised Israel by disclosing Israel’s secret military operations. Last July, the United States intelligence community, with White House approval, leaked information on Israeli air strikes on missiles in Syria.

This was repeated last week when an administration official confirmed that Israel conducted air raids against Syrian missiles and related equipment out of concern that they would be transferred to Hizbullah. A Jerusalem Post/Reuters report says, “It is unclear why the U.S. would leak such information, as it could increase the pressure on Syria to retaliate against Israel.”

It seems like the Obama administration is trying to disengage from the Middle East by letting Russia control the outcome in Syria and coming to a Chamberlain-like agreement with Iran to the dismay of traditional Middle East allies.

The Washington Post’s deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl described Obama’s foreign policy as “based on fantasy.” Jackson writes: “In his zeal to extract his administration from what he sees as a regional quagmire, Obama…has adopted a narrow and high-altitude approach to a complex and sprawling set of conflicts.” This bug out “leaves U.S. allies in the region — Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Turkey — marooned in a scary new world where their vital interests are no longer under U.S. protection.”

Let’s concentrate on Iran. The clock on Iran achieving a “break out” is running. Two weeks ago, David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a former inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in as little as a month.

Days later, on Oct. 28, former IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen said Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build an atomic weapon within two weeks and has, “in a certain way,” already reached the point of no return in its nuclear program. We are days away from the end of Heinonen’s time period. His assessment appears to concur with that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Why is the administration seemingly going out of its way to come to terms with Iran, which still considers America the “Great Satan?” Can you trust a government which says one thing, while permitting contradictory acts? Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, last Sunday gave strong backing to President Hassan Rouhani’s push for nuclear negotiations, warning hardliners not to accuse Rouhani of compromising with the old enemy America. Meanwhile, the day before, the elite Revolutionary Guards stated they were committed to the slogan “Death to America,” chanted at official ceremonies, just days before the 34th anniversary of the storming of the American Embassy in Tehran, which saw the largest demonstration in years. Which is reality and which is window dressing?

However, Iran’s policy toward Israel is not in doubt. In the same speech cautioning hardliners about accusations directed at Rouhani, Khamenei said, “The Zionist regime is an illegitimate and bastard regime,” and criticized the United States for its close relations with Israel. “The Americans have the highest indulgence towards the Zionists and they have to. But we do not share such indulgence.” Will Israel be sacrificed by the administration to achieve warmer relations with Iran?

Last week, Iran’s candor was called into question by CBS News, which obtained video proof of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards engaging in combat alongside Syrian troops in Syria’s civil war, despite years in which Iran denied any direct involvement.

One person who has doubts about the veracity of Iran is former Defense Secretary and CIA director Leon Panetta. Addressing ADL’s 100th annual meeting, he said the United States needs to “maintain a healthy skepticism” when negotiating to determine Iran’s true level of commitment to negotiations over its nuclear program. He warned, while the United States has “implemented unprecedented sanctions and pressure on Iran, we may very well have to use military force to back up our policy.”

Anticipating suspicion from people like me, current Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, at the ADL meeting, stated, “Engagement is not appeasement, nor is it containment.”

Count former UN Ambassador John Bolton as one who thinks similarly to Panetta. In a Sunday interview, he said Israel does not have much time to make a “fateful decision” about whether to strike Iran’s nuclear sites. “Frankly, they should have done this years ago because we all know intelligence is imperfect and Iran may have a more developed capacity than we know about, perhaps in cooperation with North Korea.” Bolton was not as sanguine as Panetta about American military intervention. “If there is anybody left in Israel who thinks that the U.S. will use military force against Iran’s program, they really need to seriously reexamine their basic values. It isn’t going to happen under the Obama administration.”

The facts demonstrate the Obama foreign policy empowering the nascent U.S.-Iran rapprochement is, in Diehl’s words, “based on fantasy.”

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