by Barry Rubin
A clear, consistent, and carefully formulated
Let’s consider the interrelated
The other arm of this policy has been a careful effort to avoid friction with
At any rate, starting in September the administration intends to spring its trap! Everything will be ready: allies coordinated, rationale laid. Tougher sanctions will be raised against
Yet if one puts aside all the atmospherics and personalities, doesn't this put the Obama administration in October 2009 about where the Bush administration was regarding
The big difference is supposedly that Obama's popularity and the fact that he tried engagement with
But even with their liking Obama, how much more will Europeans do? Moreover, Obama is neither wildly popular nor has he made progress with the two biggest barriers to strong sanctions:
Foreign support for getting tough with
No, their motive is:
--Economic self-interest. There are big profits to be made from trade and investment.
--Desire to avoid confrontations with
--Belief that a nuclear-armed
True, Obama has a plan for winning over
More likely, "very slightly less likely" rather than "more likely," but it still won't happen in any meaningful way.
"That strategy of working on a new START treaty in parallel with efforts to improve our coordination on Iran seems to be working and we'll find out later this year whether that ends up being successful."
[Update: I was right! Russia rejects this deal completely:
In other words, no matter how charming Obama is, no matter how many concessions he makes to the Europeans and Russia, no matter how much he proves himself willing to be friends with Tehran, it won’t change that much.
Furthermore, just how tough will be the sanctions Obama will request, much less get? They are not likely to be "killers" to start with and then will get watered down further to win broad support. And then after being announced they will be watered down even more in order to ensure adaption. And then after being agreed to they might well not be completely enforced.
But let’s take the best-case outcome. Suppose everyone is ready to agree to tougher sanctions. These would still be far too low to force
Meanwhile, Obama’s general rhetoric and overall approach to international affairs convinces
THE ARAB-ISRAELI COMPONENT
Now, let’s turn to Arab-Israeli conflict policy. Alexander Pope wrote: "A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again."
In other words, the Obama administration has learned part of the truth but this has made things worse.
What it understands correctly is that most Arab regimes (excluding
In light of this correct insight, the administration has devised a brilliant—in its own mind—plan.
This policy is not a repeat of the old panacea--bash
Here's the grand plan: The United States will force Israel to freeze construction on Jewish settlements on the West Bank, then using this proof of evenhandedness, will go to Arab regimes and say: You see we’re ready to push Israel, now your job is to push the Palestinians toward compromise, convince Israel of your own readiness for peace, and stand with us more vigorously in containing Iran.
Arab rulers will reply—indeed, the Saudis, Egyptians, and Jordanians have already done so—“not by the hairs on your chinny-chin-chin,” as the three pink mammals, whose species cannot be mentioned in these Politically Correct times, put it in the nursery rhyme. Or in more scientific language, “You get bupkis!”
They'd probably say this any way but can do so more easily knowing that Obama is not going to huff, and puff, and blow their houses down. At the same time, they know that the Iranian regime and their own people are far scarier than Barack Obama.
And so this strategy, too, will fail.
I certainly agree that forming an alliance of the West, Israel, and most Arab states is the central task in the Middle East today, but Obama and his colleagues hugely underestimates the difficulty in doing so.
It wasn’t just mean old George Bush that prevented the Arab-Israeli conflict from being solved but Palestinian and Syrian intransigence plus Arab state passivity.
It wasn’t just mean old unpopular George Bush that prevented Arab states from doing more to help
At best, while most Arab regimes agree that the main danger is
If this analysis were a cartoon, then, the caption would be: "Smithers, it is a carefully composed, comprehensive, detailed, and internally logical plan. Congratulations. Unfortunately, it is a very bad plan and it won't work."
Think of how an alternative might look. Last May 27 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:
"With respect to settlements, the President was very clear....He wants to see a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions....That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly...And we intend to press that point."
What would this approach would sound like if applied to
"With respect to nuclear weapons and sponsorship of terrorism, the President was very clear....He wants to see a stop to nuclear weapons--not some nuclear weapons, not just the warheads, not just the missiles....That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly....And we intend to press that point."
Or how about
"With respect to Syrian sponsorship of terrorism, the President was very clear....He wants to see a stop to Syrian sponsorship of terrorism–not just training terrorists, not just financing terrorists, not just ordering them to attack, not just giving them safe passage across the border, not just against Lebanon, not just against Syria, not just against Israel....That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly....And we intend to press that point."
But of course such a policy would require some real toughness against enemies on real big issues, not just gigantic posturing against an ally on a really small issue.
There's a problem when any serious and well-informed observer should be able to see six months ahead of time that
There’s an even bigger problem when administration officials and the media are so busy congratulating the genius of the current administration that no one notices the train is speeding toward a chasm without a bridge.
So, Mr. President, save this column and read it again in six months. It will make more sense to you.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.