by Joel J. Sprayregen
When the venerable New York Times -- the elite force of the mainstream media campaign to re-elect Obama--trumpets so pithy a headline, we can suspect that something is rotten, not in Denmark but in Obama's foreign policy. The headline "Obama AWOL in Syria" appeared above a column by Nicholas Kristof, a veteran war horse in the Times' stable of Obama cheerleaders. Kristof summarized discussions at the Aspen Strategy Group (yes, liberal pundits enjoy life luxuriantly) which arrived at a consensus that "on Syria there's a growing puzzlement around the world that he (Obama) seems stuck behind the curve."
"Where is the United States?"
Kristof quoted two discussants who held cabinet posts under Bill Clinton. William Perry (Defense) said that were he running the Pentagon today, he would impose a no-fly, no-drive zone in northern Syria, with Turkey's co-operation and without US ground forces. And Madeleine Albright (State), the brilliant woman who failed to comprehend why her Jewish grandparents died in Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust, said the U.S. should bypass the veto-deadlocked Security Council, as we did to save Kosovo in 1999, because "We can't afford to be in a cul-de-sac while people are being killed."
Nicholas Burns, former Undersecretary of State, asked at Aspen "You hear from all the Arabs: 'Where is the United States?'" Kristof quoted the respected Princeton Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter -- former director of policy planning in Obama's State Department -- as proposing that the U.S., with other countries, provide anti-aircraft weapons and air cover to Syrian rebel commanders who protect civilians and eschew sectarian revenge killings.
Syria is Iran's Achilles' Heel
There is another Shakespearian quotation which epitomizes the emptiness of this liberal tea-time blather: To discuss Syria policy without mentioning Iran is equivalent to presenting Hamlet without the Ghost. The Iranian and Syrian challenges to civilization are joined at the hip. Iran projects its power, and delivers armaments into the Arab world -- including to its proxy Hezb'allah army in Lebanon -- through Syria. Iran and Syria are conducting in Syria a proxy war against Sunni Muslim countries. Is more proof needed than the recent capture in Damascus by Syrian rebels of a busload of Iranian "pilgrims," who turned out to be Revolutionary Guards and Basij thugs? A State Department document charged on August 11 that "Hezbollah is playing a critical role in advising the Syrian government and training its personnel in how to prosecute a counterinsurgency." Ephraim Halevy, former chief of Israel's Mossad, recently wrote that Iran's increased activity in Syria shows "how crucial the fight for Syria's future is to Iran's status in the region -- and perhaps to the survival of the regime in Tehran. This is Iran's Achilles' heel."
Negotiations and Sanctions Have Proven Futile While Iran Accelerates
If Obama supporters like Kristof seriously analyze his Iran policy, they will be compelled to admit that Obama is likewise AWOL on Iran. To be sure, Obama says he will not allow Iran to possess nuclear weapons and that he will continue to pressure Iran through negotiations and sanctions. I pointed out in my April 24 American Thinker piece that the negotiations are a sham. Iran has never retreated from its demand that it be allowed to continue its nuclear programs at full throttle. The "negotiations" have now been adjourned without scheduling resumption. As Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal Op-Ed: "Iran has now amassed roughly 225 pounds of 20% uranium and 11.000 pounds of 3.5%, sufficient for almost 5 nuclear bombs."
Iran sanctions have been ratcheted up and are hurting Iran's economy. But there has never been a sign that the sanctions have deterred Iran for even a day. Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, our most effective sanctions advocate, recently catalogued evasion techniques in Foreign Policy, concluding that the ominous unanswered question is "whether the regime's economic expiration date -- when Supreme Leader Khamenei's cash hoard falls low enough to set off a massive economic panic -- occurs before it has developed the capability to cross the threshold to a nuclear weapon." Reports last week indicate that Iran has made greater progress in developing nuclear components than previously realized by western Intelligence sources. This assessment began to take shape in February when Iran denied IAEA inspectors access to its military nuclear development facility at Parchin. The London Daily Telegraph reported last month that Tehran had formed a new team of 60 nuclear scientists to accelerate development of warheads and detonators, according to information received from an Iranian opposition group. Photos taken on July 25 and released by an American think tank called the Institute for Science and International Security revealed hasty cleanup at Parchin of evidence of nuclear activities.
Obama AWOL on Iran Too: Subjugating the National Interest to the Campaign
There is no reason to doubt that Obama does not want Iran to possess nuclear weapons. But once Iran has developed the capability to assemble nuclear weapons, a nuance seemingly unrecognized in the White House, the Mullahs will be exponentially empowered. As with Syria, Obama's actions do not match his words. Professor Ajami, born a Lebanese Shi'a, has authored an invaluable primer titled The Syrian Rebellion. He noted acidly in a Wall Street Journal column on August 11 that under Obama's reign "All the great decisions on foreign policy -- Iraq and Afghanistan, the struggle raging in Syria, the challenge posed by the Iranian regime -- have been subjugated to the needs of the Campaign." Back in April, Obama took the ludicrous action of establishing an "Atrocities Prevention Board" headed by his confidante, Samantha Powers, the loony Harvard professor. This Board was laughed at when announced and has not been heard from since. It is AWOL too.
What is missing in Obama's Syria and Iran policies is the credible threat of force, for which there is ample justification, including the arrest of an Iranian agent for plotting the bombing of a Washington restaurant. James Woolsey, former CIA director and chair of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has proposed surrounding Iran with five carrier task forces signaling readiness to destroy "everything related to the Revolutionary Guards." Until Obama proves that there is more to his Iran policy than futile negotiations and sanctions, he will be AWOL on Iran as well as Syria. When will the liberal media and the doyens at Aspen comprehend that?
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